Tuesday, December 14, 2004

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

End Term is starting off in 15 hours. And this term I have been into more 'extracurricular' activities than the scholarly stuff. And that is showing while I desperately try to wade through the material for the end term.

Was going through some poems for 'tension-release'. Came across this one by Keats, which is one of my all time favourites.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats

The dame and the knight Posted by Hello

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful - a faery's child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery's song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said -
'I love thee true'.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed - Ah! woe betide! -
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried - 'La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!'

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

La Belle Dame sans Merci Posted by Hello

This poem had me mesmerized right from the time our English maam at St.Mary's recited it for us (with very good voice-effects, which I still remember). Though a tragic poem, this one has very powerful lyrics and probably has some connection to Keat's life too. It celebrates beauty and melancholy in a very different way.

But then this poem is also open to different interpretations. The enchanting dame in this poem could symbolise drug addiction, a failed but very romantic relationship and maybe even chain-smoking - all of which you enjoy immensely when it lets you enjoy it, but leaves you crippled physically or emotionally in the end.

And its funny the way Keats explains some of the usages in the poem. Look at a sample:
"Why four kisses -- you will way -- why four? Because I wish to restrain the headlong impetuosity of my Muse -- she would have fain said "score" without hurting the rhyme -- but we must temper the imagination as the critics say with judgment. I was obliged to choose an even number that both eyes might have fair play: and to speak truly I think two apiece quite sufficient. Suppose I had said seven; there would have been three and a half apiece -- a very awkward affair -- and well got out of on my side --"

Back to more slogging for the end term :(


Anonymous said...

A different dimension to Keats Poem!! Good!!
All the best for your End Term.


Girl With Big Eyes said...

Thanks Raja :)

TGIBT Thank God Its Break Time :)

Hows the Xmas preparations coming up in Hinckley?

Anonymous said...

Interesting take on the lady with no mercy :) and cool blog ! and the fact that you are from my home town is just too cool:D

Anonymous said...

This made me remember my good old school days...The poem was a haunting one...glad to read it again here after so long...
-GWBE (Guy With Bigger Eyes :)