“Is there anyone there?”
The subject heading is not a plea for readers, although I can’t help noticing that my dual personality is usually the only one who comments on my posts. No, no, I am not worried that she elicits more response than I do — I’m just quoting form a poem.
When I was an impressionable youth and prone to daydreaming about castles and such, I discovered Walter De La Mare’s romantic poem, “The Listeners”. Two of my boys recently visited Tintagel on a suitably gray and misty day and (for some reason) their photos from the visit reminded me of the poem.
‘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.
High art it may not be, but you have to admit that it’s evocative. As for the boys, well, they didn’t get blown off the cliffs or taken out by the tide…but they did manage to get wet taking a slefie in a Cornish cave.
Here’s hoping you get to spend some time this weekend in a beautiful and suitably atmospheric location. If not, I recommend a curling up with a good book like Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey or Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.And, of course, there are countless film adaptations of the latter if you are in the mood to watch something.