Just realized I have long had a kind of mental mixtape of Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman” and Walter De La Mare’s “The Listeners.” This is disturbing as I always supposed myself to have a good memory.
The mixtape begins “The road was a ribbon of moonlight/ Toss’d upon cloudy seas” and ends ” ‘Tell them I came and no one answered/ That I kept my word, he said.’ “
But today I reread the Alfred Noyes because it was the selection for the Poem-a-Day e-mail. It’s completely different from what I remembered. It’s all about a fair maiden [spoiler alert!] shooting herself to warn her highwayman lover that the red coats have baited a trap.
“The Listeners” is closer to what I remember teaching to a sixth grade class at Swarthmore-Rutledge Union Elementary School.
This is how “The Highwayman” really goes:
“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 …”
Close, but no cigar.
“The Listeners” does have the line about keeping his word, but it is not at the end.
I think maybe the poems really should go together. I could make up a whole new version. That would not be so different from, say, creating a medley of show tunes, in which songs are put together in a way that brings new interpretations to the surface.
What do you think? Have you ever made a poetry mixtape?