La Belle Dame Sans Merci Essay

710 WordsJan 15, 20113 Pages
LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI The Title Keats took the title from a poem by the medieval poet, Alain Cartier. It means, the beautiful woman without mercy. In the first two lines of stanzas I and II, the anonymous speaker asks a question. The first line of both questions is identical ("O, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms"). The second lines differ somewhat; in stanza I, the question focuses on his physical condition ("Alone and palely loitering"); in stanza II, the question describes both the knight's physical state and his emotional state ("Haggard and woe-begone"). This repetition with slight variation is called incremental repetition and is a characteristic of the folk ballad. This speaker sees no reason for the knight's presence ("loitering") in such a barren spot (the grass is "wither'd" and no birds sing). Even in this spot, not all life is wasteland, however; the squirrel's winter storage is full, and the harvest has been completed. In other words, there is an alternative or fulfilling life which the knight could choose. Thus lines 3 and 4 of stanzas I and II present contrasting views of life. Stanza III This stanza elaborates on the knight's physical appearance and mental state, which are associated with dying and with nature. In the previous stanzas, the descriptions of nature are factual; here, nature is used metaphorically. His pallor is compared first to the whiteness of a lily, then to a rose; the rose is "fading" and quickly "withereth." The lily, of course, is a traditional symbol of death; the rose, a symbol of beauty. The knight's misery is suggested by the "dew" or perspiration on his forehead. Part II: The Knight The knight's narrative consists of three units: stanzas IV-VII describe the knight's meeting and involvement with the lady; stanza VIII presents the climax (he goes with her to the "elfin grot"); the last four stanzas describe his
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