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The Listeners -- Walter de la Mare

(Poem #2) 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
One of my all time favourite poems; it recently came second in a poll
some British newspaper (I forget which) ran to determine the ten
best-loved poems. Take a guess at the first (mail me and I'll collate
answers - it would be interesting to see if junta get it).

The imagery finds a nice echo, incidentally, in Loreena McKennit's
'Mummer's Dance', including what is IMHO one of the most beautifully
evocative lines I've heard in a song:

  Who will go down to those shady groves, and summon the shadows there?


PS. The best loved poem: two people guessed 'If', one 'The Road Not Taken',
and Jose got the right one, specifically 'Daffodils'. Personally it would
not even make my top 10 list, but as Jose says, it is indeed a ubiquitous
poem, and most people have studied and enjoyed it at some stage in their


247 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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Anustup.DATTA said...


Thanks for posting one of my favourite poems. The atmosphere that it
conjures up is indescribable. I don't know if you have read T S
Eliot's tribute to Walter de la Mare - I think it sums up this poem
(and others) admirably.

" To Walter de la Mare "

The children who explored the brook and found
A desert island with a sandy cove
(A hiding place, but very dangerous ground,

For here the water buffalo may rove,
The kinkajou, the mungabey, abound
In the dark jungle of a mango grove,

And shadowy lemurs glide from tree to tree -
The guardians of some long-lost treasure-trove)
Recount their exploits at the nursery tea

And when the lamps are lit and curtains drawn
Demand some poetry, please. Whose shall it be,
At not quite time for bed ? ...

Or when the lawn
Is pressed by unseen feet, and ghosts return
Gently at twilight, gently go at dawn,
The sad intangible who grieve and yearn ;

When the familiar is suddenly strange
Or the well known is what we yet have to learn,
And two worlds meet, and intersect, and change ;

When cats are maddened in the moonlight dance,
Dogs cower, flitter bats, and owls range
At witches' sabbath of the maiden aunts ;

When the nocturnal traveller can arouse
No sleeper by his call ; or when by chance
An empty face peers from an empty house ;

By whom, and by what means, was this designed ?
The whispered incantation which allows
Free passage to the phantoms of the mind ?

By you ; by those deceptive cadences
Wherewith the common measure is refined ;
By conscious art practised with natural ease ;

By the delicate, invisible web you wove -
The inexplicable mystery of sound.


As you see, even T S Eliot called it an 'inexplicable mystery'. This
poem was written for inclusion in 'Tribute to Walter de la Mare'
(Faber & Faber Ltd., 1948), a book presented to him on his
seventy-fifth birthday.

Hope you like the poem.


Sonoranltd said...

There is a very definite way that one can tell a good poem, it leaves you
with a very undefinable feeling. You become pensive, stare at nothing and
think. A good poem is haunting and that is how it is with "The Listeners"
-Cristina Boothe

btapas said...

The poem taught me to think about human- communication. It helped me to
realise that I didn't want to turn into a dumb listener who didn't respond,
but suffered the agony of solitude.


Andrew J Halayko said...

Comments on "The Listeners"

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to share the significance of a
truly great poem.

This is a magical poem that moves me profoundly each time I read it.
Indeed, I have been inspired many times to the challenge of using my own
words to paint the vivid and lush atmosphere that The Listeners evokes in
me. It is a clear commentary on the struggle for us all to "be heard" and
to understand our role in Life. For me, this poem leaves me numbed with
each reading, and a little off balance from the powerful imagery and real
emotion that it nurtures. This is a classic work!


Andrew J. Halayko, PhD Off:Assistant Professor Lab:Departments of Physiology Pgr:and Internal Medicine Fax:University of Manitoba
Rm RS321 Respiratory Hospital
810 Sherbrook Street
Winnipeg, MB Canada R3A 1R8
[broken link],+Andrew

Brian Sr said...

I love this poem. I read it when i was in high school. It was in one of my
english texy books and I memorized it and have never forgotten it.

