Walter de la Mare was one of the most popular poets of his time. Since his death his reputation has faded. His verse sometimes sounds too romantic for the sensibilities of a modern audience. However, his children’s verse remains in print, and the best of his adult poetry remains standard for inclusion in anthologies of twentieth century English poets. The present moderate eclipse of the popularity of his poetry is probably temporary, because his best verse has those iconoclastic qualities that make such poets as William Blake stand out from ordinary poets.
De la Mare’s sensibility is deeply rooted in the Romanticism of the nineteenth century, and like the works of Rudyard Kipling and George Bernard Shaw, his writings often seem reminiscent of the Victorian era. Nevertheless, his subjects were from the twentieth century, and the resultant mixture of contemporary realism and Romantic style make him special among major poets. Of the various poetic modes represented in his works, the lyric was the one with which de la Mare had his greatest artistic success; he ranks among the best lyric poets in the English language, and he may be the best English lyric poet of his era. In his mastery of poetic form and metaphor, de la Mare compares favorably with the best the English language has to offer.
His blend of romance and realism, of the supernatural with the commonplace, inspired poets of his day. The term delamarian was coined sometime during de la Mare’s middle years, and it is still used to identify works that employ techniques that are best represented by his work. The coinage of such a term is evidence of the esteem in which de la Mare was held by many of his contemporaries, and of the unique blend of form and ideas that makes him one of the twentieth century’s best poets.