The Listeners Poem Summary Meanings and Analysis

‘The listeners’ poem was written by Walter de La Mare and published in 1912. This poem ‘The Listener’ has mysterious and supernatural touch with the mention of ‘phantoms’ that might be the listeners because the query of the traveller goes unanswered.

The Listeners Poem Word-Meanings

champed – chomped, chewed making sounds

ferny– floor – full of ferns, the fern plant’s growth on the forest soil (The floor was ferny implies that no one had been tending to the grounds of the house.

turret – a cylindrical tower rising from a building

smote (pt. of smite) – struck or hit violently and heavily

leaf-fringed sill – the plant growth reaching and around the window sill

sill – a narrow shelf at the base of a window frame

perplexed – confused and anxious

phantom – a ghost

dwelt – lived, stayed in the place

world of men – human beings (here it is used to bridge the separation between the human world and the world of spirits)

thronging – crowding in and around

harkening – to listen to with particular attention

stirred and shaken – disturbed, (the voice of the traveller disturbs the atmosphere of silence)

cropping – cutting, shortening or trimming (the horse was grazing reducing the size of the grass there)

felt their strangeness – felt the creepiness of the inside atmosphere of the house

neath – beneath

leafy sky – the reflection of the sky when seen from under the trees.

spake – spoke

shadowiness – darkness created by the shadow of the house

Ay – yes (also means regret and woe)

sound of iron on stone – the galloping by metal shoes of the horse

surge – rise and move forward

plunging – jumping, thrusting or driving – it is used to highlight the intensity of the traveller’s departure. He drives his horse hard away from the house causing its hooves to plunge to the ground)

Summary: The Listeners

The poem possesses an eerie and supernatural quality, evoked by the mention of “phantoms” that may refer to the listeners who remain silent while the traveller’s query goes unanswered.

At the outset of the poem, the traveller approaches a moonlit door in an unfamiliar location, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and ambiguity that pervades the tone and mood of the work. The forest setting in which the traveller finds himself is desolate and overgrown with brambles, intensifying the sense of isolation and strangeness that prompts the traveller to knock on the door of the turreted house, then strike it, and eventually strike it even harder, as he receives no response. Though his horse appears contentedly grazing on the grass, the traveller is the only one feeling perplexed and alone in this nocturnal scene. It is unclear why the traveller is there, apart from keeping a mysterious promise, but his choice of this lonely and remote location in the dead of night is peculiar. Something must have driven him to repeatedly call out to an empty house without venturing inside to investigate its contents. Despite feeling the peculiarity and stillness of the place and its “listeners” in his heart, the traveller’s horse remains oblivious, continuing to feed on the “dark turf.” The poem concludes by shifting its focus from the lonely traveller to the silent listeners, as he hurriedly departs, leaving only an oral message for the unknowns. The readers are left to ponder the nature of the listeners and whether they were truly ghosts or something else entirely.

The Listeners: Question-Answers



  1. a. The poet stood outside a house and knocked on the door, but no one peered into his grey eyes.
    b. The lack of response left him puzzled.
    c. These lines allude to the traveller’s eyes.
    d. The visitor stood in confusion and shock, waiting for someone to answer the door.
  2. a. Inside the house, the listeners remained.
    b. They listened to the visitor outside without acknowledging him or coming out.
    c. This suggests that the listeners were the residents of the house.
    d. The listeners didn’t respond to the knock at the door.
  3. a. The ethereal listeners stood by and listened.
    b. The man outside the door knocked, and his sounds were heard.
    c. These lines pertain to human beings.
    d. This doesn’t refer to the world of ghosts and phantoms, but rather the listeners are described as spectral in nature.

B. Answers

1. The poem takes place in a forest dwelling on a moonlit evening, with a serious tone and eerie, supernatural atmosphere. The poem ends with a mystery, leaving readers to wonder who might be inside the house.

2. “Is there anybody there?” asked the traveller as he knocked on the door.

3. The poem sets an eerie and mysterious tone, with a supernatural touch, as it unfolds on a starry, moonlit night. The traveller knocks on the door of a large house three times but receives no response. It is possible that phantoms were listening but not answering. The traveller and his horse both sense something strange in the atmosphere, but no one appears. As the traveller leaves, the eerie silence continues, leaving readers to speculate about who might be inside the house.

4. The traveller received no answer because either no one was in the house except for a host of phantoms, or the house was empty.

5. The traveller left a message for the inhabitants, asking them to know that he had come and kept his promise.

6. The bird and horse add to the mystery and spookiness of the atmosphere, creating an eerie feeling.

7. The silence that greeted the traveller was the answer to his question. The poet suggests that the eerie silence all around the house was the listeners’ response. The silence added to the strangeness of the atmosphere, and the poet also felt it.

8. There are several unanswered questions regarding the incident:

i. Was anyone present in the house, given that there was no response when the traveller knocked the door thrice?

ii. Was the strange and eerie feeling experienced by the traveller an indication of supernatural entities, such as phantoms, being present in the house?

iii. What exactly was the promise that the traveller had gone to fulfill, and who had asked him to fulfill it?

iv. What prompted the traveller to arrive at the house at night? Was it a condition of the promise, or did he have to travel a long distance and arrive late in the day?

Possible answers to these questions are as follows:

i. Based on the lack of response, it is likely that there were no people present in the house.

ii. The traveller’s creepy experience suggests the presence of supernatural entities, possibly phantoms.

iii. It is unclear what the promise was, but it is possible that someone had asked the traveller to visit the house at night in the forest to test his courage or ability to fulfill the promise.

iv. The traveller may have arrived at night either due to the conditions of the promise or because he had to travel a long distance and arrived at the house late in the day.

Poetry Appreciation


1. The personification has been used as stillness has been shown as any person answering his cry. The lines also contain the poetic device ‘paradox’ as to how can stillness answer a cry.

2. ‘Personification’ as silence is shown surging as a person trying to rise forward. ‘Alliteration’ – silence surged softly

B. Examples of Alliteration are:

i. forest’s ferny floor

ii. suddenly smote

iii. silence surged softly

iv. louder, and lifted

v. stirred and shaken

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Aaryan

    solve ch-14&16

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