Matt Freeman

tmartin said...

I'm not surprised this is so many people's favourite poem. I learnt it
years ago at school and although I had forgotten many of the words they
soon came back to me when I read it again recently. I find that present
day children also respond very positively to this poem, although they
always maintain they don't like poetry! My other favourite poem from my
schooldays is 'Flannan Isle' by W W Gibson which I also rediscovered
lately; this is again a favourite with children today.


Teresa Mason said...

Poetry was always just some pretty words in a rhythm or rhyme to me, and
I did pretend to understand it, but it was not until I read 'The
Listeners' that I realised what 'poetry' meant. I was only eleven when I
first encountered it, but I got a glimpse of something deep, another
world created by words. It screamed atmosphere and emotions off the page
and into my imagination and it changed how I looked at poetry forever. I
only read it once, but almost every line was engraved in my mind, and I
searched in vain for it so I could let it's wonders astound me again,
and I have finally found it. Thank you for letting me experience this
poem again.

Cmwrawc said...

Hi - this was my favourite poem throughout my childhood - I could be lost for
hours in the daydreams it conjured. How true Eloit's tribute is.


Bongosio said...

i think the poem was grand very strange though i think it was like
mystierious how he waits there for along time and it gets really spooky i
like the part were it says the plunging hoofs were gone

Lisa Ng said...

I first read it as a teenager, looking for words in which to encapsulate
my own frustrations and anxieties. It was also the first poem I thought
worthy of my OWN interpretation, rather than the ones given us. To me
the Listener was God, and I was the Traveller. I had no idea it was such
a well-known poem, thinking that I had found some treasure, and when I
tried to share it with others got in reply, 'Oh, yes, wonderful poem.'
But still I thought they must not have gotten as much from it as I had,
since they didn't tremble every time they read it. Sylvan Bongi.

Frances said...

Thanks for bringing "The Listeners" to my world again.
I believe I live in a magical time, where transport could be by horse or
And poems can be shared around the world by e-mail.
With gratitude,
New Zealand

Ash Gulati said...

Eerie and beautiful, makes the silence deafening - introspect and you could feel it even on a busy railway platform

Alan Elgar said...

An atmosphere that asked more questions than it answered. No wonder he regretted writing it - having to answer questions that had no answer. If I was to choose one of Frost's poems, it would be Stopping by Woods, which has the same mysterios appeal.
Alan. New Zealand.

Amanda Grace said...

The Listeners made me feel scared,the poem was eerie.I think that someone
robbed people and they are too scared to open the door.He was supposed to
rescue someone.His horses foot was compared with iron on stone.He thought
someone was there,he thought phantoms were there listening.The writer wanted
us to feel like we need some more information.I thought the poem was great.

Amon Brown age:9
Clapham Manor Primary School

Amanda Grace said...

The Listeners is the most spine-chilling poem I've ever read. I enjoyed
it and I wish you could make a poem book called 'spine-chilling poems'
and use this to make lots of money and I'll definetely buy it!!!!!!!!

from:Chantelle Brown
Age: 9 1/4

Clapham Manor Primary School

Amanda Grace said...

I think that it's quite a mysterious poem because when the traveller knocks
on the door and nobody answers but he still thinks something is still in
there. It also seems quite mysterious because it's as if he just saw someone
in there a few days ago but it looks like the building hasn't been lived in
for years.
I think that this is spooky because even though there is no reply to the
traveller "he felt in his heart their strangeness,their stillness answering
his cry."The spookiness is made stronger by it being night timeand the
imagery of words," the faint moonbeams on the dark stair ,""the starred and
leafy sky ,""and how the silence surged softly backward."

Amanda Grace said...

I think that the listeners is a spooky poem and that it has so many
questions that does not have a answer to any of them. It gives you pictures
of what it might be,etc who was he looking for and why was he in the
woods.When I read the listeners it was a poem that I thought I wouldn't have
read before.

