2The Listeners ‘Is there anybody there 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.
3Walter de la Mare is considered one of modern literature's chief exemplars of the romantic imagination. His complete works form a sustained treatment of romantic themes: dreams, death, rare states of mind and emotion, fantasy worlds of childhood, and the pursuit of the transcendent.BIOGRAPHY
40TYPE OF POEMNarrative poem = A story which has a beginning, middle, climax and end.It centres around a traveller’s encounter with the supernatural.Specifically a Ballad (rhythm has a strong beat, written to be sung)
42SETTING AND TONE Setting Late on a moonlit evening at a dwelling in a forest.The time is late 19th century – early 20th century.ToneSerious and the atmosphere is eerie and otherworldly.
43CHARACTERSThe TravellerA man who arrives on horseback late at night to call at a dwelling in a forest. When he pounds no one answers.The ListenersPhantoms inside the dwelling who listen to the Traveller speaking as he pounds on the door. They do not respond to him.NOTE: It could be that the Traveller is actually the phantom and the Listeners are the humans…
44… Them The people that the Traveller came to see (line 27). However, these people do not respond, possibly because they are sleeping, they do not wish to see the Traveller, or they are now living elsewhere. It is also possible that they died and became the phantom listeners.
46THEMES Supernatural Eavesdropping We sometimes sense that a ghostly presence is observing us.Such moments tend to occur when the sun is down, the moon is up, and an eerie stillness surrounds us.In “The Listeners”, the man identified as “the Traveller” senses that otherworldly beings are eavesdropping on him. He responds to them. They do not respond to him, however. They are only there to listen.
47…MysteryThe poem is metaphor for the mysteries we ourselves encounter as listeners or as callers rapping at a door.We go through life asking why, and then seek answers. But we do not always get them, whether we are looking for them in religion, science, social interaction, or in ourselves.
48ANSWERS1a The poet mentions “the forest’s ferny floor”. 1b Alliteration 2 The house must be larger as it has towers. The walls are covered with leaves, up to the window sills. It is in a forest and seems to be deserted. The house is in darkness.
49…3 “perplexed” 4a If birds were occupying the turrets, no one had been living in the house for some time. 4b One usually finds turrets on large houses with several storeys.
50…5 The fact that the Traveller arrived on horseback, and the use of old-fashioned words like “spake”, “hearkening” and “ay” suggest that this poem is set in an earlier time. 6a Initially the Traveller knocked, an ordinary way of announcing one’s arrival at a door. Then when there was no reply, he banged much harder, in case his initial knock had been too soft. They reinforce the idea of no humans being present.
51…6b He is probably becoming impatient or even angry at being kept waiting. 7 We are told they are a “host”, that is a crowd and then again in line 17, they are “thronging” the staircase. 8a The poet creates a ghostly, eerie atmosphere. 8b “moonlit” / “silence” / “phantom” / “strangeness” / “stillness” / “shadowiness”
52…9a The previous occupants might have died as a result of disease or being attacked. They might just have left or maybe they were carried away by an enemy. 9b “That dwelt in the lone house then” 9c Normally everything is still. The Traveller’s arrival caused “the air (to be) stirred and shaken”.
53…10 He was an important visitor, perhaps someone who had influence on the previous occupants.