What Is an Analysis of “The Listeners” by Walter De La Mare?

“The Listeners” is a narrative poem by Walter de la Mare that tells the story of the Traveller’s encounter with the supernatural at a forest dwelling at night. One interpretation of the poem’s meaning is that it represents man’s tendency to ask questions and seek answers, yet he often does not receive an answer.

The characters in the poem are the Traveller, the Listeners and Them. The Traveller came to the house in the forest on horseback at night. Them are the people the Traveller came to see, supposedly on an errand. The Listeners are the spirits that converge to observe the Traveller as he knocks at the door but do not, or cannot, respond. Though neither Them or the Listeners acknowledge the Traveller’s presence, the Traveller acknowledges the Listeners by requesting they tell Them that he came and kept his word. A narrator tells the story of the poem from a third person perspective though he is never identified and may be one of the spirits. The tone of the poem is dark, otherworldly and mysterious. Themes present in the poem include supernatural eavesdropping and mystery. The setting is a moonlit forest in either the late 19th or early 20th century.