The Highwayman Poem: YA Story in Miniature

Posted by on Apr 17, 2013 | 14 comments

This week’s YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday question:

April is National Poetry Month! Share your favourite poem(s) or poet.

This is a no-brainer for me, as without my favourite poem I would never have written my debut novel, Glimpse. Yes, I really do love it that much. The poem? The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes.

Surely you’ve read The Highwayman. Here are the first few stanzas to jog your memory.

The Highwayman poemThe 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 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.
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.

*Sigh.* *Swoon.* I adore this poem. It may have been published in 1906, but, to me, it really is the perfect YA story in miniature.

Let me know in the comments—do you have a favourite poem or poet?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.


  1. This poem always makes me think of Anne of Green Gables when she performs it at the White Sands hotel! As I read through your snippet, I could totally hear her voice in my head reading the words!

  2. I’ve never read The Highwayman – I’ll have to check it out. I’m curious – what about the poem inspired your novel?

    • Yes, definitely read it! I always loved the themes of The Highwayman – doomed, everlasting love with a spooky element – and that’s what inspired me.

  3. Like Melanie, I always think of Anne of Green Gables when I read “The Highwayman”, but I also think of the Loreena McKennitt ballad made from this song. Kind of haunting…

    • Yes! I should listen to the Loreena McKennitt song again, it’s been a while.

  4. I love this poem! I remember we did a big project on The Highwayman in year five or six (my primary school teachers were amazing) and it has stuck with me ever since.

    I stopped doing RTW because I’m not a proper writer and felt like a bit of a fraud. However, I might have to make an exception this week – great topic!

    • Haha, me too! It’s a classic primary school poem.

      And I don’t think there’s any such thing as a ‘proper’ writer. Would be great to read about your favourite poem. 🙂

  5. Has anyone thought of basing a novel on this? There are novels based on fairy tales, and classics–why not poems? Especially ones like this that tell a story. You said it yourself, Kendra: it’s the perfect YA story in miniature. So… why not write that story? 🙂

    • Maybe I already have, Colin! 😉 (Though I haven’t written a retelling.)

  6. My gran’s favourite poem. 🙂 Definitely a face of mine too. Very spooky imagery. I have to agree with Colin, someone has themselves a novel right here!

  7. I LOVE The Highwayman. This whole road trip is making me rediscover my favorites 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  8. At first I thought I’d never read this poem, but as I read further, it started to seem familiar, and I’m pretty sure I did at some point when I was in school. Obviously, it didn’t leave any sort of impression on me then, but I definitely won’t forget about “The Highwayman” this time around!

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