Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Highwayman

There are a few bits of poetry that speak to me from my youth and still send a thrill through my veins when I hear them.  Mainly, these come from the 1985 Anne of Green Gables series, which I watched more times than I can count and still enjoy greatly.

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?


  1. Beautiful Blog today, especially the last line. Thanks for sharing.

    I always love The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. It's special to me for its uplifting message of individuality and also because as a fellow NH native, I have seen Robert Frost's farm and loved the setting this writer called home as much as his writing.

  2. Jessica, how special to have seen the home of Robert Frost and glimpsed part of what made him who he is and his poetry so wonderful. What a memory to treasure.