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The Highwayman Analysis

Author: Poetry of Alfred Noyes Type: Poetry Views: 4486

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The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,

The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping 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, and a bunch of lace at his chin;

He'd a coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of fine doe-skin.

They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to his thigh!

And he rode with a jeweled twinkle--

His rapier hilt a-twinkle--

His pistol butts 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--

Bess, the landlord's daughter--

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

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 black-eyed 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."

He stood 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 sweet black waves of perfume came tumbling o'er his breast,

Then he kissed its waves in the moonlight

(O sweet black waves in the moonlight!),

And he tugged at his reins in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon.

And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,

When the road was a gypsy's ribbon over the purple moor,

The redcoat troops came marching--


King George's men came marching, 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 by 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 bound her up at attention, with many a sniggering jest!

They had tied a rifle 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, 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 at 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,

Blank and bare in the moonlight,

And the blood in her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot tlot, tlot tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hooves, 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 the hill,

The highwayman came riding--


The redcoats looked to their priming! She stood up straight and still.

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 musket 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 casement, drenched in her own red blood!

Not till the dawn did he hear it, and his face grew grey to hear

How Bess, the landlord's daughter,

The landlord's black-eyed 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 in the highway,

Down like a dog in the highway,

And he lay in his blood in the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still on 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 gypsy's ribbon looping the purple moor,

The highwayman comes riding--


The 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 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.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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i love this poem but a lot of people in my English class hate it because they don't understand some of the things that happen. whereas i do because i worked on this poem in primary. classic love story.

| Posted on 2013-07-04 | by a guest

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I love this poem but my partner hates it because we have to do it for homework! It\'s great and tells a wonderful story of forbidden love

| Posted on 2013-05-14 | by a guest

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i have to read this for homeworkm and i dont even know what some of it means....OMG!

| Posted on 2013-05-14 | by a guest

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Also,note that there is an extensive use of red in the story (claret velvet,dark red love knot,redcoat troops)which also adds to the suspence that someone is going to die. also Tim the ostler was used in \"dumb as a dog he listened\" and then for the highwayman, it was \"down like a dog on the highway\", which both use the word dog, so there probably was a connection from Tim to the highwayman\'s death. Also, the dark red love knot also symbolizes that true love is like a knot, complicated, tangled, and hard to take apart. Bess had two choices, to not sacrifice her self and kill herself later or have the redcoars abuse/kill her, or to kill herself and at least attempt to save his life.

| Posted on 2012-11-01 | by a guest

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alright, so its a girl and guy love story.
but if the guy really loved her wouldnt he go inside just to check if shes was okay anyway? ><
oh well its still cool ;)

| Posted on 2012-02-01 | by a guest

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this was a great help, now i can like not fail my english finals xD

| Posted on 2012-01-27 | by a guest

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That is cool that people can get the credit loans moreover, that opens new chances.

| Posted on 2011-12-23 | by a guest

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People say that the highwayman ran from the red coats and from that town in fear... thats not wat happened... the highwayman as so blinded by love that he went back to get rvenge for his love. Not realizing the danger he was putting himself in, the highwayman rode strait into a trap where we was killed, like an animal in the middle of the highway. i guess he lived up to his name :D

| Posted on 2011-11-17 | by a guest

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Thanks you guys!!! I got an A- on my analysis for Lit. The teacher really liked the representation of the love knot!!! THANKS!

| Posted on 2011-10-09 | by a guest

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This poem tells a very nice story between two lovers why dont they kiss each other so it becomes forbidden love

| Posted on 2011-05-24 | by a guest

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Awww why did bess have to shoot herself this is a very romantic ballad .... !!

| Posted on 2011-05-02 | by a guest

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Alfred Noyes definitely had a gift. The Highwayman is known to be the best poem for oral delivery, and has been ever since it was written.
Alfred Noyes was 24 when he wrote The Highwayman, and was inspired to start writing it while he was staying in the country side. The clear, windy night inspired him to start writing the opening stanza.
All of the description and repetition allows the story to paint an extremely vivid picture for the audience. It is written with rhymed stanza and is also considered a ballad.
Due to the fact that Bess is living with her father and was seen \"plaiting a dark red love knot into her long black hair\" suggests that she and the highwayman were engaged and not yet married. The hairstyle is what suggests the engagement. The knot is one that twists two locks together and symbolizes two becoming one. The Highwayman also is mentioned as to having \"a bunch of lace at his chin\". This could either reference the collar of his shirt, or represent a token from Bess. Men of this era used to carry something like a handkerchief from their lady around with them, either as token or symbol of engagement.

