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(1873 - 1958 / Kent / England)

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The Listeners

"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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003


Read poems about / on: horse, silence, house, dark, lonely, sky, world, star

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Comments about this poem (Ghost by Walter de la Mare )

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  • Speedy Cashman (10/24/2013 4:02:00 PM)

    The Traveller is a diety because his name is spelled with a capital letter. Reference Revelation 3: 20 for an interpretation to add to the excellent insights already mentioned.

    12 person liked.
    34 person did not like.
  • Rajeev Deshpande (9/7/2013 12:12:00 PM)

    The poem is a classic example of imagination, mystery and poetic creativity rolled into one. From the title to the last line this piece of poetry holds the attention of the reader.

  • Em Williams (5/1/2013 6:00:00 AM)

    I studied this poem in Literature class a few years ago, and every couple of weeks I came back here to read it again. I don't know what it is about The Listeners. There's something so beautiful and haunting about it.

  • James Wilko (8/27/2012 2:09:00 AM)

    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.

  • Doctor Karunya (6/24/2012 4:24:00 AM)

    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. ?

  • Babu Gohel (10/30/2011 3:47:00 AM)

    I LOVE THIS POEM.
    the poet is talking about moonlit night when everywhere is silence.it 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 traveller.it 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 poem.so we get this poem very happy for my study in college.

  • Matt Buckley (11/22/2009 9:06:00 AM)

    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'.

  • Brian Walter (5/17/2009 12:48:00 PM)

    I too first read this poem in English class some 45 years ago. It gave me goose bumps then and still does now. I think we identify with the traveler because we have all made promises to keep, and he/she kept their's, apparently at some effort.
    But I also like Sean Hall's idea that we are the phantom listeners, at least from de la Mare's perspective, sitting in his room writing, thinking about the unseen audience. Mostly, I don't intellectulize about it too much but just let it flow through me

  • Hibah Tipu (5/5/2009 7:41:00 AM)

    this poem is the one that i really loved.it showed the other side of the world.it showed how we humans aren't alone that live but there arw ither unknown things out there. the traveller can seperate these things. he talks to the darknessas if it is his own species. he whispers to the animals as if they speak his language. It is a unique poem in its creed and i loved it.

  • Sean Hall (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.

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