Monday, September 27, 2010

The Listeners

The Listeners

'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:
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.

-- Walter de la Mare --

Have a good week.

The magic of Venice


Trulyfool said...


This poem was in our college anthology.

Forget zombies, lycanthropes, space aliens.

'Empty' houses with plenty of shadow and odd sound.

So: The Innocents, Don't Look Now, The Haunting (1963), The Others.

(The word verification for me to copy here is 'dormi' -- a cat just walked across my grave!)

Ruth said...

It's an odd poem, one I haven't read before now. It is evocative . . . the one man left awake . . . there are a lot of ways this can go.

I can go Halloweeny and spooky. I can also go mystical and deep. The chandelier and the elaborate streetlamp, in your moody lush images conjure both pathways, and I quite like where they send me this morning.

Claudia said...


Spooky word verification. "Dormi" in Portuguese is "go to sleep". Maybe it was time to go to bed? These little machines unto which we pour our thoughts and hearts out seem to be paying attention...

Claudia said...


I just read it for the first time a couple of days ago. Now I absolutely love it. It does go well with the first picture, doesn't it?