The Listeners by Walter de la Mare

“Is anybody there?” said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;

And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:

And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:

And he smote upon the door again the second time;
“Is there anybody there?” he said.

But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill

Leaned over and looked into his gray eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.

But only the host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then

Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:

Stood thronging the moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,

Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call:

And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,

While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
‘Neath the starred and leafy sky.

For he suddenly smote upon 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
From the one man left awake:

Aye, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,

And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

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