The highway lay and shivered

       In the moonlight’s silvered hand,

While the traveller’s trusty mount

       Pawed the dusty well-worn sand.

 The sliver of road stretched out

       ‘Till over the hill it climbed,

While in the village that nestled behind it

       The church bells clearly chimed.

 Yet the night was eerie and still

       And a cold wind fanned his face,

And its fingers tugged and pulled

       At his hat and cloak and lace.

 And a doubt came over the traveller,

       A doubt so cold and still,

That he eyed the lonely highway

       That slowly climbed the hill.

 He cocked his head and listened

       To the sounds that stalked the night,

And softly heard the tinkling noise

       Of that village out of sight.

 He stood his horse in the roadway,

       In the middle of the silvered band,

And cast a wary, roving eye

       Over the silent, shrouded land.

But no signs of danger saw the traveller,

       No hint of death or pain,

Only the softly keening wind

       That promised the coming rain.

 So he spurred his faithful charger

       Into a languid, easy lope,

And with eager thoughts of warmth and rest

       He breasted the waiting slope.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Like stars upon a pitch-black sea

        The village winked its light,

 Beckoning the tired and dusty traveller

        To hurry through the night.

 Under the old Inn’s creaking, well-worn sign

       The traveller paused and knocked,

 Then turned the black, wrought iron handle

        But found all barred and locked.

 Up above a window opened

        And a form thrust out its head.

 “Tis cold and late to ride the road,

        Search you for a bed?”

 The traveller merely nodded

        As the head above withdrew,

 The landlord’s steps approached the door

        And then the bolts he threw.

 The traveller tossed a silver coin

        For a bed just for the night,

 And glanced around the homely house

        In the candle’s flickering light.

 His host climbed up the creaking stairs

        And held the lantern high,

 And warned him of the well-worn steps

        That squeak and scream and sigh.

 But the traveller only smiled ahead

        At the dark and winding stair,

 And no sound made the noisy steps

        As the traveller walked up there.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 Before the town had stirred

        The traveller packed and left,

 His horse’s hooves clip-clopping the cobbled roads

        With movements quick and deft.

 And although the traveller was worn and weary

        And the day quite hot and dry,

 He galloped on without a stop

        Beneath the blue-bright burning sky.

  Then evening came and the purple shadows

        Laid claim to the weary land,

 And a cool breeze blew with a salt sea tang

        That stirred the sleeping sand.

 Yet the night was eerie and still

       And a cold wind fanned his face,

 And its fingers tugged and pulled

        At his hat and cloak and lace.

 And the truth came over the traveller,

        A truth so cold and still,

 That he eyed the lonely highway

        That slowly climbed the hill.

 He stood his horse in the roadway,

        In the middle of the silvered band,

 And cast a wary, roving eye

        Over the silent, shrouded land.

 But no signs of danger saw the traveller,

        For him no death or pain,

 Only the softly keening wind

        That promised the coming rain.