The Listeners: NBSE/AHSEC Class 10/Class 11 English/Alternative

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Get here the summary, notes, questions, solutions, textual answers, pdf, and extras of the chapter The Listeners of NBSE Class 10 English and AHSEC Class 11 Alternative English. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.

a man and a horse in front of a haunted house

SUMMARY: The Listeners by Walter John de la Mare: Walter de la Mare’s ‘The Listeners’ is a stanza-long poem with thirty-six lines. On a moonlit night, a traveller comes on his horse and knocks at the door of a house. He demands that the door be opened, but receives no response to his call. There is a deathly silence within the house, and a bird flies out of the window above his head.

The traveller knocks at the door again but is once more met with silence. He stands all alone with his horse, which busies itself munching on the grass. His calls are heard by a group of spirits that dwell in the house. But they remain silent and motionless. Gradually, the traveller senses the eerie atmosphere and seems to come to the realisation that no one will open the door for him. He had probably come there to fulfil a promise that he must have made to an inmate of the house in the past. So he declares at the top of his voice: ‘Tell them I came, and no one answered, That I kept my word.’ But his words echoed inside the silent house. The man finally gives up and mounts his horse to leave. As his horse gallops away into the darkness, the sound of its hooves on the stone is heard by the inmates of the house.

The poem has the theme of the supernatural and mystery. The traveller doesn’t fully accept the existence of spirits in the house. It shows the futility and narrow-mindedness of modern-age rationality. The poet attempts to convey through the poem that there is a parallel world of spirits that is invisible to human eyes and which we must be ready to accept.

For NBSE Class 10 English

A. Reference to Context

1. 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.’
Silence surged softly backwards
‘Is there anybody there?’
He suddenly smote on the door even louder.

a) Who do you think ‘them’ refers to in line 1?
b) What was the word that he has kept?
c) Is there a suggestion of impatience on the part of the traveller? What gives you this impression?
d) The poem is set in medieval times. Pick out a word and a description that tells us so.

Answer: a) Here, ‘them’ refers to the inmates of the house.

b) The traveller has kept a promise that he must have made to one of the inmates in the house in the past.

c) Yes, there is a suggestion of impatience on the part of the traveller. The gestures of the traveller that gives us the impression is that he was knocking on the door impatiently over and over and he was continuously asking aloud if there was anyone inside. He just wanted to fulfil his promise and leave the place as soon as possible.

d) The poet in the poem “The Listeners” uses a lot of archaic words like “spake” that assures us that the poem is set in medieval times. Besides the use of archaic words, the Supernatural setting of the poem and the traveller which closely resemble a knight who must have been returning from a long quest gives us the impression that the ballad is set in medieval times.

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B. Read and Write

1. In the poem ‘The Listeners’, how did the traveller feel as he repeatedly knocked on the door?

Answer: As he repeatedly knocked on the door but received no response, the traveller sensed an eerie atmosphere and came to the realisation that no one was going to answer the door. He was at the door all alone and as time passed, he grew uneasy at the deathly silence and finally decided to you leave. But before he would leave, he declared at the top of his voice: ‘Tell them I came, and no one answered, That I kept my word.’ He was there to keep a promise and he wanted anyone who could hear him that he had kept his promise.

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C. Think and Answer

1. How does the poet describe the atmosphere in the poem ‘The Listeners’?

Answer: The poet describes the atmosphere of the poem through a series of eerie elements about the whole scene. The poet also keeps many a thing unclear which only adds to the eerieness of the setting.

The poet brings together two worlds- the worlds of the living and the dead, close to each other in the poem with the advent of the lonely traveller about whom we know nothing except that he was there to keep a promise to the house at the dead of the night in the middle of the woods. The poet, however, chooses to not reveal anything more about the ghosts that inhabit the house or the traveller and his promise. All these make the poem a very compelling read.

3. What is the poem implying about the inmates of the mansion?

Answer: The poem implies that the inmates of the house are dead and it is their spirits that now occupy the house. The dead are living comfortably without any interaction with the living, and they choose to remain like this. That is why when the traveller came to their door, they remained quiet till the traveller was gone.


For AHSEC Class 11 Alternative English

Discussion 1

1. Why did the traveller knock at the door? 

Answer: The traveller had promised to meet the household’s occupants, so he knocked on the door.

