The Highwayman was written by Alfred Noyes (1880-1958). Although it was published early on in his career - in a 1907 anthology - it is probably the best known of his works, widely admired for its imagery and some supposedly hidden moral, but in essence it is a rather sordid tale. The highwayman - who is not named - keeps a night time assignation with his lover, Bess, the daughter of an inn keeper, and tells her of a robbery he plans to commit later that night. They are overheard by an ostler who betrays them out of jealousy.
The next day, a troop of soldiers appear at the inn, but their behavior is more reminiscent of a mob than of a disciplined fighting force. The inn keeper is abused, his daughter is tied up and gagged, and there are overtones of sexual abuse, though this is not stated explicitly, probably because of publishing restrictions.
As the soldiers lie in wait for her lover to return, Bess manages not quite to free herself but to reach one of their guns, and ends up shooting herself dead. The highwayman is alerted, and rides off. The next day he learns of her death, but is hunted down and killed by the same soldiers, possibly having lost the will to live, and thus the two lovers are reunited for all eternity.
This poem has a theme that was already well worn by the turn of the 20th Century; the forces of law and order are demonized, while a vagabond who robs travelers at gunpoint and would probably not hesitate to shoot and perhaps kill innocent people to fill his purse, is painted as a hero of the night. Even the inn keeper's daughter was no better than a mobster's moll, but such are the follies of both literature and music.