Monday, September 22, 2008


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 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—
Marching—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 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; 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 the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats 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 musket,
drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it,
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 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,
And he lay in his blood on the highway,
with the bunch of lace at his throat.
* * * * * *
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—
Riding—riding—
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 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.

The Highwayman: Alfred Noyes


12 comments:

Maryjane - The Beehive Cottage said...

Happy Fall Sweet Cori!

Hugs,
Maryjane

Nancy J said...

Cori,
I haven't read the Highwayman for at least 15 years. Thank you-I'd forgotten how profound a love story it is...don't you feel as if the words jump off the page and the emotion, well,the emotion is breath-taking. Wonder what made you think of this poem?

judicreations said...

I don't think I've read all of the Highwayman before. I'm going to back and reread it. It is powerful. I'm wondering also what made you think of this poem today?

I hope you have a lovely day.
Judi

Cori G. said...

Why would I post a poem like The Highwayman? I find it amusing that two people have asked that question so I'll give an answer for anyone else who may be curious.I heard this poem for the first time about 10 years ago only is had been put to the most hauntingly beautiful music.
As I listened to the lyrics I felt as if I was watching a tragic love story unfold before my eyes. To be loved by someone so completely that they would sacrifice their life in order to save the one that they loved. Isn't that what each of us longs for? And yet, there is One who has done exactly that if only we would open our eyes and see.
On a less deep note, I grew up next door to a woman who was raised in the Highlands of Scotland. She would always tell me dark tales of cold misty nights on the moors, of bagpipes playing on crumbled castle walls, and ghost stories that would curl your hair. And yes! She had seen Nessie a time or two :)! So I think this story also reminds me of my childhood and the wonderful tales that Joyce would weave for me.
I hope that appeases your curiosity, plus it's just a great autumn poem.

Becky said...

Hi Cori,
I was really struggling this a.m. trying to do something with the banner. As you can see from my blog it is a sorry attempt but at least better than the simple worded one. Do you design banners? Yours is so pretty.
I would love to know your ideas.
Becky

ellen b. said...

You've made me want to go to Great Britain and see the moors and the roads and the forests. Such a moving poem.

Beverly said...

I've always love this - for me if is like watching a tragic play. I almost hold my breath through the whole thing.

Tara said...

Sucha lovely piece, Cori!

ellen b. said...

Hi Cori!
To answer your camera question, mine is a Pentax Optio M40 that I bought at costco for under $200. My niece has a new camera I was admiring on Saturday that shows the image you are looking at to photograph so much clearer than mine. I'll ask her what kind hers is, too...

grey like snuffie said...

Wow, haven't thought about that poem since high school. Happy Fall!

ellen b. said...

Sorry it's me again. my niece's camera that she really likes if the Canon Power Shot SD850IS

ginger at enchanting cottage said...

WOW! That was amazing I never heard of the Highawayman before.
I found your blog from This Shabby old house. You did a beautiful job on her banner.I also loved your post on Sunday. You should join us in on Sundays my husbands aunt and I do a Spiritual Sunday where anyone can join and share something like you did on Sunday. You just link your name to your blog. If you visit me you can scroll down to Sunday and click on it to see if you would like to join in. We are neighbors I live in Corona. It's always nice to meet bloggers I have been blessed to meet a couple.
I will be back to visit often, if it's okay I would like to put your blog on my sidebar.
God Bless
ginger