The Highwayman

Posted by Nightingale | 11:58 AM | 3 comments »

Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)


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 moonlight, and galloped away to the West.


There are two parts to this fabulous, romantic poem. Many of you know this verse but some might not have been exposed to the dashing Highwayman, whom I have loved since I first read this work. Tomorrow I'd like to post another segment.


  1. Mary Marvella // April 30, 2008 at 12:50 PM  

    That story never goes out of style! The authors isn't any too shabby, either!

    Good choice.

  2. Beth Trissel // April 30, 2008 at 1:04 PM  

    Love it! I remember when Ann of Green Gables did a dramatic recitation of this poem. :)

  3. Nightingale // April 30, 2008 at 2:06 PM  

    I treasure this one and The White Cliffs of Dover. I actually have a much dog-earred print version of WCD from when I was a young teenager. "I had no thought then of husband or lover, I was a traveler the guest of a week but when they pointed The White Cliffs of Dover, startled I found there were tears on my cheeks. (How's that for memory when I can't remember what I had for dinner last night!)