The Listeners Poem by Walter de la Mare

The Listeners

Rating: 3.7

'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.

The Listeners
Matt Buckley 22 November 2009

The traveller has come to fulfil a duty. He had left something and promised to come back to it. It seems that a great time has passed. The air is still and the hall is empty (a hall that was probably filled some time ago with activity) What ever he left behind, he could now not summon. The sleeping group, could not be stirred. He has had communication with the listeners in the past - when the promise was made. The listeners are now sleeping and won't wake. The traveller is actually searching for a lost unbridled imagination, for creativity. It is now gone, and he heads back to the logic-driven reality. One of Walter's main obsessions was with the ingenuity and vision of the child, and how over time, this is lost. In the traveller's journey to revisit or recover this way of existince, he can't stir it. He leaves and re-assures his soul that he tried ('tell them I came, and no one answered') . We often say that the soul has windows: note how the traveller peers into the window and sees nothing; no one is there to greet. Why the 'throng' no-longer responds 'perplexes' him. The listeners (the unbridled imagination) are present, but lie sleeping; discarded and left behind. There is a deathly feel, but it not the death of physical beings, these beings are not 'from the world of men'.

195 43 Reply
Martha Stowe 12 November 2021

Wonderfully helpful comment, thank you, it is levels beyond the common first responses. I'd just recently come to focus on the listeners themselves, rather than the traveller primarily, if not solely. The depth of your interpretation is worthy of the poem, and is a well-spring of ideas.

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Babu Gohel 30 October 2011

I LOVE THIS POEM. the poet is talking about moonlit night when everywhere is does help to creat the sence of mystery.the silence and the darkness add to confusion of the traveller.the poet does not anything say clearly about the seems that he has visited the place before or he must be one of the residents who almost seen non existent. the traveller is knocking and knockin, smiting upon the door which is shut.looking up at the window which hang leaves. the eyes of the travellers are grey in colour.they are perplexed beacause his voice is not answered by anyone. the sounds heard in silence of the night and the confusion of the traveller creat mystery. which give us special effect to this poem. in short there is the very interesting and ununderstanding we get this poem very happy for my study in college.

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James Wilko 27 August 2012

I really like this poem. It's a very deep poem, and there are many theories as to what it means. I believe the traveller is a living man, who has made a promise visit someone, but finds them dead. I think this is the case because he is referred to as a traveller, someone who doesn't stay anywhere for long, e.g. the land of the living. I love hearing what people have to say about this poem. It's really thought provocative.

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Doctor Karunya 24 June 2012

What is the meaning of the lines: 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. ?

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Rose Marie Juan-austin 12 December 2021

A poem of great depth. Beautifully written with compelling imagery.

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Chinedu Dike 22 August 2021

An insight piece of poetry written with clarity of thought and mind........

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Sylvia Frances Chan 22 August 2021

Fascinating poem 5 Stars full. Enjoyed very much

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M Asim Nehal 22 August 2021

Superb poem.! ! !

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Leon Wilken 21 January 2021

Learned this poem by heart in Senior shool.

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