Describing the Highwayman
Alfred Noyes’ poem, ‘The Highwayman’, is a narrative and intriguing tale. It is a poem that celebrates passion, adventure and also tragedy. The romantic ballad tells of a suspenseful story. It is about colourful characters told in a simple and straightforward language. The Highwayman is conveyed as a mysterious and unpredictable character in the poem and the reader is left with varied emotions about him. Set in England, during the reign of King George III, the poem tells the story of a Highwayman who has fallen in love with Bess, an innkeeper’s beautiful daughter. He tells her that he is after a ‘prize’ that night. This will probably be the jewels or gold he will loot from a coach. However, the lovers are betrayed by Tim, a jealous stableman, who informs the soldiers. They attempt to trap the Highwayman by taking Bess hostage. In an oddly sadistic scene, the soldiers tie Bess up with a gun pointing to her chest, and then wait in ambush for the Highwayman. When Bess hears the Highwayman approaching, she warns him by shooting herself; he hears the gunshot and escapes. The Highwayman hears about Bess’ death in the morning and rides recklessly to the inn to exact revenge. He is, however, shot down on the highway by the soldiers.
In the poem, the Highwayman robs stagecoaches and carriages for a living.
“ , I’m after a prize tonight 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…”
This extract suggests that the Highwayman is planning to rob a stagecoach that night. The reader knows this because the Highwayman mentions that he will have the ‘prize’ by morning. This will probably be jewels or gold. Another piece of evidence to support the abovementioned extract is that the Highwayman is being pursued by people who want him hanged for stealing from carriages. All of this shows that the...
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