Soraya Dowine 9
Clapham Manor Primary School

P.S. Previous entry by Ptolemy (aged 9).
Thanks for putting the previous comments on the board - this is the last
one, so you won't be receiving another 30 from the rest of the class!

Peter Ruck said...

I truly believe that this poem has created an inner sanctum for me. At periods of extreme stress in my life I have recited it and felt calmer. I believe that there is no correct interpretation; it speaks to ones individual soul. Walter De La Mare had a gift of genius that, I firmly believe is matched by few poets. One of these is Will H. Ogilvie. "Last night a wind from Lammermuir came roaring up the glen, with the tramp of trooping horses, and the laugh of reckless men...". I apologise if this is not an accurate quote but it comes from a childhood memory which, even now, endows it with mysticism and reminds me of a much loved fairytale.

Celia Ruck.

Carl Swallow said...

Nice to see a poem I read years ago making its appearance again. I have recently purchased a collection of De La Mare's, from 1946, and it shows many different facets of his unique, undeniable talent. One of the last great poets I think, from that final era of true poetry. Since the end of the 20's I feel poetry has lost its way. Nevertheless, to see Walter's most memorable work again has been a pleasure. Thank you!
Carl Swallow, from Liverpool, England.

Stiers Ken said...

At last! The poem from my childhood. Choked full of mystery and longing,
not unlike Frost's 'Stopping By Woods'. I always had the feeling the
traveler didn't want to be there in the first place and was only to glad to
be gone, his knocks mercifully unanswered. A house of memories, stark and
surreal and perhaps even to be avoided...except for the promise. Thank you
for including it here.

Stiers Ken said...

A truly great poem from my youth! One that evokes images of mystery and
surreal longing not unlike Frost's 'Stopping By Woods'. It can be
interpreted as many ways as those who chose to read it. Try reading it out
loud. It takes on even greater meaning to hear the words
jewels in the mouth. Try reading it alone in a dark room...and then look
around you. It has a certain HP Lovecraft horror about it. I personally
feel the Traveller was glad to be out of there and not disappointed to hear
only stillness answering his call. I'm sure he would have not returned at
all save for the promise. How many of us fail to keep our promises and fail
to return to that place of our youth where the shadows hide...waiting.

Jeremy Winterson said...

The imagery is The Listeners is amazingly rich and vivid. We join the Traveller outside at night, alone with his skittish horse, as he grows increasingly more impatient and frightened. Then we are inside the house hearing his calls, being shown the empty rooms inhabited only by phantom listeners, perhaps real, perhaps not. The Traveller calls again, informing us that he was summoned to the house but his nerve is broken and he will leave, quickly, as we hear the sound of his horse's 'plunging' hooves. He departs, leaving us alone in the house with the phantoms, who now seem very real, who heard everything, who are listening with us to the noise slowly fade away.

For me it is the end that leaves such a marked impression. Our Traveller friend loses his nerve and decides to leave, but he doesn't take us with him- he instead leaves us in that haunting house, alone, but not alone. Scary!


Jeremy Winterson
Asst. General Manager
Janco Overseas (Thailand) Ltd.

J P White said...

l was given this poem to learn as a teenager by an English teacher who was wanting to make it part of a play about the holocaust. The play never reached the performance(1972), but l learnt this poem, which left an indelible print within me and which surfaces at unexpected times.


sponberg said...

yeah hi- u talk about the days when you were young. This poem heled u. I am
young now and i want it to help ME! But i dont understand... What is out
there listening???
Ty Sponberg

clement said...


I first read this poem a long time ago when I was just about 9 or 10 and it moved me deeply, though I didn't know why, and I still don't. I'm interested in cognitive science (loosely defined as the multidisciplinary study of the mind) and maybe one day we'll know exactly how those words created such powerful, spiritual feelings. But that would take the magic away wouldn't it?


Michael Edwards said...

