According come his own report, Alfred Noyes composed “The Highwayman” end a two-day duration in 1904 when he to be 24 years old. (The city was published in 1907 in the collection Forty to sing Seamen and Other Poems.) “The Highwayman” is a romantic ballad, which way that that is a narrative poem that celebrate passion and also adventure. Set in the England of King George III, the city tells the story that a highwayman, or robber, who has fallen in love v Bess, an innkeeper’s beautiful daughter. The lovers are betrayed by a jealousy stablehand, and soldiers attempt to catch the highwayman by taking Bess hostage. In an oddly sadistic scene, the soldiers tie Bess up with a total pointing into her chest, and then wait in ambush because that the highwayman. When Bess hears the highwayman approaching, she cautions him by shooting herself; he hears the gunshot and escapes. The soldiers pursue him, however, and also he, too, is killed. The poem is noteworthy for the way in which it reverses ours expectations concerning light and also dark imagery. Ordinarily, we think that the clarity that daylight in optimistic terms. In “The Highwayman,” however, Noyes associates the daylight with the devastating powers the mankind, and he identifies the nighttime through the mysterious pressures of nature.

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Although Noyes wrote “The Highwayman” at the beginning of the Modernist period, the city seems much more characteristic of the victor period. The city is remarkable for its logical narrative structure and its vivid, highly thorough descriptions—elements the Modernists often tended to avoid. Noyes,

however, taken into consideration himself a traditionalist and rejected the poetic technologies of the Modernists. Deeply religious, Noyes additionally disapproved of the explicit violence and also sexuality the was sometimes noticeable in his contemporaries’ work. “The Highwayman,” then, to represent something of one anomaly in Noyes’s career, because that it derives lot of its stare tension and also excitement not just from the bloody conclusion, but from that is sexually charged atmosphere.

Author Biography

Noyes to be born in Wolverhampton, England, ~ above September 16, 1880. His father Alfred was a grocer who later came to be a teacher. His mom Amelia Adams Rawley Noyes developed a worried disorder the left she an invalid complying with the bear of the critical of her 3 sons. In spite of this, Noyes always maintained the his childhood was a happy one. That attended college in Wales and later attend Oxford University, leaving there is no earning a degree. Noyes was considered the most famous poet that his time, with lot of the very nice one of his early poetry stemming indigenous his optimistic and patriotic worldview. His an initial collection the poetry, The impend of Years, was released in 1902. In 1904 Noyes wrote “The Highwayman,” among his most famous poems, in 2 days. In 1907, he married Garnett Daniels, an American, and also together lock sometimes lived in the joined States.

During world War I, Noyes rotate his interest to writing fiction, specifically fiction through paranormal and also psychic themes. He was named a command of the stimulate of the British empire in 1918, in part for his occupational as a reporter for the international News service during the war. Noyes offered as Murray Professor of literary works at Princeton university from 1914 till 1923 (except because that his stint together a reporter during the war). Amongst his students were F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson, and John Peale Bishop. His wife passed away in 1926, and the adhering to year the married mary Angela Mayne WeldBlundell. In addition to Mary’s daughter through her very first marriage, Agnes, the pair had three youngsters together—Henry, Veronica, and Margaret. Noyes’s currently considerable interest in religion grew, and also during the 1930s he involved believe, like the Romantic poets, the nature is a parable directing the individual toward spiritual truth. In 1942 Noyes shed his eyesight come glaucoma, which restricted his literary task to compiling and also revising his poems for inclusion in quantities of collected works. Noyes died on June 23, 1958.

Poem Text

Part One


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— 5The 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, 10 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 15 be waiting thereBut 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 creakedWhere Tim the ostler listened; his face was white 20 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 25 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 30 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 brandAs 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!) 35Then 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 o’ the tawny sunset, before the rise o’ the moon,When the road was a gipsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,A red-coat troop came marching— 40 Marching—marching—King George’s men came marching, 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 than knelt at her casement, with muskets at 45 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 50 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 55 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. 60The 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; 65 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 70 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 75 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 Westward; he did not 80 know who stoodBowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!Not till the dawn he heard it, and slowly blanched to hearHow Bess, the landlord’s daughter, The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and 85 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, 90And 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— 95 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;And he taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;He whistles a tune to the window, and who should 100 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.

