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Alfred Noyes was an English poet, best known for his ballads, "The Highwayman" and "The Barrel-Organ."

Early Years

Noyes was born in Wolverhampton, England, the son of Alfred and Amelia Adams Noyes. When he was four, the family moved to Aberystwyth, Wales, where his father taught Latin and Greek. The Welsh coast and mountains were an early inspiration to Noyes. In 1898, he left Aberystwyth for Exeter College, Oxford, where he distinguished himself at rowing, but failed to get his degree because, on a crucial day of his finals in 1902, he was meeting his publisher to arrange publication of his first volume of poems, The Loom of Years (1902).

From 1903 to 1913, Noyes published five additional volumes of poetry, among them The Flower of Old Japan (1903) and Poems (1904), which included one of his most popular poems, "The Barrel-Organ". His most famous poem, "The Highwayman", was first published in the August 1906 issue of Blackwood's Magazine, and included the following year in Forty Singing Seamen and Other Poems. In a nationwide poll conducted by the BBC in 1995 to find Britain's favourite poem, "The Highwayman" was voted the nation's 15th favourite poem.

Noyes' major work in this phase of his career was Drake, a 200-page epic in blank verse about the Elizabethan naval commander Sir Francis Drake, which was published in two volumes (1906 and 1908). Both in style and subject, the poem shows the clear influence of Romantic poets such as Tennyson and Wordsworth. Noyes' only full-length play, Sherwood, was published in 1911; it was reissued in 1926, with alterations, as Robin Hood. One of his most popular poems, "A Song of Sherwood", also dates from 1911. He published in 1913 another long poem, Tales of the Mermaid Tavern, which evokes several of the great figures of the Elizabethan era, among them Shakespeare, Jonson, Marlowe and Raleigh.

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