La Belle Dame Sans Merci:
Keats was an extremely sensitive and imaginative poet and his poetry is known for its sensuous richness and vivid imagery. He was one of the foremost Romantic poets. Among his famous poems are Odes, Hyperion, Lamia, and The Eve of St. Agnes.
La Belle Dame Sans Merci has been written in the form of a ballad. A ballad is usually a folk song set to music that tells a story. Like many traditional ballads, La Belle Dame Sans Merci also tells a story. The first three verses ask a question. The rest of the poem contains the answer. The Knight met a cruel and beautiful fairy lady. She took him to a strange cave where he fell asleep and had a nightmare. When he awoke, the lady was gone and he had lost all his strength. Critics have given several interpretations to this poem. It is famous for its magical, ghostly quality.
A knight is moving about in frustration and despair. The knight is pale with fear. The poet wants to know the cause of the knight’s place looks. It is icy cold. The long grass growing on the side of the lake has withered because of the cold. The lake has frozen. There are hardly any birds out chirping in this chilly weather. The poet wants to know what troubles the knight, and why he is wandering all alone in this unpleasant weather.
The poet repeats his question. The knight has an ashen face and pale looks. The knight appears to be exhausted. The poet is shocked to see the knight in such lonely and chilly weather. The autumn is over, and the winter is fast setting in. The farmers have reaped and collected their crops. The squirrel has collected its corn for the winter and is resting, somewhat hidden. Why should the knight be out on such a cold and unpleasant winter day?
The poet finds some marks of weariness on the face of the knight. The knight’s face is totally pale with fear. There are drops of tiredness and sweat on his forehead. It appears that the knight has been crushed by some heartbreaking pang. Some inhuman burden has crushed his brave spirit. He has been suffering from some severe mental strain. The blooming readiness of his check has disappeared. His health is falling down. There is no freshness and vigor about him. He is pale and withered.
The knight narrates his woeful story to the poet. He tells the poet that he came across a beautiful woman in the meadows. She was an extremely beautiful woman no less than a fairy. She had long and luxuriant hair. Her feet were active and delicate. There was wild luster and brightness in her eyes. He wants to inform the questioner that the lady was no less than a fairy.
The knight falls in love with his beautiful lady. The knight takes a fancy to her. He prepares for her a bracelet of sweet and fragrant flowers. He makes her a flowery belt. The lady looks at the knight with amorous eyes and cries as if she were in love with him. The knight gives way his heart to the beautiful lady.
The knight takes the lady for a joy ride on his fine horse. He places the lady on his horse which is standing in readiness. They ride the horse all day long and nothing special happens. He is lost in her and she is lost in him. On her journey, she would bend to have a look at his face, and sing a magical song- a song which is often sung by fairies.
During the course of their joy ride, the lady offers the knight the choicest things to eat. She gives him sweet edible roots of delicious taste, wild honey, and manna fruit. This honey is obtained from the flowers growing in a forest. Manna dew stands for some rarely available delicious food. The lady tells the knight in her strange language that she is deeply in love with him. The knight fails to understand her fairy language.
The lady takes the knight to her magic cave. The lady and the knight drop at the former’s cave. She starts weeping in plaintive tones. She sighs fast to express her love for the knight. The knight kisses her fair cheeks and shuts her wild eyes.
The fairy makes the knight sleep. He sleeps in her fairy and magic cave. He has a horrible dream a dream, that he cannot describe.
The knight dreams about frustrated kings and gloomy warriors. He sees frightened kings, pale princes, and disspirited warriors. They are all looking almost dead. There appears to be no blood in their bodies. These pale figures cry to the knight that he has been overpowered, like them, by the lady without pity.
The knight finds kings and princes almost dead. They are all pale and haggard. Their lips are dry and wide open. These people are giving him the horrible warning that he has been captivated by the merciless lady. He wakes up from his sleep to find himself on the cold hillside.
The disappointed and jilted lover is moving like a madman on the cold hillside. The lady breaks the lover’s heart and leaves him alone to pant and pine in frustration. He is wandering all alone in the lonesome wild like a ghost. The grass is withered and the lake is chilly like his heart which is broken and withered.
Tell the story of La Belle Dame Sans Merci in your own words and explain why she has been described as having no mercy.
“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is a well-known poem, written by John Keats. It tells the story of unrewarded love.
It was autumn. There was dullness all around. Even the birds were silent. The poet saw a knight wandering alone on the cold hillside. He looked pale and sad. The glow of youth and health had faded away from his cheeks.
The poet asked him the cause of his miserable condition. The knight, then, told him his sad tale. He said that he had met a beautiful lady. She had long hair and wild eyes. She seemed to be a fairy.
The knight said that he fell in love with that lady. He made a garland and bracelets of flowers for her. He enjoyed a pleasure ride with her on his horseback. She gave him sweet fairy food to eat. She sighed with love for him. Then she took him to her fairy cave. There she sang a sweet song and lulled him to sleep.
The knight said that he had a horrible dream during his sleep. He saw death-pale kings and princes. Their dry lips were wide open. They were giving him a warning that he was the latest victim of that merciless lady.
The knight woke up in fear at this warning. He found himself all alone on the cold hillside. He was not able to get any peace after that.
Bring out the central idea of the poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”.
The poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” brings out the idea that unequal and purely physical love leads to sorrow and disappointment. A knight-at-arms fell in love with fairy. This was unequal love. Besides, it was a purely physical passion. The knight-at-arms had to suffer for it. The fairy at first enticed him. But, at last, she deceived and deserted him. The knight was left all alone, sad and heart-broken. The poem also brings out the idea that a beautiful lady may not be pure and beautiful at heart. Her physical charms may be just a cover for an evil nature.