| Posted on 2011-04-22 | by a guest

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i think it is soo nice they come back at the end as ghosts and there back together again !

| Posted on 2011-02-07 | by a guest

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4 me this poem is vry nice and intersting most especially 4 the persOn who are inlove.but for tim,,,.he is also inlOve w/ bess so he do evrything just to stop the highwayman. and they plan to kill the him....

| Posted on 2011-01-30 | by a guest

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i love the story though bess should have not shot her self but she should have shot the ceiling anyway i really dont like tim the ostler

| Posted on 2011-01-12 | by a guest

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i love the story though bess should have not shot her self but she should have shot the ceiling anyway i really dont like tim the ostler

| Posted on 2011-01-12 | by a guest

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We went over this in class. Although Tim the ostler/groom is not mentioned in Part 2 of the Highwayman, he is the one who told the redcoats where the Highwayman would be coming back to see Bess. They tie Bess to her bed with a gun, and put the bed vertically so that she can look out the window and \'keep watch\'. She is actually a decoy to make the highwayman come where the redcoats are waiting. She manages to shoot herself to warn him when he comes closer, and he hears it and turns, although he doesn\'t know that it\'s her. The next day, at dawn, he learns that Bess shot herself for him so he returns to get revenge and is shot down. In the end, their love is so great that it goes on forever.

| Posted on 2011-01-05 | by a guest

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I am analising the highwayman for English and i think that tim is a tosser

| Posted on 2010-12-20 | by a guest

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If anybody thinks this story is boring than your stupid and need to open up your mind to the world of lititure

| Posted on 2010-12-15 | by a guest

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i think this poem is ok i have to write a essay froim memory about this , i hav to write how it creates the effect of fear and horror but i think its more like a forbidden love poem

| Posted on 2010-11-30 | by a guest

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It\'s a very good poem with great description and it shows a real passion for love and though its quite sad it has quite a happy ending actually as they both die and be together but as ghosts

| Posted on 2010-11-14 | by a guest

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It shows the beauty of the poem to its full extent!

| Posted on 2010-11-13 | by a guest

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this is the most interesting poem i have ever read it is about a forbidden love and the things you would to do for someone you love I am only in the tenth grade by English teacher introduced me to this dedicated from a book Typloid Fever.I so love it!

| Posted on 2010-11-10 | by a guest

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| Posted on 2010-11-09 | by a guest

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i love this poem. its so dramatic and draws you in to keep reading. im writing an essay on it for english literature- who knew writing an essay could be so fun??!! :):)

| Posted on 2010-10-27 | by a guest

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i think that they are dead already but this is a ghost story you know, like in movies.

| Posted on 2010-10-17 | by a guest

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Personally, this is like romeo and julliet. highywayman being romeo, julliet bess. ted was the killer, i think the dad exept it is not a happy ending.

| Posted on 2010-10-17 | by a guest

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I think that A guy Hated the highwayman so he called the cops, which means that he was evil... He killed them all

| Posted on 2010-10-17 | by a guest

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This poem may seem boring but if you look at the subtle imagery and use of Gothic themes, it becomes a very well written poem.

| Posted on 2010-10-05 | by a guest

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omfqEE dhis peom is soo effinq borinq,, who cares about people in the war days, THEY IS DEAD N GONE so stop wastinq your time cuz dhis is a peice of shit poem,, jhuss do what ii do n look on qooqle

| Posted on 2010-09-27 | by a guest

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OMG this poem is boring! i have to read it for english homework.... Z....

| Posted on 2010-09-21 | by a guest

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Maybe the story is about how this happens all the time, like they are stuck in a sort of time loop, i think this because, after the highwayman dies, he comes riding up to the old inn door

