One of those bits of poetry is The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. Anne recites an abridged version toward the end of Anne of Green Gables that’s dramatic and romantic, everything that Anne is, everything I wanted to be at that age.
The poem is sensual, vivid, ghastly, tragic, and romantic, an odd combination perhaps, but Noyes makes it work beautifully, especially when read aloud. He uses repetition a great deal that looks a little odd on the page but fits so well when spoken.
Loreena McKennitt performs a lovely version that really captures the rhythm and beauty of the language. Where Anne’s recitation is powerful, shifting between impassioned, hard utterances and soft, intimate intonations, Loreena McKennitt’s is elegant, lyrical, and ethereal.
Neither version, however, contains Noyes’s full poem. Both leave out the verse with Tim, the jealous ostler, but honestly, it’s the least evocative and interesting part in my opinion. Though Noyes never states so, he implies that Tim is the one who tips off the red coats about the highwayman and thus instigates the haunting tragedy that later ensues.
This poem, more than any other, taught me how much of a difference hearing, rather than simply reading, something can make. It’s also a glorious gem of my youth that I carry with me to remember those days and the dreams and desires I held back then. But, truthfully, my dreams and desires have not changed all that much, so perhaps it is more a reminder of who I really am and who I always have been.
Do you have a piece of poetry that stays with you? What is it?