La Belle Dame Sans Merci | Summary, Model Explanations, Critical Analysis, Question Answers

La Belle Dame Sans Merci | Summary, Model Explanations, Critical Analysis, Question Answers 1

La Belle Dame Sans Merci | Summary, Model Explanations, Critical Analysis, Question Answers

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Introduction: “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” was written in April 1819. Keats took the title La Velle Dame Sans Merci from ‘an early fifteenth-century French poem by Alain Chartier. The phrase belongs to the terminology of the courtly love and describes a beautiful lady without mercy, that is the sort of gracious kindness which prompts a woman to accept a lover’s plea’. (Brian Stone: The Poetry of Keats). The title must have fascinated Keats, for in the “Eve of St. Agnes” that he had just completed, it is the title of the song played on the lute, by the lover to his sleeping lady.

“La Belle” is a ballad. There are two kinds of ballads—traditional and literary. The traditional or true ballad has its roots in the Middle Ages and the literary ballad was the revival of the ballad form in the nineteenth century. Ballads were written in the stanzas of four lines i.e. quatrains (metrical patterns of 4, 3, 4, 3) with 2nd and 4th lines usually rhyming.

The ballad was a dramatic verse tale which moved rapidly. The ballad used little description, it narrated very few incidents and the details of the story were presented in a straight forward manner. The themes of the old ballads were usually love and war, an exciting adventure, a loss, a family disaster, usually they contained supernatural elements.

Ballads gradually died out. But in the later half of the eighteenth century, there was a revival of interest in the ballad form. Consequently, collections of old ballads were brought out. Some poets in the late eighteen and early nineteenth century were inspired by the form and wrote ballads.

Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” are masterful literary ballads. Keats in his ballad has changed the quatrain, making the fourth line shorter—this slows the movement of the poem.

Many legends concerning ‘women’ were current during the dim and shadowy Middle Ages. The beauty of the Fatal woman or Femme Fatale was a curse to mankind. These women were often presented as enchantresses, witches, sirens, mermaids, or serpent women (example, Coleridge’s “Christable” and Keats’s Lamia) who lured men by their strange (`wild’) beauty to their ruin or death.

The lady of Keats’s ballad “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is a fatal woman of the medieval romance. The title itself suggests that she is a beautiful lady without any pity who ruins the life of a knight.

Summary of La Belle Dame Sans Merci

La Belle Dame Sans Merci is a wonderful romantic ballad which some have considered one of the best of Keats’ poems. It was composed probably in the spring or summer of 1819.

The title of the poem means ‘The Beautiful Lady without Pity’. The title is taken from a poem of Alain Chartier, a French poet of the 15th Century of the Court of Charles VI. Keats is indebted to Alain Chartier only for the title which had a kind of fascination for him. In the Eve of St. Agnes, the title is mentioned in the following lines:

“He played an ancient ditty, long since mute,

In Provence called, “La belle dame sans merci:”

Chartier’s poem narrates “a prolix conversation” between on obdurate lady and her lover. At the end, the lady goes away indifferent to dance and play while the lover is desperate to tear his hair and die.

Among books which Keats read with devotion and which influenced his poetry considerably should be mentioned Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. The Knight-at-arms of Keats’ La Belle is the same one who is Burton:

“wandered in the woods sad all alone,

Forsaking men’s society, making great moan.’

These lines can be compared with the opening lines of Keat’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

“O what can ail thee, Knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?”

The central idea of the poem is unrequited love, and the pain and suffering of one who loves but is not loved in return. It is said that in writing this ballad, Keats was perhaps expressing his own feelings; for he also loved but his love was not returned.

The poem starts with a question: What can trouble the Knight at arms and make his look pale and sick? To describe the Knight’s condition, epithets like ‘Alone’, ‘palely loitering’ ‘haggard’ and so ‘woe-begone’ are used. His brow is compared with white lily and his pale cheeks with ‘a fading rose’.

