‘Some One‘ by Walter de La Mare is a short sixteen line poem that is written with a vaguely repeating pattern of end and slant rhymes. The poet made use of a number of similar endings in this piece, giving the poem a “sing-song” like melody that is appropriate for its short length and goal of appealing to children. There are also a number of instances in which he chose to employ slant rhymes, in which end words almost rhyme, but not quite. One such example is, “knocking” and “stirring.”
The poem begins with the speaker describing the sound of a knocking at his door. He goes to open it, and there is no one there. There is only the sounds and visions of the night. Around him, he can hear the sounds of beetles in the wall, a cricket whistling, and the screech-owl singing. These sounds do not approximate what he has heard and he is left wondering what he just experienced.
Analysis of Some One
Some one came knocking
At my wee, small door;
But nought there was a stirring
In the still dark night;
This short poem begins with the major dramatic actions, a knocking that “came” on the speaker’s door. It is the middle of the night and the speaker has been surprised by this sound. He is out in the woods and cannot imagine who it would possibly be. One detail that does provide some additional clues to the setting is the description of the door as being “wee, small.” It is as if the speaker is making a point to emphasize the size of the door and make sure that the reader does not imagine him in a grand house. This is most likely a small cottage or cabin in the woods.
In the fourth line, the reader comes to their first instance of repetition, a device that is put to effective use in this poem. The speaker is absolutely “Sure-sure-sure,” that he heard the sound of knocking. This repetition is meant to mimic the sound of knuckles rapping on the wooden door.
When he opens it, and looks to “left and right,” there is nothing there. The only thing that he hears and sees is a “stirring / In the still dark night.”
Only the busy beetle
Tap-tapping in the wall,
So I know not who came knocking,
At all, at all, at all.
In the second half of the poem, the speaker expands upon what he is seeing and tells the reader what there is outside. It is not completely empty as he stated in the first half. There are a number of sounds coming from the wild outside his door, but none of them could have caused the rapping.
When he listens closely he can hear the “busy beetle” that is “tapping” in the walls of his cabin, he analyzes this sound for a moment, but knows that is not what he heard.
Additionally, he can hear “from the forest” the sound of a screech-owl calling out and the sound of the “cricket whistling.” It is as if these inhabitants of the forest are very well known to him, they are not “the crickets,” but a single cricket that lives nearby. All this is happening while “the dewdrops fall.” It is an extremely peaceful, and generally quiet evening. The poem concludes with the speaker restating that he has no idea who it was that knocked on his door, but he did not imagine it. The final lines show off de la Mare’s use of repetition once more.
About Walter de la Mare
Walter del la Mare was born in April of 1873 in Charlton, Kent, England. As a young man, he was educated at St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir School in London. He began his working career in the offices of the Anglo-American Oil company, specifically, in the department statistics. He would work there from 1890 until 1908. His job prospects changed after the publication of his first volume of poetry, Songs of Childhood, which appeared in 1902. After its publication, he was able to devote himself almost exclusively to writing due to a government pension.
His first novel was published in 1904 and it was followed by another collection of poems, entitled, Poems, in 1906. He would go on to write a number of other novels as well as collections of short stories for both adults and children. After a successful career, he was made a Companion of Honor in 1948 and later received the Order of Merit.
Walter de la Mare died in June 1956 in Twickenham, Middlesex. He is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.