At the beginning of Alfred Noyes's poem "The Highwayman," the scene and the tone are set with a series of metaphors:
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.
At the beginning of part 2, the third of these metaphors is varied slightly. The troop of redcoats comes marching to the inn to set a trap for the highwayman:
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor.
In both cases, the road is compared to a ribbon, though in the first image it is shining in the moonlight, which suggests a ribbon of iridescent satin, gleaming against the background of purple heather. "Gypsy" women often sold ribbons and other such small dressmaking items. The image of the ribbon here also suggests that the road shines and stands out from the dark background, like a ribbon on a dress, and that it curves in a soft, elegant manner over the landscape. This second attribute is further emphasized by the word "looping."
The ribbon is an apposite metaphor
, in keeping with the atmosphere
of the poem, since the highwayman in the poem is a highly romanticized gentleman-thief who pays great attention to his costume, wearing a lace jabot, a coat of claret-colored velvet, and close-fitting doeskin breeches. The poet pays far more attention to his appearance than that of Bess, the landlord's daughter.