In the following stanzas, the knight-at-arms narrates his sad story how he was enchanted by a very beautiful lady in the meadows who appeared to be as beautiful as a fairy and whose wild eyes seemed to be inviting. He expressed his love for her by making a garland for her head and a girdle of sweet-scented flowers. She gave him a loving glance, so he made her sit on his horse.

The beautiful lady reciprocated the knights’ love and sang a fairy song while riding on the horse with him. She brought sweet-tasting roots, honey, and enchanted food and in an unfamiliar language said, “I love thee true!” She took the knight to her fairy cave and sang a lullaby to make the knight go to sleep.

The knight dreamed that there would be trouble in his life. He saw pale kings and warriors who had died for the love of this beautiful lady without mercy. They told him that she had enslaved the knight as she had enslaved them. Their pitiable condition in the evening twilight woke him up from his dream. After giving this simple explanation the knight says:

‘And that is why I sojourn here

Alone and palely loitering,

Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,

And no birds sing?

The knight-at-arms represents that chivalrous and romantic hero who has aspirations of each one of us. It is not only the soul of the poet “in thrall” in love but the soul of every lover and idealist. The knight expresses the infinite agony of frustrated love which is doomed to

“loiter padely and alone.”

The ballad is medieval in subject matter and the medieval element is highlighted by Keats’ power of recapturing the mystical as exemplified in this poem and his other poems Lamia and The Eve of St. Agnes. Herford has rightly commented that Keats’ La Belle Dame Sans Merci is “a masterpiece of horror-stricken reticence and magical suggestion”. The poet intentionally left the story slightly mysterious, that the reader may be left asking questions.

It is a ballad of forty lines arranged in twelve stanzas of four lines each. The diction is very simple, selective and dignified, old spellings of the words such as ‘thee’ ‘hath’ ‘thy’ don’t pose any difficulty in understanding. It may be concluded that the composition of this ballad is full of artistic skills and the epithets and images convey the poets’ ideas successfully.

Detailed Explanation

In this ballad (“La Belle”) with an inimitable magic Keats has depicted a cheated soul. “Flight into visionary experience and back again is expressed by means of well-known motif (which he later used in Lamia) of a mortal’s ruinous love for a supernatural lady.”

What is its story? “La Belle” is a dramatic verse narrative in which the speaker comes across a woebegone knight-at-arms in a desolate winter setting. He asks the knight why he is loitering aimlessly, all alone, in this cold landscape, why he looks so sick, pale and lifeless. The knight narrates his eerie experience. He tells that he met a beauty (“a fairy’s child”) in the “mead” and fell passionately in love with her. He rode with her to her “elfin grot” where the beautiful lady lulled him to sleep. There he had many horrifying dreams. In his latest dream be saw “death-pale kings and princes”, and “pale warriors” who warned him that “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” had enthralled him. When he woke up he found himself on this dreary landscape. He is now wasting away “On the cold hill side.”

( a ) La Belle as a poem of love

Keats’s Isabella, the Eve of St Agnes, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” and sonnet on Paolo and Francesca tell love stories and all are “modern” recreations of a medieval source or setting and none of them offers a self-evident “meaning”. All these poems deal with couples possessed by love. They have “strong erotic elements”, and in Isabella and “La Belle” ‘sexual love leads to death’. There are two types of women—either they respond passively to the events beyond their control, or they are dominant and demonic like La Belle. All these women (of the four poems) “are expressions of prevalent attitudes to women’s sexuality” (John Barnard—John Keats). La Belle’s erotic gestures destroy men; Isabelle’s violent love leads to her death, Paolo and Francesca are condemned to hell for their carnal love while passive Medeline is united with her lover.

