The poem ‘The Highwayman’ was written by Alfred Noyes in 1907 it tells of a love between Bess, the Landlord’s daughter, & the highwayman. The poem ‘Sovay’ is actually a ballad about a man and a woman in love, and the woman testing the man’s love for her. In both poems the main theme is romance, but drama is also a theme in both poems, a comparison can be made between both the poems. Alfred Noyes uses colours when adding to the romance in the poem, for instance when he is setting the scene in the beginning he uses ‘the purple moor’, purple being a romantic colour.
In comparison, in Sovay colours are used to add to the setting, and not in a romantic way. The way he adds Romance is apparent in the scene description when Noyes adds adjectives such as when describing the road through the moors he writes ‘The road was a ribbon of moonlight’ this conjures up romantic imagery which heightens the sense of romance throughout the poem. In comparison Sovay uses speech to show the romance of the poem and heighten the sense of love between Sovay and the man, ‘ For it’s a token from my sweetheart’.
The way that Noyes describes the highwayman is once again romantic. He describes the highwayman in stanza 2. ‘Breeches of brown doe skin’ doe skin is soft and smooth and is suggestive of romance and love and once more the usage of colours the browns and reds that Noyes uses all represent romance and love. In Sovay the women is described as ‘She dressed herself up in man’s array’ which is made more dramatic as it then states ‘ With a sword and pistol all by her side’ this is a dramatic description, unlike the highwayman which is a romantic description.
The colours purple, tawny, red & claret are all used to put emphasis on the relationship and romance of Bess and the highwayman, as reds are romantic colours which are associated with love and romance. Likewise as purple can be seen as a romantic colour and can be linked to feelings of romance. However the use of tawny which is a light brown colour is a little different it can be seen as a romantic colour however it isn’t always seen so the use of this colour in my opinion isn’t romantic however it is used to describe the sunset ‘ the tawny sunset’ so it is used in a romantic way.
When Bess is ‘plaiting a dark red love knot into her long black hair’ it is unclear what this is however the usage of colours again suggest a theme of romance because of the dark red of the knot. However she has black hair, this colour is a theme of tragedy almost an omen of their deaths that their love is plaited into a great tragedy like the two lovers are destined to have a tragic love.
The highwayman told bess ‘Watch for me by moonlight, I’ll come to thee by moonlight,’ this is a sense of romance again as moonlight is a romantic silvery colour and the blanket of stars all show a picture of romance, however after that the highwayman says ‘though hell should bar the way. ‘ this is a tragic picture as another suggestion to their deaths it also shows some form of adventure in the poem but also shows how determined the highway man is he loves Bess so much that he would go through hell just so he could be with her.
This is a dramatic imagery, Sovay uses drama with the repetition at the end of each stanza as the second line is built up more ‘For if you do not, For if you do not, I’ll shoot you dead’ In stanza six, of The Highwayman, it says ‘his face burnt like a brand’ this shows the highwayman is blushing and this further emphasises the love he has for Bess. After this the suggestions and the theme of romance turns to the theme of tragedy and adventure more tragedy though.
In stanza seven, of The Highwayman, ‘He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon; and out o’ the tawny sunset, before the rise o’ the moon’ Bess is waiting for the highwayman to come and he isn’t because she is waiting and he told her when he would come back is adding tension and a mystery, and heightening the sense of drama, as to what’s happened a theme of adventure emerges from the poem and at the same time a sense of great tragedy emerges.
Also in stanza seven ‘A red coat troop came marching- marching- marching- King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door. this is a play on when in the first stanza the highwayman comes to the door ‘And the highway man came riding- riding- riding- The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door. ‘ this adds to the theme of tragedy as instead of the highwayman coming to the door its red coats who hunt and kill highwayman. The red coats are there because of in stanza 4 ‘His eyes were hollows of madness,’ refers to Tim the ostler man and it suggests jealousy of the highwayman as Tim also loves Bess and hates the highwayman so because of this we get the impression that Tim sent for the red coats.
Also in an ironic way the colour used most vividly to show and express Bess and the highwayman’s love for one another which is red is also the colour of the coats worn by King George’s men who kill the highwayman. In stanza nine Noyes writes ‘She heard the dead man say- Look for me by moonlight I’ll come to thee by moonlight; thought hell should bar the way! ‘ she suggests the highwayman’s death and adds to the already heightening sense of tragedy. In stanza ten Bess is tied up and this creates a sense of adventure and makes you wonder how the poem will end.
It says ‘She writhed her hands till they were wet with sweat or blood! ‘ this shows her desperation and again heightens to the adventure as though she is the damsel in distress and you want the highwayman to race in and kill the red coats and free her and yet at the same time you know that it isn’t going to happen as there have been so many tragic suggestions to his death. And then when it shows that Bess can touch the trigger of the gun ‘The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers! this heightens the adventure as she has the gun but it is pointing into her breast and then that adds to the tragedy as you know only one thing can happen.
In stanzas twelve and thirteen the highwayman comes riding and the red coats go to kill him but he is warned when Bess shoots herself ‘Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him- with her death’ at this moment it is tragic and romantic at the same time Bess has died which is tragic but with her death she warned the highwayman and saved his life this is romantic as she took her life to save his a final act of love for him.
In stanza fourteen it says ‘He turned; he spurred to the westward; he did not know who stood bowed, with her head o’er the musket’ so he doesn’t even know who killed them selves, this is tragic because Bess killed herself to save him and he didn’t even know who it was so her final act of love was missed by the highwayman which is really tragic. The highwayman only found out when he heard it ‘Not till the dawn he heard it, and slowly blanched 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. this is also tragic because it says ‘ Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there. ‘
In stanza fifteen the highwayman races back to the old-inn and is shot down. ‘ 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. ‘ this is a very powerful and tragic line and the fact that at the end he has a bunch of lace at his throat where as when he is originally described it is at his chin this adds to the power of the line.
The last two stanzas are echoes of the first two and that symbolises that although Bess and the highwayman are dead their love for each other still goes on and that is why the theme of romance and love is the strongest and most noticeable theme through out the poem. In Sovay what is happening is she is testing the mans love for her by dressing up and robbing him. But in the Highwayman there is already a strong sense of love between Bess and the Highwayman.
In Sovay she robs her true love as a test to further her love for him , where as the Highwayman robs for his true love. In Sovay a women dresses as a man to fool her love, and in the highwayman he is dressed as a man and doesn’t need to fool any one. In Sovay a sense of tragedy is created from the beginning because she is going to rob her lover, and then when she is robbing him she demands his ring and he tells her to shoot him rather than take the ring. If she shoots him she would be hung for murder. In the final verse she says if he gave her the ring she would have shot.