Walter de la Mare

‘Music’ by Walter de la Mare is a passionate poem about the transcendent effects of music upon the world around us.


Walter de la Mare

Nationality: English

Walter de la Mare was born in April 1873 in England.

His poetry has been praised for its consideration of themes like dreams and complex states of mind.

Key Poem Information

Unlock more with Poetry+

Central Message: Music is a sublime art that transforms and brings to life all that hear it

Themes: Beauty, Dreams, New Life

Speaker: A music lover

Emotions Evoked: Happiness, Passion, Resilience

Poetic Form: Quatrain

Time Period: 20th Century

Walter de la Mare's poem illustrates with ethereal clarity the power of music, enmeshing it beautifully with other sublime wonders like nature and the mystical.

‘Music’ is a poem that attempts to describe the indescribable. Yet, in its ambition, the three-stanza poem creates a spiritually compelling vision of how music consumes and inspires us to see the world differently.

Mare employs a variety of effulgent and energizing imagery to convey the way everything from the natural world to the human mind and soul is inflamed when listening to such ravishing melodies and harmonies.

Walter de la Mare

When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,And all her lovely things even lovelier grow;Her flowers in vision flame, her forest treesLift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.

When music sounds, out of the water riseNaiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes,Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face,With solemn echoing stirs their dwelling-place.

When music sounds, all that I was I amEre to this haunt of brooding dust I came;And from Time's woods break into distant songThe swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.


‘Music’ by Walter de la Mare is a poem that celebrates the euphoric and ethereal effects of music.

‘Music’ serves as an ode to how the art form can be a powerful emotional catalyst. The poem unfolds over the course of three stanzas as the speaker describes the music’s effect on them. “When music sounds,” the auditory beauty appears to change the world around them, making that which is lovely “even lovelier.” The speaker points out elements of nature that become ardent and kinetic as flowers “flame,” and forests are “stilled with ecstasies.”

The speaker then turns their attention toward the effects of the music on another element of the natural world: water. The otherworldly power of the music inspires a new vision in the speaker as they describe seeing “Naiads” rise out of the water with a beauty that “dims [their] waking eyes.” Even these spirits are stirred by the music, as the speaker reports that they are “rapt in strange dreams,” entranced by the music that resounds throughout the watery depths they live within.

Finally, the speaker looks inward at the music’s effect on themselves. “All that I was I am,” they pronounce, describing how the music leads to self-reflection but also its rejuvenating properties. As the “swift-winged hours” begin to sing within “Time’s woods,” the poem ends with the speaker expressing the way the music lends his life a certain earnestness.

Structure and Form

‘Music’ is composed of three quatrains with a rhyme scheme of ‘AABB CCDD EEFF.’ Most of the lines in the poem are written in iambic pentameter, with the exception of two lines. This adds to the lyrical quality of the poem’s cadence while also echoing the music it is written about. Each quatrain is organized around a defining effect of the music on a specific aspect of the world around the speaker or themselves.

Literary Devices

‘Music’ makes use of a variety of imagery and figurative language. There is auditory imagery: “When music sounds” (1); “With solemn echoing stir their dwelling-place” (8). Visual imagery: “All her lovely things even lovelier grow;” (2); “Her flowers in vision flame,” (3); “Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face,” (7) As well as kinesthetic imagery: “as I hasten along” (12).

De la Mare also used personification: “her forest trees / Lift burdened branches, still with ecstasies” (3-4); “And from Time’s woods break into distant song / The swift-winged hours” (11-12) as well as metaphor: “This haunt of brooding dust I came;” (10).

Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,
And all her lovely things even lovelier grow;
Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees
Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.

‘Music’ begins each of its stanzas with the repetition of the same phrase: “When music sounds” (1). What follows the anaphora is a description of the music’s effect on the speaker’s perception. “Gone is the earth I know” (1), they declare, illustrating the way the sound envelops their senses. But music also has the ability to transform the world around them.

Mare’s personified imagery evokes spiritual bliss as flowers start to “flame” (3) and “forest trees” (3) raise their branches like arms as they are “stilled with ecstasies” (4). With the arrival of music, the whole world comes radiantly to life in a surreal and ethereal manner as both the speaker and the natural world become enraptured and reverent toward the sounds.

