A ghostly galleon

I don’t suppose children learn poetry in school any more, and if any of them do, judging by some of the poets I’ve seen on the various syllabuses, it doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing they will remember for the rest of their lives. It’s the same with songs they sing – and if they sing hymns, then the hymns they song – everything has to be relevant, everything has to be accessible… spoon feeding doggerel I think in so many cases.

I’m not a Christian but I love the hymns we sang with the wonderful stories of green hills far away beyond the city walls, angels from the realms of glory, the brightest and best sons of the morning… I’m sure my writing has been informed by these and the songs we had in singing lessons about pirates and knights and dashed hopes and blighted love… as well as all the jolly things about cherry ripe cherry ripe and who on earth was Aiken Drum?

So many times when I see things, a line of verse or a few words from a song come spontaneously into my head… and I’m sure there are lots of people who when they see a moon on a cloudy night will think of this, by Alfred Noyes:

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—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
         His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled 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.


  1. richard.kefford

    Yes, I remember well having to learn this at school. The line ” hair like mouldy hay” resonates as do many of the other wonderful descriptive lines. The repetition of ‘riding’ . Even as a child with zero interest in poetry I was entranced by this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lois

      This is the thing – in those days it wasn’t a dreaded thing called ‘poetry’ it was just words which made pictures! “Slowly silently now the moon walks the earth in her silver shoon…” for example!


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