Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
The Listeners
By Walter de la Mare (1873–1956)
 
‘IS there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
  Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champ’d the grasses
  Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,        5
  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        10
Lean’d over and look’d into his grey eyes,
  Where he stood perplex’d and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
  That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight        15
  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 stirr’d and shaken
  By the lonely Traveller’s call.        20
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
  Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
  ’Neath the starr’d and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even        25
  Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answer’d,
  That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
  Though every word he spake        30
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,        35
  When the plunging hoofs were gone.
 
 
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