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The Highwayman

Alfred Noyes 1880 (Wolverhampton) – 1958 (Isle of Wight)



  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 moonliglt, and galloped away to the West.




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


  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.


  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!


  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!


  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
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:11 min read

Alfred Noyes

Alfred Noyes was an English poet best known for his ballads The Highwayman 1906 and The Barrel Organ more…

All Alfred Noyes poems | Alfred Noyes Books

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    "The Highwayman" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 23 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/1184/the-highwayman>.

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