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John Keats (1795-1821)

La Belle Dame sans Merci


              1Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
              2     Alone and palely loitering;
              3The sedge is wither'd from the lake,
              4     And no birds sing.

              5Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
              6     So haggard and so woe-begone?
              7The squirrel's granary is full,
              8     And the harvest's done.

              9I see a lily on thy brow,
            10     With anguish moist and fever dew;
            11And on thy cheek a fading rose
            12     Fast withereth too.

            13I met a lady in the meads
            14     Full beautiful, a faery's child;
            15Her hair was long, her foot was light,
            16     And her eyes were wild.

            17I set her on my pacing steed,
            18     And nothing else saw all day long;
            19For sideways would she lean, and sing
            20     A faery's song.

            21I made a garland for her head,
            22     And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
            23She look'd at me as she did love,
            24     And made sweet moan.

            25She found me roots of relish sweet,
            26     And honey wild, and manna dew;
            27And sure in language strange she said,
            28     I love thee true.

            29She took me to her elfin grot,
            30     And there she gaz'd and sighed deep,
            31And there I shut her wild sad eyes--
            32     So kiss'd to sleep.

            33And there we slumber'd on the moss,
            34     And there I dream'd, ah woe betide,
            35The latest dream I ever dream'd
            36     On the cold hill side.

            37I saw pale kings, and princes too,
            38     Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
            39Who cry'd--"La belle Dame sans merci
            40     Hath thee in thrall!"

            41I saw their starv'd lips in the gloam
            42     With horrid warning gaped wide,
            43And I awoke, and found me here
            44     On the cold hill side.

            45And this is why I sojourn here
            46     Alone and palely loitering,
            47Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
            48     And no birds sing.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: John Keats, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems (1820). Facs. edn.: Scolar Press, 1970. PR 4830 E20AB Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1820
RPO poem editor: J. R. MacGillivray
RP edition: 3RP 2.646.
Recent editing: 4:2001/12/20

Composition date: 1819
Form: Ballad Stanzas
Rhyme: abcb


Other poems by John Keats