Last Updated on May 30, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 177
Context: Alfred Noyes, noted primarily for his lilting narrative verse and his romantic subjects, tells in "The Highwayman" a melodramatic story of thwarted love, sacrifice, and bravery. The highwayman, with "a French cocked-hat on his forehead" and "a bunch of lace at his throat," swears his undying love to Bess, daughter of an innkeeper, and says that he will return to her. The rendezvous having been reported by a jealous suitor of Bess, King George's troops invade the inn, truss up Bess, and tie a musket at her breast. At the sound of hoofbeats, Bess fires the musket, taking her own life, but warning her lover, who at first flees. In a frenzy, however, he returns and is shot "Down like a dog on the highway. . . ." The determination of the highwayman to return to his beloved is shown at the rendezvous when he says:
". . . 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."