La Belle Dans Sans Merci John Keats
Title translated from French is: `The Beautiful Woman Without Pity' straight away
foreshadowing that this poem will concern themes such as: Woman as manipulator,
Woman as deceiver, Love, Magic etc.
The rhyme scheme is A, B, C, B, which is very structured and constant throughout.
The poem is set in a ballad structure (song like), which was typical of medieval poetry;
this poem also uses medieval language.
Poem starts with a question asked by unknown narrator, `O what can ail thee knight
-at -arms? Alone and palely loitering' Meaning oh poor knight what has happened to
you that could be so awful you are left like this? Why are you all alone and wondering?
Leaving the reader questioning whom the narrator is and why they are omniscient, it
could also even leave us wondering if Keats is the narrator/The Knight.
The medieval language used shows that it is an old tale. The use of ` And no birds
sing' at the end of the first and last stanza is a repetition technique Keats has used to
emphasize that something horrible has happened, and now there is no freedom and
peace, or perhaps the knight is dead/dying as birds symbolize freedom and birth.
The poem mainly concerns the knight and his journey. Starts with the knight being left
`haggard and woe begone', we know that this is happening in winter as it says ` the
`I see a lily on thy brow' symbolism of death as well as `cheeks a fading rose' The
poem then changes tense here to the past and so does the narrator change, to the
knight. `I met a lady in the meads' (the woman perhaps? This is the first time the
woman in the title is mentioned).
Straight away the woman is described as `her eyes were wild', which is also repeated
later on, ` I shut her wild, wild eyes'- wild used to describe how crazy and magical
she was- makes us question what is going on inside her, who she really is.
`I made a garland for her head etc'- unclear here if he is tying her up for him as he
loves her, or if he is capturing her as she is a criminal.
`In language strange'- was she so in love she couldn't speak properly? Or was she
putting him under a spell? When the knight sleeps he sees other men shouting `La
belle dans sans merci'- were they warning him what she is like? Were the men just
like him that she has used?
Poem then continues in the present where the knight awakes on the hill side- `I
soujourn here, alone and palely loitering... and no birds sing"- repetition to show how
it has come in a first circle.
Main themes Woman as deceiver, woman as manipulator, magic, evil faerys,
betrayal, death, love, deception, murder etc.