Mairsy Dotes

"No faith is as solid as a wounded faith."

The Magic of Words May 19, 2008

Filed under: Stuff — beege @ 10:44 pm
                                                   The Highwayman
  The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding–
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.

He’d a French cocked hat on his forehead, and a bunch of lace at his chin;
He’d a coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of fine doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to his thigh!
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle–
His rapier hilt a-twinkle–
His pistol butts 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.

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 black-eyed daughter;
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say:

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart; I’m after a prize tonight,
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 stood 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 sweet black waves of perfume came tumbling o’er his breast,
Then he kissed its waves in the moonlight
(O sweet black waves in the moonlight!),
And he tugged at his reins 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 over the purple moor,
The redcoat troops came 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 by 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 bound her up at attention, with many a sniggering jest!
They had tied a rifle 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 moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, 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, 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 at attention, with the barrel 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 in her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.

Tlot tlot, tlot tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hooves, 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–
The redcoats 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 casement, drenched in her own red blood!
Not till the dawn did he hear 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 in the highway,
Down like a dog in the highway,
And he lay in his blood in the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still on 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 gypsy’s ribbon looping the purple moor,
The highwayman comes riding–
The 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.

Alfred Noyes

This was one of my favorite poems when I was a girl. I would read it over and over and over, my attention complete, my eyes unblinking, my fingertips cold as I read of Bess and her Highwayman and her ultimate sacrifice to save his life. I probably haven’t read this poem in at least a decade…quite possibly more like two. I’ve got other favorite poems now–Mad Girl’s Love Song by Sylvia Plath, So Kiss Me by Jewel (I know, I know but I found it early on in my relationship with M and it struck a chord that cannot now be unstruck), several by e.e. cummings, many by Neruda. In fact, if asked to list my favorite poems, I doubt the Highwayman would have even made the list.

But Linnea likes to listen to a Lorena McKinnet CD while falling asleep, and the Highwayman is on the CD–set to music. I was listening to it with Linnea one evening, indulging my small daughter’s constant pleas for me to snuggle her to sleep (it was one of the evenings of Mother’s Day weekend, when I was all schmoopy because “they won’t be little forever”) and I realized I knew the words to the song we were listening to. And then I realized it was The Highwayman. And I hauled out an old anthology of poetry my grandfather had given to me years ago–mainly because he couldn’t pry it out of my hands–and rediscovered the poem.

I found myself as absorbed, as attentive, and as captivated as I was as a young girl–when the ideas of true love and sacrifice were the stuff of romance novels and prepubescent daydreams. Interestingly, different things stood out to me now–the scruffy guy who rats out the Highwayman, and ultimately loses Bess because she is willing to die rather than see her beloved in the hands of the redcoat soldiers, for instance.

So I share this, for one reason because I think it’s a cool poem, and I’m not sure how many people are aware of it–I never had to read it for school, I just stumbled upon it in an old book of poetry. And for another reason: I can use this poem to trace part of my love affair with language. The rhythm, the imagery, the way the words move across your mind gives you both the percussion of hooves and the percussion of marching steps and the beat of a drum and the beat of a heart. The sudden interruption of the rhythm of the poem that coincides with the bullet shattering Bess’s breast–two rhythms silenced by a single shot. The tumbling curls of black hair, the shining black eyes, the red love-knot–all this imagery that works together so well that the reader is largely unaware of them. You just get so caught up in the story.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing about this, other than to share something with you that meant a lot to me when I was a child, curled up in dim rooms, so caught up in the story that I didn’t even realize darkness was falling and I couldn’t see the words on the page. And that beyond even falling in love with romance or history or poetry (although those all did happen), I began in those moments to fall in love with the magic of words, and I’ve never been the same since.




You gotta LOVE it May 9, 2008

Filed under: Stuff — beege @ 4:02 pm
Tags: ,

So, working where I do (the Fashion Emporium), I buy clothes like most people buy groceries. Meaning, I generally bring home at least 1 piece of clothing a week (if you average it all out). This is insane. My husband thinks so. And I’m starting to agree with him.

I was looking at my closet the other day. Crammed FULL to bursting with not even my entire summer wardrobe. That’s right folks: SUMMER wardrobe. Not entire wardrobe. Not Spring and Summer wardrobe. Just Summer. PART of summer. It’s ridiculous, and a little bit embarassing, because I complain about how we don’t have much money and while I think that there are a lot of factors that contribute to that, a big factor looks me in the eye every time I look in the mirror.

My “consume less” resolution lasted until February. Then I just picked up right where I’d left off.

So, working where I do, I also watch a couple of episode’s of TLC’s “What Not to Wear” every week. It’s good fashion tips for me, plus the some of the women who come into the store treat every word that fall from Clinton and Stacey’s honeyed lips like gospel. And while I think that a lot of times: they’re dead on, there are other times when I would choose differently. But one of the things they keep talking about is finding a few key pieces that you LOVE and build around them. Me? I got no key pieces. I’ve got pieces that I like. I’ve got pieces that I thought I’d like more when I bought them. I got pieces that I loved initially, but the ardor has cooled significantly. I have pieces I feel like I should love, and don’t. I’ve got pieces that I want to love, but can’t.  I’ve got pieces that worked at one time, but for various reasons: no longer do. I’ve got pieces I bought because they were such a good freaking deal it was silly to pass them up. I have one piece that I adored, adored, adored in the store and in all our marketing. I bought it when it went on sale so I got it for like $14.99. But you know what? I don’t like it on me. I really really don’t. But I’m sort of stuck with it now.

So I’ve decided to go back on the “no unnecceary consuming” bandwagon, and I’ve also decided to purge my closet. If I don’t love it? I’m taking it to a consignment shop. Period. Because it’s foolish to have a closet crammed to bursting of clothing you are only lukewarm about.