Summary of 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

Can someone explain 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' by John Keats. I understand that the underlying meaning of the poem is "Life after death". The knight in the poem stands for life and the cruel woman stands for death. Am I right? Kindly summarize the poem.

-- Anonymous, December 18, 2000



While I am not a particularly avid fan of Keats, I do like much of his poetry and especially his work "The Eve of St. Agnes", not so much for its verses as for the story told. Being familiar with "La Belle Dame Sans Merci", admittedly, I was forced to re-read it several times before the misty shadows of my poor memory were lifted away.

Clearly, the poem was written in ballad form with familiar meter. Some of the elements that distinguish this as a romantic poem are the inferences to the supernatural and the knight's individual perception of truth and reality. The story appears to be set in the medieval period in the autumn season. The first three stanzas suggest that the knight is saddened and forlorn, perhaps, lonely and despairing. He meets a beautiful sorceress who tempts him with her charms and beauty. She compels him to take her with him as her profound beauty and attendant charms renders him oblivious to all around him. He sees and hears only her. She sings for him; and serves his hunger with sweet relish of roots and wild honey; and finally, she tells him she loves him true. Now trapped in his own fantasy, he follows her to some enchanted cavern and she lulls him to sleep. As he dreams of kings and princes and warriors, he sees them as cadaverously pale and in a frightful state. They beckon to him and tell him of the beautiful sorceress without compassion and that he is in danger of eternal servitude to her beauty and charms. He awakes to find her gone and himself, once again, alone.

I have a sense that the story suggests a moral. That is, to dream of an idyllic love, a perfect love that would satisfy the very essence of one's existence is a blissful and pleasant dream but merely that... a dream... rarely fulfilled. Consequently, one must use caution to avoid becoming trapped in the reality of searching for and becoming a slave to the search to fulfill that unattainable dream.

In consideration of this poem and my own preference for Poe's work, this poem puts me in mind of Poe's "Eldorado." While Poe's poem is a figurative reference to the California Gold Rush of 1848/49 and the dreams of limitless wealth, Keats directs his attentions to dreams of idyllic love.

While it appears we may be at odds with our interpretations, Shahid, it doesn't make mine the correct one. Poetry, particularly that poetry from the Romantics such as Keats, is highly subjective and dependent upon individual experiences.

-- Anonymous, December 19, 2000

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