The Listeners

By Walter de La Mare 1873–1956 Walter de La Mare
‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,   
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses   
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,   
   Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;   
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;   
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,   
   Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners   
   That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight   
   To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,   
   That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken   
   By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,   
   Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,   
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even   
   Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,   
   That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,   
   Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house   
   From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,   
   And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,   
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Source: The Collected Poems of Walter de la Mare (1979)

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Poet Walter de La Mare 1873–1956

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Georgian

Subjects Activities, Travels & Journeys

Poetic Terms Common Measure, Rhymed Stanza, Ballad

 Walter  de La Mare

Biography

Walter de la Mare is considered one of modern literature's chief exemplars of the romantic imagination. His complete works form a sustained treatment of romantic themes: dreams, death, rare states of mind and emotion, fantasy worlds of childhood, and the pursuit of the transcendent.

De la Mare's life was outwardly uneventful. As a youth he attended St. Paul's Cathedral School, and his formal education did not extend beyond . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Georgian

Poetic Terms Common Measure, Rhymed Stanza, Ballad

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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