Comparitive Keats

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Similarities and differences in ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ and ‘The Eve of St. Agnes.’

‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ and ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ by John Keats has various similarities and differences. They are both tales of love, highlighting Keats’ differing opinions on the ‘chase’ and the act of being in love. They also portray the challenges of life and love, using pathetic fallacy as a backdrop for the character’s emotions.

Both poems have a man and a woman as their main characters. In ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’, there is only the knight and the faery, whereas in ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ there are several characters. The number of characters helps create the setting and the mood for both poems. There is the contrasting helpful, the Beadsman and Angela, and potentially harmful characters, Madeline’s family, in St. Agnes, which create a sense of uncertainty for Porphyro. Whereas in Belle, there are two characters, giving rise to a more intimate setting. This is particularly illustrated by the withered sedge and lack of animals, developing the feeling of isolation and death. This can be contrasted to St. Agnes where in the first stanza Keats mentions ‘the owl’ and ‘the hare’, showing that the animals could still survive despite the cold, symbolizing that perhaps the characters’ love could as well. Subsequently, both poems make significant reference to the cold. In Belle, ‘the cold hill side’ along with the withering sedge ‘and the harvest’s done’ symbolize the beginning of extreme cold of winter. ‘The owl... was a-cold’ and ‘trembling in her soft and chilly nest’ are examples of cold imagery found in St. Agnes, where the cold is contrasted by ‘the poppied warmth of sleep oppressed’ whereby heat symbolizes the sensuous nature of Madeline and Porphyro’s love, compared to the cold loneliness felt by the knight. These varying concepts of characters and cold partially help to develop the setting of both poems, meanwhile showing...
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