Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI, by JOHN KEATS

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI, by             Poem Explanation     Poet's Biography
First Line: O [or, ah] what can ail thee, knight at arms [or, wretched wight]
Last Line: And no birds sing.
Subject(s): Fairies; Knights & Knighthood; Love; Love - Loss Of; Magic; Supernatural; Elves

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

O, 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 cheek a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads
Full beautiful, a fairy'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 a sidelong would she bend and sing
A fairy's song.

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

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

And there we 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.

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