Narrative Poems - Poems For Narrative

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The Highwayman - Poem by Alfred Noyes



THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.


Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.


And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—


'One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.'


He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonliglt, and galloped away to the West.



He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.


They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.


They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
'Now, keep good watch!' and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!


She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!


The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain .


Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!


Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.


He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.


Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.


Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Comments about The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes

  • Rookie - 229 Points Fathima Usman (7/25/2016 7:31:00 AM)

    My mom and I read this poem five years ago. It has been one of our favourites! (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 61,686 Points Susan Williams (6/20/2016 2:28:00 PM)

    I read this story poem when I was very young- before I owned my first horse- -and it haunted me for the rest of my life. What a powerful, well-written, stylish, atmosphere-driven, romantic, suspenseful, giant of a poem! (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 1,237 Points Loppo Louie (6/3/2016 11:05:00 AM)

    The Highwayman reminds me of that group of musicians. (Report) Reply

Read all 172 comments »

Poems About Narrative

  1. 1. The Highwayman , Alfred Noyes
  2. 2. The Cremation Of Sam Mcgee , Robert William Service
  3. 3. Charge Of The Light Brigade , Alfred Lord Tennyson
  4. 4. The Raven , Edgar Allan Poe
  5. 5. The Prelude, Book 1: Childhood And Schoo.. , William Wordsworth
  6. 6. The Ballad Of East And West , Rudyard Kipling
  7. 7. The Hunting Of The Snark , Lewis Carroll
  8. 8. Lamia. Part I , John Keats
  9. 9. Lamia. Part Ii , John Keats
  10. 10. Inchcape Rock , Robert Southey
  11. 11. The Listeners , Walter de la Mare
  12. 12. The Wreck Of The Hesperus , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  13. 13. Agincourt , Michael Drayton
  14. 14. The Idiot Boy , William Wordsworth
  15. 15. The Burial Of Sir John Moore At Corunna , Charles Wolfe
  16. 16. Sword Blades And Poppy Seed , Amy Lowell
  17. 17. Out, Out , Robert Frost
  18. 18. The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner , Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  19. 19. A Woman’s Apology , Alfred Austin
  20. 20. Lucy Gray, Or Solitude , William Wordsworth
  21. 21. The Eve Of St. Agnes , John Keats
  22. 22. Tam O' Shanter , Robert Burns
  23. 23. Maud Muller , John Greenleaf Whittier
  24. 24. The Passing Of Arthur , Alfred Lord Tennyson
  25. 25. The Yarn Of The Nancy Bell , William Schwenck Gilbert
  26. 26. The Ballad Of The Oysterman , Oliver Wendell Holmes
  27. 27. Agnes Hatot , Henry Abbey
  28. 28. How Oswald Dined With God , Edwin Markham
  29. 29. The Pied Piper Of Hamelin , Robert Browning
  30. 30. A Tale Of Starvation , Amy Lowell
  31. 31. Pan In Wall Street , Edmund Clarence Stedman
  32. 32. The Prisoner Of Chillon , George Gordon Byron
  33. 33. The Witch's Daughter , John Greenleaf Whittier
  34. 34. Paul Revere's Ride (The Landlord's Tale) , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  35. 35. The Battle Of Blenheim , Robert Southey
  36. 36. Arnold Von Winkelried , James Montgomery
  37. 37. Lancelot And Elaine , Alfred Lord Tennyson
  38. 38. Lord Ullin's Daughter , Thomas Campbell
  39. 39. The Cremona Violin , Amy Lowell
  40. 40. The Owl And The Pussy-Cat , Edward Lear
  41. 41. How The Old Horse Won The Bet , Oliver Wendell Holmes
  42. 42. The Cavern By The Sea , Martha Lavinia Hoffman
  43. 43. The Shadow , Amy Lowell
  44. 44. Marco Bozzaris , Fitz-Greene Halleck
  45. 45. The Song Of The Camp , James Bayard Taylor
  46. 46. Lochinvar , Sir Walter Scott
  47. 47. Keenan's Charge , George Parsons Lathrop
  48. 48. The Statue , Henry Abbey
  49. 49. Vaudracour And Julia , William Wordsworth
  50. 50. Theseus , Bacchylides
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