La Belle Dame sans Merci "La Belle Dame Sans Merci Hath Thee In Thrall!"
by John Keats

Start Your Free Trial

Download La Belle Dame sans Merci Study Guide

Subscribe Now

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci Hath Thee In Thrall!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: John Keats' ballad "La Belle Dame sans Merci" is thought to have been influenced by the fifteenth century French poet Alain Chartier. The meaning of the title is "the beautiful lady without pity." In the ballad Keats uses the old folklore theme of the fairy lover. The narrator of the poem, meeting a knight on a cold hillside in the winter, asks the knight what is the matter with him. Explaining why he is there, the knight says that he had met a beautiful lady, "a faery's child," in the meads and "made a garland for her head,/ And bracelets too," then, charmed by her singing and her talk of love, went with her to "her elfin grot." There the lady lulled him to sleep. The knight then relates the dream he had during his sleep:

"I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all:
They cried–'La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!'
"I saw their starved lips in the gloam
With horrid warning gapéd wide,
And I woke, and found me here
On the cold hillside."