I have memories of this poem going back nearly 50 years when I was made to half learn it at school. I couldn't remember the poet or the title but, thanks to your site I can relearn it and try to understand it this time.

Thankyou. Michael Edwards, Winchester UK.

Jack Castle said...

It is wonderful to find so many kindred spirits who love "The
Listeners." I still shiver when I read it. As a middle aged ex- nurse
new to teaching, I intend to expose all my charges to this evocative
poem. Luckily, it is even on the grade 10 curriculum here in

viki said...

My son is in the eighth gradeand he has this poem as apartof his syllabus this term. I have spent a better part of this evening looking for a critical appreciation and/or an interpretation of this wonderful poem but have not been able to find any onthe internet. If someone knows of a site I would be grateful if they could mail me on

carraig said...

A very beautiful and simple poem. It was, I believe, the very first one that I ever willingly learnt. My English teacher at the time was Jack Carter and he taught at Ballyfin, a boarding school in the Midlands of Ireland. He gave me a love of poetry and history that I still have to this day. I hope he or someone who knows him sees this. I am forever indebted to him and can say that he was easily among the best teachers I ever had. Thanks Jack.

The Ellises said...

I found it hard to read and answer the selected questions

Gurp Johal said...

Hi i was just wondering, if you ever recieved a good website referral that had a interpretation of "The Listeners."
If yes, could you please send it to me, i am having great difficulty determining what the traveller may symbolize


swati said...

Dear Sir

I am Saloni 12 year old.I do not understand the poem.Please explain as I
have it as my Lesson.
Please send me summary of the poem.
Thank you,


Eamonn Breslin said...


I have, on and off over the past few years, kept an eye out for Flannan Isle. I have asked about it and checked out the internet a few times. Never with any success. This evening I was reading some poetry and looked again for Flannan Isle. Nothing! And so I decided to give the internet another search and very happily discovered in this comment by Dawn a reference to Flannan Isle. I had forgotten the author's name and my memory tells me that the opening line goes something like "Though three men dwell on Flannan Isle..." but I am not sure about my memory! So I am so happy to have the author's name.

I do have a question/request. Can anyone direct me to the text of Flannan Isle? I would be most grateful.

My name is Brendan O'Rourke and my own email address is:
The email address of this email is one of a friend whom I am office-sitting for!

Sincerely, and with much thanks,


Wahlbrinck said...

This is an extraordinarily moving and mysterious poem - every time
(now for example) I think of a certain line I get goose pimples...
I like it so much that I took my guitar some years ago and made it
into a song which tries to capture its atmosphere.
Chris de Burgh's song "The Traveller" is similar in tone and imagery
- do listen to it!

Michael FOSTER said...

Whilst at Grammar School I had the privilege of hearing the author read this very moving poem himself in around 1946 and it has haunted me ever since. Certainly my favourite. One young contributor says she wants to understand it. Our English Master at the time was tempted to ask Walter it's meaning but thought better of it. After all it is "all in the mind" of the reader. Mike.

Gerard Haines said...

Beautiful poem, it too reminded me of Robert Frost's work. Back in 1980, I
had to pick a poem from an 800 page literature book and write a complete
dissertation. Frost was my first choice, but his work was analyzed to
death. Paging through the thick book, I ran across this gem -- the
symbolism and mood intrigued me. Nothing motivate this lad like intrigue,
and my interpretation of the Traveler and the Listeners scored me a very
good grade in my Literature course. Since then, life went on but I always
remembered this poem in the back of my mind...then I ran across my paper
recently going through old college stuff that was stored away in my parent's
home that they were selling -- which ultimately led me here. Thanks!

Gerard Haines

John Wild said...

