John Keats the Ballad "La Belle Dame Essay

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John Keats

The ballad "La Belle Dame sans Merci" by John Keats is not complicated at level of the narration as readers can easily understand the dialogue between an unknown speaker and the knight who shares his story of love and loss with the audience. When asked by the unknown passerby what is wrong (stanzas I-III), the knight answers that he has been in love and has lost a beautiful lady (stanzas IV-XII), and that life is now worthless to him (stanza XII). Similarly to the nature and origins of the Belle Dame, the meaning of his experience is also shrouded in mystery: was it a dream? Or was it just an illusion? Was the knight tricked by the beautiful lady, or on the contrary, did he trick himself into believing? Although the answers to these questions remain unclear, it seems that the key to understanding "La Belle Dame sans Merci" lies in a profound understanding of the knight's experience. From this point-of-view, life seems worthless to the knight after his encounter with La Belle Dame. The knight's disenchantment with day-to-day life suggests that Keats wants to warn his audience that a boring life can be escaped through using one's imagination but that the journey comes at a price.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Essay on John Keats the Ballad "La Belle Dame Assignment

Keats' inspiration is folk ballad, a relatively uncomplicated literary genre focusing on one event which is described using simple language and imagery. This could also account for the scarcity of details regarding the characters, i.e. The beautiful girl, the knight and the unidentified voice. In addition, this genre merely illustrates a chain of events that the audience can reflect upon without offering a conclusion or any kind of judgment on the part of the author. However, Keats adds mystery to the traditional recipe of the ballad by providing us with a combination of realistic and seemingly unearthly details -- "roots of relish sweet," "her elfin grot," the knight's dream. What is truly intriguing about the ballad is the feeling of eeriness and mystery created by the knight who looks back on his encounter with the beautiful lady. In fact, this is precisely the perspective which has puzzled readers over the decades as the meaning of the poem is never fully revealed.

The knight's narrative of his encounter with the beautiful and mysterious lady is made up of three parts: stanzas IV-VIII refer to their meeting, and describe how the knight had fallen in love with her; stanza VIII describes the climax of the story, i.e. when the knight follows her into her "elfin grot," whereas the last four stanzas present his mysterious sleep and dream, as well as his abandonment and disillusionment. From the point-of-view of its construction, one could argue that the poem is symmetrical as the first four stanzas of the knight's tale speak of love and happiness while the last four stanzas of the ballad focus on loss and disenchantment. In this sense, the poem returns to where it started closing its circular movement with the image of the lonely knight sitting by the empty lake: "And this is why I sojourn here / Alone and palely loitering, / Though the sedge is withered from the lake, /… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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"John Keats the Ballad "La Belle Dame."  Essaytown.com.  April 14, 2009.  Accessed October 31, 2020.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/john-keats-ballad-la-belle-dame/7040.