The Listeners

The Listeners Summary

Though named for the mysterious “Listeners,” the poem opens with a spoken question from its main character, described only as “the Traveler.” He has arrived, traveling on horseback, (we don’t know from where or why he’s come) at the house of the “Listeners,” with whom he attempts to speak. The house of the Listeners is isolated, seemingly in the middle of a forest, and the poem takes place at night.

The traveler knocks again, repeating twice his initial question—“Is there anybody there?” and receives no response. Knocking a third time, he tells the Listeners, whom he senses are there despite their silence, to tell an unspecified ‘them’ that he’s ‘kept his word’ by coming. Just as we’re told nothing about who the Traveler or the Listeners are, de la Mare leaves this promise referenced by the Traveler a mystery. The Traveler then mounts his horse and leaves; the speaker describes the Listeners hearing the sounds of the hoofs of the Traveler’s horse fade, and the scene lapses back into complete silence.