The Highwayman, along with The White Cliffs of Dover by Alice Duer Miller, are my favorite poems. I’ve included the entirety of the poem. I wrote a story in humble homage to this epic, and have sent it to my editor for a new anthology of the unearthly. My story Gypsy Ribbons is a ghost story about a lady and a highwayman.
Here is a bit of Gypsy Ribbons:
Hooves clattered in the darkened courtyard. Sparks shot from the stallion’s iron shoes as he slid to a halt, climbing the air in a full rear. Aidan leapt from the saddle, his red velvet cloak billowing in a bitter gust. The flamboyant cape was a slap in the face of the authorities. His smile faded as a dark premonition crawled down his backbone. He squared his jaw, ignoring superstition and the chilling call of his Irish blood. Silence ebbed and flowed like the tide of clouds washing over the moon.
Darby Manor was shuttered and barred, but Aidan knew who waited alone in a big, soft bed. His heart quickened as a bolt of desire shot through him. His love would be in her pristine white nightdress, often sacrificed to their passion along with his clothes. The thought heated him, but he had an assignation with a royal coach before dawn. Excitement glazed his skin as the scent of heather blew on him. Bloody cold night. Yet he was glad clouds hid the moon. Darkness made his job easier. He rested his whip on the cobbles and leaned on the hilt. Wind screamed around the corner of the house, whistling a lament. He hated this place. The house itself seemed to resent any intrusion.
Even the recent return of Lady Victoria Darby.
A month ago, she’d arrived in a handsome carriage on a sunny November Sunday. Since the house had been deserted for some time, Aidan was in the parkland grazing his horse before returning to the inn that was his home. He robbed the King’s Highway and lived with other brigands, but he didn’t liken himself to those cutthroats and thieves. Still, when he glanced at Darby Manor, even in daylight, shivers chased down his spine. The beautiful Lady Darby disembarked in all her finery. A blue satin dress caught the golden afternoon sun, flashing a myriad of iridescent colors. She turned, and his breath caught, but his heart leapt into a gallop. Why was there no battery of servants? Had she hurried to the country unaccompanied except for the woman bustling along in front of her?
He’d heard rumors that Lady Darby was willful and reckless. Perhaps, she’d given society the slip and escaped to the Manor with only her lady’s maid for company. The servants summoned from the village were long gone by nightfall. Darby Manor had a reputation for being haunted. Most locals believed that when the ghost sighed at the door, someone close to you was going to die. Personally, he didn’t hold with these old wives’ tales, but he had to admit the manor was a forbidding place.
A light snow began to fall, snapping Aidan’s attention back to the present. He turned up his collar against the silken mist and dusted a few flakes off his red velvet shoulders. As Lady Luck would have it, Virginia Darby had escaped the London Season and her husband. She was reckless and willful, and here he was on a winter’s night whistling a whippoorwill call beneath the Lady’s window If he were William Darby, he wouldn’t let his wife run wild on the wilder Yorkshire moors.
Goliath snorted, dancing on the slick stones. Gooseflesh prickled Aidan’s arms. The hair at his nape quivered. He tensed, his hand on his sword. I’m being watched. The feeling shuddered over him so hard he felt his insides shake. Whipping his weapon from the scabbard, he whirled. Naught but shadows fleeing from a shaft of moonlight. He shrugged deeper in his cloak and whispered a laugh.
This, at last, is The Highwayman: