site logo

Loreena McKennitt The Highwayman Lyrics

Last updated: 01/09/2014 04:52:40 AM

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor
And the highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding,
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark innyard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by the moonlight,
Watch for me by the moonlight,
I'll come to thee by the moonlight, though hell should bar the way.

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

He did not come at the dawning; he did not come at noon,
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching,
Marching, marching
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at the casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through the casement,
The road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"now keep good watch!" And they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say
"Look for me by the moonlight
Watch for me by the moonlight
I'll come to thee by the moonlight, though hell should bar the way!"

She twisted her hands behind her, but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness and the hours crawled by like years!
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it!
The trigger at least was hers!

Tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs were ringing clear
Tlot-tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming!
She stood up straight and still!

Tlot in the frosty silence! Tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment! She drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the west; he did not know she stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it; his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were the spurs i' 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.

Still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon, tossed upon the cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding,
Riding, riding,
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

write a review for this song
(Important: Use a nickname if you don't want your name to be published) Type your review in the space below:

poop | Reviewer: Anonymous | 1/7/14

the highwayman was a crappy poem that i had to write a load of crap about for school that had like no details and i couldnt stand reading or listening to so screw alfred noyes and his stupid name an his stupid poem

Enchantment by chance | Reviewer: Kiana Escura | 6/28/13

I took a swing at some McKennit songs due to a Youtube person who used a few of her songs...I took a chance with Highwayman and I am so glad I did.
I like Irish music but I liked the more updated version. Loreena is a bit older and she is wickedly amazing. Her speaking voice is so beautiful. I am so glad this poem was made into a song. It is one of the best love stories.

Beautiful Arrangement | Reviewer: Anonymous | 6/13/13

The first time I fell in love with poetry was when I was in 5th grade. Our teacher played a record of a man reading it. I was so happy when I found out Ms. mcKennitt had set it to music.

the best poem song | Reviewer: linda | 3/5/13

i listened to it and it stirred my sole. it is so beautiful i think even a bird would listen to that voice sing. the poem was well wrote and i fell sorry for the dead lovers. EPIC SONG!

A beautiful lullaby | Reviewer: Josephine | 2/9/13

Hearing Loreena sing, you feel like a babe in a cradle, listening to a mother sing a lullaby, a story long forgotten and washed away by the past. A sad story it is, and for us to ponder on throughout all times.

Karma is the only culprit there... | Reviewer: Ted Kawleski | 6/30/12

Anything you believe, everything you perceive can NOT BE. It is only faith.
Faith is only... What?

Reality is not subject to fairy tales.... I've found it to be subject only to faith in reality.

Haunting thoughts | Reviewer: Lynn Forconi | 3/8/12

I have loved this song since I first heard it. It is a beautiful and tragic story of love and sacrifice as well as thievery and cruelty in the midst of a political war. Loreena sings it just perfectly. The words were difficult for me to understand completely, but I got the jist of the story. I can appreciate it even more now that I know all the words. It haunts me to this his ghost still haunts the Old Inn to this day.

I can only assume that they were reunited in death and will live a new life together because of that love. However, what is the Highwayman doing stealing gold presumably from the enemy? His actions ultimately caused her death and then his.

I wonder how this would work out karmically. Loving acts should create life, not death. Such are the contradictions of life on Earth.

Overall, I repeat, Loreena sings it just perfectly.

awesome | Reviewer: Anonymous | 11/1/11

i lovee this poem it makes your feelings come out yerrrhhh its amazing and joyful to hear it i read it to yself every single night cos i lovee it so much<3:)
its so amazing to hear i love you highway man

Love this poem! | Reviewer: Anonymous | 9/9/11

I love this poem i have been listening to it since I was is a really beautiful poem i am so amazed I actually could understand most of it since I was little. :-)

p.s.I am a violinist and I cant wait till I learn to play this song!

Best female voice! | Reviewer: Black | 5/27/11

Loreena's soothing voice wafts me to an ancient place all the time while i listen to this song.
I think great poet Alfred Noyes would be proud if he could hear this song. Just awesome.
It is on the list of my all time favorite songs.....

music | Reviewer: Anonymous | 5/16/11

i love this song. it is truly sad. i am only 14 yrs of age and i have been getting singing lessons and i am gunna be so proud to sing this songin front of my school. but im really enjoyed this poem/song alot... its very inspirational for me.

Love itt !!!! | Reviewer: Anonymous | 5/8/11

I think it's amazing the imagery used u can really feel whats happening. It sad that the landlords daughter died for her love because she didn't want him hurt, but she shouldn't of done it because he was gonna die any way. I think this poem is amazing it's my favourite poem ever !!!!! X x x x

a little trivia | Reviewer: Mi-chan | 1/9/11

While Loreena McKennitt did a brilliant job of putting the poem to vocals and music, please remember that the poem was written by Alfred Noyes, British writer and poet born 1880. He died in 1958. The Highwayman was first published in 1906.

One of my favorite poems.

Sophie | Reviewer: Anonymous | 12/25/10

Such a beautiful song I have listened to it since I was baby has been such an inspiration in my life so sad how they took Bess and kissed her and probaly other things especially since she sacrificed herself and heart and soul to save her one true love but for him to die in vain such a beautifully painful love story

The highwayman came riding, riding, riding...... | Reviewer: klerina | 7/20/10

This is SUCH a lovely poem, break my heart, really touches the soul, and add this enchanting melody its surreal, sighhhh such a sad ending, but tragedy makes a poetry so much more hauntingly beautiful