The Eve of St Agnes is ‘a celebratory dream of love’—it is not merely a poem describing the truth about human love but is also “a metaphor for the prefigurative power of the imagination.” “La Belle” presents a contrasting (contrasted from what is presented in The Eve of St Agnes) picture of love. The knight’s experiences take away his liberty, he finds himself in “thrall”, which separates him from “the natural and human cycles of generation”. To the knight, she is a seductress and destroyer, ‘Taut, eerie, and impersonal the ballad makes no judgments. Although “La Belle Dame Sam Merci” belongs to the Romantic cult of the ballad, evident in Burger, Scott, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, Keats’s intuitive assimilation of his sources, results in a very different kind of poem,” (John Barnard).

Keats’s La Belle is more akin to the fairy goddess (in Celtic tradition) than to the femmes fatales of the Middle Ages. In the Celtic tradition, the goddess is “paradoxically both an evil figure and a protector and nurturer of heroes… La Dame der Lac, the benevolent fay, is, in reality, Morgan La Fee, the malevolent enchantress, in another guise, the two are part of a larger duality. Starting within a tradition of literary imitation, Keats’s truth to the inner forum of his story allows ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci” to recreate its archetype.” (John Barnard).

“Keats makes no judgment on the lady or the knight. Nowhere do we get a clear hint that the lady is wilfully cruel to the knight or the knight is unable to sustain the vision and so he finds himself on the cold hillside.” Some critics consider the lady to be a Circe figure who deliberately leads men to destruction through love.

The fairy world described in the poem is both attractive and ominous. It is a question poem in the sense that we cannot comprehend the meaning of the knight’s experience nor can we accept his version as authentic. The knight’s questioner as well as the reader “is located firmly in the natural world of harvest and fulfillment and is as firmly excluded from the knight’s experience as he is from ours.” (J. Barnard).

The knight’s fairy lover (“the fairy’s child,” “wild” and “full beautiful”) looks at him “as she did love”, and “in a language strange she said—”I love thee true” …Is the knight trying to convince himself that she genuinely loved him? Or is he in a state of confusion? But the following stanzas reveal that the outcome of her love is destructive. Once he enters her `grot’, she ‘wept’ and “sighed” full sore, She lulled him to sleep and there he dreamed—had nightmarish dreams of death and destruction caused by the beautiful woman.

Keats has woven a glimmering web of mystery around the love story. We can’t be certain whether the lady loved the knight genuinely or whether the dream was true. Can’t tell whether he has himself chosen to wander aimlessly in the desolated deserted landscape or he has been punished for loving the lady without mercy. (“whether his dream experience ties him there against his wish”). “Unlike his questioner, who lives in real-time, with a past and future. the knight inhabits a wasteland more psychic than physical and exists in a timeless present progressing towards death…” (J.Barnard).

( b ) As a poem of “dream within dreams”

In “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” Keats has skilfully conjured “diverse elements into a unified impression of spell-bounding mystery”. It is a poem of “dream within dreams”. It has three “concentric dream circles”. The outer frame (Dream I) shows ‘a weird encounter’ between the poem’s first speaker and the woe-begone, haggard knight-at-arms, on whose cheek the rose is fading and whose forehead is lily-like pale and white, with drops of perspiration. The knight’s ride through the meadow with the fairy’s child and the “Kisses four” in the “elfin grot” fo7n the inner frame (Dream 2)

In the “grot” the knight is fed on supernatural delicacies (“manna dew” and “wild, honey”) and is lulled to sleep. In his sleep, he has frightening dreams and in his “latest” dream he saw pale kings, ‘pale princes and pale warriors with parched lips and awesome expressions, who gaped at him to warn him about his enthrallment. This appalling dream-forms the third frame. (Dream 3).

