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The Highwayman Lyrics

Artist: Loreena McKennitt
Album: The Book Of Secrets

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

He'd a french cocked hat at his forehead
a bunch of lace at his chin
a coat of claret velvet
and breeches of brown doe-skin
They fitted with nary 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.

And over cobbles he clattered
and clashed in the dark inn-yard
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 should 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 up right in the stirrups
he scarce could reach her hand
But she loosened her hair in the casement
his face burned like a brand
As a black cascade of purfume
came tumbling over his breast
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight
oh, sweet waves in the moonlight
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 of the moon
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon
looping the purple moor
a redcoat 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
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!
but she writhed her hands 'til 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 her finger touched it
the trigger at least was hers.

Tot-a-lot, tot-a-lot had they heard it?
The horse's hooves rang clear
Tot-a-lot, tot-a-lot in the distance
were they deaf they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight
over the brow of the hill
The highwayman came riding,
riding, riding,
The redcoats looked to their priming
she stood up straight and still.

Tot-a-lot in the frosty silence
Tot-a-lot in the echoing night
nearer he came and nearer
her face was like a light
Her eyes grew wide for a moment
she drew a 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 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.

And 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 in the golden noon
wine-red was his velvet coat
When they shot him down in the highway
down like a dog on the highway
And he lay in his blood in the highway
with a bunch of lace at his throat.

Still on 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.

~Lyrics are an adaptation of the old english poem 'The Highwayman'

Comments/Interpretations

by Brandon on 7/21/2008 7:34pm
This song is amazing I listen to it at least once a day.
by Michelle & Robson on 7/27/2008 5:26pm
This song gives us the chills...
by Michelle on 7/30/2008 11:09am
this song is amazingly amazing!
by `rose on 8/7/2008 3:53pm
who was the poem originally written by?
by Tricia on 8/18/2008 4:15pm
I love this song so much I used to have a cd of just this song but I over played it and it broke in two! Since then I have tried to get it on my zune pass but to no avail, the only McKennitt cd I can download doesn't have this song =[.
by Jason on 8/22/2008 5:32am
This is one of my favorite songs. A poem written by Alfred Noyes crafted into a touching song.
by Alex on 9/29/2008 1:22pm
Very best of this century!
by Dayna on 12/3/2008 8:48pm
I may only be 12 I love the rock and roll but this is like my favorite lullibyee
by Katie on 12/7/2008 10:56am
Without question one of the most profound songs I've ever loved.
by john on 12/16/2008 11:05pm
i have committed it to memory, but she left out two verses one about tim the ostler who overheard the highwayman talking to bess, tim loved the redlipped daughter as he refers to her and probably tipped off the redcoats and also she left out the last verers of the poem which is the 99percent the same as the second verse i like it with this added to the end because it brings bess back into the picture who the highway man loved so much but loreena already had a 10 minute song without there two original verses to the poem so if they had to cut two i guess these were the best two to cut over all i love the song and as i said i have committed it to memory and recite it to my grandchildren when they spent the night and they love it john
by Tony on 1/6/2009 3:45pm
I fell in love with this song recently. I came across Loreena McKennitt- The Highwayman, as in Highwayman with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, etc. Wow.
by lilly on 3/4/2009 3:45pm
It really is amazing. She captured the mood amazingly.
by Ed on 3/12/2009 1:26pm
The Highwayman was written by Alfred Noyes.
by Heather on 3/22/2009 10:53am
I originally heard this song back in 7th grade and our teacher played it to us. I loved it then and I love it now! I have the song on my MP3 player (I downloaded it on Limewire) and I listen to it everyday at least once. Its a beautiful song and poem. I love it.
by me on 7/6/2009 4:08am
hi
by Keyra on 7/19/2009 9:20am
A shame Loreena McKennitt is not very known. This song is simply amazing. I hope more people will appreciate this music instead of most of the rubbish called music thats made nowadays. Great job Loreena.
by Dae on 8/3/2009 12:26pm
Her voice is beautiful, hm?
I first heard this song sung by my friend's mother. I loved it so, and it is now my favorite song. I have many good memories connected to this song.
Good job, Ms. McKennitt.
by Stephen Cummins on 11/13/2009 7:26am
I heard Andy Irvine sing this song recently, sounded fabulous.
by ÐÏÐÅ on 12/26/2009 12:45pm
This CD is one of the ones we had when I was little. I knew only the sounds of the songs, not the names. This one, however, was one I always knew the name of. Dad used to tease me for loving the song, because he thought I loved how they both died, when it was really the arrangement I loved, and still love so much. Sometimes someone says something, and their words remind me of this song. I still have the CD.
by edh quene on 12/26/2009 12:50pm
this song was on a CD we had when I was quite young. Dad used to tease me about liking when they both died, when it was the arrangement, key, and rhythm of the song that I loved. I am now in possession of this CD, FINALLY! and still love this song the best.
by Jerri on 1/8/2010 7:11am
There is no better song or voice to sing the tale. My heart is moved every time. Beauty
by Grim on 3/4/2010 10:49am
this song is the cure for a gloomy mood and it rocks.
by Ellie on 3/29/2010 7:49pm
I seriously choke up and do the lone tear everytime I hear this song. It's an awesome adaptation of lovers and tragedy.
by anya on 9/10/2010 3:33pm
es muy buena en lo que hace .Una pregunta ella cree en Dios ? por favor dganmelo.Sus canciones me transportan a mi interior me relajan........que bueno que existe
by Brittany on 10/28/2010 2:46pm
i am in 6th grade and we heard this song in class. We were learning about similes and metaphores and thought that this song really has a lot of them!
by Saima on 11/4/2010 2:08am
I cried. It's so beautiful!
by Callie (Kal-E) on 4/20/2011 1:31pm
I am in 7th grade, and my English teacher hates the poem, but I love, love, love it! especially the Loreena version, this song is sweet, actiony, and romantic all at the same time. I do believe this is my favorite song by Loreena McKennitt, she is gorgeous and talented. I am the only one in my class who thought that she had a beautiful voice. I am proud to say I love Classical, and older music. Its all so beautiful!
by kaylum on 5/18/2011 9:25am
omg
by Bob on 5/18/2011 9:27am
OMG!!!!
by Oiry on 8/6/2011 7:17am
I once had the CD with this song on it ("The Book of Secrets") but unfortunately the CD got lost.
Now that I found it again on the web I can listen to this extraordinary song again - I missed it a lot!
by luv on 2/20/2012 10:02pm
wat the hell man thats all u got
by luv on 2/20/2012 10:04pm
jkjk i really love this song
LOL
by Diana on 3/16/2012 6:42pm
My 8th graders have studied this poem and listened to it today. The beautiful lyrics had to be played twice. The students truly enjoyed hearing this tragic story sung. So awesome!
by Ashley on 6/21/2012 12:18pm
I'm only 9 years old and I like rock a little but I love this song!!! I listen to it a lot !!!!!!!!
OMG!!!!!
by potatoe on 10/16/2012 2:46am
im 4 and i can count to potato :D
by SEb on 10/17/2012 11:51pm
The Highwayman was an intriguing poem at first, and it has been made into a
song. I prefer the poem without song,
but the song has brought it new "life"
by reetha on 8/8/2013 5:25am
amazingly great
by SMIGGLE on 10/15/2013 9:06pm
this is so Boring
by Flungcow on 11/26/2013 3:24pm
Love, love, love this song. Such a beautifully tragic story. If you like this one, also check out "The Bonny Swans" by Loreena Mckennitt. It is just as beautiful and tragic, and you will want to listen to it over and over again.








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