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The Highwayman

The Highwayman


by Alfred Noyes

The Highwayman

Symbol Analysis

Our hero. We know he's a robber, but we have to like him anyway. He's well-dressed, daring, good to Bess, and a heck of a lot cooler than those soldiers. We should also point out that, while he's a specific guy in this poem, he's also a type, a kind of stock character. He's an outlaw, and he strikes the same pose as any gangster. He lives and loves fast and hard and he dies by the sword. The clothes change a little, but the guy underneath is the same in every story.

  • Line 7: When we first meet the highwayman, we just find out that he's riding up to the inn. But here, in the second stanza, the speaker starts to give us some specifics about what the highwayman is like. He does this in kind of a funny way – he doesn't tell us what the highwayman's done in the past, or what his face looks like. He starts right in by talking about his clothes. From his hat to his boots, from his pistol to his sword, we learn more about his clothes that we ever do about the man himself. This gives us a powerful visual image, and keeps us focused on the drama and excitement of the moment.
  • Line 70-71: This is another refrain. The speaker repeats this line about the highwayman "riding, riding, riding" three times. Two cool things about this: first, it locks in the connection between the highwayman and the past-paced life of the road. Second, the word "riding" is a troche (that means the stress is on the first syllable: RID-ing). We think that makes this line sound a little like the clop of horse's hooves: DUM-da, DUM-da, DUM-da, RID-ing, RID-ing, RID-ing. Is that working for you?

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