Phil Ochs - The Highwayman Lyrics




The wind was a torrent of darkness
Among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon
Tossed upon cloudy seas
And the road was a ribbon of moonlight
Over the purple moor
And the highwayman came riding, riding, riding
Yes, the highwayman came riding

Up to the old inn door
Over the cobbles he clattered
And clashed in the darkened yard
And he tapped with his whip at the window
But all was locked and barred
So 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

One kiss, my bonny sweetheart
For 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
Harry me through the day
Oh, then look for me by moonlight
Watch for me by moonlight
And I'll come to thee by moonlight
Though Hell should bar the way

He did not come at the dawning
No, he did not come at the noon
And out of the tawny sunset
Before the rise of the moon
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon
Looping the purple moor
Oh a redcoat troop came marching, marching, marching
King George's men came marching
Up to the old inn door

And they bound the landlord's daughter
With many a sniggering jest
And they bound the musket beside her
With the barrel beneath her breast
Now keep good watch and they kissed her
She heard the dead man say
"Oh look for me by moonlight
Watch for me by moonlight
And I'll come to thee by moonlight
Though Hell should bar the way"
Look for me by moonlight

Hoof beats ringing clear
Watch for me by moonlight
Were they deaf that they did not hear
For he rode on the gypsy highway
She breathed one final breath
Then her finger moved in the moonlight
Her musket shattered the moonlight
And it shattered her breast in the moonlight

And warned him with her death
Oh he turned, he spurred on to the west
He did not know who stood
Out with her black hair a flowing down
Drenched with her own red blood
Oh not till the dawn had he heard it
And his face grew gray 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 his velvet coat
When they shot him down on the highway
Down like a dog on the highway
And he lay in his blood on the highway

With a 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 ribbon of moonlight
Over the purple moor
Oh the highwayman comes riding, riding, riding
Yes the highwayman comes riding
Up to the old inn door





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Phil Ochs The Highwayman Comments
  1. rukeyser

    His voice is simply beautiful here.

  2. treedude2525

    I really like Phil Ochs and his work, but my favourite reading of The Highwayman was by the late Mark Lewis, story teller. Unfortunately, no recordings of Mark reading it can I find. So I'm left with Phil's performance, which is pretty damn good.

    Lotta Sunshine

    I found this YouTube video of Mark Lewis. Not sure if you'll return to these comments, but hope it helps.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4n33EPy5_Y

  3. All in The Game

    Down like a dog on the highway...

  4. Frank Fonteyne

    The wind was a torrent of darkness
    Among the gusty trees
    The moon was a ghostly galleon
    Tossed upon cloudy seas
    And the road was a ribbon of moonlight
    Over the purple moor
    And the highwayman came riding, riding, riding
    Yes, the highwayman came riding

    Up to the old inn door
    Over the cobbles he clattered
    And clashed in the darkened yard
    And he tapped with his whip at the window
    But all was locked and barred
    So 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

    One kiss, my bonny sweetheart
    For 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
    Harry me through the day
    Oh, then look for me by moonlight
    Watch for me by moonlight
    And I'll come to thee by moonlight
    Though Hell should bar the way

    He did not come at the dawning
    No, he did not come at the noon
    And out of the tawny sunset
    Before the rise of the moon
    When the road was a gypsy's ribbon
    Looping the purple moor
    Oh a redcoat troop came marching, marching, marching
    King George's men came marching
    Up to the old inn door

    And they bound the landlord's daughter
    With many a sniggering jest
    And they bound the musket beside her
    With the barrel beneath her breast
    Now keep good watch and they kissed her
    She heard the dead man say
    "Oh look for me by moonlight
    Watch for me by moonlight
    And I'll come to thee by moonlight
    Though Hell should bar the way"
    Look for me by moonlight

    Hoof beats ringing clear
    Watch for me by moonlight
    Were they deaf that they did not hear
    For he rode on the gypsy highway
    She breathed one final breath
    Then her finger moved in the moonlight
    Her musket shattered the moonlight
    And it shattered her breast in the moonlight

    And warned him with her death
    Oh he turned, he spurred on to the west
    He did not know who stood
    Out with her black hair a flowing down
    Drenched with her own red blood
    Oh not till the dawn had he heard it
    And his face grew gray 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 his velvet coat
    When they shot him down on the highway
    Down like a dog on the highway
    And he lay in his blood on the highway

    With a 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 ribbon of moonlight
    Over the purple moor
    Oh the highwayman comes riding, riding, riding
    Yes the highwayman comes riding
    Up to the old inn door

    JG Freer

    Frank Fontaine thanks for posting!

