Highwayman

What is a metaphor Find three metaphors in the part I, stanza I. What is being compared in each one What
mood is Noyes setting when he uses the metaphors
2. In part I, stanzas II and III, what words are used to describe the highwayman (his appearance, actions, etc.)
What words are used to describe Bess How do Noyes descriptive choices help you picture each character
visually, and what do these descriptions tell you about each of their personalities/characters
3. In part I, stanza III, there is an example of alliteration. What is it How do these words create a sound effect for
the action that is taking place in the stanza What mood do they set Why do you think Noyes used “noisy
words” at this point in the poem
4. Who is Tim How is he described Noyes does not specifically tell the reader Tim s role in the story, yet Tim is
a very key character. Why What may we surmise about Tim s reaction to hearing Bess and the highwayman
(think about this carefully, it may not be obvious to you)
5. In part II, stanza four, Noyes uses personification when he writes that the hours crawl. What is
personification What image comes to mind when you read that stanza Why do the hours seem to crawl for
Bess at this point in the story
6. What is a simile What two things are being compared when the poem says that “her face was like a light”
What is the symbolism and significance of that simile Remember that she has chosen to die, so think about your
answer carefully.
7. In part II, stanza VI, there is an example of onomatopoeia. What is it Why do you think Noyes used a sound
effect rather than simply telling the reader what is happening
8. If you were an artist, and you had been commissioned to paint only one picture to represent this entire poem,
what would your painting depict, and why Be very detailed about how you would construct the image. Using
the art terms and devices we have discussed in class when analyzing images, explain in vivid, specific details what
your image would look like. Would you use one of the artistic styles we have studied, such as Baroque,
Neoclassicism, or Romanticism Or would you choose a different approach Composition points to consider: size
of work, colors, setting, lighting, angles, characters, characters appearances, symbolism (if desired), style, etc.

Alfred Noyes (1880-1958) was born in England. He attended the University of Oxford, but failed to get his
degree because on a crucial day of his finals in 1902, he was meeting his publisher to arrange publication of
his first volume of poems, The Loom of Years (1902).
Noyes was a noted pacifist who first visited America in February 1913 to lecture on world peace and
disarmament. His first lecture tour lasted six weeks, extending as far west as Chicago. It proved so
successful that he decided to make a second trip to the U.S. in October and to stay six months. In this trip,
he visited the principal American universities, including Princeton, where the impression he made on the
faculty and undergraduates was so favorable that in February 1914 he was asked to join the staff as a
visiting professor, lecturing on modern English literature from February to June.
Though his early works often evoke fantastic, dream-like, storybook emotions, his later poetry increasingly
deals with religious themes. In The Highwayman, one of his best-known poems, Noyes displays his skill
at writing narrative poetry (poetry that tells a story), which reminiscent of his two biggest influences,
Wordsworth and Tennyson.
The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes is a classic favorite. In eighteenth century England, there were men
who rode the roads at night in search of wealthy people to rob. These men were called highwaymen. This
poem tells the story of a highwayman’s visit to a beautiful young lady at an old inn, and of the terrible fate
they both meet. Noyes uses powerful imagery, and a rhythmic cadence reminiscent of horses’ hooves to
construct his poem. The mysterious ending of the poem suggests that the lovers’ spirits still linger on the
edge of the heath.
Noyes employs several effective literary devices in the poem. These include: alliteration, simile, metaphor,
personification, and onomatopoeia
Alliteration – the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of several words in a phrase: Peter Piper
picked a peck of pickled peppers.
There are two types of alliteration:
Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound in a series of words, which creates a rhyming
pattern: Do you like blue I do too.
Consonance is the repetition of a consonant sound: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper
Metaphor – A figure of speech which makes a comparison between two things without using the word like
or as.
Personification – A figure of speech in which a non-human object is given human qualities.
Simile – A figure of speech which makes a comparison between two things using the word like or as.
Onomatopoeia – The use of words (such as hiss) that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or
actions to which they refer.
The Highwayman
Alfred Noyes
PART ONE
I
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon1
tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
2
And the highwayman came riding
Riding riding
The 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 claret3 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 jeweled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt4 a-twinkle, under the jeweled 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 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.

1
a large warship used by European nations in the 16th – 18th century
2
an expanse of open rolling infertile land. 2. : a boggy area; especially : one that is peaty and dominated by grasses
3
deep red
4
sword handle
IV
And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket5 creaked
Where Tim the ostler6
listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like moldy 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 to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry7 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.’
VI
He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement!
8 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 moonlight, and galloped away to the West.
PART TWO
I
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,

5
gate
6
stableman
7
harass
8 window
A red-coat troop came marching
Marching marching
King George’s men came matching, 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 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.
III
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!
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,
The 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;
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 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 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 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.
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 in 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.
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
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;
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.
Alfred Noyes

 
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