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Compare 'The Highwayman' by Alfred Noyes to Lord Tennyson's 'The Lady of Shalott'

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Compare 'The Highwayman' by Alfred Noyes to Lord Tennyson's 'The Lady of Shalott'. Which poem do you prefer and why? In this essay, I intend to examine the storylines, themes and language of 'The Highwayman' and 'The Lady of Shalott' and then explain why I think that one of the poems is more powerful than the other one. 'The Highwayman' is a love story full of romance and adventure. The hero is the rakish highwayman of the title who dies for the love of his mistress - the darkly beautiful innkeeper's daughter, Bess. 'The Lady of Shalott' is a mysterious poem set in the mythical time of legend Camelot. It is also a tragic love story in which the Lady of Shalott, who is cursed to stay in her tower and not look out of the window, dies for her love because she looks out of the window at Sir Lancelot. The highwayman himself is a romantic hero of the 18th century. He is very well dressed, with 'a French cocked-hat on his forehead' and 'lace at his chin'. His 'breeches of brown doe-skin' fit 'with never a wrinkle'. He is a thief - the highwayman tells Bess that he will be 'back with the yellow gold'. ...read more.


Noyes uses personification when describing how Bess is trapped, 'there was death at every window'. It is evident from this phrase that there was no way out for Bess. She was trapped, as if by the grim reaper himself. Finally, Bess struggles for a long time to reach the trigger of the gun so that she can kill herself. She 'stretched and strained in the darkness' until the 'tip of one finger touched it'. In contrast to Bess' death in 'The Highwayman', the Lady's death is very peaceful. The Lady does not kill herself and the events leading up to her dying are not so dramatic. Although the pace quickens as the Lady sees Sir Lancelot and looks out of the window, as the Lady is dying the pace slows down to make it more tranquil. The Lady of Shalott sings 'her last song', which shows that she is calm and happy as she dies. The way that she died was just as if she fell asleep, 'lying, robed in snowy white', floating 'down to Camelot'. The highwayman reacted very dramatically to Bess' death: 'he turned; he spurred him westward'. However, the highwayman does return and this is when he gets shot 'down like a dog on the highway'. ...read more.


This gives the reader a vivid image of the bridle dazzling in the sun. In stanza four of part two, Tennyson has given us a very sensual description of what the lady can see in her mirror. He describes the 'silent nights', 'music' and 'the moon' under which 'two lovers lately wed'. This is to help us create a very striking image in our minds and it also helps us understand what the Lady is missing and how she must feel whilst she is imprisoned. After examining both of the poems, I prefer 'The Highwayman' to 'The Lady of Shalott'. Firstly, the main reason is because 'The Highwayman' is much more dramatic and the storyline is much easier to follow than that of 'The Lady of Shallot'. Secondly, I like Noyes' use of language. He has used lots of similes, alliterative phrases, personification and examples of onomatopoeia to bring the ballad to life and give the reader a vivid image of what is happening all the way through the poem. Although 'The Lady of Shalott' has many sensual images, much of the description of the surroundings is left out which makes it harder to get a clear picture of what is going on. Finally, I think that 'The Highwayman' is a more powerful poem because the pace is quicker than that of 'The Lady of Shalott', which has a much slower and gentler, less dramatic pace. ...read more.

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