Walter de la Mare

(1873 - 1958 / Kent / England)

The Listeners - Poem 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
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Comments about The Listeners by Walter de la Mare

  • (3/3/2009 3:22:00 PM)


    I first read this poem a couple years ago in a college english class. I loved it so much I chose to do my paper on it. One review of De La Mare's work mentioned that a lot of his work seems to suggest a larger sense of history or historical events. I got that impression from this poem. I see a castle or large manor house.When the Traveller says ' Tell them I came and no one answered, that I kept my word' it seems to imply a larger history, that he is there for a specific reason. In my paper I came to the conclusion that the poem is meant to raise questions not answer them, to create a sense of mystery, that we are not really ever supposed to know who the listeners are or who the Traveller is or why he's there, that De La Mare himself doesn't really know. But I also like the idea that we the readers are the phantom listeners. That the Traveller is speaking to us, and so the poem itself is an intersection between reality and fantasy or imagination. I have no idea if De La Mare had that in mind it was just a thought I had. (Report) Reply

    92 person liked.
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  • (2/2/2009 9:43:00 AM)


    Beautiful, can someone recommend similar poems to this one? (Report) Reply

  • (8/31/2008 9:07:00 AM)


    This particular poem has played with my imagination ever since I was a kid. As a child I imagined the traveller was human and alive, just like all of us. I imagined that while travelling, he found himself in front of a haunted castle.

    Recently I read it again... and instead of looking at a weary 'human' traveller wandering off into ghostly realm. I began to see a ghostly traveller lost in darkness, in his search of the light. The darkness symbolized by the night. This ghostly traveller is tired and weary and by mistake he stumbles upon our realm. The worldly realm. People from our realm cant see him, can't hear him. And he can't see us. But we both sense each other's presence.

    And then I read 'Some One' another poem by Walter de la Mare and I couldnt help but see a connection.

    But then again, for all you know I'm just overworked and my mind is running ahead of me: -)
    (Report) Reply

  • (10/27/2007 8:24:00 PM)


    To each their own, but I am a little disappointed that this gem is not rated much much higher. I bet every one ends up reading it more than once.. for it forces you to imagine the atmosphere and the mystery.. and make your own interpretations.

    Here's a tribute from T.S Eliot to De la Mare and the mystery of the nocturnal traveller...

    http: //www.poemhunter.com/poem/to-walter-de-la-mare/

    .......... ........
    .......... ........

    When the nocturnal traveller can arouse
    No sleeper by his call; or when by chance
    An empty face peers from an empty house;

    By whom, and by what means, was this designed?
    The whispered incantation which allows
    Free passage to the phantoms of the mind?

    By you; by those deceptive cadences
    Wherewith the common measure is refined;
    By conscious art practised with natural ease;

    By the delicate, invisible web you wove -
    The inexplicable mystery of sound.
    (Report) Reply

  • (6/17/2007 4:56:00 AM)


    Learned this one at school as a child, could still remember it - years later, that must be the sign of an excellent poem! ! One of my favourites (Report) Reply

  • (5/28/2007 10:38:00 PM)


    This poem is one of my favorite poems of all time. It evokes such intense feelings of purpose denied but ultimately vindicated. A masterpiece! (Report) Reply

  • Brian Dorn (8/20/2006 2:44:00 PM)


    A brilliantly stunning depiction of fruitless effort... been there, done that (minus the horse of course) . (Report) Reply

  • (3/1/2006 8:24:00 AM)


    I asked my children to draw a picture of the poem once I had read it to them.The different images drawn by the kids just amazed me and illustrated to me the wonderful diverse interpretations that can come from this brilliant story.However
    I read it myself in school in the eary seventys and nothing has changed in the imagery my kids see and that which I still vividly remember every time I read this poem.
    (Report) Reply

  • (2/28/2006 1:55:00 PM)


    I first heard this poem read to the class by my primary school headmaster.
    It remains to me the most wonderful and mysterious poem I have ever encountered.
    (Report) Reply

  • (6/10/2004 1:33:00 PM)


    Mr. de la Mare's poem transports me to a world that can no longer be reached, even in this somewhat rural country. The mechanisation and computerisation (!) of our world mentally and physically distances us from the pure imagery created by de la Mare. As his horse moves, do we not inwardly remember and ache for how it must have been for human, animal and forest to blend together into a natural harmony? The lonely Traveller of the poem has kept his word, some solemn promise we can only speculate on. The values of a distant and rapidly forgotten world melt into the forest as the silence surges softly backwards over the forest- house of the reticent listeners. Mr. de la Mare smotes upon our primal roots in the gentlest of fashions. (Report) Reply



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