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Walter De La Mare’s poem, “The Listeners”, was published in 1912. It talked about a Traveller who had arrived at a silent house with his house, in order to keep his promise of some sorts. Though he repeatedly knocked on the door, he was met with silence from a host of phantom listeners, dwelling inside the house.
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.
The poem starts with the speaker narrating the speech of a “Traveller.” The speaker is a third person omniscient narrator, who narrates the action to the readers. The traveller has arrived at the house and is knocking on the moonlit door. The moonlit door is met with silence which is uncanny (Strange). The silence is broken by the horse as it champed the grasses.
The sinister (frightening) surrounding reflects on the fact that the traveler might be standing somewhere away from civilization; at a place that is primarily natural and solitary. He’s standing in front of a large house which is eminent from the word turret or that it’s in the middle of the woods.
The Traveller decides that he will smote upon the door again meaning that he will knock on the door with more force as he is unsure of entering without being given permission. He knocks on the door with more force and calls out whether anyone is in the house.
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, Harkening in an air stirred and shaken By the lonely Traveller's call.
In the second part of the poem, the speaker describes the dilemma of the Traveller as there is no one to greet him. No one descended from the house despite the Traveller’s calls and his knockings. He even expected that someone might peep from the window and look into his gray eyes but there is no one.
The speaker describes the uncanny and sinister state is it only a host of phantom listeners dwelt in the lone house. The traveler is confused as what he is supposed to do now. There is no sound but silence could be heard. The world of men, for both the speaker and the Traveller, seems very far away from where they are standing.
Through this, the poet wanted to signify that the location was away from rationality and reason; almost bordering on the supernaturalism. The Traveller stands waiting, hoping that someone would come but it seem that the Traveller is completely alone, aside from his horse.
The use of the word phantoms denote that unearthly dwellers are living in the house. The Travellers and his horse are the only living creatures in this poem. It is the quietness of the house that answers the Traveller’s calls.
The poem is almost bordering on the supernaturalism, on one side and the world of men on the other side. The Traveller, a living person, knocks on the door of a house which seems to contain phantom listeners. The Traveller reflects the last hope of civilization in the great awakening amidst a house full of sinister creatures.