2. Did anyone answer his knock? 

Answer: His knock was ignored.

3. What does the poet refer to as the “voice from the world of men”? 

Answer: The “voice from the world of men” is the voice of the traveller.

4. Explain the phrase “perplexed and still”?

Answer: Perplexed and still can be defined as being both bewildered and immobile. The phrase is used to illustrate the traveller’s state of bewilderment and immobility.

5. What time of the day is described in the poem? Pick out the words that suggest this.

Answer: The poem takes place at night. Words like “moonlit door,” “moonlight,” “moonbeams,” “starred and leafy sky,” “shadowiness,” and “one man left awake” all imply that it was night.

6. List out the words that have been used to describe the listeners. What kind of a picture is created by these words? Do you think they are ordinary people? Give reasons for your answers. 

Answer: Some descriptions of the listeners include “a host of phantom listeners,” “dwelt in the lone house,” etc.

These words conjure up an image of an eerie, mysterious place where time seems to have stopped.

As the listeners stayed hidden, the traveller could only sense their presence, but he knew they were there. Ghosts were probably the only inhabitants of the lonely house. In addition, the voice of the traveller was the only one heard coming from the realm of men.

7. Why have the hoofs of the horse been described as “plunging”?

Answer: His horse’s hooves were said to be “plunging” because he spurred it to leave quickly.

8. What is the effect created by the words “The silence surged softly backwards”? 

Answer: When the traveller hurried forward, “the silence surged softly backward,” implying that everything had returned to its previous state of eerie quiet, was true. The room fell silent.

Discussion 3

1. And his horse in the silence chomped the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor.
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the traveller’s head :

(a) What does ‘his’ refer to?

Answer: ‘His’ refers to the traveller’s.

(b) What has disturbed the bird from its nest in the turret? 

Answer: The visitor’s persistent rapping at the door scared the bird out of its turret nest.

(c) Which part of the country is the traveller in? 

Answer: A hilly region of the country now surrounds the traveller.

(d) What is he doing here? 

Answer: He’s making an effort to contact and speak with the household’s occupants.

2. But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwell in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To 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 shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.

(a) Who are the ‘host of phantom listener’s?

Answer: There is a “host of phantom listeners” in that lonely house.

(b) What were they listening to?

Answer: They were listening to the traveller’s voice.

(c) Whose is the ‘voice from the world of men’? Explain the phrase.

Answer: The phrase “voice from the world of men” refers to the voice of a traveller.

(d) Who stood ‘throughing the faint moonbeams on the dark stair’?

Answer: The phantom was seen standing on the dark staircase, “throughing the faint moonbeams.”

3. Aye, 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.

(a) Who are the ‘they’ mentioned in these lines? 

Answer: They’re talking about ghosts here, so that’s who ‘they’ are.

(b) Where does the sound of iron on stone’ come from? 

Answer: When a horse gallops quickly, the sound it makes against the stony road can be described as “iron on stone.”

(c) Why do you think the person is in such a hurry? 

Answer: Because the individual wishes to leave the location as soon as possible.

Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions

1. What did the traveller say when he knocked on the door?

Answer: The stranger knocked on the door and asked if anyone was in the home.

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12. Why had the traveller gone there?

Answer: He had gone there because he had promised someone to visit the place.

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27 thoughts on “The Listeners: NBSE/AHSEC Class 10/Class 11 English/Alternative”

  1. verryyy helpfull…thank a lot…..can u plss come up with the answers of ch-6 The Life Of John Smith & ch-4 The Mother of Orphans

  2. 5. What is the effect created by the words ‘The silence surged softly backwards’?this is the question that i need answer . any it was helpful and thanku

  3. I learnt this poem at school and at seventy-six, can still recite it by heart. No indication is given – to my knowledge – that it refers to a particular era; I have, therefor, applied my own interpretation.
    An officer of the British Army is returning home after the Battle of Waterloo. During the fighting, a brother officer was mortally wounded and pleaded with him to promise that, on his way he would call at his parental home and comfort them by saying his death had been swift. The traveler kept his promise but the occupants had previously deceased.

  4. It helps me very much for my online examination…. I know this chapter is for 9,10,11,12 but I am studying in class 7 ..but I need these answers as this chapter is in my syllabus for examination. Thank You so much! Once again.

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