| Posted on 2010-09-15 | by a guest

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\'The Highwayman\' is a Ballad, intended both to be read and sung, though the metre differs from the traditional four line Iambic tetrametre/trimetre. It is also a narrative poem, in that it has a plot.
The dominant theme of the imagery of the poem\'s first part is of the sea: the wind [Love] is a \"torrent\"; the moon [People] a \"galleon\"; Bess\' hair is \"waves in the moonlight\", a \"cascade\" of perfume; indicating the forces of love and the way in which the Highwayman, like the galleon, is subject to the overwhelming power of passions that ebb, flow, surge and crash within the human heart.
Consider the contrasts between the lovers Bess and the Highwayman and the jealous and covetous Tim the Ostler. Bess and the Highwayman are associated with life, the corpse-like Tim with death. Bess\' eyes are black, whereas Tim\'s are \"hollows of madness\"; she is \"red-lipped\" whereas Tim\'s face is white; Tim\'s cheek is \"peaked\" (slightly blushed) whereas the Highwayman\'s face \"burnt like a brand\". These contrasts also serve to show the difference between the heat of passionate love and coldness of covetness.
In the second part of the poem the imagery falls away but echoes of the sea imagery of the first part still remain. Stanza V \'And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love\'s refrain \' echoes the way the Highwayman was affected by the \"waves\" of Bess\' hair and the \"cascade\" of perfume, recalling the way love empowers one to move another\'s heart.
Some more points: The road as a ribbon signifies the tie of love - the bond of affection that draws together lovers and binds them. Note the way the wind/ storm imagery [Life] is replaced by frost (which only occurs when the air is still) and silence [Death]. The ribbon of the lovers\' road is replaced by a \"bare\" \"white\" road, a \"highway\" when the loss of a lover is realised (to the highwayman it is still a ribbon in stanza VI, but to Bess it is a \"blank and bare\" road in stanza V, when she realizes that all is lost). The Ghost Story feel to the last two stanzas lend a melancholy, eerie tone to the piece but also serve to show that love doeas not die when lovers do, but is eternal.

| Posted on 2010-08-29 | by a guest

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| Posted on 2010-08-11 | by a guest

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I sincerely hope Tim didn\'t intend on \'doing away\' the Highwayman like that...I KNOW he didn\'t intend on his own love dying...really this poem would probably include 3 deaths, because surely Tim died after hearing what happened. Where was he when Bess was being harassed and placed in dangerous positions??? I know the true tragedy lies with Bess and her Highwayman but...Tim, was he seriously in love with her? If so...where was he?

| Posted on 2010-08-10 | by a guest

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Some have said they thought the highwayman didn't keep his word about when he would return to Bess, but the way I read it, he says that he will return before the morning light, UNLESS he is (harried)unable,then he will be there the next night (watch for me by moonlight etc).Tim heard this, and told the authorities, who arranged for the redcoats to be waiting by moonlight also.Anyway that's how I see it.

| Posted on 2010-06-17 | by a guest

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In this poem, a highwayman (robber) and his lover are separated from each other and killed. The law has finally stepped in to do something about his robberies. The reader must infer that Tim the ostler has told the police on the highwayman. When King Georges men get to the highwaymans house, he has already left to rob someone, leaving his wife all alone to be found and held hostage by King Georges men. The men tie her up so that she cannot escape or cry for help. While she was tied up chances are that she was sexually assaulted by the men. The men situate her right by a window where the highwayman can see her. The men stick a gun under her dress, between her breasts, pointing at her head. The gun cannot be seen by the highwayman. It is hid from him so that he does not approach cautiously. If he rushes toward them on horseback to save his true love, he will bring himself into firing range. Obviously, the woman does not want the men to kill her, so she frees up her hands enough to put her finger on the trigger. She knows that if she fires the gun to kill herself before he is within firing range, the highwayman will know the danger that he is in before its too late. Unfortunately, her efforts dont work. She pulls the trigger to kill herself and the highwayman turns around to see what was going on. He realizes what has happen and becomes extremely enraged. Almost unconscious to the danger he is now in, he turns to charge toward the men. He draws his sword and accelerates quickly. Its only a matter of time until he is within firing range. When he enters range the men shoot the highwayman with the same rifle that killed his lover. (part of an english assignment [grade 10])

| Posted on 2010-06-08 | by a guest

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the poem-
~bess and highwayman(HM) have a secret/forbidden love
~tim was listening when HM had to go because he is a robber and had to go rob somebody
~tim loves bess so he tells on the robber(to the redcoats)
~the robber is not there so they wait on HM, and tie bess up so she can't tell HM
~ the only way to make sure HM finds out about the death that awaits, she shoots herself to warn him
~HM comes back to get revenge for causing her to kill herself but gets shot down
~ they meet as ghosts or in the afterlife and still are lovers

| Posted on 2010-06-01 | by a guest

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I love this poem and I have to write it as a story for my school! Sienz. I hate tim the ostler, he told on them and in the end both lovers had to loose their life

| Posted on 2010-05-28 | by a guest

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I think that the poem " The Highwayman" is very interesting, romantic and full of mystery!
After i read this poem i couldn't stop talking about it....

| Posted on 2010-05-15 | by a guest

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