“The aura of a transcendental experience which pervades the meeting with the fairy lady (dream 2) is undermined by the knight’s dream of the death pale kings and warriors (dream 3) with its suggestion of mortality and betrayal. This dream [within the Knight’s dream of the starved lips and horrid warning” (dream 3)] comes true when the Knight awakens on the cold hill side pale and enthralled as the dream prophesied” (John Keats):

Keats has exploited dream-sequence in many poems. The dream-sequence of “La Belle” differs from that of Endymion. The realization of the dream of pallor and starvation (“La Belle”) “moves in the opposite direction from Endymion’s and Madeline’s dreams”. In (Endymion) the dreams of Endymion and Madeline, we observe that the fulfillment signifies “a shift from the actual to some ecstatic transcendental dream”. What do we observe in “La Belle”? Within the dream of the La

Belle the movement from the first speaker’s questioning to the knight’s reply, the transition is from the bleak dreary landscape to the beautiful supernatural world—(the world of fantasy) and within this fairy world the real, horrifying deadly dream occurs. And from this ‘death’ world we move back to the world of the withering sedge. (The movement is from Dream l to Dream 2, to Dream 3 and then back to Dream One). The transition is from the harsh real world to the imaginary world of beauty and love to the world of mutability to the harsh real world. If there is something which thrills and pleases the Knight and makes the poem a fantasy is the second dream, the entry into or journey through and sojourn in the “elfin world itself is a pure dream” (Dream 2) in the ballad.

The second dream, described in six stanzas, is central to the poem. In the beginning, the Knight meets with a fairy’s child in a meadow. The Knight was so much enamoured of her beauty and “wild, wild eyes” that he made “a garland for her head and bracelets too”, and garlands, also for

her “fragrant zone”. He forced her to sit on “his pacing steed” (indicative of the intensity of his passion) and did not see anything else “all day long”. It is apparent that at the outset the Knight is the dominant figure, who plays upon the feelings of the lady. Then there occurs a subtle transfer of the initiative (Stanzas 4 to 7) from the Knight’s / to the lady’s she (Stanzas 7 to 9.) It is noteworthy that the lady’s ‘erotic feelings’ are expressed in ambiguous terms—”as she did love me,” Is the Knight not certain about her feelings or is he attempting to convince himself that she loved him? Do the stanzas seven to nine depict the lady as a seductress?

“For side longwould, she bend and sing.

A faery’s song”

……………………………………………

“She found me roots of relish sweet

And honey wild and manna dew.”

“….in a strange language, she said, “I love thee true”. She appears as a caressing mother when she

lulls him “asleep”.

The lady’s side-long bending, unusual food, strange language and sore sighing help to create a supernatural atmosphere, a dream-like vague atmosphere. When the Knight says that in his latest dream he saw death pale kings, warriors and princes and when he woke up, he found himself on the cold hillside, instead of the `groe, we doubt whether he really met a fairy child, the beautiful lady, and entered her `groe; or whether it was a ‘vision’ or ‘a dream’—he had never left “the cold hill side”; when he entered this imaginary world, the birds were still singing and the harvest was not yet done. When he is ‘back’ to the actual world after the horrifying dream, the weather has changed and winter has arrived. Winter is used both figuratively and literally.

In the traditional ballad style, Keats has used question and answer form in “La Belle”. In a traditional ballad, the mystery is resolved in the last stanza. Since “La Belle” is a complex poem, the mystery remains unresolved until the end. The Knight’s explanation “And that is why…” does not satisfy the reader and the speaker’s curiosity. It raises more questions than it answers. Both the reader and the speaker know that the Knight is unable to go ‘home’ in this clement weather because he is in ‘thrall’. But it is not evident whether the Knight knows exactly how, why and what things have happened to him? The dream in the grot holds the key to the riddle and enables the questioner to comprehend what the Knight has experienced.

“In “St. Agnes” Keats skillfully manipulates his reader and carries him from the world of fantasy and romance to the world of reality”. But there is no manipulation in the ballad. The poem begins with the description of the stark cold desolate winter setting where the speaker meets with the woe-begone Knight. Then the questioner is guided by the Knight to the fairy world, where the latter is supposed to have a blissful exotic (erotic) experience. From the fairy world of ‘passion’, pleasure and ‘entertainment’ the speaker enters the nightmarish ‘dream’ of the Knight, moves into the world of sickness, and death—it is a transition from the wonderful fantastic world of ‘sexual’ happiness to ‘the Hades’. The speaker is made to participate both in the blissful and the dreadful experiences of the Knight. The Knight had an encounter with ‘death’ in his dream, and when he wakes out of the frightening dream he finds himself on a lonely landscape.

