Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Poetry Thursday

I haven't posted anything since Sunday because I promised myself that I would NOT blog until I had completed the job application I have been agonizing over. But seeing as it is Poetry Thursday I decided that I could get away with a small post - HA! This is not a small post, but the bit by me is small.

The instructions for Poetry Thursday were to choose your favorite poem. I have already shared many of my favorites and I have many MANY more waiting in the wings, but I decided to share my first real favorite poem. When I was in Grade Six, I loved - no - adored my teacher. She had us memorize really long poetry to share with the class. Up until then, poetry had been childish and for children. Well she took us from there and threw us into the deep end. Some of us memorized The Lady of Shalott, some Casey at the Bat, and for me? I memorized this poem. (Because it is the one that Anne recites in the movie Anne of Avonlea!) It is long, but it's language makes it thrilling - especially to a 10 year old girl!

P.S. I can still recite the whole thing!

The Highwayman

by Alfred Noyes



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 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,
And he tapped with his whip on the shuters, 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 moonliglt, 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.


Sarah e.Smith said...

I ADORE this poem. I love Loreena McKennit's song version of this poem as well....beautful! Thanky ou for taking the time to share it :)

Caroline said...

I'm staggered at your ability to memorise - wow! It was when I failed to memorise word for word anything that I realised my acting ambitions were at an end... unless I could get away with improvisation the whole time ;-)

And you were only 10 at the time... wow...

Laini Taylor said...

Meg, as Sarah mentions above, Loreena McKennit sings this poem -- so gorgeously -- and I've listened to her CDs so many times that I have only to read the first line of The Highwayman and I instantly hear her lilting voice -- have you heard it? You'd love it. I never had to memorize poetry in school, that I can recall, but I did anyway. There was this dark Archibald MacLeish poem called The End of the World, and lots of Wordsworth... and a lot of it IS still in my head!

Jill said...

I love this poem, too! And also because of Anne of Avonlea!

M said...

I love Anne of Green Gables! And Gil of course! I can't believe you can still recite the whole thing- that's impressive! I had to memorize Shakespeare monologues, but I'd struggle to recite one now.

tara dawn said...

It's been so long since I've read this...thank you for posting it...a wonderful return to a time of my own youthful innocence and the beginning of recognizing the pure music of poetry.
And I must say, I am quite impressed that you memorized this whole that is an accomplishment my friend.
Hoping you are well and sending lots of love,

la vie en rose said...

i am so impressed that you memorized this! wow! and that you can still recite it! double wow!

paris parfait said...

As others said, I love the Lorena McKennitt version. Amazing that you memorized this poem as a child! It's a great poem; thanks for reminding me of it.

K said...

Fantastic poem selection! I had to memorize this in high school, it must have been quite the feat for a sixth grader to get all the words stored in the brain!

As an aside, I love your mention of Anne Shirley. I absolutely adore L.M. Montgomery's work. My great grandmother actually went to Dalhousie with L.M.M. and I've felt a connection to her work. I love, love, love her characters!


HoBess said...

the pounding of hooves carried me right through this ... I can't wait to read it again!

Susannah said...

sweet pea, you realise that when you come down to visit, i'm going to make you recite this don't you? ;-) loved it!

Letha Sandison said...

Megg, I love this poem! It reminds me of Ann of Green Gables. Another Canadian :) I might have to take a page from Susannah's book and make you recite this when we meet in June! I spent the day with Liz today and she tells me you will be here in December. Yeah! She has a great idea to get a few of us together, I hope it works out!!

Good luck with the job application!!!


abhay k said...

What a beautiful poem!I could take my eyes off...

Endment said...

Memorizing and reciting this poem carried me through several different English classes... I love the sounds of the hoofbeats and the wind in the trees...
So glad you posted this

Cate said...

As I am UNABLE to memorize anything written (although my memory is spot-on when it comes to recalling events, conversations, details), I am in awe that you were able to memorize this poem! Go, you! And I just adore that you are still able to remember it! Thank you for sharing its meaning to you--what a lovely piece of writing! xo

fern_leaf said...

I loved it! I think Im going to save this so I reread it again.

chiefbiscuit said...

This poem still gives me the shivers! Thanks for posting it I'd forgottten about it ... :)

Patry Francis said...

I almost forgot how much I loved this poem! Thanks for reminding me.

Dana said...

Memorizing a poem ~ what a great exercise to help you really understand it. I'm going to memorize one tonight ~ something longer than a haiku, but shorter than the one you memorized.