  5. MrVampiredog

    SO SAD, HE COMMITTED SUICIDE.

  6. William Thomas

    One of my saddest memories is talking to Phil Ochs during a break at the Cellar Door. He was outside, smoking and I told him in my naïve way, "We really need your songs." His reply was a sad and sorry "It's just not there any more, man." Shortly thereafter, he left us.

  7. taras Smith

    Grade 9, i brought this in as an example of english literature with folk music that was 1967, I will never forget the look of admiration on my Lady English teachers countenance, soon I fell victim to the times and loss of innocence, half dead from a car wreck, the rest is history the lefties now the enemy.

  8. Dawn Silver

    Can listen to 100 times a day....soulful!

  9. Kris Gasteiger

    How is it that I see every image Phil sings? It brings tears to my eyes. I see the gypsy highway, the moonlight, the purple moor. I see it all. Such beauty and pain and sorrow.

  10. Mike Bunyak

    So this is Phil fucking Ochs. I'm only 61 and it's the first time I've heard his beautiful rendition of this poem that I'm sure many learned and loved. His mastery of music is only surpassed by his tragic death. I, as most others, have witnessed the demise of friends. It's painful, tragic, yet seemingly fated to happen despite our best intentions to intervene . Peace. Out.

  11. D0CILE

    I remember reading this poem in my gifted language arts class when I was in 3rd grade. My teacher had us take turns reading out loud before telling us that the ghost of the highwayman was going to come back to sing it to us, and he hit play on a portable stereo he brought in and let us listen to this song. I didn't really understand it at the time - being a kid, when the poem said "with the barrel under her breast" I imagined an actual wooden barrel and was deeply confused - but I remember the way his voice gave me a melancholic feeling I couldn't explain.

  12. cosmic explorer

    Thank you for sharing this. Pierce my soul!

  13. RosieBrie

    Love this poem and this song version! <3

  14. Trish Birchard

    brilliant , beautiful

  15. David Hughes

    Amazing adaptation of the Noyes poem..epic.

  16. zymelin21

    Phil was a genius, but was overtaken on the right by Dylan ( yes the guy that got a nobel-prize. My old guitar case from the 70' says "Dylan is a ......." and I will stand by that to-day!!) I have never been able to play this in the key of c without breaking my voice, but after much wrangling got it to G-fingering. G Em C G Am D7 G Em C G B7 Em C G Am D7 (C7 chord on 3 fret gives a nice sound)

    James Sheerin

    Wasn't he good friends with Bob Dylan?

  17. alex jones

    BIPOLAR IS A MYTH

    stephen mcglone

    alex jones fuck off

    tom kent

    I'm in two minds whether to reply.

  18. Sullivan Jones

    The 10 dislikes are redcoats

  19. BritPopLivesOn72

    This song is beautiful. Phil Ochs was really great

  20. Edgar J Hoover, Dame

    I learned this poem and the song in junior high back in the early ‘70s. My English teacher was Sonny Ochs, Phil’s sister. A few years later Phil was gone but the song and the poem are cherished memories.

    JanieUnknownWriter

    That is amazing! Your English teacher was Sonny Ochs.

    Dawn Silver

    sweet!~ I too have listen since early 70's...highschool

    Aman Bindra

    If what you said is True you are blessed

    Michael Hoffman

    so youre a far rockaway-in like me FUCKIN PHIL !!!!!!!!!

  21. Jonathan

    He should've done more like this and the bells

    Mary Groethe

    He was a genius in his time and in ours. The young need to catch his spirit.

    Pat Boardman

    Some of us are still around from the sixties; I was friends with Phil on the road. He was very inspiring. I stopped playing live due to lack of interest. Here is my version of "The Bells".
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlcWDmGW3NI
    "Turn turn Turn"
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUM21B1pexc
    "It's All Over Now Baby Blue"
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3ju6qSYDfo

  22. xavierzsada

    all his songs seem so sad not just the lyrics but his tone

    LonelyAtTheTop79

    that's what happens when you dedicate your life to singing about injustice in your country

  23. Jeannie Quinn

    Ochs was a genius I could listen to him for hours and did when I was young before he died. Why can't any artists today come up and take the old folk, true folk songs anymore? They could be so helpful in raising awareness right now in this country. I love all the old folk geniuses going back to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger but Phil O. was a true genius.