In the last six lines of the poem the speaker once again returns to the realistic level and finds himself within the dream world of the outer frame. The concentric dream circles make the poem enchanting and mysterious. Here we have the presentation of something “felt on the pulses, of a beauty seized as a truth by the imagination, and expressed in a language of sensation, inaccessible to the consecutive reasoning.”

(c) The use of Negative Capability

The concept of negative capability has been given a new dimension in “La Belle”. The whole story of the Knight, his experiences and dream are presented in a masterful way. The poem can be interpreted in various ways. First, so much of ambiguity surrounds the Knight and the lady that it is not possible to say what they symbolize. Critics interpret the lady, the Knight, the journey of the Knight, and his dream in many ways. In fact “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is the most evasive and mysterious of Keats’s poem.

It raises a variety of questions. Is the fairy’s child a Cynthia who failed to “make Men’s being mortal immortal” (Endymioh I Lines 843-44), a vampire, a Circe “a fairy mistress from hell” or “neutral to good or evil”? Does she stand for poetic imagination? Is the Knight’s lapse from the vision is due to her refusal to keep the deception (the world of beauty and fantasy) or due to his inability to sustain “the transcendental experience”? Or Is his failure, the result of ‘his awareness of his mortality’ (Wasserman) or “his fear of facing death”. (Richard Benevento).

The Lady could be any of the four intensities mentioned in Keats’s “Why Did I Laugh Tonight”. She could be verse, fame, ‘beauty and death. She may even represent ‘the fatality of beauty’ or “a fair maid and love her name” (“Ode on Idleness”).

Keats in the three poems—Isabella, “St Agnes” and “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” has depicted the perils of love. According to Murry behind the poem “lies the anguish of impossible love” of Fanny Brawne. To

some critics, the Knight’s journey symbolizes the tragedy of Faustian rejection of human limitation. The poem reminds us of Edymion’s lines 646-48 IV.

There never liv’d a mortal man, who bent

His appetite beyond the natural sphere,

But starv’d and died.

The Knight is prey of his supernatural adventure, consequently, he is unable to find his bearings in the natural world of birds, harvest and decay. Perhaps when he was journeying through the fairy land, the birds sang, the squirrel filled their granary, but, now when he is back to the natural world, the harvest is done, no birds sing, and the granary is full. He is left alone on a ‘waste land’ unprovided for.

Observe the pattern of the last two stanzas. The ‘truncated stanzaic close” echoes “the finality of tik loss.” “In his vain attempt to be a part of the supernatural world, the Knight has alienated himself from the natural world and thus he loses both the worlds, he is a double loser. We can interpret his predicament in a different way. The fairyland is merely a figment of his imagination or fancy or is a daydream. As Keats says in his ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ fancy is a deceiving elf, here imagination can not cheat him forever. The visionary world of passionate love and beauty disappears. The impact of the fanciful experience and the nightmarish dream is extremely powerful, so he is unable to reconcile to the reality. He has been cheated of both the wonders of the elfin world and of nature. His is now ‘a kind of life-in-death experience.’ In Endymion and St Agnes, the `romantic journey is a worthwhile risk, it proves disastrous in “La Belle”‘.

A critical appreciation of the poem

According to Brian Stone (The Poetry of Keats) “with its haunting medieval resonances, the poem (-La Belle”) is the last of those for which Keats drew on the literature and folk love of the

Middle Ages. Like Blake’s “The Sick Rose” the poem raises by powerful images the ideas of love, corruption, and death…The verification and the process of narration by dialogue show Keats to be deeply imbued with the spirit and techniques of the medieval ballad”.

