The Highwayman

Katherine Daggett

Main Idea

In this poem, a well dressed man rides up to the door of an inn-yard to see the landlord's daughter. He tells her of his plans to steal gold that night, and is over heard by an employee. The highwayman then tells Bess he will return the next night, and for her to watch for him in the moonlight. They both know it may not be an easy task.

Later that next night, an armed red-coat troop arrives at the inn-yard. With no regard for the landford or his produce, they restrain his daughter to a bed and leave a musket pointed to her chest, telling her to keep watch. Bess struggles at the ties around her until around midnight, when she is finally able to touch the trigger. The trotting of the highwayman's horse is heard and, to warn him from coming any further, she pulls the trigger onto herself. Her death causes the rider to retreat west from the house, heartbroken after learning of the loss of the one he loves. Although her sacrifice was drastic, it was also futile, as the highwayman himself is shot shortly after.


Main Characters:

The Highwayman is a theif, dressed in high class clothing. He rides upon a horse, and carries a torch for the landlord's daughter.

Bess (the landlord's daughter) a dark haired girl, who's age isn't specified. She wears a red knot in her hair. She has a strong love for the Highwayman.

Minor characters:

The landlord runs the inn-yard and is the father of Bess.

Tim the ostler is an older, very unkept employee of the landlord. Tim is described in an inherently negative way; dumb and mad. He has feelings for Bess also.

King George's troop of men were most likely alerted by Tim of the robber's intent to return to the inn-yard, and are classless soldiers that do not have much care for their surroundings.

Poetic Techniques

There were many poetic techniques used in The Highwayman. It used simile and metaphors quite often when describing various situations or objects. This makes it easier to visualize specific features, and adds emphasis to their original properties. Personification used in The Highwayman aided in emphasis, as well as creating a more personal, humanizing visual to inanimate elements.

"The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas / The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,"


The moon was among many clouds, and cast barely any light onto the road.


The moon lies behind thick, hastily moving clouds, barely peaking through. A dark stretch of land, only just identified as a road by the scarce amount of light shining over it. The feel is solemn and ominous.
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"For the road lay bare in the moonlight; / blank and bare in the moonlight; / and the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain."


There was no one coming down the road; Bess yearned to see the Highwayman.


Bess wants so badly to see the Highwayman, to protect him and to warn him. It is painful, physically and emotionally, to stare at the empty, moonlit road. She is anguished and suffering. The emptiness under the moonlight is gut wrenching.

"The landlord's black-eyed daughter, / Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there."


The landlord's daughter watched the moonlight to see the highwayman but died in darkness.


Bess had looked to the moonlight for her love, had spent her last hours staring into the lit road to see him ride to the inn-yard. The slight irony to her death is the darkness that surrounded her, literally and figuratively, as she sacrificed her life to try and protect the one she looked for in the light. There is such a sad, dark tone to this quote.