(Lyrics: Walter de la Mare)
on youtube


'Is there anybody there?' said the Traveller
Knocking on the moonlit door
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest's ferny floor
And a bird flew up out of the turret
Above the Traveller's head
And he smote upon the door again a second time
'Is there anybody there?' he said.

But no one descended to the Traveller
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:

Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair
That goes down to the empty hall
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness
Their stillness answering his cry
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;

For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:-
'Tell them I came, and no one answered
That I kept my word,' he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:

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 (18731956) was a famous English poet, short story writer and novelist. His poem "The Listeners", published in 1912, is certainly one of the best English ballads ever written. In fact, Thomas Hardy esteemed the younger writer so much that a few days before he died, Hardy asked his wife to read him "The Listeners" and afterwards said, "That is possibly the finest poem of the century."

   I seem to remember that I bumped into this poem completely by accident around 1985 or so. There was this elderly lady who worked in the English department of the Regensberg'sche Buchhandlung in Münster. For some reason she had invited me to her home (which was stuffed full of old books) and lent me an anthology of ballads – and there it was…

   I have to admit one thing, though: I never actually met Walter de la Mare (neither did I meet Goethe when collaborating with him on the song "The Death Dance"). Then again, even if I had met de la Mare it would probably not have been very interesting or fruitful – after all, I was only 5 when he died…



(Lyrics: Lewis Allan)

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.



 The anti-lynching poem "Strange Fruit" was written by Abel Meeropol (1903 - 1986), a Jewish high-school teacher from the Bronx best known under his pseudonym Lewis Allan. He subsequently set the poem to music; it was famously performed by Billie Holiday.

   Meeropol wrote "Strange Fruit" to express his horror at lynchings after seeing a photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. He published the poem in 1937 in The New York Teacher magazine.

   I was both shocked and impressed when I first read this haunting plea for civil rights a couple of months ago. However, since I did not like the Billy Holiday version of the song (no offence intended - it is just that I am not into all that jazz) I wrote my own (folk rock) version of the poem, took my BOSS BR 1200 Digital Recording Studio which I had just acquired, fiddled around a bit and recorded all the parts.

   My song version of the poem can also be found on youtube (not in stereo, though)


  • The solo in the middle was supposed to be played with a fiddle by a friend of mine. However, since she was not available at the time, I suddenly thought, why not try my 12-string guitar for a change?
  • The drums break in the last verse happened by mistake: I was not too familiar with the Boss  BR 1200 studio, so I inadvertently deleted some drum patterns; then it suddenly hit me: why not actually leave those bars free of drums, thus making the song more interesting?
  • At first I intended to use lots of lynching photographs for the video. However, most of those photos available are so horrible that I refrained from doing so. Instead, I tried to also incorporate photos which are supposed to express something upbeat or optimistic:
    a. the swamp photo parallel to the solo in the middle
    b. the Magnolia photo at the end of the song
  • interesting background info can be found in this youtube video


(Lyrics & Music: Bernd Wahlbrinck)
on youtube

Well, we were sitting by the fire
staring into flames
hunched up and crouching
lost in thought

Flickering memories
sudden crackling sparks
glimmering glimpses
lost and caught

Clusters of sedge there
nodding with the wind
whispering, surging
with the dunes

Murmuring ripples
rushing to and fro
wavy reflections
of the moon

I pick up a twisted branch
lines I try to draw
they're carelessly filled up
by the sand

Your eyes, do they look at me
returning from the past
I wonder shall I move
and dare to touch your hand

  • The song is a slice-of-life story: it does not have a real beginning, and it has an open ending
  • In a sense, the story is picked up by the lead guitar after the lyrics have ended






Recorded in 2008 at the
Saguaro & Tumbleweed Studios
Home of the Wadel


Contact: Bernd Wahlbrinck

World Wide Wahlbrinck


© 2008-2011 by Bernd Wahlbrinck, Home of the Wadel, Germany.
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