The story moves in a circular manner. The speaker meets a Knight in a winter landscape from which the birds have departed, the sedge has withered and where no birds sing. The squirrel’s granary is full and the harvest is done. All these details point to the season—it is the end of autumn and winter has arrived. Winter is a season of ‘lifelessness’ or inactivity.’ The Knight’s physical appearance synchronizes with the winters desolation.’ The speaker is eager to know why the woe-begone pale-looking Knight-at-arms is loitering aimlessly in this bleak landscape. From this desolate setting, the speaker is transported to a ‘dream’ world of sexual bliss—to the supernatural world. The Knight describes his blissful experience in detail. The lady whom he meets in the mead is a fairy’s child with wild, wild eves. He is enamoured of her, offers her gifts, rides with her on his ‘pacing steed’ she sings fairy songs in strange language and seems to convince him about her genuine love. The lady is presented as eerie being. He rides to her elfin grot, is fed on heavenly delicacies. On ‘such choice natural products’ as “honey wild and manna dew”. ‘It is apparent then the plenty is a part of the enchantment’, it ‘lures him to acts of love and to the ensuing sleep in her arms’. ‘With a sudden chill of nightmare,’ he sees pale kings, princes and pale warriors—”death pale were they all”. With starved lips and parched tongues, they gazed at him as if they warned him that he was “in thrall” of La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

The horrifying description of the kings, princes, and warriors is significant in the poem. The Knight after the erotic bliss finds himself in the realm of death. “The starved lips” has a Shakespearean connotation implying starved to death. Incidentally, the speaker had already observed the signs of sickness and decay in the Knight’s appearance. Perhaps he can now, after listening to the Knight’s tale, easily surmise that the Knight himself is responsible for his own plight because he ‘was active and willing in his own seduction’.

The five fold repetition of pale links the ballad with “As Hermes Once” in considering the act of love in connection with death. The Knight’s nightmare can be interpreted in an other way. ‘It is as if the Knight was taken beyond life, saw in the hereafter others, who like himself had been seduced by the enchantress and was returned to this world weakened and corrupted, past cure, by his experience.’ (Brian Stone).

The poet has used assonances and alliterations. The poem’s movement is slow and deliberate since Keats intends the reader to ‘experience’ and share the experiences of the Knight and the speaker.

The bleak wintry setting suits the temperament and appearance of the Knight, whose existence is meaningless, he is completely cut off from natural and supernatural world, he is ‘unprovided’ for and is under the spell of the beautiful lady without mercy. The Knight who is supposed to be an adventurer, a protector of law and of people has lost all his powers. He is still the Knight-at-arms, but with a difference, he is aimlessly wandering, he is in ‘thrall’, a captive.

Some of the images (in the poem) including those of rose and lily are taken from Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (Refer to the Section on Love—Melancholy). The poem ‘haunts the mind of the reader with the music of its particular tragic themes.’ “The Knight-at-arms of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” inhabits his own memorable limbo: possessing neither the joys of the girl nor the finality of death, existing neither in the dream nor in the active life, he is “alone and palely loitering” a haggard figure in a desolate landscape.

Assessment Questions

1. Is the title of the Poem a good one? Why?
A. Yes, the title is a good one. It is appropriate because the knight-at-arms is enchanted by the beautiful lady and expresses his love for her but she instead of returning his love enslaves him and has no mercy for him.

2. Who is alone and palely loitering?
A. The Knight-at-arms is along and lingering with a pale face on the cold hillside.

3. What ails the knight?
A. The knight looks pale, sad and worried because the beautiful lady without pity has enslaved him and his fate will be like that of other pale kings and warriors.

4. Why did the lady charm the knight?
A. The enchantingly beautiful lady charmed the knight because she wanted to enslave him though she had no mercy for him.

5. What happened to the knight in the end?
A. The knight saw the pitiable condition of pale kings and warriors in the dream with their starved lips in the evening twilight. They cried that the beautiful lady “Hath thee in thrall!” He woke up as they warned him about his tragic fate. That is why the Knight is staying on the cold hill side alone looking pale and sad. Keats intentionally leaves the story at slightly mysterious note so that we may be left asking questions.

