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The Wreck of the Hesperus and The Highwayman: A Compare and Contrast Essay on Love, Triumph and Betrayal

Jordan Harper Pd. A4

Hunter S. Thompson once said, For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled. In the ballads The Wreck of the Hesperus by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, they share similar as well as different purposes. Although Noyes poem demonstrates that eternal love will triumph over betrayal, and Longfellows poem reveals the tragic outcome of a sea captains pride, both poems share specific literary and poetic elements.

In Longfellows poem The Wreck of the Hesperus, the poem is told as a story in poetic form, known as a narrative poem. Hesperus takes place in 1839 off Normans
Reef near Gloucester, Massachusetts. The protagonists are the skipper and his daughter. His daughter could be described as blue-eyed, hair like brown sea weed and rosy cheeked. The skipper smokes pipe and is glassy eyed with a scornful laugh. The antagonist in this story is the hurricane, it killed our protagonists. Minor characters are the other people on the boat as well as the captain. We dont hear about them throughout the poem. In Wreck of the Hesperus, we experience a Man v. Nature conflict described as the overconfidence of the captain by facing the sea during the hurricane. The point of no

return is when the father doesnt answer the daughter. There is a common bond between the skipper and his daughter. It was the schooner Hesperus, /that sailed the wintry sea; / and the skipper had taken his little daughter/ to bear him company (Lines 1-4) The falling action in The Wreck of the Hesperus is the continuation of the hurricane and discovering the dead girl. In resolution, the narrator implores Christ to save us from a death like this. In the poem, there was an allusion based on Christ. And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave, / on the Lake of Galilee. (Lines 55-56) The line is clearly inspired by the Sea of Galilee, where many of Christs first and last events of his ministry occurred. The figurative language is Wreck of the Hesperus guarantee a better understanding.

In Noyes poem, The Highwayman, he bases the poem on four subjects: love, betrayal, death and loyalty. The poem takes place in the 18 century probably the Spaniards Inn on Hampstead Heath, England. The protagonists in the story are the Highwayman and Bess. The Highwayman is a robber and Bess is the landlords daughter who has a red love knot in her hair. The antagonists in The Highwayman are King Georges men. They are perceived in the poem as the Highwaymans enemy and they eventually seize him. Besss father, the landlord is the minor character in the poem for his lack of role in theme. The conflict in this ballad is Man v. Man, the love between the Highwayman and Bess. The climax is when Bess takes her own life to warn the Highwayman that King Georges Men are coming. He turned; he spurred to the west; he did not know who stood/Bowed, with her head oer the musket, drenched with her own red blood. (Lines 79-80) In those lines, it is identified that the Highwayman found his
th

lover dead, drenched in her own blood. Later, in the falling action, the highway man rides and gets killed by King Georges men. Noyes uses personification with There was death at every window (Line 46). It is clear there cant be death at every window but that gives a sense of danger and horror at every window. Noyes use of mood, tone and figurative language make the poem easier to break down and analyze.

Both poems set a mood of love, betrayal and even heartbreak. With both poems, the word breast symbolizes ones heart. For example, in Wreck of the Hesperus on line 81, The salt sea was frozen on her breast and in The Highwayman on lines 77-78, Her musket shattered the moonlight, / shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him with her death. Its also known that both female companions are beautiful by description. Sailors daughter is blue-eyed and rosy-cheeked while Bess was the landlords black-eyed daughter with a red love knot in her hair. Next, there is a common bond in both poems. In Wreck of the Hesperus, there is a father-daughter bond. The sailor brought his daughter to bear him company. In The Highwayman, there is an intimate relationship between Bess and Highwayman. Furthermore, there is a similarity in the climaxes: death. In Wreck of the Hesperus, the father doesnt answer his daughter who bared him company throughout the rough seas. In the Highwayman, Bess shoots herself to warn the Highwayman that King Georges men were approaching. Lastly, in both poems, the females perish because the males are too confident in their misadventures. In Hesperus, the narrator implores Christ to save us from a death like us. In The Highwayman, the lovers reunite in the moonlight. Both writers include various amounts of figurative language to grasp understanding.

In conclusion, The Highwayman and The Wreck of the Hesperus had many similarities and differences, despite the fact they were both romantic ballads. Through the lines of the poem, readers are able to pick up symbols, metaphors, similes etc. This goes to show although Noyes poem demonstrates that eternal love will triumph over betrayal, and Longfellows poem reveals the tragic outcome of a sea captains pride, both poems share specific literary and poetic elements.