What is the purpose of Alfred Noyes' poem, "The Highwayman"?

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The narrative poem, “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes, is a story about love, murder, sacrifice, and heartbreak.  Noyes’ purpose in writing the poem is to simply tell a story about England and the love between the highwayman, a criminal who robs people as they travel the roads, and the innkeeper’s daughter, Bess.  It is considered one of the best narrative poems written because of its imagery and story. 

A highwayman is in love with an innkeeper’s daughter who waits in her room each night for him to ride up to the inn and profess his love for her.  He cannot reach the maiden’s hand on horseback, and so she lets down her long black hair for him to smell its sweet perfume.  It is a forbidden love as the highwayman is a criminal.  When King George’s soldiers find out about the nightly visits of the highwayman, they plan a stake out to catch him.  They tie up the maiden and place a musket at her breast, so if she tries to get free, she will shoot herself.  To save her lover, the maiden pulls the trigger of the musket to warn the highwayman with a blast from the musket.  He rides off saved for the moment only to be gunned down on the road by King George’s soldier.

Although published in 1906, “The Highwayman” is a narrative that dates back and mimics other poems of the Romantic period of literature in the 1800’s.  The unfulfilled love and sad circumstances would have been very popular to the readers of the time period. 

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