Poem Summary

Lines 1-6

The an initial stanza develops the stormy tone that will certainly pervade the entire poem. ~ above its most straightforward level, the stanza defines a windy night and the highwayman’s strategy on horseback. However in describing the violent wind, Noyes uses pictures that we could just as easily associate through stormy waters: “a torrent the darkness” and “cloudy seas.” by attributing sea-like characteristics to the wind, Noyes magnifies that intensity. He also creates a human being that appears oddly unsettled: not only is the ocean perplexed with the wind, but even the moon itself appears unstable—it is “tossed” around in the sky. The is indigenous this insanity disordered nighttime people that the highwayman an initial emerges. The is, indigenous the start, we associate the highwayman with the chaotic and mysterious forces of nature.

Lines 7-12

Noyes devotes an entire stanza come describing the highwayman’s clothing. We deserve to gather from this lines the the highwayman is a sexy, fashionable dresser. Although Noyes draws our attention to the highwayman’s weapons, they appear more decorative 보다 functional: his pistols and sword (which are really the tools of his trade!) “twinkle.” note that the word “twinkle” (which rhymes with “wrinkle” in the center of the third line) is recurring three times. V his sparkling weapons, the highwayman himself seems practically like one of the stars in the “jewelled sky.”

Lines 13-18

In the third stanza, the highwayman arrives at the inn. The repeat of the hard “c” and also “k” sound in the first line mimics the sound that the horse’s hooves ~ above the cobblestones; this repeat of stressed consonants is referred to as alliteration. The 3rd stanza also offers fantastic example of narrative compression: that is, Noyes manages come convey a lot of info in a very few lines. Not only does Noyes inform us the Bess opens up the window to the highwayman, but through mindful diction he says that Bess and the highwayman are already lovers. Bess is “waiting” for the highwayman, which implies that she had expected his arrival, and also she is braiding a “love-knot,” or token that love, right into her hair. Noyes makes mindful use of color in these lines: v her sensual black color eyes and long black hair, Bess—like the highwayman—is likewise identified v the night. Moreover, both the highwayman and Bess stay a dark red short article of apparel (the highwayman’s jacket is “claret” velvet): this color effectively foreshadows the bloody finish to i beg your pardon they will each come.

Lines 19-24

The fourth stanza introduces Tim, a jealousy stablehand who is spying on Bess and also the highwayman. Noyes repeats the word “dark” twice in the first line; we are no longer aware of the moonlight that illumined the an initial three stanzas. Oddly, the only cite of light in this stanza is Tim’s sickly white face. Noyes has reversed our normal expectations: usually, us associate the dark through evil and the light v good; here, however, the light seems dangerous and also forbidding.

Lines 25-30

Still underneath she window, the highwayman speak Bess around the robbery he plans come commit later on that night (a conversation that Tim the ostler overhears). Noyes proceeds to create the highwayman as a creature of the night: not only does the highwayman intended to go back to Bess prior to daybreak, yet his greatest issue is being gone after “through the day.” an alert the recurrence the the expression “by moonlight” in the last three lines of the stanza. The first two instances take place in the two trimeter lines; the 3rd occurs in the first half the the final hexameter line. Through echoing the same three-stressed phrase three times, Noyes creates a climactic effect. This climactic build prepares united state for the dramatic stanza i m sorry follows.

Lines 31-36

This stanza concludes the very first part the the poem. In it, the highwayman bids farewell to Bess and rides turn off to the west of England—probably towards Wales (where Noyes himself prospered up). The description of their farewell is in ~ once highly sensual and sexually charged. Together Bess’s lengthy hair spills over the highwayman’s face, we room told the it “burnt prefer a brand.” A brand is a tool supplied to burn an identifying mark in the flesh, and also we have actually a sense below that, in parting, the 2 lovers have become permanently determined with each other. Notice, too, the recurrence of the water imagery that appeared in the first stanza. Bess’s hair is described as a “cascade,” or waterfall, and as having “waves.” by reinvoking this water imagery, Noyes links Bess come the stormy, public night. In ~ the finish of component One, then, Noyes has actually not only portrayed the passionate bond between the highwayman and also Bess, however he has additionally associated both the lovers with the chaotic and dark night.

Media Adaptations

Phil Ochs collection “The Highwayman” to music and recorded the on his 1965 album, ns Ain’t Marching Anymore. The album has been re-released by Hannibal.

Lines 37-42

The rigid resumes at sunset the adhering to day; practically a complete day has passed, but the highwayman has actually not however returned. Instead, a entirety troop of british soldiers appear, warned, no doubt, by Tim. Keep in mind the plenty of ways in which this stanza echoes the very first stanza the the poem: the 2nd lines of both stanzas cite the moon; the third lines define the “road” together a “ribbon” top top the “purple moor”; in the fourth, fifth, and also sixth lines, a present participle verb, be separated by dashes, is repeated four times (“riding” in the an initial stanza and also “marching” here); and both stanzas conclude v the “old inn-door” being approached. The very first stanza heralded the appearance of the highwayman. Given the way this stanza so closely echoes the first, we intend him come reappear. That is every the much more disquieting, then, once in his location the red-coats appear.

