Treasure Island

John Keats

(31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821 / London, England)

La Belle Dame Sans Merci


Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
So haggard and so woe-begone
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheek a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful, a faery's child:
Her hair was long, her foot was ligh,
And her eyes were wild.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long;
For sideways would she lean, and sing
A faery's song.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said,
"I love thee true!"

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she gazed and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild, sad eyes---
So kissed to sleep.

And there we slumbered on the moss,
And there I dreamed, ah! woe betide,
The latest dream I ever dreamed
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cried---"La belle Dame sans merci
Hath thee in thrall!"

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill side.

And that is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • Atra Bella (7/26/2011 5:04:00 PM)

    Keats was morbidly ill. It seems to me that in this poem he is the knight, and his life is the woman. She is beautiful, but she has no mercy. There is a further parallel as in life he met a woman he loved and they could not marry because he was poor and dying. This is his lament. Beautiful. (Report) Reply

  • Megan Lacey (9/16/2009 1:02:00 AM)

    'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' translates to 'The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy.'... I adore the fourth stanza of this poem... The woman described is strange and wonderful... and absolutely terrible. Her love is something that the knight desires, but that he learns to fear as well... This faery's child is nature in all her splendor and yes, mercilessness... (Report) Reply

  • Denvor Fernandez (2/5/2009 1:58:00 AM)

    It is better to have never loved at all than to have loved and lost. Every man once in his life time feels like the knight. (Report) Reply

  • Natasha Nageswaran (9/26/2006 2:15:00 PM)

    It is a brilliant composition filled with a deep sense of loss and longing. Its a sinister game which this elusive lady plays on this poor Knight who is enticed into her trap like so many others before him. (Report) Reply

  • M-aftab Ahmad (10/11/2004 2:24:00 AM)

    THIS IS VERY GOOD AND FULL OF EMOTIONS FOR THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO KNOW THE SADNESS OF LOVE........... (Report) Reply

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