I also am so glad to see this poem is not nearly as overlooked or forgotten
as I had believed! I found it in a poetry anthology of my mother's years
ago, and until now, I had never seen it in any other book--nor ever heard
it referenced, let alone discussed. What a shame! As a reader and writer
who has been historically suspicious of poems that were TOO open-ended as
to what they meant to say, this was a poem that instantly became my
favorite exception. It has taken many, many readings for me to glean the
interpretation I have, and it admittedly does not account for everything in
the poem. In general, I take it to be a symbolic (and a wonderfully,
chillingly, dreamlike one, as so many of you note) of the plight of every
person who falls out of the "dream, from which we are constantly awaking"
(couldn't reference that quote, but love it!) of life; searching, far and
alone in the dark for the answers to the questions of life's meaning--in
general and for the individual. Perhaps the answers given back in
civilization, if you will, are unsatisfactory to the Traveller, or perhaps
the Traveller just feels a need to seek them from whatever he deems the
most profound sources of knowing. How does one put a finger on the
Listeners? Society--as individuals secretly or subconsciously feeling as
abandoned as he? Philosophers and theologians? Those who have gone
through (and beyond) life before us? God or gods? Perhaps the experience
of ultimately not being answered somewhat negates the importance of
deciding that...but the Traveller's final response is pithily profound,
"'Tell them I came, and no one answered, That I kept my word,' he
said." There is an aching power in this individual's serving notice to
whatever powers there be that, though he goes away unanswered, unsatisfied,
confounded perhaps, he takes solace in a proclamation of a personal
integrity--that he kept his word...and if there is no ultimate answer,
meaning, consolation, or comfort in the universe, it is not for his lack of
striving after it.


julie maclaren said...

ithis poem is crazy i am doing it for a exam and i have to answer such question like
who is he?
why has he "kept his promise"
what promise?
to whom?
why are they all ghostes?
whose house?
where is the traveller going?

plz use ur imaginasion and knowage of this poem
thank you

Emily said...

It's wonderful, this poem... I heard it on the radio read aloud- all but the
last line, because then we drove under a tunnel! I had to hear the end and
mum gave me the poem to read. The second time I liked it even better and I
copied it down.
Every line of the poem you've got in front of your eyes - the scene is clear
and terrifying and you can feel every word. You can see the face of the
Traveller, the forest, the house, the horse, the hall, the stairs, you can
hear him shout and listen to the stilness once the sound of the horse's
hoofs has left ....


Matt Faulkner said...

Me, I reckon it's just about a simple Woodpecker! He knocks but no-one
answers- no-one ever answers! The turret is the roof of the tree where he
has disturbed the sleeping birds and the animals are the listeners who
refuse to come down.. So, he knocks again but the forest remains silent..
and with one last time he squarks at the futility of it all and flies away.

The only question is why this particular Kingfisher has insomnia and has
obviously kept Mr de la Mare awake on this particular night! :-)

Barbara Ann BROWN said...

Love it - and it was actually missing from my school poetry book
"Verse Worth Remembering". I get goose-pimples when I read it.
But ........ does anybody else think that the 7th line is too long/doesn't
"and he smote upon the door again a second time".
Why do we need the word "again".

Please don't throw things at me, but I'd be interested in comments.


JaciBooso said...

Hi How are you? I am currently writing a prosodic analysis on walter de la
mares poem "the listeners" I read what you wrote:
"The Listeners has fascinated me since the day I first read it. Like many
others, no doubt, I've wondered what it really meant, what it was all
about, and indeed it was in searching for this information that I came
across this site. The atmosphere it conjures up is utterly chilling, and it
is the most thought-provoking poem I've ever come across. Does it have an
"official" interpretetion or did De la Mare really pen it to have no real
meaning at all? I'd be grateful if anyone in the know would e-mail me."

Have you received any answers to your questions? I would also love to know!
I am wondering also if the patterns in the poem , if any, help the poem to be
performed in a certain way?

Thank you

JaciBooso said...

