Monday, October 12, 2009

The Listeners

Quite recently a girl in my school van, class IV, I think, was reading her English literature textbook before her Unit Test. I happened to glance down at it and remembered the poem that she was frowning at. The Listeners. I remembered frowning at it too. The teacher had not given as complete a meaning as I would have liked. There were too many things left ambiguous. I had asked her a lot of questions- Who were the listeners? Why weren't they opening the door? What promise?
She had replied with a quizzical look, a few incoherent words and a nonchalant shrug. The crux of this performance was, "I am not going to test you on it, so never mind.".
I remember I had hated that. But I had still loved the poem. So many things hinted at and left trailing. My favorite part had been the lines-
"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:"
"'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:"
When I came back home I went on the net and found it. I think I read it at least four times consecutively. Then I went on to read reviews and interpretations. I guess some of them were nice, but... not quite there enough to dispel the shroud.
A lot of them suggested more poems, some of which I had already read at some time. All in all, it was day spent magically! It is quite something to just spend the whole (or a quarter) day reading ballads which make you cry with despair (I had to keep repeating to myself, "I didn't really happen") or send a chill down your spine. Some of the poems that I went through were:
The Lady of Shalott - Alfred Tennyson
The Highway Man- Alfred Noyes
My Last Duchess- Robert Browning
I am very open to further suggestions. In fact, I practically beg for them.


  1. Good poems, all three! You could try out The Raven (Edgar Allen Poe), Ulysses (Tennyson) and almost anything by Ted Hughes/Ogden Nash/Roger McGough/Norman McCaig.

  2. Ooh! I love The Raven. I don't remember Ulysses much, read it a long time back.
    I also like The Rime of the Ancient Mariner a lot. For some reason, Lord Ullin's Daughter didn't quite click as well as it might have.
    Well, one does have to thank the CBSE after all.

  3. Hmmm... why do I not remember Listeners?
    Anyway, Tennyson's poem I've read and really liked.
    I was recently going through a genre called villanelle. Try writing one. My personal belief is that it's impossible.... like division by zero.

  4. That again was me- Clezevra.


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