Lines 43-48

This stanza is extraordinarily violent. It begins with a violation that the landlord himself: the soldiers barge right into the inn and take his ale. An ext important, the red-coats gag and tie increase Bess—an activity that is intentionally suggestive of sex-related violence. Keep in mind the difference between the highwayman’s and the soldiers’ therapy of Bess. We would mean the soldiers (the representatives of the King) to it is in orderly and law-abiding and the highwayman (a criminal) to it is in cruel and uncaring. Precisely the opposite is true. Again we watch Noyes reversing our expectations.

Lines 49-54

The images of sexual violence and also abuse come to be even much more pronounced as the soldiers mock and then kiss Bess. Lock “tie her up to attention” with a total pointed to she chest—a grotesque parody that a soldier. This stanza is impressive for that sadistic overtones: given Noyes’s otherwise conservative perspectives toward the portrayal the sexuality and also violence, one wonders why that would have written such a cruel scene. In ~ best, we can say the the soldiers’ habits serves together a valuable contrast to the highwayman’s. Your repulsiveness makes us evaluate even an ext the purity the the highwayman’s love for Bess. (Note that in the 3rd line the highwayman is explained as “dead,” also though he has actually not however been killed. Because that a moment, we see the situation through Bess’s eyes: come her, the highwayman’s fatality is so inescapable that she already thinks the him together dead.)

Lines 56-61

Having recognized that the highwayman will certainly be killed if that reaches the inn, Bess attempts to warn him. She strains versus the rope until she is able to with the trigger. In explicate this scene, Noyes uses a collection of discordant, grating rhymes: “good” and also “blood”; “midnight” and also “it”; “years” and “hers.” “Good” and “blood” are referred to as eye rhymes; the others are referred to as off rhymes. All produce a sense that other is, in fact, slightly “off” or wrong—no accident, considering the dreadful wrong action of suicide that Bess is about to commit.

Lines 62-67

The very first line that this stanza echoes the last line of the vault stanza, reminding us that Bess only requirements to have the ability to reach the trigger in bespeak to kill herself. In the second line, we space told the Bess “stood as much as attention,” one odd echo of line 49, which described the soldiers’ mocking treatment of her. In this context, however, the feeling of the phrase is transformed: rather than gift demeaned, Bess grows in nobility as she prepares come sacrifice it s her for her lover. The recommendation to “blood” in the last heat of the stanza warns us that Bess’s very own blood will quickly be spilled. This line likewise reminds us of the long-term bond between the two lovers: we room told the pulse the the blood in Bess’s veins “throbs” to the exact same beat as her lover’s “refrain.” it is not until the complying with stanza, however, that we space told what the highwayman’s “refrain” is.

Lines 68-73

We are now told that the “refrain” is actually the sound the the highwayman’s horses’ hoofs (and in fact, the rate of a rapid heartbeat can feel favor the win of horses’ hoofs). Because that the second time in the poem, us hear the highwayman pull close the inn. Noyes again supplies the same formula that he offered in the first stanza to define the highwayman’s approach: the 3rd line repeats the picture of a “ribbon of moonlight”; and also the fourth and also fifth currently repeat the word “riding” three times. Yet here Noyes makes a notable change. In the first stanza, the word “riding” additionally appears in the final line: it signal the highwayman’s arrival at the inn door. In this stanza, Noyes substitutes the word “priming” because that “riding.” This unanticipated substitution drives home the idea that rather of showing up at the inn-door, the highwayman will satisfy the “primed” muskets that the soldiers.

Lines 74-79

Just as the highwayman is about to it is in shot, Bess traction the trigger and kills herself. Note, however, that the gun “shatters” not just Bess’s chest, but the “moonlight” itself. Because both Bess and the highwayman space so very closely identified through the moonlight, Bess’s death seems come disrupt the whole night world. Note, moreover, the caesura, or break, in the last heat of the stanza. Just as the moonlight has come to be shattered, or broken, the rate of the heat itself has actually been shattered.

Lines 80-85

The highwayman hears the gunshot and also escapes, not realizing that Bess has killed herself. Notably, that does not learn the fact until the next morning—and daylight. Bess, that is told, “died in the darkness.” Her fatality signals an finish to the mysterious and also sensual nighttime world she and her lover had inhabited. Bess’s death thrusts the poem into the glaring light of day; Noyes’s diction underscores the uncomfortable nature the the “whiteness” connected with the daylight hours. Once the highwayman to learn of Bess’s death, because that instance, that “blanches,” or transforms white, with dread.

