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Inspired by Walter de la Mare

Walter de la Mare's book of poetry for children, 'Peacock Pie' was first published in 1913. I have a copy of this anthology that was republished in 1962. 

Walter de la Mare (1873 - 1956) was a British author of diverse talent who wrote everything from poetry to horror stories to children's books. His writing focused around the themes of childhood, imagination, and the supernatural. 

During my school days I recall being introduced to Walter de la Mare's poetry and a lot of it has stuck, which is a sure sign that his words made a connection. I particularly liked the poems, 'Five Eyes' and 'Silver' which are reproduced below.

Five Eyes

Walter de la Mare

In Hans' old Mill his three black cats
Watch the bins for the thieving rats.
Whisker and claw, they crouch in the night,
Their five eyes smouldering green and bright:
Squeaks from the flour sacks, squeaks from where
The cold wind stirs on the empty stair,
Squeaking and scampering, everywhere.
Then down they pounce, now in, now out,
At whisking tail, and sniffing snout;
While lean old Hans he snores away
Till peep of light at break of day;
Then up he climbs to his creaking mill,
Out come his cats all grey with meal - 

Jekkel, and Jessup, and one-eyed Jill.


Walter de la Mare

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in silver feathered sleep
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,

By silver reeds in a silver stream. 

As mentioned earlier, De la Mare was interested in supernatural things such as fairies, witches, ghosts and mythical creatures. I have lent into that interest for my inspiration, 

The result- I composed a little poem about a witches' ride across the night sky.I dedicate it to Walter in gratitude for influencing my childhood reading experiences.

The Ride of the Sky Witch

Upon her broom a witch goes riding.

Cloaked in darkness,
Dipping, gliding.

Away she sweeps across the sky.

All cackle and howl,
and mournful cry.

In the gathering evening gloom.

She hovers in shadows,
A portent of doom.

Spells are muttered to the darkened sky

And then with a whoop
Away she will fly

Along the laneway, through the street

Her evening ride
Is short and sweet

A final swoop above the town

Then homeward bound
Her broom heads down


  1. Hair standing up on the back of my neck from your poem, Alan. Love that! Thanks for the intro to Walter de la Mare. I'm sure I'd recognize more of his work if I dug around a little...which you've inspired me to do. The poet of my childhood was David McCord. Same lasting impact on me. I hope you'll explore his work, too. Cheers! -- Christie @

    1. I am pleased to have evoked such a response Christie. I shall check out David McCord too.

  2. Great tribute to Walter de la Mare. I love your witches, rhymes and switches. I have Mare's Night Swans on my blog.

    1. Thank you Brenda. I enjoyed making this poem. I must admit it took quite some time before I felt at ease with its form and sound.

  3. I love hearing about de la Mare's Peacock Pie, a new 'old' one to me. I don't know many, but do know the moon poem because I collect poems about the moon. Your poem is a lovely tribute to his rhythm and rhyme. Be sure to save it for the fall!

    1. Thank you Linda. As a fellow moon admirer, I understand how you were drawn to the moon poem.

  4. de la Mare was a favorite of my teachers in boarding school, I've always loved the cadence of his poems. Great Halloween poem, too - spooky and atmospheric.

    1. A lot of De la Mare's poetry have strong atmospheric qualities Tara. Glad you liked my poem too.

  5. I had not read any of de la Mare's works before. Thanks for the introduction! And I have goosebumps on my arms from your very witchy poem.

    1. It's nice to be able to bring a new poet to someone's attention Kay. Pleased you liked my tribute poem too.

  6. I like that gliding witch! Thank you for sharing your Walter de la Mare memories, too. One of my favorite childhood books: OLD BLACK WITCH by Wende and Harry Devlin.

    1. I am not aware of the book you have reference Irene, but will do some witchy work and see if I can find it. Glad you enjoyed my witch too.

  7. I loved "Silver" from when I first heard it -- great rhythms and momentum. It's fitting that your poem also shows a lot of movement and atmosphere. Lovely tribute.

    1. Thanks Tabatha. I am pleased you enjoyed my tribute.

  8. I have a feeling Walter would have been very pleased with your fitting tribute! I love the feeling of the three farm cats, darting and prowling and pouncing through the night!

    1. I also love Walter's referencing of the cats in the mill Jane. It's the part I am most fond of quoting. i am also pleased you enjoyed my poem in honour of Walter's work as a poet.

  9. All the new vocabulary I'm learning this round. *Adds 'shoon' to the list.* I have not heard of Walter de la Mare, so your post and poetry was my introduction.

    1. Always good to come across new words one can throw into the poet's pot Kat.

  10. I like the way you tucked the explanation for the cats' FIVE eyes into the last line!

    1. Thanks Mary, but that was Walter not me. The first two poems are examples of Walter De la Mare's poetic works. I can only claim credit for the final poem . I wish I had written Five Eyes though...

  11. your wonderful witch poem reminds me of a poem we recited at primary school, I have searched books and the net but cannot find it, it starts thus:
    "I saw a witch last night, oh yes I did,
    I saw the great black cloud in which she hid
    Split open as the thunder roared and rolled;
    And then she darted out, while fold on fold
    Of inky petticoat streamed out behind ..."
    Would love to have the whole poem and poet!

    1. I searched for your poem too Kate. But alas, your witch remains elusive it seems.
      Glad you liked my witchy poem.


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