La Belle Dame sans Merci

by John Keats
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What's the significance of time in La Belle Dame sans Merci?

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The speaker of the first three stanzas sees that the knight upon whom he happens is "haggard" and well past his prime, with "lily on [his] brow." Lilies are associated with death. The knight is, in fact, near death, and the "fading rose" that withers in his cheeks matches the...

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The speaker of the first three stanzas sees that the knight upon whom he happens is "haggard" and well past his prime, with "lily on [his] brow." Lilies are associated with death. The knight is, in fact, near death, and the "fading rose" that withers in his cheeks matches the scene around him, with "withered" grasses and no birds singing. It sounds like winter, which is often symbolic of the end of human life, as the speaker says that the "squirrel's granary is full / And the harvest's done." The knight's time came quickly and unexpectedly. It was summer, and he in his prime, when he met La Belle Dame sans Merci, as he "made a garland" of flowers for her hair, and flower bracelets too. She lulled him to sleep in this warmth and youth, and, when he awoke from this sleep, he found himself "On the cold hill's side," an old man. In other words, she took away his time, his youth, and he has awoken as one near death.

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