Lines 86-91

The imagery of this stanza reminds us that we space now without doubt in the ugly daylight civilization dominated by the soldiers: no longer a “ribbon that moonlight,” the roadway is “white” and also “smoking.” If the highwayman had actually governed the nighttime world, the is clearly out of his facet in the daylight. V no trouble, the soldiers pursue and also shoot him: he die in the really “highway” he had once ruled. He has actually been lessened from the mysterious “highway man” come a “dog ~ above the highway.”

Lines 92-103

The final two stanzas repeat, practically word because that word, the very first and 3rd stanzas that the poem. ~ the bloody carnage of part Two, this lines take it on added dimension. Top top one level, they bring us full circle to the start of the poem, reminding united state of the pure love that Bess and the highwayman when shared. On another level, the repeat of these lines suggests that despite the carnage, the bond between the two lovers is so solid that even death cannot destroy it. In spirit—and in our imaginations—the renegade highwayman will forever be riding up the inn-door, where Bess will certainly forever be over there to welcome him. One is left to wonder then, where the victory lies: through the cruel and ugly strength of the day? Or v the mysterious forces of the night?


Love and also Passion

Above every else, “The Highwayman” is a poem that celebrate the passionate love the its two central characters. The poem’s subject is revealed in the third stanza, when the highwayman an initial arrives in ~ Bess’s window. Although the is the center of the night and the inn is “locked and barred,” Bess has actually eagerly anticipated his arrival by tying a “dark red love-knot” in her hair. (The shade red, i beg your pardon is associated with intense passion, recurs throughout the poem: in Bess’s red lips, the highwayman’s red coat, and also the color of their blood.) The step at Bess’s window is charged with photos of sensual love—the moonlight, Bess’s perfumed hair, and the highwayman’s face which “burn favor a brand.” The truth that the 2 lovers can barely touch—“he scarce might reach she hand”—simply worsens the feeling of passion. The highwayman have the right to only kiss the “sweet black color cascade that perfume” the is Bess’s hair. Their brief but romantic encounter builds up anticipation for their following meeting. Prior to leaving her, the highwayman renders a fateful promise that reveals the depth the his love and also foreshadows his final sacrifice: “I’ll pertained to thee through moonlight,” he tells her, “though hell have to bar the way.”

The first part of “The Highwayman” introduces the id of romantic love, yet the high drama of the second component manifests it. Organized prisoner by soldiers, Bess is offered to lay a catch for the highwayman and also is compelled to watch as they prepare to killing him. She strains against her bonds, oblivious to the pain, “till she fingers to be wet through sweat or blood.” as the highwayman approaches, she finger traction the create of the rifle bound against her. The report cautions the highwayman but kills Bess.

Bess’s action expresses the summary of the nineteenth-century Romantics’ concept of a love therefore intense and also unselfish that one is willing to die for another. The Romantics believed that love had a religious, virtually mystical quality. In this context, passion took the ar of grace, and also the loved one take it the place of God. In the middle Ages, it was thought a saint transfigured by oh my god grace would take ~ above a holy glow. Just before she death herself, Bess is transfigured through love: “Her confront was choose a light.” After her death, Bess is “drenched v her very own red blood,” which symbolizes Bess’s enthusiasm for the highwayman.

The highwayman loves Bess just as passionately. After ~ hearing of her death, he makes good on his promise come return. The highwayman also is overwhelmed by his love, and like Bess’s final moments, his have spiritual overtones. But the highwayman is no patience saint; rather he seems possessed through the devil—“spurred favor a madman, shrieking a curse.” Riding earlier to Bess, to express his anguish with violence, he brandishes his weapon because that the first time. The disregards his very own safety as he rushes back; his reckless and also violent ride seems as lot a suicide as once Bess pulled the musket trigger. He dies on the highway “like a dog”: his love, like Bess’s, is sealed in his very own blood.

The Romantics, however, thought that a passionate, true love overcame all. Because their love is so strong and genuine, fatality is no able to separate Bess and her highwayman. ~ above the contrary, it hold together them forever. The strength of your love has made them immortal, and on dark and stormy nights your love is renewed at the inn. As the poem ends, Bess is eternally plaiting a love-knot in she hair for the highwayman.

