What are the elements of romanticism and English tradition of chivalry reflected in the poem "La Belle Dame Sans Merci"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"La Belle Dame sans Merci" clearly exemplifies elements of Romanticism and the English tradition of chivalry:


  • There is a dreamlike, visionary quality to the poem
  • The sympathy of nature with the individual

There is a magical touch to the feelings of desolation of the knight who changes are reflected by Nature:

Alone and palely loitering,...

And on thy cheeks a fading rose

Fast withereth, too.

The knight describes his love as a "faery" who takes him to her "elfin grot."

  • There is much lyricism to the poem

The use of alliteration and assonance and internal balance are prevalent in the lines:

She found me roots of relish sweet,

And homey wild, and manna dew,

And sure in language strange she said--

'I love thee true.'

  • The individual's experience, his inner feelings and emotions are emphasized
  • The visionary and fantastic are described

With much visual imagery, Keats elucidates the emotional desolation of the knight who is helpless in his faithfulness to his love since the more one embraces feelings of love and beauty, the more desolate and painful mundane life becomes.

I set her on my pacing steed,

And nothing else saw all day long,

She took me to her elfin grot...(fantastic element)

And there I dreamed--Ah! woe betide!

The latest dream I ever dreamed...(visionary)

And I awoke and found me here,

On the cold hill's side.


  • The knight's allegiance to his love

The knight who has sworn his devotion, remains in his desolation on the cold hillside where his beauty has abandoned him.  He is held "in thrall":

And this is why I sojourn here,

Alone and palely loitering

Though the sedge has withered from the laek,

And no birds sing.

  • The knight's idealizing of his love

The knight perceives his lady--or the concept of beauty as another interpretation--as a supernatural creature:

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 made a garland for her head,

And bracelets too, and fragrant zone,...

I set her on my pacing steed,

And nothing else saw all day long,

For sidelong would she bend, and sing

A faery's song