The Listeners


Walter de la Mare

"Is anybody there?" said the Traveler,

Knocking on the moonlit door;

And his horse in the silence chomped the grasses

Of the forest's ferny floor.

And a bird flew up out of the turret,

Above the traveler's head:

And he smote upon the door a second time;

"Is there anybody there?" he said.

But no one descended to the Traveler;

No head from the leaf-fringed sill

Leaned over and looked into his gray 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 Traveler'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 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:

Aye, 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.

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