Stanza Two

When music sounds, out of the water rise
Naiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes,
Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face,
With solemn echoing stirs their dwelling-place.

In the second stanza of ‘Music, the speaker continues to rhapsodize about its effects. Turning their attention away from the exultant flora, they witness a truly sublime sight as “out of the water rise / Naiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes” (5-6). The appearance of these spirits from Greek mythology adds to the dreamlike atmosphere created by the music while also emphasizing its ability to cause the natural world to spring to life.

As the speaker continues to observe the Naiads, they describe the way they, too, are consumed by the sounds: “Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face” (7). This is because they can hear the music underwater, too — coming as a “solemn echoing [that] stirs their dwelling place” (8). As with the last stanza, this one vividly reveals how the music alters the world in fantastical and mesmeric ways into a landscape overflowing with vivacious magic. It also continues to underscore the awed adoration both nature and humans have for such artful sounds.

Stanza Three

When music sounds, all that I was I am
Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came;
And from Time’s woods break into distant song
The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.

The final stanza of ‘Music’ sees the speaker looking inward to describe the music’s effect on their own mind and spirit. Here the language becomes more ambiguous as Mare employs figurative language to try and convey the ineffable. In hearing the music, the speaker declares: “All that I was I am / Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came” (10-11).

One interpretation might see this statement as a profession of the way music inspires introspection, with the speaker finding themselves reunited in a sense with past selves or memories that are conjured up by the melodies floating around them. The second part of that quote might be interpreted as a metaphor for being born on Earth: the “haunt” referring to the planet as a place we all habitually live in (but it also invites the images of spirits haunting the world around us), while the phrase “brooding dust” emphasizes a certain pensiveness over death.

The essential point of these images is to invoke the music’s ability to ignite something in those that hear it as the speaker feels urged to remember parts of themselves that they may have forgotten or neglected. This sense of earnestness is also expressed in the poem’s final lines, which paint a scene of personified passion as “from Time’s woods break into distant song / The swift-winged hours” (11-12). The image insinuates that now all the hours of the speaker’s days are filled with celebratory music.


What is the theme of ‘Music?

The poem’s theme is a reverent appreciation of music that places the art form on par with spiritual transcendence and rapture. Throughout the poem, Mare’s diction and use of figurative language create parallels to religious worship (both Catholic and pagan). The poem serves as a passionate ode to music’s ardent ability to enrich not just the world around us but ourselves as well.

Why did Walter de la Mare write ‘Music?

Mare clearly wrote the poem over their own deep appreciation for music. In this way, their verse is exceptionally timeless and representative of the way art is such a staple of human existence. The poem itself seems to argue as much in its attempt to entangle music with nature and spirituality.

How are Naiads significant to the poem?

The naiads are a type of female water spirit or nymph that originate from Greek mythology. They were depicted as living in fresh bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, wells, and even fountains. Despite being characterized as exceptionally beautiful creatures, they were also known to be extremely dangerous and even treacherous.

What is the purpose of the repeated use of anaphora?

Because Mare’s poem is about music, it makes sense it contains its own distinct rhythm. But the repetition of the line “When music sounds” has a variety of effects that aren’t just relegated to the poem’s cadence. In beginning each line this way, the poem’s narrative voice is made all the more momentous and ecstatic. While also echoing a kind of religious prayer or chant.

Similar Poems

Check out these other poems by Walter de la Mare below:

  • ‘All But Blind’ – this poem peers into the way people are metaphorically blind to different things.
  • ‘Some One’ – this dreamlike poem follows the arrival of a stranger to a solitary cabin.
  • ‘Winter’ – this poem illustrates a beautiful winter scene that is admired by the speaker.

