Summary and Analysis

“All but Blind,” by the English poet Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), is a relatively simple poem and reflects the fact that de la Mare often wrote verse for children. The work is uncomplicated in phrasing, structure, and rhyme scheme, although the meter of the work is often both precise and subtle.

In line 1, for instance, the heaviest stress falls on “blind,” the key word of the entire poem. The very brevity of that line gives the word even heavier emphasis. Note how the speaker first describes blindness before revealing what, precisely, is blind. We do not learn for certain until the very last word of the first stanza that the blind creature is a “Mole” (4). The speaker thus creates a kind of curiosity and suspense as we have to wait to discover exactly which creature he has in mind. The stanza would be much less effective if that information were given first (as in “The four-clawed Mole, / In his chambered hole, / All but blind / Hunts his daily dole”).

As presently structured, the stanza emphasizes blindness at the start and the “Mole” at the very end. Notice, too, how the speaker manages to give special metrical emphasis to the verb “Gropes” (3). The verb is strongly accented, and it is placed first in the line to give it extra attention. The word “grope” derives from an Old English word meaning “to grasp,” and “Gropes” definitely suggests effort and work. The mole may seem insignificant (and in fact is usually invisible to human beings), but the tiny creature goes about its business with admirable determination. And, because the mole mainly is invisible to humans as it works quietly beneath the ground, it is we, in a sense, who are blind to it.

Stanza two is structured similarly to stanza one, especially in its first two lines. However, for the sake of variation and to avoid predictability, the speaker now presents the supposedly blind creature in the stanza’s...

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