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La Belle Dame sans Merci

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katie b

on 5 November 2013

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Transcript of La Belle Dame sans Merci

La Belle Dame sans Merci
By: John Keats
Analysis By: Katie Bettenhausen
Structure
12 Stanzas of 4 lines

Stanzas 1-3 are grouped together

Stanzas 4-8 are grouped together

Stanzas 9-11 are grouped together

Stanza 12 is the conclusion


Rhyme Scheme
ABCB - each stanza's second and fourth line rhyme
Narrative Poem
Tells the story of a dying knight and a beautiful, but powerful woman, is told through a conversation with the narrator
Stanzas 1-3
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.
Literal Interpretation
The narrator sees a sickly knight and asks him what is causing his illness.
Imagery
Sickly
Winter
"palely loitering" (2)

"haggard and so woe-begone" (6)

"lily on thy brow, / With anguish moist and fever dew" (10)

"on thy cheeks a fading rose" (11)
"The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing." (3-4)

"The squirrel's granary is full, / And the harvest's done." (7-8)
Syntax
Punctuation
- Question Marks

"O what can ail thee, knight at arms, / Alone and palely loitering
?
" (1-2)

"O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, / So haggard and so woe-begone
?
" (5-6).
In the Present Tense
"has withered" (3)
"I see" (9)
"is full" (7)

Repetition
"O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms" (1, 5)
Diction
Decline
"withered"
"fading"
"withereth too"
Stanzas 4-8
Literal Interpretation
The knight discusses the reason behind his illness; he has fallen for a lady so beautiful.
Diction
All-consuming
Supernatural
"I set her on my pacing steed, / And nothing else saw all day long" (21-22)

"She found me roots of relish sweet, / And honey wild, and manna-dew" (25-26)
"a faery's child" (14)

"a faery's song" (24)

"She took me to her Elfin grot" (29)

Repetition
"
And
her eyes were wild" (16)
"
And
bracelets too,
and
fragrant zone" (18)
"
And
made sweet moan" (20)
"
And
nothing else saw all day long" (22)
"
And
honey wild,
and
manna-dew" (26)
"
And
sure in language strange she said" (27)
"
And
there she wept
and
sighed full sore" (30)
"
And
there I shut her wild wild eyes" (31)
AND
Wild Eyes
"her eyes were
wild
" (16)
"her
wild

wild
eyes" (31)
Syntax
Dialogue
Enjambment
"For sidelong would she bend, and sing /
A faery's song " (23-24)

"And there I shut her wild wild eyes /
With kisses four" (31-32)
"'I love thee true'"
Analysis
The enjambment on these two lines shows the features that are drawing the knight in to this all-consuming beauty. As the open ended lines forces readers to the next line, the lady's song and eyes force love on the man. He does not have control.

The dialogue emphasizes the love that is overtaking him.
Analysis
Through these lines, the knight pronounces the all-consuming hold the woman has on him. Her beauty is all he can see and she provides the sustenance he needs to survive.
The knight attributes this unrelenting hold the woman has on him to the supernatural beauty and power she holds over him.
Analysis
By repeating the word "and", the knight reinforces the overpowering hold the woman has over him. All his thoughts relate back to the lady.

Repeating "wild" draws emphasis on the eyes of the lady, which contain a supernatural aspect. Therefore, this ties into the theme of the knight's lack of control.
Analysis
Through these two images, a theme of death is portrayed. The knight is described as seriously ill and on the brink of his demise. The transition from the fall into the winter season depicts a desolate image that no longer supports life.

Analysis
Although these first stanzas are in the present tense, the lines end in question marks. This alludes to the question of what comes after death. Although the knight is still alive, he is on the verge of death and awaits what comes next in life.
Analysis
The diction emphasizes the imagery of approaching death by describing the slow decline before an actual passing.
Analysis
The repetition of the first line emphasizes just how sickly the knight appears.
I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her Elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.
Stanzas 9-11
And there she lullèd me asleep,
And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Thee hath in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.
Literal Interpretation
The knight recounts the dream he has once he has fallen asleep in the presence of the lady.
Imagery
Sickly & Suffering
Winter
Twilight
"I saw pale kings and princes too, / Pale warriors, death-pale were they all" (37-38).

"I saw their starved lips in the gloam, / WIth horrid warning gaped wide" (41-42)
"On the cold hill side" (36)
"I saw their starved lips in the gloam" (41)
Analysis
The death image is seen again in these stanzas. Sickness is portrayed in a more harsh light with the suffering that goes alongside it. The cold is now referenced with regards to the ensuing winter. A new image of twilight is brought up, which is the time of day right before darkness. The reoccurring images of sickness and winter and the new image of impending darkness continue with the idea of imminent death.
Syntax
Caesura
Dialogue
Exclamation
"And there I dreamed -- Ah! woe betide! --" (34)

"They cried -- 'La Belle Dame sans Merci /
Thee hath in thrall!'" (39-40)
"And there I dreamed -- Ah! woe betide! --" (34)

