Alfred Noyes and his Highwayman


Alfred Noyes was an English poet who was liked by the populace at first, but criticized later for not adapting to changing styles.

Alfred Noyes was born in Wolverhampton, England in 1880.  He grew up in Wales, and started writing poetry at nine. He completed his first epic poem at the mere age of 14. 1. He went to Exeter College in Oxford, but decided to pursue poetry rather than finish his education. He published his first poetry book in 1902, and was quickly discovered as on of England’s most affluent poets. 2.

Noyes visited the USA for the first time in 1913. He married Garnett Daniels in 1907. He then was hired t be professor of Modern English Literature at Princeton University.  After his wife died in 1926, he remarried and relocated again to Great Britain. They set up residence in the Isle of Wight. 3.

For the rest of his life, he kept writing poetry. His eyesight started blurring, and “changing fashions in poetry” made his obstinacy toward holding onto the classic style cut down his popularity. 4. He died in 1958, at 77.

Alfred Noyes was a tall, healthy man who used to be a college rower. He had a mouth like a “cupid’s bow,” 5. and  sandy hair that was dark on the top. He wore thick, dark glasses in his seventies to help his poor eyesight.

Noyes was highly acclaimed by most of his readers. He was even more popular in America than Britain. He made fifteen American tours! But critics rebuked him for resisting change and sticking with the classical method instead of adapting to the new styles.

In Alfred Noyes’s Highwayman, the highwayman loves Bess, the landlord’s daughter. He tells her he will be back before the next night, and rides away. Then after he leaves, King George’s men  come to the inn. They tie Bess up at attention. When she sees the highwayman coming, she shoots herself to warn him away. When the highwayman finds out, he rides back in rage and is shot.

The Highwayman is a ballad. Like most ballads, it has a refrain, but it is not the exact same every time. Noyes saturates the poem with alliteration. The moon is a “ghostly galleon, ” the highwayman “shrieks a curse to the sky” at Bess’s death, and when he is shot, he lies down “like a dog.” This adds to the rhythm. It is mixed anapestic and iambic hexameter, with a rhyme scheme of AABCCB.

In the Highwayman, the main character is a robber and a thief. But it is the soldiers who steal the landlord’s ale and abuse Bess. Nighttime, which is usually dangerous, is the only time the highwayman and Bess are safe. The biggest reverse is at the end. In the last two stanzas, the highwayman and Bess do the exact same things as the first two stanzas, but they are ghosts!

In conclusion, Alfred Noyes was a poet who was liked and disliked. He went to Britain and America, and wrote popular ballads and epics like the Highwayman.

  1. “Alfred Noyes Dead; British Poet was 77,” New York Times (June 29, 1958), p. 68.
  2. “Alfred Noyes Dead,” p.68.
  3. Mohit K. Ray, ed., Atlantic Companion to Literature in English (Atlantic Pulishers, 2007), p.401.
  4. “Alfred Noyes Dead,” p.68.
  5. Robert van Gelder, “An Interview with Mr. Alfred Noyes.” New York Times, (April 12, 1942), p. BR2

Works Cited


Mohit K. Ray, ed., Atlantic Companion to Literature in English (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 2007), pp. 401-402.

“Alfred Noyes Dead; British Poet Was 77.” New York Times, June 29, 1958, pp. 1 and 68.

Robert van Gelder. “An Interview with Mr. Alfred Noyes.” New York Times, April 12, 1942, p. BR2.



2 thoughts on “Alfred Noyes and his Highwayman

  1. Pingback: November 12 2016 | jedwardjewell

  2. Edward, this reads like a first draft. You do not have some details in a logical order. You need to reorganize this essay so that it flows better. You also have a spelling and a comma error.


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