Walter de la Mare
Biography of Walter de la Mare
Sir Walter de la Mare was born in Charlton, Kent, in the south of England, of well-to-do parents. His father, James Edward Delamaere, was an official of the Bank of England. His mother, Lucy Sophia (Browning) Delamare, was related to the poet Robert Browning. He was educated in London at St. Paul's Cathedral Choir School, which he left at age 16. From 1890 to 1908 he worked in London in the accounting department of the Anglo-American Oil Company. His career as a writer started from about 1895 and he continued to publish to the end of his life. His first published story, 'Kismet' (1895), appeared in the Sketch under the pseudonym Walter Ramal.
In 1908 de la Mare was awarded a yearly government pension of £100, and he devoted himself entirely to writing. He retired to Taplow in Buckinghamshire, where he lived with his wife, Constance Elfrida Ingpen, and four children. His son Richard became chairman of Faber & Faber, and published several of his father's books. In 1915 he became of of the legatees of his fellow poet Rupert Brooke. De la Mare received the CH in 1948, and the OM in 1953. He died at Twickenham, near London, on June 22, 1958. De la Mare is buried in St Paul's Cathedral.
His first stories and poems De la Mare wrote for periodicals, among others for The Sketch, and published in 1902 a collection of poetry, SONGS OF CHILDHOOD, under the name Walter Ramal. It attracted little notice. Subsequently De la Mare published many volumes of poetry for both adults and children. In 1904 appeared under his own name the prose romance HENRY BROCKEN, in which the young hero encounters writers form the past.
THE RETURN (1910) was an eerie story of spirit possession. Arthur Lawford suspects that an eighteenth-century pirate, Nicholas Sabathier, is seizing control of his personality. "'Here lie ye bones of one, Nicholas Sabathier,' he began murmuring again - 'merely bones, mind you; brains and heart are quite another story. And it's pretty certain the fellow had some kind of brains. Besides, poor devil, he killed himself. That seems to hint at brains..."
De la Mare's first successful book was The Listeners; the title poem is one of his most anthologized pieces. In the work supernatural presence haunts the solitary Traveller, the typical speaker of his poems: "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.... / 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." In 1923 he produced a collection of other people's poetry, COME HITHER. In his poems de la Mare has described the English sea and coast, the secret and hidden world of nature.
His favorite themes, childhood, death, dreams, commonplace objects and events, de la Mare examined with a touch of mystery and often with an undercurrent of melancholy. His novels have been reprinted many times in horror collections because of their sense of wonder, and also hidden malevolence. However, De la Mare did not have the morbid atmosphere of Poe, but his dreamlike visions had much similarities with Blake.
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Walter de la Mare Poems
"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;
Slowly, silently, now the moon Walks the night in her silver shoon; This way, and that, she peers, and sees Silver fruit upon silver trees;
Some one came knocking At my wee, small door; Someone came knocking; I'm sure-sure-sure;
When music sounds, gone is the earth I know, And all her lovely things even lovelier grow; Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.
Thistle and darnell and dock grew there, And a bush, in the corner, of may, On the orchard wall I used to sprawl In the blazing heat of the day;
Here lies a most beautiful lady, Light of step and heart was she; I think she was the most beautiful lady That ever was in the West Country.
All That's Past
Very old are the woods; And the buds that break Out of the brier's boughs, When March winds wake,
Far are the shades of Arabia, Where the Princes ride at noon, 'Mid the verdurous vales and thickets, Under the ghost of the moon;
A Song Of Enchantment
A song of Enchantment I sang me there, In a green-green wood, by waters fair, Just as the words came up to me I sang it under the wild wood tree.
The abode of the nightingale is bare, Flowered frost congeals in the gelid air, The fox howls from his frozen lair: Alas, my loved one is gone,
There is a wind where the rose was, Cold rain where sweet grass was, And clouds like sheep Stream o'er the steep
If I were Lord of Tartary, Myself, and me alone, My bed should be of ivory, Of beaten gold my throne;
No breath of wind, No gleam of sun – Still the white snow Whirls softly down
The last of last words spoken is, Good-bye - The last dismantled flower in the weed-grown hedge, The last thin rumour of a feeble bell far ringing, The last blind rat to spurn the mildewed rye.
In sea-cold Lyonesse,
When the Sabbath eve shafts down
On the roofs, walls, belfries
Of the foundered town,
The Nereids pluck their lyres
Where the green translucency beats,
And with motionless eyes at gaze
Make ministrely in the streets.