The Outlaw

The outlaw held an essential place in the Romantic imagination. The Romantics maintained

Topics for additional Study

Write a step in i beg your pardon the highwayman is robbing part victims in ~ gunpoint. Is he together charming as when we view him in this poem, or is that ruthless when he works? walk he plunder for personal gain or political principle? space the world he robs terrified or charmed?What perform you think Tim the ostler, mentioned in stanza 3, has to do through this situation? Why go Noyes mention him? What carry out you think happened to him as soon as the poem was over.

that the rules and also norms of bourgees society—such together money lust and also the refusal of feelings—made it difficult to experience life come the fullest. Far from being a criminal, the outlaw had actually the courage come flaunt society’s rules. As a result, he won deeper insight into the world and himself, and also he had more genuine emotional suffer than plain people. In general, the outlaw lived a an ext worthwhile life.

Both the highwayman and also Bess space outlaws in this tradition. The highwayman is accurate an outlaw that prowls the roadways robbing travelers. However the poem clues that his actions are an ext adventure 보다 crime. The yellow he will lug Bess is no booty, that is his “prize,” or his price for meeting a challenge successfully. In the very first stanza of the poem he is connected with the moon, i m sorry is depicted as a “galleon,” or the vessel in i m sorry pirates travel. That dresses choose an outsider together well, wearing, because that instance, “a French cocked-hat” fairly than one English one.

Bess and the highwayman are outsiders in other ways as well. They fulfill in the dead that night when, follow to tradition, normal daytime rules room suspended. Your love is a mystery one, covert from daytime view. At least, castle think it is; however in fact, Tim the ostler knows around them. Tim views the highwayman and Bess with the prejudice, suspicion, and disapproval the the middle-class world. Through jealousy, as well, for he lusts after Bess, yet is as well cowardly to technique her. The unhealthiness that Tim’s feel is reflect in his physical appearance, i beg your pardon is in stark contrast to the gallant and debonair impression the highwayman makes. Tim is pale, sickly, degenerate, and “his eye were hollows the madness.” those more, the is “dumb as a dog.” the cannot comprehend the life or emotions of Bess and the highwayman although he is directly challenged with them.

The highwayman is linked with the night, but likewise with goodness and also purity that feeling. His weapons room not threatening, they merely “twinkle” in ~ his sides. He does not use them—at the very least not until after Bess’s death. The highwayman’s crucial goodness is thrown right into sharp relief by the sadistic soldiers who barge into the inn, drink there is no paying, and also take Bess hostage. The highwayman is content simply to breath the perfume indigenous Bess’s hair due to the fact that he loves her. In contrast, the soldiers mistreat her; they tie her to she bed through a musket tied beneath her bosom. After they bind and gag her, lock commit a symbolic rape by forcing your kisses ~ above her. Most horribly, she is forced to watch as they prepare come murder her lover. The soldiers are supposed to enforce and uphold the law. Their immoral actions shows just how meaningless their daytime laws really are. Noyes indicates that that is no crime to oppose this men, but rather, the is honorable come live outside the regulation in together a world.


“The Highwayman” is created of six-line stanzas the rhyme in an aabccb pattern. Notice, however, the the “c” rhymes in reality repeat the very same word: “twinkle” and also “twinkle,” for instance, in the 2nd stanza. In fact, among the many noteworthy functions of this city is its usage of repetition. Transparent the poem, Noyes reinvokes crucial words, phrases, and also images: words “moonlight,” because that example, appears nineteen times in the poem. Noyes also echoes individual sounds by making use of alliteration and also assonance in accurate every stanza. These various forms that repetition increase the poem’s dramatic impact.

The city is composed in hexameters, which method that each line has actually six emphasize syllables. If us scan, or recognize the stress in the very first line the the poem, for instance, it shows up as follows:

The wind was a tor ent of dark ness among the gusty trees. try reading the line aloud. The fast and heavily pulsing rhythm contributes come the poem’s energy.

Note, however, that the fourth and fifth lines (the “c” rhymed lines) normally each have only three stresses, a kind of meter dubbed trimeter. Look, because that instance, at the 2 trimeter lines native the second stanza:

And he rode with a jew elled twin kleHis pis tol butts a-twin kle.For functions of scansion, we might simply regard these two trimeter, or three-stressed lines, together one hexameter, or six-stressed line. Law so, however, would ignore the dramatic result of the trimeters. Since the two trimeter present are, in fact, therefore short—and since they repeat every other—they have to be read very quickly. In fact, if you review them aloud, girlfriend will notification that that is easy to end up being breathless. This feeling of breathlessness adds come the excitement and passion that the poem.

Historical Context

In 1907, once “The Highwayman” was an initial published, a duration of profound change was occurring throughout English society; this contained the locations of politics, global relations, economics, literature, and ultimately in the self-image that the English. The most notable event throughout this duration of shift was the death of Queen Victoria, who had actually reigned end Britain for much more than 62 years, in January that 1901. Her death symbolized the end of the pastoral Britain the existed prior to the onset of the Industrial transformation and heralded a brand-new century rife with uncertainty.

