Alfred Noyes

(16 September 1880 – 25 June 1958 / Wolverhamton)

Previous Month October 2014 Next Month
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
30 31 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
Modern Poem of The Day
Select a day from the calendar.
Would you like to see the poem of the day in your e-mail box every morning?
Your email address:
  Subscribe FREE
  Unsubscribe

The Highwayman


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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003
Edited: Friday, October 28, 2011

Do you like this poem?
95 person liked.
19 person did not like.

Read poems about / on: daughter, purple, dark, red, hair, dog, moon, sunset, wind, horse, sky, death, winter, kiss, light, silence, rose, tree, warning

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes )

Enter the verification code :

  • Rookie - 82 Points Reshma Joy (12/3/2014 9:15:00 AM)

    An endearing work! It touched my heart the first time I read it...and still does every time I reread it! ! Beautiful (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 261 Points Stephen W (10/28/2014 9:52:00 PM)

    Beautifully written. Yet it condones the violence of the highwayman, a cold-blooded killer whose love is gold. Thus it is very naive. Love without conscience? A strange juxtaposition. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 846 Points John Richter (10/28/2014 1:21:00 PM)

    Oh my! How have I lost so many years not knowing of this poet? What a superbly intensive work of art! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 41 Points Tania Montgomery (9/19/2014 6:03:00 PM)

    This poem would have to be the most visually enriching poem of all time. Every line brings visions to its story, its descriptive narrative is fantastic. Though a tragic ending this love poem remains one of the most romantic of all times and every time I read it brings me right back to that first time that brought chills down my spine.
    I love this poem! It should be number one! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 928 Points Piyush Dey (6/30/2014 5:17:00 AM)

    a sad love story written with poetic genius, it is really a fantastic piece.
    it is nothing more than a beautifully crafted and written chronicle of a love that will touch your heart.
    nice read. (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 6,689 Points * Sunprincess * (4/27/2014 8:57:00 PM)

    .......omg this is truly amazing and in my honest opinion should be the number one poem on this list of top 500 poems....wow this truly blows me away.....loved reading every word in every line... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 16 Points Cleveland Gibson (1/20/2014 4:51:00 AM)

    The poem has always been one of my favourites. To salute Alfred Noys I wrote the poem 'After' to capture the mood too. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 10 Points Fiona Schwartzinoff (12/21/2013 9:50:00 PM)

    Loreena McKennit turned this into a song and it is INCREDIBLE! I LOVE it! Both the poem and song! It's gorgeous! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Barry Williams (8/30/2013 5:24:00 PM)

    When I think back to how this poem tortured me in school, and now it gives me goose bumps when I read it. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Majo Lama (7/20/2013 2:19:00 PM)

    as Marvin replied I didn't know that a single mom can make $4482 in a few weeks on the internet. did you read this web page...........www.zee44.com (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Joe Hazle (5/9/2013 2:44:00 PM)

    One of the most best poems ever created, absolutely beautiful, very sad but lovely change from love to sacrifice to ghost. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Rose Wilder (3/26/2013 7:21:00 AM)

    I love this poem! Beautiful, wonderful, amazing...they hardly go far enough. The power of love is amazing. (Report) Reply

Read all 151 comments »

Trending Poets

Trending Poems

  1. The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
  2. If, Rudyard Kipling
  3. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
  4. Alone, Edgar Allan Poe
  5. Dreams, Langston Hughes
  6. Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
  7. Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
  8. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
  9. "Hope" is the thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson
  10. No Man Is An Island, John Donne

Poem of the Day

poet Richard Lovelace

Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
...... Read complete »

   

New Poems

  1. Say at least, gajanan mishra
  2. Thou breeze, thou sing., ramesh rai
  3. Love's Secret, Luo Zhihai
  4. A Little Boy Lost, Luo Zhihai
  5. Invisible people, Lubinda Lubinda
  6. Eternity, Tushar Ray
  7. It, Gilbert Ortega
  8. The Approach, Gilbert Ortega
  9. Mona Lisa Canvas, Gilbert Ortega
  10. Passion Play, Gilbert Ortega
[Hata Bildir]