Sunday, June 22, 2014

Alfred Noyes - Poetry

Yet another poem and poet that I've never heard of before.  (This just underscores the usefulness of this particular project.  By the end of it, I will be something better than completely ignorant!)  The poem is called 'The Highwayman' and it's by Alfred Noyes.  Once again (third week in a row?) the entire poem is too long to transcribe.  The full version is here.

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.

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 jeweled twinkle,
His butt a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard;
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;
Plaiting a dark red live-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 moldy 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 tonight,
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."

You'll have to click through the link to read the rest and I recommend that you do.  My book describes this poem as 'vividly romantic' and that seems very fitting.  The poem gives some very romantic elements.  The lovers are composed of a charming rogue and a beautiful daughter who is operating outside of her parents knowledge.
Though I should note that we don't actually know much about the highwayman, other than that he is going off to find gold and that this young woman is taken with him.  Indeed, we cheer for him, so it's easy to assume that in his fight against the redcoats, he is some sort of Robin Hood figure.  But we don't know.  He really could just be a common thief who has turned the head of a young girl who is too easily impressed with flash over substance.
The story is compelling and interesting.  I particularly like the repetition.  'Riding - riding - riding.'  Pulls you in and makes you want more.  The twists and turns of the plot are also very good.  I won't spoil, except to again recommend clicking through and reading the whole bit.
I'll just end by saying that I hope that Tim the ostler got his in the end.


  1. The Highwayman is one of my favourites. Have you ever seen the Anne of Green Gables movie? Anne chooses this poem for a recital and her recitation is very dramatic. Here is a link to the movie, in case you are interested:

    It's an excellent adaptation of the book!

    1. I haven't seen it, but I'll keep an eye out for it.