‘The Listeners’, Walter de la Mare. DPChallenge – Stylish Imitation.


TS Elliot paid homage to the poet Walter de La Mare by imitating his poetry style and writing a poem for inclusion in ‘A Tribute to Walter de la Mare’ (Faber & Faber Ltd., 1948), a book presented to him on his seventy-fifth birthday, and I can understand why.   The Listeners was the first poem I ever read and as a child with a huge imagination  it opened a world of words that spun a tale of mystery, suspense, loneliness, spirituality, intrigue and darkness.   Through the use of lush language and alliteration the poem transported me to a world of brooding undertones and atmospheric backlit dreams.    Many would argue that his verse suffers from sentimentality and an overly romantic tone  however, with this poem many also agree that in this piece of literature he was at his best.

The Listeners by  by: Walter de la Mare (b. 1873)

Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champ’d 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
Lean’d over and look’d into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplex’d 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 stirr’d 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 starr’d and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:–
‘Tell them I came, and no one answer’d,
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
……………………………………………………….
Descriptive and evocative, language that pokes the imagination into action, a story that you return to time and time again and want to know more about.  If I could write like this I would be happy.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
My tribute to Walter De La Mare
nowhere as good as TS Elliot’s stylish imitation,  but an attempt to describe what this poem evokes for me.
………………………………………………………
In my  mind space I hear in the night
a grass green grind yon shaded edge
see deep-grained wood  lit soft by moonlight
I grieve for the stranger who kept his pledge
worry er his fate and future life
afear’d of the ghosts harkening oer the ledge
watched on by silent brooding ones
I delight in alliteration, and
relish and roll it around my tongue
I beg thee return to the shaded dell
sit by me in moonbeams on forest floor
and speak your story til I know you well.
…………………………………………………………
I still wonder what happened to the traveller
…………………………………………………………
Want to join in?  For more details see  http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/weekly-writing-challenge
 
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8 thoughts on “‘The Listeners’, Walter de la Mare. DPChallenge – Stylish Imitation.

  1. Do you know “the Night Traveler” by Mary Oliver?

    Passing by, he could be anybody:
    A thief, a tradesman, a doctor
    On his way to a worried house.
    But when he stops at your gate,
    Under the room where you lie half-asleep,
    You know it is not just anyone —
    It is the Night Traveler……

    A reversal of perspective—in the Oliver poem, mystery (nature?) calls to the listener in the house, while in the de la Mare poem, the living traveler speaks to the mystery inside.

  2. Ever since I first heard it this poem has haunted me. What was he doing there? What did he keep his word about? Who was actually in the house? Who was them? I can go on and on. The mystery of it all is just beautiful. I also love the play on words – the forest’s ferny floor – I love saying it over and over again – the forest’s ferny floor – neath the starr’d and leafy sky – I just love it. It has to be one of my favourite poems. It also awakens for me childhood memories of being absolute captivated. I often wonder if it wasn’t hearing this poem that first awakened me to the love of poetry. Thank you for sharing it. A real treat.

  3. still love this poem and think of it often when I see a deserted house. There is an audacity in being sniffy about it from modern perspectives which self-evidently lack skill (in my opinion) Did not know about Eliot but your poem is a good imitation

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