La Belle Dame sans Merci

by John Keats

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What did the knight see in the cave?

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The pale, weakened knight tells the tale of his meeting a beautiful lady in a meadow. He spent the whole day with her, making her jewelry of flowers, and she told him that she loved him. While they rode together on his horse, she would sing a "faery's song" that seemed to entrance him. The lady plied the knight with honey and other sweet things in nature and then took him to her "Elfin grot"; grotto is another word for cave (the poet likely shortened the word in order to retain the poem's meter). In that cave, the lady, who by now seems somewhat magical, lulled the knight to sleep, and he had terrible dreams of "pale kings and princes too, / Pale warriors, death-pale were they all," and they all shouted to him that the beautiful lady without mercy had bewitched him. He saw "their starved lips . . . / With horrid warning gaped wide," and then he awoke, all alone, on the hillside in the cold. We assume that he will likely die, too, and haunt other men's dreams.

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