Thank you for your question!
Your custom-written answer is below.
When reading the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, the focus is on the “story” of the poem. However, in the oral version, the focus and intensity is on the atmosphere and the rhythm. The repeated lines and verses are easy to overlook when reading, but when it is oral, the repetition adds to the meaning of the poem. The poem becomes more active and exciting due to the use of intonation and stress.
Even in the written form, we can see that the poem has a very distinctive rhyme and meter. It's written in iambic and anapestic hexameter, which means 6 feet per line with each foot having either a "short-long" or "short-short-long" pattern (Schmoop University, Inc, 2012). This pattern places the emphasis on the word at the end of the line. However, in the oral form, we can also hear that the rhymes emphasize the action. It’s almost like a driving rhythm that leads toward the end of the poem. Each line that is meant to rhyme leaves a sense of anticipation, which isn’t resolved until the rhyme is completed.
The exception to the general metrical pattern the 4th and 5th lines in each stanza, which are written in iambic or anapestic trimeter. That means there are 3 feet per line with either anapests or iambs above. These short lines are used to add intensity to the poem: they form the "chorus" of sorts and create the greatest sense of drama. In the oral form, it actually sounds all like one line, because the three feet of the two lines combine to make one line. So the way the poem is laid out on the page makes us think of it as two lines, but in the oral form, it’s easier to think of those as one regular-length line as opposed to two shorter ones. These little lines are actually very important to the poem. The repetition of words like “riding” and “marching” is effective at helping the story move from a love story to an action story to a gothic horror story.
In the written poem, each stanza looks to be about the same. But when you hear it read, it seems that the poem almost speeds up in the middle and toward the end where there’s more action. There’s more intensity and action, for example, when the highwayman bursts into the inn yard, and when the soldiers enter the inn, and the scenes of Bess’s and the highwayman’s deaths. From the way that the reader intones her voice, the poem becomes more exciting as it moves into the realm of action. For example, the description of Tim the Ostler becomes more suspenseful as he is described with words like “hair like moldy hay” and “hollows of madness”. In addition, the highwayman’s return to the inn is described with “Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky, With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!” Words like “shrieking” become onomatopoeic, and the reader seems to have a touch of madness in her voice to exemplify the state of mind that the highwayman is in.
The author uses many examples of sound devices. For example, alliteration and onomatopoeia are used in “over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.” (bindictive, n.d.) These devices help to make the entry of the highwayman sound abrupt, noisy, and hasty. In the oral version of the poem, the intensified words that are repeated or that rhyme stand out even across verses. For example, the words “moonlight” and “midnight” are repeated. Another example is the word “hell”, which is used both in the highwayman’s words to Bess before he leaves, and the description of “hell at one dark window”. Another word repeated over and over, which is emphasized more when the poem is oral, is “red”. The highwayman’s coat, the red of the love-knot, and Bess’s lips, and the blood are all red, drawing a common visual theme through the poem.
Overall, this poem benefits from oral reading. The written text and oral are the same, but only orally do the meter, rhyme, and other poetic devices work together to create a sense of intensity, urgency, and romance.
Schmoop University, Inc. (2012). The Highwayman: Rhyme, form & meter. Retrieved from http://www.shmoop.com/the-highwayman/rhyme-form-meter.html
Bindictive (n.d.). The Highwayman: An analysis. Retrieved from http://bindictive.hubpages.com/hub/Linguistics-and-the-Study-of-Literature