What is the style used in the ballad, "La Belle Dams sans Merci"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Being a ballad, the style is a narrative, third person, story telling, lyrical method of retelling.  It begins with an outsider's point of view about the knight and his experiences with the woman, and then moves the point of view to the knight himself, where the ballad continues and concludes.  There is not a chorus or some type of choral repetition present, but the story and lyrical quality is evident.  The first stanza opens with a question, almost akin to the type of query a songwriter would use to open a song.  Little do we know that the songwriter is actually going to be the subject.  The closing lines the first stanza provides the structure that is present through the poem, but comes back to us at the end.  This change in narrative voice makes the ballad style distinct.  There is a definite sense of structure, which is an element to the ballad form, where the story begins with a exposition, moves into a conflict, or apex of action, and resolves with a sense of falling action.  This is driven through with a strong rhyme scheme and meter, where the second and fourth lines of each stanza complement one another in rhyme.  The exposition of the ballad is when the point of view becomes the knight and we learn of his love with this "lady."  The ballad continues with the conflict, where the knight realizes that he is in a part of something from which he might want to extricate.  The rhythm or cadence seems to increase at this point of the ballad.  The conclusion of the poem is a repeating of the opening stanza, where the speaker who opened is actually the subject.

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La Belle Dame sans Merci

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