What is the theme of the poem "The Listeners"?
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The poem "The Listeners" explores the idea of the supernatural that is prevalent in De La Mare's work. The work opens with a foreboding presence of this abandoned house. We know it's abandoned and left with a sense of disrepair because of the way the poet describes it: "the grasses" in front of the house, "the forest's ferny floor" and the bird flying out of the turret at the top of the house. The theme of the supernatural or unexplained continues when the speaker repeatedly asks if anyone is there. His response: "A host of phantom listeners." This idea of loneliness of people, but something else being present is repeated throughout the poem. Note when the poet talks about the speaker who "stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight/ To that voice from the world of men." There is nothing, yet something there. Such ideas confirm the supernatural or other worldly theme of the poem. The poem ends with the traveler calling out to the house, "Tell them I came" as he leaves. It is almost as if the traveler realizes that something, not someone, else is there and he acknowledges it as he leaves with his horse. The theme of a supernatural imagination is present in this poem that compels the reader to embrace both what is there and what might be there.
"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" (de la Mare)
The above passage from the poem suggests that the theme of the poem is loss. The traveler has returned to a house that is familiar to him, only to find that the inhabitants are gone. He has returned to this house becuase of a promise that he made to the inyabitants of the house. There is also a suggestion in the poem that there are people in the house who are listening to his pounding on the door but refuse to answer it, but it could be because there is no one left inside to answer the door. The traveler might be the last surviving member of the family who once lived in the house.
"Evidently to keep some promise, perhaps to those who are no longer alive, since he is “the one man left awake” (line 32). Something, though, has caused him to come to this lonely and isolated place in the middle of the night and compelled him to cry out repeatedly to a deserted house, without entering to see for himself who or what might be there."
"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:" (de la Mare)
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