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 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 creakedWhere 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
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!
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,