Hi I just read your comments on the poem the Listeners. I wanted to hear
Do you maybe know how he shows this stuggle to be heard within structural
patterns within the poems. Obviously the wya he writes the poem isnt by
coincidence. Do you think that the stresses, or syllables per line, or any of the
cadeneces in the poem help bring out the meaning of the poem when its performed?


hi sorry to bother you but can you explain the leafy sky,plungigng
hoofs,voice from the world of men and sound of iron on stone

please and email me on

Michael Drury said...

hi if you got any information on the listeners could you pass it on like you my daughter has this poem on her exam and i can find no analysis on the net much appreciated

Ruth said...

Hi everyone
I love this poem. It's interesting to read everyone's opinions on the poem. I had to do an
essay on The Listeners, and my interpretation of it was that....

The TRAVELLER is actually the ghost.

He has died and maybe he doesn't realise he's dead. (hence why he is travelling - maybe in
limbo? very symbolic of the journey we must all take when we die) When he was alive he
made the promise to go to this house for some reason, but he does not realise that he has
died and that time has passed, since he is in another world and time space.
The people who live in the house now can sense him outside and are afraid which is why
they do not answer. (Plus it's night - they're all in bed!!!) They can sense him and he
can sense them. To him, the house is as it was before. If anyone has ever seen the movie,
"The Others," they'll know what I mean.

It is often believed that ghosts do not cross the other side or "go towards the light,"
because they have unfinished business in the world that they must complete before they can
rest in peace. The traveller's unfinished business was something to do with that house and
t would seem to me that the traveller will continue to come back to the house until
someone lets him in or answers - (not likely to happen!)

I suppose someone is going to think, "How come the poem says, 'To that voice from the
world of men...' if he is the ghost."
Well the answer is ... I don't know. He's just died - its all a bit confusing for him. You
would be too if you died and found yourself on a horse outside some old house in the

I'm not going to analyse it further because it's probably going to ruin my theory. :-)
Happy reading people!

Roy & Barbara Tilbury said...

The poem 'The Listeners"

A little late - hope it is still relevant

This poem reminds me of the those I loved and who cared
for me. Those I remember with longing, since
I can't be sure, hear my eternal internal, onesided dialogue.

A house is the family home, the place that held all the words,
that led to now.


Nick Blasdale said...

I learned this poem as a child for a recitation competition and have never
forgotten it recited it last week to my year 7 studentsand they loved it.
It proveked so much discussion. For another great poem read "In Mrs Tilchers
Class" by Carol Ann Duffy. It brings back incredible memories of my
childhood, yet my students of today loved it too.

Eric Elin said...

Hello, I first read this poem in my first year in high school (1947). We
had a Scotsman as our english teacher who spent a lot of time on this
poem. In his heavy Scots accent the "Forest's Ferny Floor" kept going
through my brain over and over. I came across an illustration for the
"Listener". It shows a knight (in shining armor) with a large sword in a
side scabbard, standing at the head of his horse that was champing at
the grass. In the background was a large wooden door in an archway that
looked as though it would be an entrance to a castle or a large walled
estate with ivy growing up and down the walls.
After seeing this illustration I never had any illusions other that he
was a crusader returning from his "duties" but had been gone for so
long, that things have changed and the promise to return was kept by
him, but no one was there to meet him. It ended so sadly when the sound
of his horse's hooves "the sound of iron on stone" faded away back into
the forest.
Thanks to everyone for reminding me of the complete poem.

Richard R Szathmary said...

I read "The Listeners" as a child and have honestly never forgotten it.

Perhaps it's because I learned it in a Catholic, nun-taught grade school
when such grade schools really were Catholic. I realize there's no
specifically religious imagery here, but the chill remains. Someone,
maybe even a shade, comes to fulfill his obligation, Desperately seeks to
fulfill it, insists "they" should know he was here. But then "they" don't
answer even as we're told they heard. It's forever set in the late dusk
of one's heart, I suspect. There's something wispy here, something that
can be pursued but never apprehended.

And something comforting, because the obligation was completed.

