Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday Poem - The Listeners by Walter de la Mare

"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
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. 

I started thinking the other day about the poems that were taught to me, brought to me at school by good teachers, the ones that hooked me into poetry. This poem, this poet, was one of those.


  1. Thanks for posting this Keith. It was great to reread it. It's still a remarkable poem. And somehow in the modern setting of your blog...it is almost a modern poem. What never occurred to me when I was young is that it is that it works on many levels and though I'm not sure I understand it I like it this way for its mystery.

  2. Thanks Helen. Apparently, Walter de la Mare wrote mysterious poems.

  3. Yes! My mother knew this off by heart and so we learned it, too, from hearing her recite it. And then I also had teachers who loved poetry and hooked us in, as you were hooked. (Ken Smithyman was one of those, for me: lucky me.) Thanks for reminding me about all that.


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