Alfred Noyes

(16 September 1880 – 25 June 1958 / Wolverhamton)

The Highwayman

Poem by Alfred Noyes

PART ONE

I

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—
Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

II

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.

III

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.

IV

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—

V

'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.'

VI

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.



PART TWO

I

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—
Marching—marching—
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.

II

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.

III

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!

IV

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!

V

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 .

VI

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!

VII

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.

VIII

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.

IX

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.

X

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—
Riding—riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

XI

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.

Form: Ballad


Comments about The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes

  • Melissa (3/31/2020 2:15:00 PM)

    Very interesting(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Sharon (11/30/2019 9:19:00 PM)

    I loved this poem in high school over 50 years ago, I loved it then and still love it. It wasn't ever the about the romance, it is the language and the cadence that to this day resonates for me. Those that hated it are, I am quite sure, vapid melennials and the reason literature isn't really taught in 10-12 anymore.(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • ok Buddy (11/11/2019 7:12:00 PM)

    Bad Poem bad poem bad poem bad poem(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    6 person did not like.
  • James MclainJames Mclain (10/20/2019 12:46:00 PM)

    One of the greatest ballads ever written,
    Long before rock and roll.

    James McLain 🎸(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Anonymous (10/3/2019 4:56:00 PM)

    There are only 2 onomatopoeia’s in the poem(Report)Reply

    TrollXD(10/4/2019 12:05:00 PM)

    Ok and tell me them

    2 person liked.
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  • Pee-Pee Man (10/2/2019 11:48:00 AM)

    So sad. Also they said breast a lot.(Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
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  • Pee-Pee Man (10/2/2019 11:47:00 AM)

    They died lol. Should’ve let him get arrested instead. What a sad story.(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
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  • Darkshadows (10/2/2019 11:36:00 AM)

    That’s tough. They died.(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Billybobjoe (10/2/2019 11:35:00 AM)

    Lol what noobs they died(Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
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  • WhiteWolfHunter17 (10/1/2019 2:22:00 PM)

    Lol they died.....(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
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    3 person liked.
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  • Hannah S (8/5/2019 5:38:00 PM)

    https: //www.youtube.com/watch? v=YMQMwAO3uI8(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    7 person did not like.
  • Crazy hound (7/28/2019 11:48:00 AM)

    I was given this by a very dear friend. Oh. How I miss her. Xx(Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
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  • Adeeb AlfatehAdeeb Alfateh (6/14/2019 1:08:00 AM)

    Blo0d-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.


    great 10+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    8 person did not like.
  • Write your name (6/7/2019 11:41:00 AM)

    Write comment




    Hehehehehehehhe(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • YOUR NAME (6/4/2019 1:33:00 PM)

    YOUR COMMENT YOUR COMMENT(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Bob John (5/29/2019 10:04:00 PM)

    This Poem doo doo at least they both die(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    7 person did not like.
  • kikio210 (5/13/2019 9:22:00 AM)

    Best poem I have ever heard
    So much romance and care(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    9 person did not like.
  • isabella (5/9/2019 1:43:00 PM)

    I have been reading this in my classroom so much romance love and a fairness of Romeo and Julit(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    8 person did not like.
  • Mahtab BangaleeMahtab Bangalee (5/7/2019 4:09:00 AM)

    great poetic expression; like to quote -

    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! .///(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    8 person did not like.
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Read poems about / on: daughter, purple, dark, red, hair, dog, moon, sunset, wind, horse, sky, death, winter, kiss, light, silence, rose, tree, warning



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Poem Edited: Friday, October 28, 2011