Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Back, he spurred like a madman, shouting a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
- When he hears how Bess died, the highwayman makes a dumb move. He goes back.
- The speaker makes it clear that he's almost crazy with sadness and anger. He curses and rides as fast as he can, swinging his sword as he goes.
Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.
- Then (you guessed it) the highwayman dies. He gets shot down by the British soldiers.
- We get lots more little refrains in these lines including reminders of what the highwayman is wearing (like in lines 7-9).
- We also hear that he is shot "down like a dog." Sharp poetry detectives will remember that the speaker used that same word to describe Tim, the crazy ostler, in line 24. Maybe there's a connection there. Maybe Tim had something to do with the highwayman's death? Any thoughts?