Belle Dame Sans La Merci JOHN KEATS
John Keats is one of the greatest Romantic poets in English literature, second only to Shakespeare. His first poem is “Endymion” which begins with the famous line: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”. In “Ode on a Grecian Urn” Keats says “Beauty is truth, truth beauty-that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know”. Le Belle Dame Sans Merci has been written in a ballad form. The title has been borrowed from a medieval French poem. The story is based on a medieval ballad. Like other ballads, this poem tells us its story through a dialogue. The theme of the poem is love betrayed. It is set in ancient feudal society. A knight at arms fell in love with a lady. But in the end the knight- at- arms is deceived by her. But his love for her is constant and he searches for her on the cold hillside. The poem has biographical element in it. The knight at arms is Keats himself and his lady love Fanny Browne is the La Belle Dame Sans Merci.
2. A way-farer asks the knight-at arms why he is wandering along the cold hill- side during the winter season. He is alone and pale coloured.. There are no birds singing. No squirrel is seen in the cold hill- side. The harvest is over and the green grass is disappeared from the lake. His face is as pale as a lily flower. He is sweating and his cheeks are like fading rose. He is staggering. The knight at arms is certainly suffering from serious illness.
3. The knight at arms replies the way-farer that once he met a lady in the meadows. It was spring season and flowers blossomed in hills and valleys. She was as beautiful as a faery’s child. She had wild eyes and her hair was long and foot was light. The knight-at arms made a garland for her head. He also made bracelets and flower belt for her. She said that she truly loved him. The knight at arms set her on his steed and she sang a faery’s song. She gave him sweet roots, wild honey and manna dew. Even her language was amazingly beautiful. She took him to her magic cave and there she wept. He shut her beautiful eyes with kisses. Finally she lulled him to sleep.
4. It was in his sleep in the magic cave that the knight at arms saw a horrible dream. He saw pale kings, emperors and great warriors. But they all were attracted and cheated by the La belle Dame Sans Merci. It is her cruel habit to fall in love with young men and then they are betrayed in love. Now they all cried that the knight- at- arms is also trapped and deceived by the La belle dame sans Merci. The knight- at- arms saw their starved lips in the hellish place. These great men threw away their wealth and power and everything for her love but she was cruel to them. It was a fearful sight. When the knight at arms woke up, he found himself lying alone on the cold hill- side. That is why the knight at arms is still wandering on the cold hill- side searching for his lady love. He knows that death is coming to him, but his love for her is stronger than his fear to death. Life is like a dream. You cannot distinguish the one from the other. They are so intermingled in the poem that you cannot say which is life and
5. which is dream.
Annotate the following:
1) “I see a lily on thy brow 3) I saw their starved lips in the gloam
With anguish moist and fever dew ……….on the cold hill side.
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too”
2) “I made a garland for her head, 4) “And this is why I sojourn here
……And made a sweet moan. …….And no birds sing.”