The Highway By Alfred Noyes

Published by: Sandy H on 6th Oct 2017 | View all blogs by Sandy H

The Highwayman

By Alfred Noyes

 

PART ONE

 

The wind was a torrent of darkness

among the gusty trees.

the moon was a ghostly galleon tossed

upon the 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 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.

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 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 landlords red-lipped daughter.

dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard 

the robber say-

 

"One kiss, my bonny sweeteart, 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 the moonlight,,

watch for me by the moonlight,

I'll come to thee by the moonlight,though

hell should bar the way."

 

He rose upright in the stirrups, He scarce

could reach her hand.

But she loosened her hair in 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.

(o, sweet black waves in the

moonlight!)

Then he tugged at his rein in the 

moonlight, and galloped away to the

west.

 

PART TWO

He did not come in the dawning.  He did

not come at noon;

And out of the tawney sunset, before the

rise of the moon,

When the road was a gypsy's ribbon,

looping the purple moor,

A red-coat troop came marching-

Marching-marching up to

the old inn-door.

 

They said no word to the landlord.  they

drank his ale instead.

but they gaggedhis 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 muzzle beneath her breast!

"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed

her.  She heard the doomed man say-

Look for me by the moonlight;

Watch for me by the moonlight;

I'll come to thee by the moonlight, though hell

should bar the way!

 

She twisted her hands behind her;but all

the knotsheld good!

She writhed her hands till her fingers

were wet with sweat and bllod!

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.  She

strove no more  for rest.

Up, She stood up to attention, with the

muzzle, 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, 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 muskett 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 muskett,

drenched with her own blood!

Not till the dawn he heard it, and hid face

grew grey to hear

How Bess,the landlord's 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 in the golden

noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;

When they shot him down on the highway,

And he lay in his blood on the highway,

with a bunch of lace at his throat.

 

And still on a winters night, they say, when

the windisin 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, 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 windowand 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

4 Comments

  • Bill W
    by Bill W 12 days ago
    I have to say that that lovely story-poem is new to me, but I really enjoyed it, thank you Sandy.
  • Sandy H
    by Sandy H 12 days ago
    Loreena Mckennitt sings the Highwayman sadly I am unable to post it .....
  • Mary B
    by Mary B 12 days ago
    I'll try and post the video you mention tomorrow Sandy.
    Thank you so much for posting this poem. I remember it from school days - when it moved me to tears, as indeed it does tonight........
  • LJ E
    by LJ E 12 days ago
    Wonderful poem. Thank you for posting it Sandy.
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