Poetry+ Review Corner


Enhance your understanding of the poem's key elements with our exclusive review and critical analysis. Join Poetry+ to unlock this valuable content.
Walter de la Mare (poems)

Walter de la Mare

This poem by Walter de la Mare is a beautiful representation of the dreamlike quality that blankets his writings. This poem itself offers a fantastical description of the way music has the ability to alter the way we perceive the world around us. This poem uses a spellbinding array of imagery and figurative language to create a moving sensory experience.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+

20th Century

This poem by de la Mare was written in the 20th century, so it arrived in the latter half of the poet's life. Yet, despite being over a century old, the poem still holds a lot of value as an ode to the power of music. There is a timelessness not just to the subject but also in the way the poet accentuates the magic of that experience.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


De la Mare was a famous English poet that is today remembered much in the same vein as Thomas Hardy and William Blake. Much of this has to do with the poet’s desire to convey a dreamlike experience within his poems, which themselves were often concerned with either morality or beauty. This poem gushes over the latter in a way that underscores the poet’s surreal verse.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Beauty is a central theme in the poem. The speaker reiterates throughout that music gives the world around them a new dimension of both visual and aural splendor to enjoy. True to Romantic tenets, the poem ties together this beauty with images taken from nature or representations of it (such as the Naiads). The result is a poem that is devoted to illustrating the sensory beauty of music.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


De la Mare's poems often play host to a variety of dreamlike narratives. In this poem, this comes in the form of the speaker's description of the way the earth that they are familiar with appears to disappear whenever they hear such music. What follows is an attempt to capture the transcendent nature of music itself.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+

New Life

One interpretation of the poem might focus on the way music appears to imbue a new life to the world around the speaker. Everything from the flowers to the trees appears far more vivid to them because of the music. It rejuvenates the speaker, and one understanding of the final stanza could see it as urging them forward in life.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


One of the evident emotions expressed by the speaker is their happiness at listening to the music. The poem's imagery and figurative language portray it as a highly enjoyable experience. It is clear that de la Mare held an ardent appreciation for the art, and this poem serves as their heartfelt dedication to the feelings of joy it brings.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Passion is another emotion clearly expressed in the poem. There is the passion the speaker has for music and the passion that such art inspires. De la Mare's diction also points to "ecstasies," and the use of fiery imagery also underscores the presence of such ardency within the poem. In many ways, the experience described by the speaker parallels spiritual rapture.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


There is also the insinuation that the effect of the music has the power to fortify the soul. The speaker of the poem mentions the way the music seems to beckon them forward. In this way, de la Mare implies that in filling one with such zeal for life, music serves as a powerful guard through the passing of life's hours.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Change is a crucial topic discussed within the poem, especially in regard to the way music can change the way we experience and perceive things. For the speaker, music makes life all the more vivid and beautiful. De la Mare uses an impassioned array of imagery and figurative language to illustrate the wonder of such changes.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


The imagination is another important topic found within de la Mare's poem. Although it is not explicitly stated, it can be assumed that what unfolds within the poem unfolds within the speaker's imagination. All the changes they see taking place in the world around them are because of the music's effects on their imagination itself.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


In the same vein as the speaker's imagination is the inspiration that music provides. The speaker is spurred to describe these things because of the music, highlighting the way art can give way to more art. The poem itself inspires and urges the reader to see the things that the speaker does in the music.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Music is the poem's main topic of concern, and de la Mare's purpose is to celebrate its ability to stir emotion and the imagination. What is truly affecting is how much the poet's description still holds up after so many years, as well as the way they entangle it with dreamlike elements that feel far more modern than they actually are.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem by de la Mare is structured in quatrains. This form was popular amongst Romantic poets as it often allowed the complete illustration and expression of either a single or multiple images/emotions. In this poem, it is easy to follow the progression of the speaker's experience listing to the music, with each stanza coalescing around distinct effects.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+
Steven Ward Poetry Expert
Steven Ward is a passionate writer, having studied for a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and being a poetry editor for the 'West Wind' publication. He brings this experience to his poetry analysis on Poem Analysis.

Join the Poetry Chatter and Comment

Exclusive to Poetry+ Members

Join Conversations

Share your thoughts and be part of engaging discussions.

Expert Replies

Get personalized insights from our Qualified Poetry Experts.

Connect with Poetry Lovers

Build connections with like-minded individuals.

Sign up to Poetry+
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Got a question? Ask an expert.x

We're glad you like visiting Poem Analysis...

We've got everything you need to master poetry

But, are you ready to take your learning

to the next level?

Share to...