Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Today marks the anniversary of the death of John Keats in 1821. Keats is my favorite of the Romantic poets (and I loved the movie Bright Star last year), and it's hard to pick just one poem for the blog. Here is his La Belle Dame Sans Merci, published in 1820:

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
Alone and palely loitering;
The sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
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 faery's child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

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

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

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 gaz'd and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild sad eyes--
So kiss'd to sleep.

And there we slumber'd on the moss,
And there I dream'd, ah woe betide,
The latest dream I ever dream'd
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cry'd--"La belle Dame sans merci
Hath thee in thrall!"

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

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


Nicola Cornick said...

Oooh, Amanda, I love Keats' poems too! There's such a strand of poignancy and melancholy in poems like La Belle Dame Sans Merci and Ode to Melancholy, which is one of my favourites (I guess the clue there is in the title!)One of my early books was inspired by The Eve of St Agnes, which I thought one of the most romantic poems ever!

Amanda McCabe said...

Oh, I love that one, too! (I could have had a book of Keats's poems here today)