Yes, I like "The Listeners" very, very much. So few pieces of writing
really have the power to unsettle (but so many writers who do seem to be
clustered at, now that I think of it), and this one
really, really does.

Richard Szathmary, Clifton, NJ

BeBurns said...

I learned this in school aged about 12 and had to recite it at one end of
term 'bash'. It's never left me although I couldn't quite remember all of the
words. Thanks for bringing it back to life, this is truly a set of words
that you can live as you say them them.

Toufic Arab said...

do you have any analysis on the poem the listeners

Toufic Arab said...

may I ask why you think in the poem the listeners that the listeners was god and we are the traveller

Ron Wilson said...

I don't know what to think about this poem except that it's dark and eerie.

This poem is about a man, “the Traveler”, going back to his childhood. The Traveler remembers the old home and wanted to return, but when he returned he realized that there’s nothing and no one left. His memories are “the listeners” that can not reply. The promise he made was to himself as a child to return and re-live. Once he realized that his childhood was gone forever, and the memories “he felt in his heart their strangeness” didn’t respond, he gets mad and tries to persuade them a third time “even louder”. He leaves and returns to this world, never wanting to be bothered with the memories of childhood anymore.

Sean Brophy said...

I am doing the same for my 8th grade son!! Did you find a wed site for an
interpertation of the poem? Thanks!

James England said...

A truly terrific, yet eerie poem. The poem makes you read on even if you
don't like to read. My English class have an idea that the poem could be
linked to the thought of death, or some deal he had made (e.g.: "tell
them I came, and no-one answered, that I kept my word") this makes you
think, "hang on, what sort of deal is the one, he made?". This poem
thrilled, made me think and gave me that chill I like in a poem.

Kasper Hauser

James England said...

A Truly beautiful and mysterious poem. The poem that asks more Questions
than it answers. As said in Alan Elgars comment you do see why he did
regret writing this poem. Great poem. Read it

Kasper hauser

Philip Gray said...

My friend, there is no number one but The Listeners.
The opening lines must surely set any thinking person's
imagination on fire.
Sit in a quiet room, turn the lights down low, and read those opening lines again.
But first make sure you lock the door.

'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.

I bet everyone who reads that opening piece by Walter De La Mare
conjures up his own personal scene for that moonlit door.
It's beautiful.
It's the end of the rainbow.

Philip Gray
Toronto, Canada.


Dear Sir,

I read your comment on "The Listeners," by Walter de la Mare. I am also
intrigued by this poem. I have to write an argumentative essay on it. The
more I read it, the more I come up with questions? It will be hard to argue
anything but the fact it creates more mystery than any particular theme or
meaning. I am not looking to copy anyone's idea's, but hoping you may share
your interpretation or personal feelings on the poem.

Hope to hear from you.

David Dowding

libby hawkins (libithina) said...

Loved this poem too, was wonderiing about the title of it, as it has recently come to mind, and I could'nt think what it was called but I remembered the speed of it, and how it caught you up in the narrative. Luckily and uncannily, I found your site and there it was. I have just written a poem, and I had the compliment that this poem (she couldnt think of the title either - but described) I had writen, reminded my friend of 'The Listeners', I am humbled. L

Annikken O'Connell said...

Hi all. Having learnt The Listeners at 9 years old - sixtyfive years ago - I can truly aggree with practically all of the comments listed, even the contradictory ones. The poems words come like echos at times. The images reflect into new views. The intensity connects to suppressed emotions The tone of silence is a presence. The energy charge of unfinished duty and strong mystery will keep this poem with us. Thank you. From Annikken

michael crean said...

