Reflection on “La Bella Dame sans Merci”

Topics: La Belle Dame sans Merci, John Keats, Ballad Pages: 6 (1511 words) Published: April 27, 2014

Reflection on “La Bella Dame sans Merci”
ENG 125

Reflection on “La Bella Dame sans Merci”
Reflection on “La Bella Dame sans Merci” is an informative paper on the elements that are interesting and help to support the written poem by author John Keats in the year of eighteen hundred nineteen. John Keats was born October 31, 1795 and died February 23, 1821 at the age of 29 from advanced stage of tuberculosis. While “on his deathbed Keats requested that his tombstone bear no name, only the words “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” (Modern Library Edition, 1994. Intro pg., 7, pargh 7). John Keats has an intriguing way with words that make you think and wanting more to read in the poem. When John Keats was writing this poem he actually “took the title from a poem by the medieval poet, Alain Cartier. It means, the beautiful woman without mercy.” (Melani Home, (2010). There is a natural setting to the poem, form, language and content with in the poem that stands out and help with the reading of the poem. While John Keats’ poem “La Bella Dame sans Merci” was written in the eighteenth century, there is gloom and betrayal with the added theme of love all wrapped up in one poem.

The poem “La Bella Dame sans Merci” is a literary ballad or better known as a story that is to be sung. “In ancient oral traditions, ballads were used to celebrate shared experiences involving adventure, war, love, death, and the supernatural. Ballads still incorporate these themes and portray situations in which violence and betrayal occur. John Keats’s "La Belle Dame sans Merci," written in the 19th century, is a literary ballad, not intended to be sung. It is patterned after earlier popular ballads. Typically, the person featured in a ballad, as in this case, is an adventurer, a romantic figure. But the story here is being told after a particular adventure has taken its toll. The knight–at–arms is looking pale, haggard, and woebegone. In true ballad style, the story is told without background or much detail; the emphasis is on the action in a human dilemma, its outcome, and the feelings it produces.” (Clugston, R. W. (2010). With that said, the knight-at-arms is traveling in the fall after the harvest is over and all the birds have gone south for the winter months, which is why he hears no birds singing. By using the term knight-at-arms it has a medieval feel to the poem and adds to the character of it. Not only does the knight-at-arms look tired and haggard but so does the surroundings that he is sitting with on the hill side. The grass is withered and the lilies have a fevered type of dew on them making the setting even more believable and transporting one’s self into the story line.

While sitting on the hill side the knight-at-arms has a dream or some call it a hallucination from being so haggard and woe-begone. He meets a beautiful lady in the meadow and is completely smitten by her long hair and wild eyes. John Keats goes on to say in lines 17-24 that “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. 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.” (Clugston, R. W. (2010). He is clearing stating that the woman is not real with the words faery’s song. Keats goes on to say that she gathered different foods for the knight, but the one that sticks out as symbol is the manna dew. This is a “physical/spiritual food provided in the wilderness in the biblical story. Literally, Refers to hoarfrost in the poem” (Clugston, R. W. (2010). The lady takes him back to her elfin grot, which is known as an enchanted, remote cave in the middle of nowhere. Upon their arrival in the cave she wept and sighed full sore (meaning is suffering) that she loves him. The poem goes on to state “And there she lull’d me asleep, And there I...

References: Clugston, R. W. (2010).
Journey into literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Retrieved from
Modern Library, (2000).
Complete Poems of John Keats. Westminster, MD, USA:
LC Call Number: PR4832 -- 1994beb. EISBN: pISBN: 9780679641636 Dewey Decimal Number: OCLC Number: 646897556
Melani Home, (2010).
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