Las Belle Dame sans Merci

John Keats.
1795–1821

‘O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

  Alone and palely loitering?

The sedge is wither’d from the lake,

      And no birds sing.

 

‘O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

  So haggard and so woe-begone?

The squirrel’s granary is full,

      And the harvest ’s done.

 

‘I see a lily on thy brow

  With anguish moist and fever dew;

And on thy cheeks a fading rose

      Fast withereth too.’

 

‘I met a lady in the meads,

  Full beautiful—a faery’s child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

      And her eyes were wild.

 

‘I made a garland for her head,

  And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;

She look’d at me as she did love,

      And made sweet moan.

 

‘I set her on my pacing steed

  And nothing else saw all day long,

For sideways would she lean, and sing

      A faery’s song.

 

‘She found me roots of relish sweet,

  And honey wild and manna dew,

And sure in language strange she said,

      "I love thee true!"

 

‘She took me to her elfin grot,

  And there she wept and sigh’d fill sore;

And there I shut her wild, wild eyes

      With kisses four.

 

‘And there she lullèd me asleep,

  And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!

The latest dream I ever dream’d

      On the cold hill’s side.

 

‘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 gapèd wide,

And I awoke and found me here,

      On the cold hill’s side.

 

‘And this is why I sojourn here

  Alone and palely loitering,

Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,

      And no birds sing.’

literature, poetry

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