As I’ve come to the end of Trinity Moon, I’ve found myself thinking about how it all began. As one so often finds, in endings are the echoes of the beginning and as I wrote these last few scenes I got to pondering. On questions of honour and integrity, on promises given and the value of a man’s word, both to himself and those to whom he gives it.
I’ve spoken many times of how Songs started, but never where Gair came from or why he has grey eyes. The answer is in a poem. A classic some might say; others might think it’s a bit cheesy. Certainly it’s one of the most accessible poems I was exposed to as a child, and studying English Literature to A Level means I’ve read a lot of poetry. Some of it I’ve even enjoyed.
Anyway, this poem’s been stuck in my head since I was about nine years old. You’re probably familiar with it. It tells a story and poses endless questions about who and why and where and when which I’ve spent the last thirty years trying to answer. It has an awful lot to do with why I’m a writer, so if you’re looking for someone to blame, here he is.
The Listeners by Walter De La Mare
‘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:
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.
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, 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.