"They cried -- 'La Belle Dame sans Merci /
Thee hath in thrall'" (39-40)
"They cried -- 'La Belle Dame sans Merci /
Thee hath in thrall'" (39-40)
Analysis
The syntax of these stanzas allude to the realization of the knight's lack of control. The first example of caesura is when the knight is dreaming. Sleep allows him a release from the supernatural hold the woman had over him. This break allows him to see clearly for the first time. The breaks and the exclamations happen simultaneously, which gives an even greater emphasis on the switch of tone and the realization of the spell he had been under. He now looks to the cries of the soldiers for the warning they announce in the dialogue.
Repetition
"And there I
dreamed
-- Ah? woe betide! -- / The latest
dream
I ever
dreamt
" (34-35)
"
On the cold hill side"
(36)
"On the cold hill's side
" (44)
"I saw
pale
kings and princes too, /
Pale
warriors, death-
pale
were they all" (37-38)
Analysis
"The cried --

'Le Belle Dame sans Merci'"
(39)
All of these repetitions place emphasis on central themes. The repetition of "
dreams
" is another aspect of life a person has no control over. The "
pale
" and "
cold
" repetition circles back to the sickness and winter imagery that is seen throughout the poem which describes a slow and approaching death. The reciting of the poem's title, which means "
The beautiful lady without mercy
", brings us back to the beginning of the entire poem. This also alludes to the theme of the knight's lack of control because of the beauty the lady possesses. Finally, the repetition of "
I saw
", shows the knight's realization
"The sedge has
withered
from the lake" (3)
"And on thy cheeks a fading rose / Fast
withereth
too" (11-12)
The repetition of withered emphasizes the diction and the imagery, supporting the depiction of a slow death.
"I saw
pale kings and princes too, / Pale warriors, death-pale were they all" (37-38)
"
I saw
their starved lips in the gloam, / With horrid warning gaped wide" (42-43).
Stanza 12
Repetition
Stanza 1:

"
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms
, /
Alone and palely loitering? /
The sedge has
withered from the lake, /
And no birds sing" (1-4).

Stanza 12
:
"
And this is why I sojourn here
, /
Alone and palely loitering, /
Though the sedge is
withered from the lake /
And no birds sing" (45-48).
And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.
Analysis
The last stanza repeats, almost word for word, the first stanza. The reasoning behind repetition in these line is against the norm. Instead of the looking for what is the same, the reader looks at what is different. The first major difference is the first line. Originally, the knight is asked why he is sick, this leaves readers questioning and awaiting a reply. The final stanza is the conclusion in the knight's response. The knight acknowledges that yes he is sickly and seems out of place: his acceptance. The next difference is in the first stanza, the setting is portrayed as reason not to be on the hill. However, in the last stanza, the word "though" causes the readers to associate the surrounding dead imagery to the knight himself. Through the wording of the poem, it is assumed that because the imagery relates an approaching demise, it is only right the knight is there too.
Imagery
Stanza 1:

"O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, /

Alone and palely loitering? /
The sedge has withered from the lake, /
And no birds sing
" (1-4).

Stanza 12:
"And this is why I sojourn here, /

Alone and palely loitering, /
Though the sedge is withered from the lake /
And no birds sing
" (45-48).
Analysis
Again, the final stanza circles back to the first stanza, this time with regards to imagery. Through repetition, it again displays the winter and sickness imagery which portrays a looming death.
Diction
Negative words
"sojourn" (45)
"alone" (46)
"palely" (46)
"loitering" (46)
"withered" (47)
"no" (48)
Analysis
The words used in this stanza create a very solemn and resigned tone. It seems as though the knight has accepted what is to come and is not willing to fight death any longer.
Conclusion
On the Surface
Overall, this poem is literally about a woman whose beauty has completely consumed the knight. He is so in love he does not realize the dominating power she has over him and his relinquished control. The lady is so breathtaking and godlike he cannot help but fall in love.
Beneath the Surface
After a closer look at the poem, it can be said that the woman could be Mother Nature or God. From the imagery and diction it is clear that the knight is suffering from a sickness that is close to taking his life. This transition from life to death is seen in the transition from fall to winter imagery. In the beginning, the knight denies his illness which is seen in all the questioning. However, through the syntax and dream towards the end of the poem, it is clear that he comes to the realization that death is approaching. No matter how hard he tries to deny it, Mother Nature’s power will always win out. The knight finally recognizes that if it is indeed his time to pass away, there is no stopping Mother Nature.
La Belle Dame sans Merci
"The Beautiful Lady without Mercy"
Just as the beautiful lady showed no mercy when it came to falling in love, Mother Nature shows no mercy when death is calling. There is no denying the all-consuming hold the power of love and life has over a human person.
The simple flow of the rhyming of every other line further defines the easy surface story of a man consumed with love for a beautiful woman.
Critical Interpretation
The knight is described as on the verge of death by the imagery, syntax, diction, and repetition.
Critical Interpretation
The knight is not in control of his life. There is something, or someone, who holds a much greater power. The knight's submissiveness is seen through diction, repetition, and syntax.
Critical Interpretation
The dream acts as the knight's acceptance that he is not in control; there is something way out of his power that is causing the sickness. This realization is seen in imagery, syntax, and repetition.
Literal Interpretation
Critical Interpretation
After coming to terms with his impending demise, the knight declares that he belongs on this cold hill because he is slowly dying.
The knight apparently comes to this hill every once and a while.
This is seen through repetition, imagery, and diction.
Full transcript