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Walter de la Mare: Georgian Poet fueled by Standard Oil in London

Remembered for his theories on the imagination

  • The Listeners
  • “Is there anybody there?” said the Traveller, 
  • Knocking on the moonlit door; 
  • And his horse in the silence champed the grass 
  • 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.
  • A Song of Enchantment
  • A song of Enchantment I sang me there,
  • In a green-green wood, by waters fair,
  • Just as the words came up to me
  • I sang it under the wild wood tree.
  • Widdershins turned I, singing it low,
  • Watching the wild birds come and go;
  • No cloud in the deep dark blue to be seen
  • Under the thick-thatched branches green.
  • Twilight came: silence came:
  • The planet of Evening’s silver flame;
  • By darkening paths I wandered through
  • Thickets trembling with drops of dew.
  • But the music is lost and the words are gone
  • Of the song I sang as I sat alone,
  • Ages and ages have fallen on me —
  • On the wood and the pool and the elder tree.
Walter de la Mare

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956) was an English poet, short story writer and novelist, best known for his children’s stories and psychological horror stories. Beginning in 1890, he worked in the statistics department of Standard Oil’s London office to support his growing family; he and his wife eventually had four children. But like other businessmen-writers, such as American poets Wallace Stevens (vice president at Hartford Insurance) and Dana Gioia (senior executive at General Foods), he still managed to find time to write. De le Mare is also remembered for his theories on the imagination, a faculty which he saw as an important part of early childhood development. He is included among the Georgian Poets, whose work was published in a series of anthologies between 1911 and 1922 entitled Georgian Poetry.

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  • The Listeners
  • “Is there anybody there?” said the Traveller, 
  • Knocking on the moonlit door; 
  • And his horse in the silence champed the grass 
  • 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.
  • A Song of Enchantment
  • A song of Enchantment I sang me there,
  • In a green-green wood, by waters fair,
  • Just as the words came up to me
  • I sang it under the wild wood tree.
  • Widdershins turned I, singing it low,
  • Watching the wild birds come and go;
  • No cloud in the deep dark blue to be seen
  • Under the thick-thatched branches green.
  • Twilight came: silence came:
  • The planet of Evening’s silver flame;
  • By darkening paths I wandered through
  • Thickets trembling with drops of dew.
  • But the music is lost and the words are gone
  • Of the song I sang as I sat alone,
  • Ages and ages have fallen on me —
  • On the wood and the pool and the elder tree.
Walter de la Mare

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956) was an English poet, short story writer and novelist, best known for his children’s stories and psychological horror stories. Beginning in 1890, he worked in the statistics department of Standard Oil’s London office to support his growing family; he and his wife eventually had four children. But like other businessmen-writers, such as American poets Wallace Stevens (vice president at Hartford Insurance) and Dana Gioia (senior executive at General Foods), he still managed to find time to write. De le Mare is also remembered for his theories on the imagination, a faculty which he saw as an important part of early childhood development. He is included among the Georgian Poets, whose work was published in a series of anthologies between 1911 and 1922 entitled Georgian Poetry.

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