Walter de la Mare, despite his aristocratic name and unlike many of the Georgians and 30s poets, did not come from the privileged classes. He worked for nearly twenty years as a clerk in the London office of an oil company and it was not until he was almost forty that he attempted to live by his pen. He drew and kept a growing readership who found his verse unaffected by fashion. King George V came to be among his admirers and de la Mare was granted a Civil List pension, made a Companion of Honour and ultimately received the Order of Merit. His poem The Listeners remains a great favourite of school anthologies and has an arresting close almost like a Zen koan.
Of all the Causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring Judgment, and misguide the Mind,
What the weak Head with strongest Byass rules,
Is Pride, the never-failing Vice of Fools.
Whatever Nature has in Worth deny'd,
She gives in large Recruits of needful Pride;
For as in Bodies, thus in Souls, we find
What wants in Blood and Spirits, swell'd with Wind;
Pride, where Wit fails, steps in to our Defence,
And fills up all the mighty Void of Sense!
If once right Reason drives that Cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless Day;
Trust not your self; but your Defects to know,
Make use of ev'ry Friend--and ev'ry Foe.