The Listeners – Walter De La Mare

This most evocative of poems is redolent of a memoried past which we, ourselves the listeners, have never experienced, and yet somehow understand. This is the absolute genius of the poem: it is a mystery, and yet, somehow we understand the mystery and are intimately a part of it.  Despite this, the character whom it chiefly concerns will never know that and will never know we exist. And to us, he exists only in his words, and the vehemence of his intent, in his loyalty to something only he, now, knows anything about. Is any of it real? Is he real? Are the listeners real? Are we real? In this wonderful magic trick, De La Mare whisks us bodily away into the spirit world, to become, ourselves, the Listeners whom our storied Traveller dimly perceives, and who listen to him, thronging in our own mysteries.

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