Queen Victoria had been stabilizing pressure in European politics as well; she to be the matriarch of many European royal households through the marriages of her children and grandchildren. In the role, she attached isolationist-minded Britain through the continent. In particular, she had kept connections with Britain’s key European rival, Germany, from becoming too tense.

During the last 4 minutes 1 of the nineteenth century, Germany’s advancement of solid steel, coal, machine-building, and also railroad industries tested Britain’s century-long predominance in industry. Even much more critically, Germany had begun an accelerated ship-building program designed to create a German marine equal come England’s. These developments made the English uneasy. They sensed both an financial threat to their leading position in the world and also a military threat to your security. Return the Germans claimed their navy would certainly pose no risk to the British, this failure to clear up their uneasiness, because a strong navy could be used to go after German colonial interests abroad.

Although the British empire encompassed some 11 million square mile of territory on every continent, it to be showing beforehand signs of fragmentation in the first decade that the century. Brother had combated an unpopular and controversial colonial war against Boer settlers in southern Africa between 1899 and 1902. Even though Britain won the war, the Transvaal and also Orange totally free State (now regions of southern Africa) were each granted self-government shortly after the victory. This foreshadowed Britain’s losses of other parts the the realm later in the twenty century.

In 1902 England signed the Anglo-Japanese Alliance through Japan. The was far-ranging in the it was the first time a European country had recognized a non-European nation as diplomatically equal. Historians consider it one of the most essential diplomatic agreements of contemporary times. It thrust Japan the end of its lengthy isolation and also onto the world stage. The Alliance listed that Japan would attempt come suppress Russian intrusions of China and Korea. 2 years later the Russo-Japanese War broke out; in 1905 Japan emerged victorious. The a european nation, also one in Russia’s decrepit condition, can be defeated by an oriental country was fully unexpected. By the finish of the 1920s, Japan had strengthened its military and also laid plan for an empire of its own in the Pacific. Interestingly, a year after the treaty was signed, Noyes released his repertoire The Flower that Old Japan.

In 1900 English poetry was felt to be on the ebb. During the 1800s poetry had enjoyed a level of popularity in England unmatched prior to or since. But the poets that were responsible for lot of the popularity were gone: Alfred mr Tennyson and Robert Browning were dead, and also other poets, consisting of A. C. Swinburne and also George Meredith, were previous their primes. No brand-new writers of their genre had risen to take their place and a successor was eagerly awaited. Once Alfred Noyes published his very first books the poetry between 1902 and 1905, he to be eagerly compliment at the next an excellent English poet that would take the legacy over right into the twenty century. His work-related was steady rooted in nineteenth-century poetic aesthetics however, and by the middle of the next decade, he was overtaken through modernist poets such as T. S. Eliot and also Ezra Pound.

Compare & Contrast

1907: practically 1.29 million immigrants space admitted come the joined States, an all-time high.

Today: around 915,900 immigrants gone into the country in 1996, regardless of pressure indigenous various teams to location tighter governmental restrictions on entrance requirements.

Critical Overview

In 1906, The Bookman explained Noyes’s city as having “music, colour, and also sparkle.” In countless ways, this response characterizes later crucial reactions come “The Highwayman.” v the years, critics have evaluate the poem’s compelling narrative and its metrical energy. In his book on Alfred Noyes, Walter Jerrold praises the city for that is “popular appeal” and also its “dramatic intensity.” Jerrold goes on to call the poem “a fine rendering of something finely done.” Patrick Braybrooke, in part Victorian and Georgian Catholics: your Art and also Outlook, additionally praises the poem for its popular appeal. The notes the the city itself recreates the feeling of who riding. That characterizes the poem, moreover, “as one absolute version of careful and also skilled romanticism.” Braybrooke does qualified his praise, however, commenting that it would certainly be inaccurate “to observe the Noyes is a poet who deserve to transcend beauty and also produce city of a ‘terrific nature.’” Instead, Braybrooke commends Noyes because that “know the boundaries of his craft” and also for having “a tremendous sense … that the romantic.”


Chris Semansky

Chris Semansky teaches writing and literature at Portland neighborhood College in Portland, Oregon, and is a constant contributor the poems and also essays to literary journals. In the following essay, Semansky delineates the reasons for the popularity of “The Highwayman,” pointing to Noyes’s usage of suspense, physics description, and imagery.

