'Is there anybody there?'
THE LISTENERS'Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,Knocking on the moonlit door;And his horse in the silence champed the grassesOf 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 a second time;‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.But no one descended to the Traveller;No head from the leaf-fringed sillLeaned over and looked into his grey eyes,Where he stood perplexed and still.But only a host of phantom listenersThat dwelt in the lone house thenStood listening in the quiet of the moonlightTo that voice from the world of men:Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,That goes down to the empty hall,Hearkening in an air stirred and shakenBy 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 on the door, evenLouder, 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 spakeFell echoing through the shadowiness of the still houseFrom the one man left awake:Ay, 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.
-- Walter de la mer
Walter de la Mare offered no analysis, which others have sought to do. He stated only that the "Traveller" had discovered "a universe."
Yes, "phantoms," whatever that could mean, realistically or metaphorically. A higher realm, another dimension where contact with another world is either impossible or not desired. Just my viewpoint.
Man cannot connect with Nature nor can he connect with the universe . . .
One critique I read stated that Nature is indifferent to the anxiety felt by the "traveller," who wished only to acquit himself of a promise made. Yet, we have no clue what he promised and if the lodgers moved on in the flesh but left behind their essence.
THE LOOKING GLASS
My eyes, fixed steadily upon cheerful passersby on the street below, peer through darkly transparent curtains. In contrast to my placid self, these happy souls are at peace with the world. Not so long ago, I was a companion to all, democratic in the society I kept. I see the world, I know the world from my lookout, five-storeys removed from the bustle of a life now abandoned.
After my abrupt withdrawal from constant companionship, these, my true friends, inquired after my state, leaving their cards with Hayworth as he, my faithful butler, politely but firmly turned them all away. Consequently, they ceased further inquiry into my health and caught up with their own lives and made tracks elsewhere. Needless to say, my doorway has not been brightened by old friends for a considerable time.
The August sun has been burning with her characteristic, seasonal fire. I cannot, for the life of me, be rid of this penetrating, bone-biting chill that has settled in at my core. When, one day, I had casually regarded my overall aspect in the bevelled glass of Mother's wardrobe mirror, I was taken aback by an aggressive increase in pallor, an uncharacteristic thinness of my once robust frame, a mallen streak creeping up my scalp.
Months passed, with myself confined to what had once been Mother's suite. I would not allow my curious eyes to wander toward the honesty of silvered glass. With the passage of time, I completely left off wondering about that horrid reflection cast in glass.
Despite my physical self's incremental change over time -- I one day forced myself to look head on into that dread mirror -- what frightened me most was the accelerated fading of my reflection. I looked down; the feet that long supported me were shrouded in vaporous mist, the fingers that had once made sweet music a shadowy tracery that clutched desperately at a face that no longer was . . .