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Note On Keatss La Belle Dame Essay

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3. “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”

The poem, a ballad written in imitation of the traditional medieval ‘Troubadour Poetry’ of Provence (France), was probably written in April 1819. The title of the ballad is from the Old French and means literally, “The Beautiful Maiden/Woman Without Mercy”. It is interesting that in “ The Eve of St.Agnes”, in stanza XXXIII, Keats mentions Porphyro singing a ballad with the same name to Madeleine. There is no evidence of any such poem actually existing in medieval Provencal poetry so we can conceive Keats as having created this as a figment of his imagination, later being inspired to create a poem in this mode and with this title. The ballad is in 12 stanzas, each a quatrain and with a rhyme scheme of a-b-c-b. The story is medieval in tone and setting, as is “The Eve of St.Agnes”, but the fate of the knight/man-at-arms in the former is very different to that of Porphyro and Madeleine in the latter. The story/narrative of this poem can be imagined as that of the poet, or a poetic ‘persona’ talking to the knight/man-at arms, and the latter narrating his story to him.

Brief Explanation of Stanzas:

4. The poet/persona meets a knight-at-arms, a medieval warrior, wandering around in the wilderness. He asks the knight what ails him, what is wrong with him. It is Winter or Autumn time, and very cold and he wonders why the knight is wandering, pale and lost, in that desolate place, where even the sedge() has dried up and no birds sing at that time of the year. 5. Again, the poet/or his adopted persona asks the knight, with insistence, what is wrong with him, why he looks so wild and sad, at this time. The Autumn harvest of crops has been completed by the farmers and even the squirrel has collected all its nuts and other grains, food etc against the cold and gone off into hibernation. In other words, he wonders that at that time, when humans and animals are all resting, provided against the cold weather, why the knight is wandering thus in the bitter cold. 6. Again, the poet addresses the knight and states that he sees the knight’s brow to be pale, like a lily, very sickly, covered with the sweat of anguish/worry; and it also seems to him that the knight is feverish. On his cheeks the colour is also fading away, as in someone stricken by some dir...

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