Alfred Noyes’s poem “The Highwayman” is referred to as a ballad, an old English type that tells a story. As such, the is also an example of a rigid poem. Narratives have characters, events, settings, and a point-of-view native which the narrative, or story, is told. Though Noyes, an English professor in ~ Princeton, composed criticism and also novels and poetry, it was “The Highwayman,” and its punchy style, rocking rhythms, and also fast-paced activity which won him the most acclaim.

Unlike contemporary poetry i m sorry is regularly dense and also opaque and also requires a level in literary works to understand, “The Highwayman” is accessible because it tells a suspenseful story around colorful personalities in simple, simple language. Children, and adults, reap the poem, which adds to its popularity.

“The Highwayman” is composed of fifteen stanzas. If we think that the poem as a film, we could shoot fifteen scenes to tell the story. A skeleton of together a script can look prefer this:

I: Night. Wind howling. Storm-tossed trees. In the street we watch a guy on a steed ferociously galloping towards an old rock inn.

II: close up: Camera pans the man’s body from toe to head, concentrating on his boots, pants, sword and also guns, ultimately resting on his “fancy” hat, jauntily cocked top top his head and a bunch of lace at his chin.

III: after riding approximately the inn yard and finding all doors locked, the taps on a window with his whip, and also whistles. The audience understands the this is something that he has done before. A raven-haired young woman opens up her shutters. She is braiding her lengthy hair.

IV: reduced to a shot of a wild-eyed man with dirtyblonde hair leaning versus the door in the steed stable. His head is cocked come the side, so that we recognize he is eavesdropping.

V: reduced to a close up of the highwayman, in his steed in former of the window. That asks the dark-haired mrs for a kiss and also promises to return before morning.

VI: middle shot. Highwayman rises in his stirrups and also leans over to kiss the woman, who is leaning right into him. Long passionate kiss. Hold shot for fifteen seconds. Kiss finished. Man settles back into his horse, looking longingly right into his lover’s eyes. Suddenly, that turns and gallops away.

VII: Dusk. A troop of English military men dressed in their red coats viewpoints the inn ~ above the same roadway that the highwayman approached from in scene I. Camera pans to their legs, concentrating on your rhythmic, almost hypnotic lock-step marching.

VIII: Troops go into the inn. They disregard the landlord yet drink his beer. Castle gag and also bind his daughter to her bed and two of castle kneel in prior of she window, guns at your sides. Us see, indigenous Bess’s allude of view, the road that she lover will come in on.

IX: middle shot. Bess is now standing in ~ the window, a musket bound to her body, its barrel just listed below her breast, her hands tied in front of her. A British

What carry out I check out Next?

Noyes created poetry rooted in the traditions of the past and was incredibly hostile to the modernist poets. His harsh criticism of your work have the right to be discovered in his publication Some elements of contemporary Poetry.A contemporary Utopia by H.G. Wells was published two years before Noyes’s poem. Fairly than transforming back come the romantic past in the confront of rapid change, Wells looked front to the enhancements science, technology, and also socialism would lug in the future.

soldier taunts her. Close approximately her eyes. Recall of scene V in which she lover assures to return.

X: Close approximately Bess’s hands, torn and also bloody currently from her struggle to untie herself. Irradiate fades right into darkness signalling the i of time. Finally, she manages come touch the gun’s trigger.

XI: Night. Close increase of Bess’s face. She is gazing out the window, straining come hear the strategy of she lover prior to the brothers do.

XII: middle shot. We watch Bess’s expression together she hears the clopping of her lover’s equine in the distance. The brother troops, stationed in prior of Bess and looking out the window, room preparing their muskets for use.

XIII: shoot of the highwayman’s approach. His confront is full of anticipation. Shooting of Bess’s eyes, full of apprehension. She tries come scream, yet is gagged, and also all the comes out is a muffled sob. Cut to her hand, she finger top top the trigger. Reduced to the moon. We hear the horse’s steps, then we hear a shot.

XIV: cut to the highwayman, that hears the shot, climate stops and turns his equine around, galloping again into the west. Cut to shooting of the highwayman in town, speaking to someone. He is being told the the shot that heard the night before was Bess trying come warn him by death herself.

XV: shoot of the highwayman galloping towards the inn, screaming in a rage, waving his sword in the air. Then a volley the shots native the brothers troops. Slow movement shot the highwayman falling from his horse, blood putting from his wounds. Last shot of highwayman’s body on the road. Camera pans end his body, settling on the bunch that lace in ~ his throat.

