Critical Estimate of Walter De La Mare as The Artist for Romantic Supernaturalism

“Never the least stir made the listeners
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.”-

Walter de la Mare

The Listeners

Walter De La Mare is the best— known of modern poets who have excelled in writing verses for children as well as adult. He has the direct vision, of childhood as well as the child’s love for simple things but has the notion of deep introspection. Read More Poetry  Though his imagination and intellects are almost always fully adult, he can admirably convey through his poems both the charming ignorance and the divine incomprehensibility of childhood. His success in this sphere depends chiefly on the fact that, like Blake, he is a master in the art of understatement—'he can take the world in his band and call it a grain of sand.'

Walter De La Mare
Mare’s poetry has the same inexplicable charm at the romantic supernaturalism of the best poetical works of Coleridge. In many of his poems he has succeeded, like Coleridge, in creating ‘a fairy twilight world, a world of wonder and fantasy, which is the hope of perpetual youth.’ Read More Poetry But there is a subtle difference between the two poets: in The Ancient Mariner and Christabel we really come across supernatural manifestations, but in a poem like The Listeners, though the atmosphere is created and the expectation roused, nothing supernatural really takes place. Read More Modern Period Moreover, though a mystic poet, De La Mare has maintained his link with the life of his time. His Happy Encounter is a synthesis of Poetry and Science, and in Keep Innocency the poet reveals a full consciousness of the gulf between romance and reality. His insight into child psychology, his sympathy for the toiling folk, his kindly feeling for animals and his affectionate understanding of them are all reflections of the spirit of the age he lived in.

But Walter De La Mare is pre-eminently a creator of pure literature. He is a poet of lovely things, the lovely things that pass away. With infinite delicacy he depicts and delineates for us the marvelous beauty of the created world. But his heart constantly broods over the flowing stream of beauty. He knows that nothing is permanent on earth, and this knowledge imparts peculiar pathos even to his gayest utterances. Read More Poetry He draws consolation, however, from the fact that though things pass away continuously, they pass in perpetuity of beauty. Read More Modern Period The stream does not cease to be, though it does not stand still. This restless, questioning, perturbed spirit, this yearning for immortality in a world where all beautiful things are for ever changing and dying, is’ voiced in his poetry with exquisite melody and Keatsean melancholy. The poetry of both the poets makes us feel the brevity of joy and the necessity for appreciating as much beauty as possible in the little time allotted to us.

As a craftsman, pure and simple, De La Mare ranks very high among modern poets. Read More Modern Period His subtle and varied metrical music, his clever mingling of sound and sense, his sure grasp of imagery and atmosphere—all these are apparent even to the most careless readers. In later volumes, he has frequently reached perfection of workmanship in the twentieth century verse. Read More Poetry But his exquisite workmanship does not betray him into too much pre-occupation with mere artifice; nor does the dream quality of his verse hinder his consciousness of reality. In Araby, for example, that dreamy land has fired his imagination, but he has not really allowed it to steal away his wit.

<Additional Note: Walter John De La Mare was born at Charleton, Kent in 1873. He was educated at St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir School. Later, he served in a business house in the city of London for some years. But he felt an inner urge for literary activities and wanted to devote himself whole-heartedly to creative writing. Read More Poetry Some of his earlier poems appeared in the Monthly Review, between 1902 and 1904. His first volume of verse, Songs of Childhood, came out in 1902, under the pseudonym, Walter Ranal. Read More Modern Period It was followed by another volume entitled Poems in 1906. Then in 1908 he was granted a civil pension for his literary work, and he took to literature as his whole- time occupation after resigning his service.

Walter De La Mare became established as a major poet of his time with the publication of The Listeners and Other Poems in 1912. The next year, he brought out Peacock Pie. Motley was published in 1918, and a collected edition, Poems, 1901 to 1918 in 1920. Meanwhile he was awarded the first Prince Edmond de Polignac Prize for literature for his novel The Return in1910. In the same year a delightful’ story of monkeys, written for children, The Three Mulla Mulgars also came out. Besides poetry, Walter De La Mare wrote many exquisitely beautiful short stories and plays. Read More Modern Period He became Professor of Fiction for the Royal Society of Literature and a member of the Academic Committee. He died in 1956, after receiving honorary degree from the University of Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Bristol, and London.

Among many other works he produced in course of his long career, one remembers: The Veil and Other Poems (192?), The Memories of a Midget (1921), The Riddle Connoisseur (1923), Ding Dong Bell (1924), Crossing (1924),  The Connoisseur (1926), The Fleeting and Other Poems (1933), The Lord Fish and Other Stories (1933), Bell and Grass  (1941), The Burning Glass and Other Poems (1945) and The Traveler (1946). Read More Poetry  >