From My Sketch Book – 5

flame lily 6.1-311

As a young guy I really had no interest in poetry. I found it rather boring. Then, one morning our English teacher read a poem and something about it just grabbed me. I’ve never forgotten that poem. It set me on a lifelong love affair with poetry. The poem was Walter De La Mare‘s “The Listeners.” I think it was the sheer mystery of it all that grabbed me. A moonlit door, the knocking and the questions as to who was behind that door, were they expecting the Traveller, who were they, why was the door not opened, and all the many other mysteries? I tried to depict something of it in the above sketch. Here’s the first part of the poem.

Is there 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 a 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 grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a 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:

I love this last part where he finally rides away without meeting whoever the listeners were. I can just hear the “sound of iron on stone.” And that door, so grateful it was never opened. Throughout the ages it has kept us wondering and will continue to do so forever.

For he suddenly smote on 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:
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.


About Don

I love life. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not. Discerning its underlying patterns and beauty always provides great reward and meaning and is a passion I ineptly follow. I feel deeply attached to nature and love the sea with its distinct moods and colour and find walking along its beaches wonderfully inspiring. Writing, sketching and photography is a sheer joy for me and the blog is one of the places I am able to express these pursuits.
Image | This entry was posted in Art, From My Sketchbook, Life, Poetic Imagination, Poetry, Spirituality, wisdom and insight and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to From My Sketch Book – 5

  1. Wonderful, simply wonderful. The poem is haunting and the sketch captures the mood perfectly. Thanks for sharing.


  2. The mystery is always what captures us I think, Don. The un-finished-ness of something makes us want to know what the story is. It calls to the imagination.


  3. Don, your mysterious and moody drawing well suits the writing. ‘silence surged softly backward’, is so haunting as one wonders whether to be relieved or disappointed…

    Blessings ~ Wendy


  4. Hudson Howl says:

    Never was much interested in poetry growing up either -I know, go figure. The trick to poetry I have found for myself is that one does not read it but one eats it up. I can see why you feasted on De La Mare’s words -the sketch is proof of a full belly.


    • Don says:

      Your description of eating poetry is quite something Hudson. Strange how often the metaphor of eating goes with the Arts. Did you know that Van Gogh sometimes ate his paint? That’s fact. Couldn’t have been good for him, but in his mind it was a way of becoming one with his art.


      • Hudson Howl says:

        Yes I did know that. And one of many medical conditions which may have come to play in his suicide was lead poisoning. But I think your safe with today’s sketching mediums Don, so sketch to your hearts content. ‘Becoming one with his art’ -I would have preferred him to continue creating his art and die of old age. I am not a big fan of the ideal of the suffering and tortured artist. There is a fine line with some artist as to whether what they do is art or a desperate cry for help……just a thought, not an absolute and completely off topic from your wonderful post.


      • Don says:

        I agree with you Hudson. There is this peculiar idea that only successful artists are ones that have suffered and been tortured in some kind of way. It’s a bit like that with actors. If you haven’t been to Rehab you just haven’t made it.


  5. josna says:

    My mother used to like this poem when I was a child. I agree that your painting goes perfectly with it. This one and “My Sketch Book-3” (Namaqualand) are my favorites to date. It reminds me of the illustrations in the Puffin books I had as a child, when Kaye Webb was Editor and used to get some of the best illustrators.


    • Don says:

      Thanks so much for your comment Josna. Feel very honoured by the fact that the sketch reminds you of those illustrations you’ve mentioned. I can certainly grasp something of your mother’s joy in the poem. Again, thank you.


  6. Your sketch is fantastic. It captures the mood perfectly and really brings that poem to life.


  7. julespaige says:

    There is much to be imagined with this. Perhaps it was well enough he did leave. Though honorable enough to keep his promise.
    Thanks for your visit.


  8. Divad says:

    I love this one!


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