What are the features of Romanticism in John Keats " La Belle Dame Sans Merci" ?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Romantic poetry tends to show a strong appreciation for the power of nature on humans and focuses on the emotional impact of experiences.  It also tends to fondly recall the ideas of the past, appreciate the power of the human imagination, and respect innocence.

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci" draws on the Romantic idea the importance of the past.  Keats is using one of the oldest forms of poetry, the ballad, to tell the story of the knight and the lady.  The ballad opens with the description of the lonely knight -- evoking a somber sad mood as it describes the passing of the season into fall -- a stock metaphor for the middle to late stage of life.  Once he meets the beautiful lady, the mood and images of the poem become more positive with references to flowers and beauty.  Nature, and the love he feels for the lady seem to restore him spiritually and emotionally.

Once the knight is lulled to sleep he tells of his dream -- his imagaintion at work.  Unfortunately his dream is a nightmare of deathy pale men.  When he awakes, he is alone, exactly where he started.  The positive emotion of the experience is gone, leaving him with only the memory of the lady who came, but without mercy, left him. 

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