La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Published: 2021-09-10 08:00:09
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The Romantic period in Literature is believed to have begun in 1798 when Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth published a book of poems called “Lyrical Ballads”. Romantic writers “emphasized imagination and emotion” (Romanticism 457). Romantic writers use medieval subjects and settings in their writings. “The love theme explores dreams of heterosexual bliss, but it also moves into the appropriate relationships to be had with art and nature” (Matlak 1771). John Keats is included in the second generation of English romantics.
Keats is known as the youngest of English romantic poets. John Keats “greatest poems –‘The Eve of St. Agnes’, the six magnificent odes, ‘Lamia’; some of his finest sonnets—were written between January and September of 1819 when his remarkable poetic genius had just began to realize itself” (Romanticism 470). “Romantic poets are famous for describing the world as a subjective experience, one in which the important things happen to the human heart” (Kelly 26). The poem “La Belle Dame sans Merci” proves John Keats was a romantic poet. One of the most notable things about John Keats’s ballad ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ is the sly way it presents one of the key issues of romantic philosophy” (Kelly 24). The characters in the poem show romantic qualities. The “knight-at-arms / alone and palely loitering” and “a lady in the meads / full beautiful – a fairy child” show ideas of romanticism by using medieval creatures (Keats 1&2, 13&14). “it is a fairy standard conceit in romanticism to identify love as a part of internal self, as more a matter of one persons mind than as meeting two” (Kelly 25).
The characters during the knights’ dream are also medieval creatures, “I saw pale kings and princes too / pale warriors, death – pale were they all” (Keats 37-38). The settings in the poem also show romantic characteristics. In the beginning of the poem it is morning, which represents that a new day has come. It shows a new beginning to a well off and happy life. So he thinks. The lady’s “elfin grot” represents cold, damp, and scary things to come into the mans life. “I shut her wild, wild eyes”-‘the repetition suggests a euphemism for sex’ – “with kisses four” (Galens 20).
The knight has a dream after the lady lulls him to sleep. It is a foreshadowing trait to the poem. It shows the man would be very unhappy with her. During the dream, kings, princes, and pale warriors cry “La Belle Dame sans Merci / Hath thee in thrall”, which means the lady who shows no mercy has you enslaved. When the knight wakes up on the cold hills side it represents winter which means the end of life. “At the beginning and end of the poem, the knight remains on the cold hills side, still waiting on his love to return” (Galens 17).
The cold hills side also shows the man’s isolation and alienation from everyone. The setting in the poem foreshadows what will become of the knights and fairies relationship. “The knights fate, and through his descriptions of his fairy – loves beauty, readers see the caprice that brings doom. ” (Galens 20). The images of nature shown in the poem also show romantic qualities. The lady that the knight falls in love with is described as the child of a fairy. “Fairy stories often stem from rural folklore traditions” (Galens 21).
After the knight awakens to find the lady gone, “the world is described as one from which life has receded, using images associated with natures death each winter: the squirrels have stored their provisions for the long dead months, the grass in the lake has withered, and the birds have quit singing” (Galens 21). “The only signs of living nature after the lady disappears are the fading ones on the knights’ face” (Galens 21). In conclusion, the characters, the settings, and the images of nature in the poem show romantic characteristics. The background information on the romantic period proves the poem to be a romantic poem. In the terms of chivalric belief systems, earthly love is mortally serious concept: it is at once an all consuming renunciation of and at the same time the earthly manifestation of heavenly love.

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