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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)

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Poet Bio

Walter de La Mare
A strong sense of wonder let Walter de La Mare write mysterious, ethereal poems and stories that can give chills to both young and old—he was a “poet of dusk.” Born in Kent, the “garden of England,” he grew up immersed in nature, but settled in London in 1890, where he worked in an office. A government pension in 1908 allowed him to write full-time, and in 1953 he was awarded the high honor of an Order of Merit. His 1923 anthology Come Hither: A Collection of Rhymes and Poems for the Young of All Ages is a classic. See More By This Poet

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