The Listeners

Walter de la Mare 1873 (Charlton, London) – 1956 (Twickenham)

"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.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Walter de la Mare

Walter John de la Mare was an English poet short story writer and novelist best remembered for his works for children and The Listeners He was born in Kent and was educated at St Pauls Cathedral School His first book Songs of Childhood was published under the name Walter Ramal His 1921 novel Memoirs of a Midget won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction more…

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    "The Listeners" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 27 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/38318/the-listeners>.

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