    James Sheerin

    David Rovics is a great folk singer

    Casey Corbett

    I love Folk music and am a 20 year old singer song writer, I just have so much anxiety mixed with my own Bipolar disorder and it makes me nervous to put any of my songs out there. I know it's important to speak up, I just need to work up the courage.

    Richard Spinney

    People nowadays would rather be safe than have the hard life experiences that lead to the wisdom to write such wonders. Growth is painful

    William Martinec

    ah lack of awareness the true worst epidemic of our time

    SquashedSquidz

    There are plenty of artists that still convey their thoughts in music today, and folk music too, mainstream just makes us focus on Drake and Ariana Grande.

  24. TheWatsonGreen

    "And I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way" Chills. Every time.

  25. Nancy Benefiel

    Phil we miss you so

  26. xavierzsada

    so pretty

  27. Instazome ASMR

    This song... forever a favorite

  28. Jerome Dutra

    I'm still ñot i mpresed

    mungous1000

    I am not impressed with your typing or spelling skills.

  29. MrErsamo

    Phil's suicide had nothing to do with Vietnam. He suffered from bipolar disorder (then called manic depression), his career had essentially collapsed, he was beset by writer's block, making him unable to come up with new songs and the upper register of his voice had been destroyed when he was strangled on an African beach.

    Mark M

    The writer's block and pre-strangulation career struggles were not totally unrelated to Vietnam. He was totally demoralized by the events of 1968 and the Nixon clampdown on the 60's energy he identified so strongly with.

    Michael G

    it was just a perfect storm of events, it's as sad as it is unfortunate.

    CelestialWoodway

    Whoever said it had to do with Vietnam alone?

    Thomas Paine

    rest in peace, Phil. The hottest flames are blown out far too soon.
    Damn, this is so sad....

    rukeyser

    @Mark M indeed. I was at the legendary concert at Carnegie Hall, where Ochs came out in a gold lamé suit. He explained that Phil Ochs had gone to the Democratic Convention in Chicago and died, whereupon God told him to come back - as Elvis.
    The crowd ranged from bemused to hostile, and many left. Those of us who stayed were rewarded ♡

  30. David Owen

    This fine poem I learnt when at Layton Primary School.  Phil Ochs put some of the verses to music in what I  find is a fine piece of work.  It might encourage you to find the whole poem on the web.  Lovely.  Phil was so upset by America's action in Viet Nam that he finally after a fit of depression killed himself.  One of the best of the Dillon, Baez generation.

    Irene Rabinowitz

    He did not die because of Viet Nam. Anyone who knows about him, his life, his background, etc. knows that this is not connected to his suicide. Honor the man with the truth. He was bipolar and suffered from manic highs and very bad lows. He was an American genius and his story must remain truthful.

    mungous1000

    Who ever spelled Dylan's name D i l l o n?

  31. Ray Hoyle

    love it!

  32. EMS8643

    Phil Ochs' version remains both my first and favorite version of the poem.

    pelicanmouse

    This one and Mr A Noyes'

    Blud Stanes

    Well Phil makes it pretty hard to compare it to any other version. To me this is the definitive version. His voice sounds angelic while singing this tragic song.

  33. stuka97

    Such a beautiful and haunting rendering of this classic poem.

  34. Finn Barbee

    Phil Ochs put the poem to music before it was only a
    poem

  35. Winterlight Soul

    By far the best rendition of this beautiful and tragic poem!

    Haydens space

    @Winterlight Soul IMO loreena Mckennitt's version captures the theme of the poem better.

  36. Howard Slade

    Have not heard this in many of years, glade to find at last. First heard it on wprb fm back in the 70's. A very good version sung by Phil Ochs.

  37. Paul Lavan

    I love you more than words could ever say, Phil. God bless you my beautiful friend.

  38. Jon Doeringer

    Here is Phil, forever young - the song, forever haunting.
    Phil had a great first act, but bipolar, alcoholism and depression, and the loss of power and fame, did him in. If he could have been saved, he didn't want to be. Maybe his death was a warning, as in this song, to his younger self. He was a giant in his day. A real Voice.

  39. Jaedon Braun

    Hold on! What're you saying?!
    I've only known Phil Ochs for a week and he's been dead this whole time?!

    ........and this is one of my favourite songs, too! :(

  40. YourFaceWillDie468

    @CaptainOi82 Here they are transposed from the key of B to the key of C, just to make things easier to read.
    C, Em, Am, Em, F, Dm, G, C, Em, Am, F, C, E, Am, F, C, Dm, G
    And it repeats that throughout the song.

  41. Drex Mason

    Been looking for this selection forever.Thanks much.RIP Phil.