John Keats La Belle Damn Sans Merci Analysis

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Of all the themes in poetry, one that is most commonly used and stands out quite a lot is love. T. S Elliot once quoted “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion”. As such, it is no wonder that the themes of unrequited love and despair are very prominent in poem La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats. In this poem Keats clearly denotes his personal rebellion against the pains of love and revealed the sad reality that; in pleasure, there is pain. This paper will take a closer look at one of the most prominent themes in La Belle Dame sans Merci; Love and Despair.

The poem begins with a forlorn and heartbroken narrator suffering from both physical and emotional pain, ‘So haggard and woebegone’ (l 6) who meets a beautiful maiden. La Belle Dame sans Merci appears to portray to readers the universal anomaly of what is known as unrequited love. In conjunction to love felt equally by two parties, unrequited love occurs when the love felt by one person is far greater than that felt by the other who is loved. The term unrequited literally means ‘not returned or rewarded’. This denoted the unfairness in the balance that one expects in a love relationship when the love that one feels for another is not reciprocal. In the poem, Keats shows this by describing the Knight’s disappointment would be less severe if he did not believe that from the beginning of their love affair that the maiden love of him was equal. In line 19 and 28 the maiden appears to have fallen in love with the knight just as he has fallen for her, “She look’d at me as she did love…she said, - I love thee true.” (l 19&28) This can be interpreted that despite her inherent nature, she seemed true feeling for the knight at the time. She even takes him back to her home, her “elfin grot” (cave) (l 29) and makes him comfortable. At this point, it’s only natural for the knight to believe that the love his felt for the maiden was exactly proportional to what she was feeling, and their...
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