CBSE Class 8 English Literature Poem The Listeners Bywalter De La Mare


POEM: The Listeners Bywalter De La Mare


Walter John de la Mare was an English poet, short story writer and novelist, probably best remembered for his works for children and The Listeners. He came from a family of French Huguenots, and was educated at St Paul's School. His first book, Songs of Childhood, was published under the name Walter Ramal. He worked in the statistics department of the London office of Standard Oil for eighteen years while struggling to bring up a family, but nevertheless found enough time to write, and, in 1908, through the efforts of Sir Henry Newbolt he received a Civil List pension which enabled him to concentrate on writing.

One of de la Mare's special interests was the imagination, and this contributed both to the popularity of his children's writing and to his other work occasionally being taken less seriously than it deserved.

De la Mare also wrote some subtle psychological horror stories; "Seaton's Aunt" and "Out of the Deep" are noteworthy examples. His 1921 novel, Memoirs of a Midget, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.


“The Listeners” describes a Traveller who has come to knock on a moonlit door in an eerie, unknown place.  He has come to keep an unnamed promise, and knocks on the door harder and harder, but gets no response.  Unbeknownst to him, a “host of phantom listeners’ (line 13) are inside but unresponsive to his calls.  The traveller finally leaves, but the listeners remain.

The theme of the poem is the place of man in a universe which is far greater than he, and which he can neither connect with nor understand.  It focuses on man’s state of isolation and disharmony with the natural world.  Nature, as represented by the horse placidly munching on the grass and the bird frightened by the man’s disturbing clamour, is normally serene – it is only man who is anxious because of his separateness.  The traveller tries to overcome his aloneness and establish meaning by fruitless seeking (knocking) and responsible living (keeping promises), but the natural world remains unyielding in keeping its distance, and the traveller continues on alone.


I. Answer with reference to context:

1. “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:

(a) Who was the traveller looking for?

(b) Where did he stop?

(c) Describe the atmosphere 

2. 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:

(a) Why was he perplexed?

(b) Explain the phrase ‘a host of phantom listeners’? 

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) What is happening in the above lines?

(b) What does the phrase ‘silence surged softly backward’signify?

II. Answer the following questions briefly:

  1. Who are the listeners in “The Listeners”?
  2. Why were they called so?
  3. In the poem “The Listeners,” what does “iron on stone” mean?

III. Choose the correct answer from the options given below:

1.Which of the following sentences best sums up what happens in the poem?

(a) A traveler arrives at a house and knocks on the door, but is sent away again.

(b) A traveler arrives at a house and knocks on the door but nobody answers.

(c) A traveler arrives at a house and has an argument with the people who live there. 

2. Who are the ‘Listeners’?

(a) nobody – the house is empty

(b)animals sheltering in the house

(c)ghosts in the house 

3.What are the poetic devices used in the poem “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare?

(a) personification

(b) simile

(c) imagery

(d) all the above



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