6. What is the theme of the poem?
A. The theme of the poem is unrequited love, and the pain and suffering of one who loves but is not loved in return. It is said that in writing this poem Keats was expressing his own feelings. He too loved but was not loved by Fanny Brawne.

7. What point of view is the poem written in? Who is its speaker(s)?

A. The poem is written in the first-person point of view. The poem is written as a dialogue between a knight and another man.

8. In the second stanza, what does the speaker say are reasons for the knight-at-arms to not “ail”?

A. The speaker says the “squirrel’s granary is full,” meaning it has been a slow fall, allowing much time for preparation. This concept is repeated in the second reason he gives, which is “the harvest’s done.”

9. Why does the lady weep and sigh in the poem’s eighth stanza?

A. Answers may vary. Example: The lady weeps because she knows that while she loves the knight, they cannot be together since they are too different.

10. How does the French title translate into English?

A. The title translates into “The Beautiful Woman with No Mercy.”

11. What does the speaker’s dream suggest about the woman whom he has fallen in love with?

A. The pale people of the speaker’s dreams warn him that he has fallen for a woman without pity, suggesting that she has left him for good, without consideration of his feelings.

12. Why do you believe the knight-at-arms is so sad?

A. Answers may vary. Example: One reason might be that when he awoke from his dream, the beautiful woman he had found and kissed was gone. Another reason might be his realization that the woman he had seen did not truly love him.

13. Explain the significance in the speaker’s choice of words in the final stanza, especially “sojourn” and “palely.”

A. The choice of “sojourn” suggests that the speaker is waiting for something, most likely his love. The choice of “palely” parallels the description he has given of the kings and princes in his dreams. This may infer that he has also fallen for la belle dame sans merci.

Word Meanings

Belle – a beautiful woman

Dame – woman

Sans – without

Merci – mercy

Line 1 Ail – cause problem and make sickThee – YouKnight –in-arms – a man who saves a woman from a dangerous situation.

Line 2 Palely loitering – lingering with a pale face

Line 3 Sedge – a plant-like grass that grows in wet ground or near water. Withered – dried up

Line 6 Haggard – looking very tired because of illness Woebegone – looking very sad

Line 7 The squirrel’s granary is full – The squirrel has gathered his food for the winter.

Line 8 Harvest is done – the cutting and gathering of crops on a farm is done.

Line 9 Lily – a large white or brightly coloured flower

Line 10 Anguish – pain and unhappiness

Line 11 Thy cheek a fading rose – your cheeks have become paler as if all colour has faded from them.

Line 12 Fast – moving or happening quickly Withereth – Witness

Line 13 Meads – Meadows

Line 14 Full – Very

Line 18 Fragrant Zone – a girdle of sweet-scented flowers.

Line 20 Moan – make a long deep sound

Line 21 Packing – walking up and down Steed – (literary) horse to ride on

Line 25 Relish sweet – Sweet taste

Line 26 manna dew – enchanted food

Line 29 elfin grot – fairy cave

Line 30 Sigh’d – took a long deep breath expressing sadness
Sore – painfully

Line 33 lulled – Soothed my nerved by singing

Line 34 Woe betide – there will be trouble for………

Line 37 I saw pale kings… These men with pale faces had died for love of the Beautiful Lady without pity.

Line 38 death – pale – as pale as death.

Line 40 Hath – hasin thrall – enslaved

Line 41 Starv’d lips – Lips showed that they were feeling very hungry. gloam – evening twilight

Line 42 horrid – terrible, horrible gaped wide – staring with open mouth in surprise

Line 45 Sajourn – Stay here for a time

Review Questions

1. Write a critical appreciation of Keats ‘Ode on Melancholy.’

2. Bring out the narrative acumen of Keats by citing examples from the prescribed poems


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