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The Highwayman - Lyrics

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon 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 the 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 jeweled twinkle, his pistol butts a-twinkle
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard
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

And dark in the dark old inn-yard, a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened - his face was white and peaked
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay
But he loved the landlord's daughter
The landlord's red-lipped daughter
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say

One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night
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 moonlight, watch for me by moonlight
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way

He rose upright in the stirrups - he scarce could reach her hand
But she loosened her hair in 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 in the dawning - he did not come at noon
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of 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 her casement, with muskets at their side
There was death at every window, and hell at one dark window
For Bess could see through her 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 muzzle beneath her breast
"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her
She heard the doomed man say
Look for me by moonlight, watch for me by moonlight
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way
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

The tip of one finger touched it -she strove no more for the rest
Up she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast
She would not risk their hearing - she would not strive again
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.

Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, had they heard it
The horsehoofs ringing clear
Tlot-tlot; 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-tlot in the frosty silence! Tlot-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 who stood
Bowed with her head o'er the musket
Drenched with her own blood
Not till the dawn he heard it, and 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 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 a bunch of lace at his throat

And still of a winter's night, they say
When the wind is in the trees
When the moon is a ghostly galleon, tossed upon 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

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred
He whistles 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
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair

Based on a poem by Alfred Noyes

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