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What does the rhyming pattern of aabccb in Noyes's poem, "The Highwayman," tell us...

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lucyspouncer | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 27, 2014 at 7:15 AM via iOS

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What does the rhyming pattern of aabccb in Noyes's poem, "The Highwayman," tell us about the story the author relates?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 27, 2014 at 11:19 AM (Answer #1)

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Galloping, galloping, thumping, thumping, hearts pulsing with passion in accompaniment with the footfalls of the highway man's steed--this rhyme pattern of aabccb matches the living rhythm of the characters in Noyes's narrative poem. With the final b, the rhyme returns to an earlier line, thus closing the stanza upon itself as a unit of thought, like a paragraph, in this narrative poem. 

Noyes's use of iambs (one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed) and anapests (two unstressed followed by a stressed syllable) in the lines is interesting: 

The wind | was a tor|rent of dark|ness among | the gus|ty trees, [The wind] is iamb
The moon | was a ghost|ly gall|eon tossed | upon cloud|y seas,  [was a ghost ] is anapest

This use of both patterns accentuates the horse's movement and pulsing of hearts as it is in anapest, which is faster than the speech of the narrator, which is in iambs.

"The Highway" is written in the traditional form of ballads, which are five or six-line stanzas with a repetitive rhyme scheme and pattern as seen here. In this poem, writes one critic, "Noyes intensifies a dramatic, romantic story with driving rhythms." 


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