2"The Highwayman" is a narrative poem written by Alfred Noyes, first published in theAugust 1906 issue of Blackwood'sMagazine. The following year it wasincluded in Noyes' collection, Forty SingingSeamen and Other Poems, becoming animmediate success.
3Plot The poem, set in 18th century England, tells the story of a nameless highwayman who is in lovewith Bess, a landlord's (innkeeper) daughter.Betrayed to the authorities by a jealous ostler(stableman), the highwayman escapes ambushwhen Bess sacrifices her life to warn him. Learningof her death he dies himself in a futile attempt atrevenge, shot down on the highway. In the finalstanza, the ghosts of the lovers meet again onwinter nights.
4Background The poem was written on the edge of a desolate stretch of land in West Surrey known as BagshotHeath, where Noyes, then aged twenty-four, hadtaken rooms in a cottage.In his autobiography, he recalled: "Bagshot Heathin those days was a wild bit of country, all heatherand pinewoods. The Highwayman suggested itselfto me one blustery night when the sound of thewind in the pines gave me the first line." The poemwas completed in about two days.
5Literary QualitiesThe poem makes effective use of vivid imagery for the background and of repetitious phrases to create the sense of a horseman riding at ease through the rural darkness to a lovers' tryst or of soldiers marching down the same road to ambush him."The Highwayman" is reputed to be "the best narrative poem in existence for oral delivery".Almost half a century later, Noyes wrote: "I think the success of the poem...was due to the fact that it was not an artificial composition, but was written at an age when I was genuinely excited by that kind of romantic story."
6VocabularyMoor- n. a tract of open, peaty, wasteland, often overgrown with heath, common in high latitudes and altitudes where drainage is poor; heath.Rapier- n. a small sword, especially of the 18th century, having a narrow blade and used for thrusting.Hilt- n. the handle of a sword or dagger.Plaiting- n. anything that is braided or pleated.Wicket- n. a window or opening, often closed by a grating or the like, as in a door, or forming a place of communication in a ticket office, a teller's cage in a bank, etc.
7Vocabulary Ostler- n. a stableman, especially one at an inn Harry- v. (used with object) 1. to harass, annoy, or prove a nuisance to by or as if by repeated attacks; worry: He was harried by constant doubtsCasement- n. a window sash opening on hinges that are generally attached to the upright side of its frame.Jest- n. a joke or witty remark; witticismPriming- n. the powder or other material used to ignite a charge.Brandish- v. (used with object) to shake or wave, as a weapon
8RomanticAdjective1. of, pertaining to, or of the nature of romance; characteristic or suggestive of the world of romance: a romantic adventure.2. fanciful; impractical; unrealistic: romantic ideas.3. imbued with or dominated by idealism, a desire for adventure, chivalry, etc.
9Highwayman noun, plural -men. (formerly) a holdup man, especially one on horseback, who robbed travelers along a public road.
10King George III Ruler of Great Britain from 1760-1820 Succeeded his father, King George IIHero to Great Britain (Loyalists)Evil Tyrant to the Colonies (Patriots)