Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Listeners by Walter De la Mare

We had this poem in our 10th grade and this was one of the first poems that really resonated with me, I was fascinated, amused and completely engrossed in its magic. Funny thing is I remember a particular incident of me going to this really studious mean guy, who used to bully peasants like me in school, to discuss this particular poem. ( I do not really remember the bullying part so if you are reading this and remember me and this moment, pardon me for the sake of a good element in the story)
He was basically the guy that was the best in the subject, according to the marks that is. So I walk straight to him and I start this conversation by asking how did he like the poem mentioned above and he gives me a straight face and says its fine pretty elementary and ordinary. I was obviously offended by this remark.Then I tired to put up an argument that the poem has symbolic meanings and interpretations to life and death,yes the poem has a simple enough narrative but the idea is very intriguing. I was hoping he acknowledge his defeat. The reply that he gave to me had a lasting impact on me and made me see beyond marks and curriculum.
He, in his wicked grin, told me that I am not intellectual enough to understand the interpretations and that he does not care about it, All that was unnecessary for exams and I am a stupid asshole whose wasting time thinking about the interpretations.
I wish instead of being stumped and speechless at that moment, I should have thanked him.
Here is the amazing poem that motivated me to write poetry myself.

The Listeners
BY WALTER DE LA MARE

‘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.

Source: The Collected Poems of Walter de la Mare (1979)