The Listeners Questions and Answers
- Would you call Walter de la Mare’s ‘The Listeners’ a ghost poem?
Ans. In Walter de la Mare’s poem The Listeners, we meet a host of phantoms who live in a deserted house in a forest. One moonlit night a lonely traveller comes to that house. He knocks at the door and, naturally, gets no answer. But he can feel the presence of the phantom listeners within the house. Thus, we may see that all the elements out of which a ghost poem is generally made are present here. And yet, The Listeners cannot be called a ghost poem in the conventional sense of the term. Because there is nothing fearful about the phantoms whom we meet here. And, there is no atmosphere of horror and apprehension. Instead, we are touched by the helplessness of these phantoms. For, they are eager to communicate with the human being, but they fail to do so because they can only listen and cannot speak.
Instead of being afraid of them, we feel pity for them. Thus, If we must call ‘The Listeners’ a ghost poem, we must call it ‘a ghost poem with a difference.
- How many times did the traveller in The Listeners knock and speak, and with what result? What did his horse do as he kept knocking at the moonlit door?
Ans. The traveller in The Listeners knocked thrice at the moonlit door of the deserted house. He also called out thrice in a loud voice, announcing his arrival.
As he kept knocking at the door, his horse continued to graze on the ‘forest’s ferny floor.’
- Why was there no response to the traveller’s repeated calls? How did the traveller know that the house was deserted?
Ans. Only a host of Phantoms lived in that house at that time. They naturally could not speak the human language. That is why there was no response to the traveller’s repeated calls.
As the traveller looked up, he saw that the window sil was covered with creepers. So he concluded that the house had been abandoned for a long time.
- How did the traveller feel when there was no response to his repeated calls from within the house? Why are his eyes ‘grey”? What did he finally do?
Ans. The traveller felt puzzled when nobody from within the house answered his repeated calls. He did not know what to do next. His ‘grey’ eyes express his bewilderment.
Finally, he left a message with the phantom listeners for those he had come to meet. Then he rode away from the forest.
- Why, do you think, the traveller had come to the deserted house in the forest? What message did he finally leave and for whom?
Ans. The poet does not clearly tell us why the traveller had come to the deserted house in the forest. But we can guess that he probably had an appointment with those who once used to live in that house.
Finally, he left a message with the phantom listeners. In his message he asked the phantoms to tell them that he had come and thus he had kept his promise, but no one answered his calls.
He left this message for those with whom he probably had an appointment.
- What, in your opinion, is the central idea of Walter de la Mare’s poem ‘The Listeners’?
Ans. In ‘The Listeners’, the traveller represents the world of the living while the phantom listeners represent the world of the dead. One moonlit night in a lonely forest, these two worlds come in touch with one another for a brief while. Thus, the poet seems to suggest that the living and the dead are very close neighbours to each other. But most of the times, these two worlds remain unaware of each other’s presence. Only under very special circumstances, the fringes of these two worlds may touch one another so that the living and the dead may become aware of each other’s presence. But such a link between the two worlds last only for a few moments. This, in brief, appears to be the central idea of the poem.