study-guide-rev-2La-Bell-Dame-Sans-Merci - DRAWN HEAVILY...

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DRAWN HEAVILY FROM INTERNET SOURCES--PARTICULARLY THE INSIGHTS OF THE BRILLIANT LILIA MELANI, ENGLISH PROFESSOR AT BROOKLYN COLLEGE. FIRST OF ALL, PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THE DEFINITION OF EVERY WORD IN THIS POEM—ESPECIALLY THE UNDERLINED ONES. La Belle Dame Sans Merci I. O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms, Alone and palely loitering ? The sedge has wither’d from the lake, And no birds sing. II. O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms! 5 So haggard and so woe-begone ? The squirrel’s granary is full, And the harvest’s done. III. I see a lily on thy brow With anguish moist and fever dew, 10 And on thy cheeks a fading rose Fast withereth too. IV. I met a lady in the meads , Full beautiful—a faery’s child, Her hair was long, her foot was light, 15 And her eyes were wild. V. I made a garland for her head, And bracelets too, and fragrant zone; She look’d at me as she did love, And made sweet moan. 20 VI. 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. VII. She found me roots of relish sweet, 25 And honey wild, and manna dew, And sure in language strange she said— “I love thee true.” VIII. She took me to her elfin grot , And there she wept, and sigh’d fill sore, 30 And there I shut her wild wild eyes With kisses four. IX. And there she lulled me asleep, And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide ! The latest dream I ever dream’d 35 On the cold hill’s side. X. I saw pale kings and princes too, Pale warriors, death-pale were they all; They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci Hath thee in thrall !” 40 XI. I saw their starved lips in the gloam , With horrid warning gaped wide, And I awoke and found me here, On the cold hill’s side. XII.
And this is why I sojourn here, 45 Alone and palely loitering, Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake, And no birds sing. The Title Keats took the title from a poem by the medieval poet, Alain Cartier. It means, “the beautiful woman without mercy.” General Comments "La Belle Dame sans Merci" seems easy to understand at the narrative level. An unidentified passerby asks the knight what is wrong (stanzas I-III). The knight answers that he has been in love with and abandoned by a beautiful lady (stanzas IV-XII). Keats is employing the key characteristics of the folk ballad: he uses simple language, focuses on one event, provides minimal details about the characters, and makes no judgments. Some of the details here are realistic, but others are fantastic. Consequently, most readers find this poem intriguing—and perhaps somewhat confusing. What is the meaning of the knight's experience? Why has the knight, one of Keats's dreamers, been ravaged by the visionary or dream experience? What is the meaning of the dream? Was the knight deluded by his beloved, or did he delude himself?

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