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Classic Poem Daily: La Belle Dame Sans Merci, by John Keats


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I received this one today. A personal favorite. Enjoy!


La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Poem lyrics of La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats.


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 light,

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.

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One of my favourites too. Though the version I have calls him a 'knight-at-arms' instead of a 'wretched wight' (I know wight is just an antiquated term for person, not an undead :rant:). But I'm pretty sure English was Keats' first language, and most of the other words are the same, so it's not like an error in translation or something. :)

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Here's is a wonderful side-by-side comparison: Enjoying "La Belle Dame..."
Interestin'. The first version is better IMO (that's the one I have, though it has the contractions like "look'd" from the second). Did you read the whole analysis? I found this bit funny:
And if you stay alert, you'll encounter similar ideas [to Keats'] again and again, in some of the most surprising places.

> Planescape -- adventure gaming based on philosophies of life, where the Sensate faction lives out Keats's ideals.



I guess they'll make movies out of anything these days too (though what's a 15 minute movie?).


What do you think of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner? Another of my favourites, darker and eerier than Keats (Coleridge's stuff was probably laudanum induced though). Douglas Adams used some of the poem's themes for an odd form of ghostly possession in his Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (his sequel to this featured Thor and Odin :)).

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