The horse, the stars, the forest and animals are part of the natural world
and perform as one would expect.. The house is old and empty and in a state
of decay as shown by the bird living in the turret. and the leaf-fringed
I think the traveller has looked inside himself for answers to questions he
should have asked his paents but did not. He was too preoccupied with his
immediate needs and interests. It was only after they died he realised the
answers died with them. They still live in the old house but only as
memories and phantoms and no longer "... of the world of men."
He wants to settle down, to be at one with humanity, to love someone, to
communicate but cannot. He must go on and on hoping that somehow, somewhere,
he will find what his heart has been searching for and so relieve the
awful silence which follows him..
This interpretation does not do justice to my favorite poem but it may
trigger a response, agreeing or not with the above..

lisasattaris06 said...

who is the traveller? where did he come from?

Joy Mardi said...

I was looking for an analysis of The Listeners on the net but found none.
I read your comment on a site. Please, if its not too much trouble, can u send me an analysis of this poem. I would really appreciate it.
Thanking you,

wynne weston-davies said...

I have never been able to understand if De La Mare deliberately spoilt the
scansion of this poem by inserting extra syllables. As he was such a
masterful poet I assume it was intentional. However " '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
out of the turret/ Above the Traveller's head/ And he smote on the door a
second time/' Is there anybody there?' he said" scans much better than the
original. Is it done deliberately to slightly disquiet the reader or what?


ian morton said...

to walter I think this is an exhalent poem and I'm learning it in school

Rutherford said...


Ben Campbell said...

i never understood this poem so i read it thousands of times until i captured the most amazinglove poem i have ever read.

joe eldridge said...

Hi Thank you for posting the poem, "The Listeners" . I believe it to be a
christian analogy on the Return of Jesus after Judgement day. The Ferny
Forest is Earth, The listeners are us humans his witnesses and the one lone
person awake is Faith and Belief . I have a longer critique if you are


Anonymous said...

I need help woth this poem to do for my assigment please help me!

sathish said...

it is quiet interesting but icannot realise the environmental feelings

Anonymous said...

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'.

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Elisa said...

Dear Minstrels & Fellow Readers,

I recommend you read the sequel; "The Speakers" found at

It made me cackle!

Anonymous said...

RUPA said,
il like the poem very much ,i thnk the traveller was a ghost and he came to see his friends who is also dead like him and he also doesn't no why they didn't response to him,so he took his horse and went back.

Iam not sure with this ,the poem made me to think more.


Anonymous said...

he came to tell dem somethin but they is dead oops he goes bye bye

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

For everyone who has always loved The Listeners - I recently stumbled upon a sequel written by a very witty young blogger! The link follows:

Meriahkan Pesta ulang tahun Bersama GarudaFood said...

dear Minstrels & Fellow Readers,

I recommend you read the sequel;

It made me cackle!\\

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edu said...

Yes I listen about it its really great

Centro Metro said...

This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want...HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great! Centro Metro

Anonymous said...

I've always thought of the Traveler as being like a Sir Galahad character in the Age of Chivalry and he has promised to come be their knight but the Plague arrives before he does. The poem puts me in mind of Renaissance paintings: jewel-coloured capes and dresses with Death waiting, silently.

Anonymous said...

I have always loved this poem since being a child (I am now 64). I always get caught up in the stillness of it all. The Traveller may have been away fighting in a long war, and promised the occupants of the house that he would return once hostilities were over. He arrives, tired and probably hungry. He knocks on the door and wonders why the house is in darkness. The sound of his horse munching the grass seems quite loud in the stillness and when a bird flies out of the turret the noise unnerves him. The Traveller knocks again, even louder. He feels very alone and senses the neglect of the house - that things are not quite right. He becomes even more aware of the sound of his horse chomping the grass and perhaps even hears the sound of twigs breaking as curious animals look to see who is disturbing the silence. In desperation he realizes there is no one in that dark and eerie place but himself - why did they forget him? They should have known that he always kept his promises - but wait, time goes so quickly - he has been away a long time. The Traveller begins to feel his solitude as the emptiness and neglect of the house becomes too apparent He feels very alone and a little frightened and suddenly jumps on his horse and gallops away rapidly. Perhaps they could wait no longer on this Earth, but their spirits nevertheless waited for that knock on the door

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