In narratives, whether they be movies or ballads, us learn around the personalities by how they appear, act, and also what they say. Characterization—literally, the process of building the character—allows authors to show readers what is happening without telling them everything around the characters. Readers need to infer motivation of the characters and make connections amongst them based upon what they have been shown. For example, Noyes “tells” us around the highwayman through “showing” us how he dresses:

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunchof lace at his chin,A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of browndoe-skin;They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were upto the thigh!And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,His pistol butts a-twinkle,His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.From this description we can imagine the highwayman as really well-dressed, almost fastidiously so. With his unwrinkled doe-skin pants and also a spot of lace listed below his chin, the highwayman is presented as a dandy. But unlike the stereotypical dandy, often illustrated as effeminate and also intellectual, this dandy is a thief, a mischievous thief who rides through a “jewelled twinkle.” His actions additionally underscore his roguish nature. With all of the seducer’s charm, that whistles a tune and taps top top the shutters v his whip as soon as “all to be locked and also barred” at the innyard. After promising Bess he would certainly return by morning with the “yellow gold,” that wins a kiss indigenous her. He can be a thief and a seducer, but he is additionally a gentleman. “I’ll come to thee by moonlight,” he speak her, “though hell must bar the way.”

The highwayman is a version of the mythic anti-hero; choose Zorro or Robin Hood, he is a people’s hero. Though we room not told who he is stealing from, we can infer indigenous the method his enemy, the brothers Army, is depicted, that it is probably someone that deserves it. In distinguishable opposition come the gentlemanly behavior of the highwayman, the redcoats neglect the landlord and also proceed come bind and gag his daughter, “with countless a sniggering jest” and hold her as bait.

Representing the institutionalized strength of the state in diabolical terms is nothing new in folktales. The “little people” have constantly been at the mercy of the rich and also the powerful. The highwayman, as a an excellent “bad guy” that opposes the state, is likewise what is well-known as a “stock character,” the is, a character type that occurs consistently in a given literary genre. Think the the way that Germans have been represented in espionage movies of the last fourty years. Invariably, they are the enemy, and they space monocle-wearing, humorless, sadistic, and also ambitious. All of the characters in “The Highwayman” space stock characters, not just the highwayman himself, yet Bess, the redcoats, and also Tim the steady hand, the you are fool man-child, native whose suggest of see we learn around the highwayman’s plans.

Noyes’s physical descriptions and concrete imagery additionally contribute heavily to this poem’s appeal since they aid readers to visualize the story. Because that example, once the highwayman is leaning into the home window to kiss Bess, we space told the “his face burned like a brand / as the black color cascade the perfume came tumbling end his breast.” Brands space the marks placed on animals with a warm iron to represent ownership. By to compare the sirloin of blood into the highwayman’s challenge to a brand, Noyes not just vividly gift the highwayman’s sexual excitement, but he also suggests the the highwayman has actually been branded by the love the the woman. Hence, he belongs come her. We recognize from this point in the poem that the highwayman is not just a seducer, yet that that will keep his promise to return.

His use of descriptors is also similar to his usage of characters. Adjective such together “blood-red” and “wine-red” are stock descriptors; one could even speak to them cliches. Noyes, however, supplies them in a self-conscious way to place his ballad in the tradition of individual stories which exploit these very same adjectives.

Finally, Noyes’s city is successful due to the fact that it is complete of suspense. As readers we cannot wait to find out what wake up to the highwayman and his lover. Will he rescue her, or will he perish make the efforts to? that both the highwayman and also Bess dice in the finish does no make the story less satisfying, for it likewise confirms what we understand to be true—love does not conquer all, and also bad males win too.

Source: chris Semansky, in one essay for Poetry because that Students, Gale, 1998.


“The Bookman Gallery: Alfred Noyes,” in The Bookman, Vol. 30, No. 180, September 1906, pp. 199-200.

Braybrooke, Patrick, “Alfred Noyes: Poet and also Romantic,” in his some Victorian and Georgian Catholics: their Art and Outlook, Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1932, pp. 171-202, reprinted by publications for Libraries Press, Inc., 1966; spread by Arno Press, Inc.

Davison, Edward Lewis, Some contemporary Poets and also other an essential Essays, Freeport, NY: books for Libraries, 1968.

Kernahan, Coulson, Six well known Living Poets, Freeport, NY: publications for Libraries, 1968.

For more Study

Brenner, Rica, Ten contemporary Poets, Freeport, NY: publications for Libraries, 1968.

A readable summary of Noyes’s poetic output as much as 1930.

Jerrold, Walter, in his Alfred Noyes, Harold Shaylor, 1930, 251 p.

A very appreciative consideration of Noyes’s work—in particular his longer, historical poems—that calles the poet the heir to Tennyson and Browning.

Saul, G. B., “Yeats, Noyes and also Day Lewis,” in Notes and Queries, No. 195, 1950.

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A compare of 3 poets that dealt clearly with spiritual material in your works.