The Highwayman

by ALFRED NOYES (1880-1958)
Read by Chip for Librivox

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 jeweled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled 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 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—

“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 moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

Alfred Noyes

Alfred Noyes was born on Sept. 16, 1880, in Wolverhampton, England. At the age of 21, he published his first collection of poems, The Loom Years (1902), which received praise from respected poets such as William Butler Yeats and George Meredith.

Alfred Noyes Contemporaries
Ezra Pound
Joyce Kilmer
Robert Frost
Robert Hillyer

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3 Responses

  1. Analiese says:

    I want to report a problem I encountered on your pages about the poem “The Highwayman”, and ask if there is any way for you to fix it. I have been using your page to teach this poem to my English classes for a few years, and today when I went to play it aloud in class, we discovered that the audio clip on page 2 of the poem is the wrong clip. There used to be a separate clip for part 1 and for part 2, but now both pages play the part 1 clip, and the part 2 clip seems to be nowhere to be found. Is there any way you can restore the correct audio clip to page 2 of the poem on your site? My students and I would appreciate it very much!

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