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“La Belle Dame sans Merci” is a poem written by John Keats who was a romantic poet. The first three stanzas of this poem are spoken by the narrator who is talking to the poet, asking him why he’s wondering by himself and looks so sad.
He addresses the poet as “wretched Wight” roaming outside, all alone. The narrator who’s out in the countryside talks about the night and the surroundings what it’s like presently.
There are no sedges or birds in the trees.
Everything seems to be complete as the harvests are done which marks the end of the year and the fact that there are no leaves tells us it is autumn too which is a time of the year when it seems as though all forms of life have come to an end. Out of curiosity he asks the poet what is wrong with him. The rest of the poem is the poet’s reply.
The poet tells us that he saw an extremely beautiful lady somewhere as in the line “I met a lady in the meads, full beautiful, a fairy’s child”. The poet further describes the lady. He says that she was so beautiful and graceful that she couldn’t have been a human. With such long hair and the grace as she had, she had to be a fairy’s child though her eyes seemed to be wild” or “disturbed”.
The poet makes her sit on his horse and in her presence, sees nothing else as in the line “I set her on my pacing steed and nothing else saw all day long”.
She sings a song of such music and melody that’s it’s definitely not human. A place where there seemed to be no sound of birds is now enchanted by music. The music is not ordinary music or song but that of a fairies and the immortal as in the line “for sideways would she lean and sing a fairy’s song”.
The fairy in this poem represents the poetic inspiration which inspires poets and artists to write and compose. Without this they feel that they are good as dead. The poetic inspiration casts poets into a delightful mood out of which they are able to compose their poetry. It changes a poet’s life when it enters it by brightening it up and leaves it in a nasty way. Just the way poetic inspiration can change the life of a poet when it enters the previous picture of dull and lifelessness also brightens up when the lady is mentioned.
In the third to fifth stanza the poet describes the experience in the presence of the lady and the poetic inspiration which are alike. The poet under the “spell” composes poetry with “words” as though decorating the fairy that seems to enjoy him poetry [decoration] very much and urges him to continue. He seems to be enjoying all the sensual pleasures which are of taste, sight, music, fragrance and touch. In the lines “she found me roots of relish sweet and honey wild and manna dew”, the words “relish sweet”, “honey wild”, and “manna dew”, symbolize or express rather, the pleasures experienced by the poet while writing poetry.
In the next stanza we find key words which tell us something about the lady. In the lines “and there she gazed and sighed deep and there I shut her wild sad eyes so kissed to sleep”, the words “sighed deep” and “wild sad eyes” tell us that the lady is not happy about something and that she too is troubled over something.
The lady who happens to be a fairy, one that belongs to the world of the immortal cannot stay with a person for long. This is because she is from a different world and so after a period of time she must desert the person no matter what and this is what has caused her grief. Even the best of men this world can offer, kings and warriors are no math and she must leave them all. In the same way, the poetic inspiration cannot stay with one person for a long time. It must move on and go to other people and inspire them to compose as well.
In the next stanza we see how the poet tries to enjoy his few moments of ecstasy at the most and dream even if it’s on the cold hill side. The poet knows that he too, like those before him will be deserted. In the next stanza he describes his dream, or rather nightmare in which he sees the people who have already been deserted by the lady and become severely ill their life to them was as good as death. Without the fairy that they loved, they had nothing to live for.
In the same sense the poetic inspiration allows poets to do what they love to do i.e. write poetry but once that is taken away, so is their ability of composing and they loose interest in life. The men are left with starved lips and pale faces with nothing worth living for. And when the poet wakes up, he find himself in the same situation and all alone on the cold hill side. And so the poet tells the narrator that he had been deserted by the one he loved most and it didn’t really matter what time of the year it was because his life was as good as death.
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