Critical Commentry on John Keats' ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’

‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ is one of the finest ballads of art in English poetry. This remarkable baIllad written by John Keats, narrates the fascinating story of a mortal’s love with fairy. It presents the strange way and manners of these enchantresses who use to make fool of men. t is a sad tale of love betrayed; of a knight who was bewitched by her when he was asleep leaving him to wonder in the cold, crazed with love for her. It is thus a tale of melancholy yearnings and unfulfilled desire.

The title word of the poem is in French which means ‘the beautiful woman without love and pity’. The title words are taken probably from a poemwritten by Alain Cartier, a fifteenth century court poet. The story of Keats poem has also a close resemblance with the medieval ballad called Thomas the Rhymer by Thomas of Erceldone. Reading out the story of the poem we finds a knight’s disappointed love with a mysterious elfish lady. Once a knight was wondering about in a sad and dejected mood by the side of lake, someone or the poet asked why he looked so pale and haggard. The knight replied that he had met a beautiful lady in the meadows and was fascinated by her looks and beautiful features. She also fell in love with him. Read More Poetry They both ridden horse back till they reached the cave of the fairy. There the lady expressed her love for him and lulled him to asleep. He saw a dream. In the dream he saw pale kings and warriors. All of them told him that the beautiful lady without mercy had captivated him. Their manners of warning terrified him. He woke up. Instead of finding himself in the cave of his lady love, wretchedly he found himself lying by the side of hill. This was the reason why he was pale and haggard. Frustration in love made the lover sad, dejected, pale and haggard looking.

The story of this love betrayal is set in the middle age and elfish enchantment. But side by side it has a warm human touch. It also reveals Keats’ unrequited love for his beloved Fanny Browne. Read More Poetry Just as the Knight of the poem could not achieve success in his love with the fairy, Keats also could not get success in his love. Thus the poem is marked with a concealed autobiographical note. This is also a beautiful dramatic and narrative poem where the story is narrated in succession of beautiful pictures while Knights languish is drawn in autumnal cold, grey, withered, hopelessness, Knight’s strength has been paralleled with the colour and life of summer. Here in the poem there is the land of dreams and the land of reality side by side. The subtle music, narrative charm, simplicity of phrase and economy of expression are the other distinguished features of this poem. To crown all ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ remains as one of the greatest poem in English literature.   

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