To Call My Dear Friend Across The Æther

The Highwayman

The Highwayman



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 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 moonlight, 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—
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—
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.

Alfred Noyes


About ThePlagueFairy

Wife and mother, Retired musician, etc, etc.... My favorite word is "Gemütlichkeit". -->-->-- "The word "Gemütlichkeit" is an old word that has lost much of its meaning over the years. If you ask a very old German about its meaning it is to them a most beloved word. It once meant fellowship, hospitality, warmth, welcoming, and a feeling that no-one is a stranger. Today it means cozy comfort.
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17 Responses to To Call My Dear Friend Across The Æther

  1. machinist says:

    Until he shows up can I sneak in and play?

  2. machinist says:

    Here is a U-tube link but it is cut a bit short.

    This is from my tape and is a bit longer. This is on my Photobucket.

  3. You merry trickster! As if he wasn’t you. Harrumph. Just for that…I’m going to go get a nap before I play here any more. G’nite, my friend.

    (((sleepy poof)))

  4. machinist says:

    Sleep well, Gentle Lady

  5. kanzensakura says:

    Indeed. Sleep well dear lady. And be wary of that machinist. methinks he is handsome and devil may-care stealer of hearts!

    • You are almost right, Kanzen. He is a collector of hearts! Everywhere he goes, whomever he touches, he takes a willing part of everyone’s heart home with him. He is well loved for his gentle kindness, humor, and generosity of spirit. He is a treasure.

      • kanzensakura says:

        Indeed he is. He certainly has laid claim to part of my heart. I read his replies to comments and see that generosity of spirit and humor. You are so blessed and, he is as well.

        I wish distance did not separate. I think of what an incredible gift the two of you have been to me and I long to give you two huge hugs……and treat you to the Holy Grail of miso soup I think I have finally, after years of piddling, discovered.

  6. machinist says:

    You are very kind, Ma’am, but I fear I am a troll under the bridge. It is the Gentle Lady’s gallant husband who is the romantic. Even my wife was enchanted when she met him.

    The Gentle Lady has said such nice things about you, it is nice to “meet” you here.

  7. David Emeron says:

    I do hope you will post more often, my sweetest love.

    • David Emeron says:

      poke…. poke…. poke…..

    • I will try, beloved. I know it engages and amuses you.

      Anyway, I can nap anytime! I must thank KanzenSakura for the instructions for her wonderful miso soup! I have tried so many and hers finally made sense and had the proper balance. It was warm and perfectly understated — which is to say…divine. I’ve been thinking that I must spread the word of the Kunoichi-no-Chesterfield. It would be a shame if Gentle Mac missed that tale. In fact, now that I’m up and about more I’ve been thinking how much our old friend “Rabbit” would love KanzenSakura’s stories and your sonnet site, too! And there is that splendid tale that 0over0 wrote about Shakespeare being dead…or not. I want to share that story here. I have to remind myself that not everyone I know reads your site, my dear. While your sonnets are the very air I breathe not everyone has the time nor the temperament to enjoy them daily. I should share some of the treasures you’ve found here with our other friends.

      You do know what will happen if I get easy with the WordPress format here and start posting more don’t you?

      • David Emeron says:

        Yes I do: Your likes and follows will eclipse mine : ) Remember that that lovely bit of poetry I transcribed from your sweet lips garnered more comments than anything I have posted before or since!

        • Ah, you trickster. I still don’t know what to say to that except that your readers are very kind in their reactions to the words of your almost slumbering wife. And I am fortunate that I am wed to a man who takes my semi-archaic wording as normal and not a sign of dementia!
          As always, you are too kind.

          No, my likes will not eclipse yours you silly lad…
          What will happen is that I will start re-posting more of your sonnets here!
          You are my dearest and I do think of posting a few of my favorite sonnets with a little commentary on where we were when it was written. My favorite posts to make were the ones I did about your space sonnets.

          • David Emeron says:

            Just as I “knew” you could not only do, but excel at your last position, also do I know that there are so many beautiful words bottled up within that unique brain of yours. I love it when you write things for me, or for any other reason.

...thus do we refute entropy.

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