La Belle Dame Sans Merci Explanation

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`La Belle Dame sans Merci" or "The Beautiful Lady without Pity" is the title of an early fifteenth-century French poem by Alain Chartier which belongs to the tradition of courtly love. Keats appropriates this phrase for a ballad which has been generally read as the story of a seductive and treacherous woman who tempts men away from the real world and then leaves them, their dreams unfulfilled and their lives blighted. For all the beguiling simplicity of the surfaces of this literary ballad, it is one of the most difficult of Keats's poems to explain, and open to many interpretations. It has been alternately suggested, for example, that it is about the wasting power of sexual love and / or the poet's infatuation with his muse. This …show more content…

It is the knight who tells the story, who describes the lady for us and his questioner. The knight and the kings, princes and warriors who appear in his dream, belong to the masculine world of strife and action, government and politics. All have been attracted to the feminine bower world of the lady and her "elfin grot"; they have luxuriated in the pleasures she has provided. They have succumbed not so much to the lady but to something within themselves which desires to withdraw from the masculine world of duties and responsibilities. The lady provides the knight with sweet foods and lulls him to sleep. Now we are trying to see things from her perspective, we become more aware of the extremely ambiguous nature of that word 'lulled'. It can indeed mean to calm someone's fears or suspicions by deception. It can also, however, more innocently mean to soothe with soft sounds and motions, as a mother might soothe a child to sleep. We can assume that the pale kings and warriors with `starved lips' have had similar experiences to the knight. In the lady's world they regress in an almost infantile manner. Then, recognizing that the power and stability of the patriarchal world depends on the rejection of this, urge to withdraw, the kings, warriors, and princes have placed the blame squarely upon the woman, defined her as the temptress who has the knight in thrall. And the knight seems to authorize this