An Alternate Reading, by Johnson Fleury-Stanis

John Keats' "La Belle Dame Sans Merci." is a poem that requires the reader to think and to use his/her imagination. In " La Belle Dame" we see a knight that is lonely and escapes to the world of imagination.

The reader sees that the knight is depressed and lonely from his surroundings. The poem states that the knight is in a deserted place by himself ; the grass has withered away, the lake is dry, and there are no birds (living creatures). Depressed, he stays in a place by himself palely wasting away, However, a closer reading suggests that the knight was depressed before his encounter with La Belle Dame sans Merci. This initial depression is why he escaped to the world of imagination from a life that does not please him or satisfy his needs, So in order to fill the void in his life, he uses his imagination to create a world where his desires and dreams can come true. He imagines an encounter with a beautiful women, who gives him a sense of belonging and pride. In his initial depression (the real world) the knight is weak and pale, But when he meets the woman, he has a sense of power. The knight is in control of the situation and he is able to act in order to assert himself. When he says, " I set her on my pacing steed," he speaks with a strong and powerful voice. The woman takes the knight out of his state of loneliness and shows him love. when he makes a garland for her head, she looks at him and loves him. Even in his experience with la belle dame, he has some signs that the world he is in is an alternate or imaginary world. He describes the woman as a beautiful fairy woman, and that gives the reader a hint that she is not from the real world, but from a supernatural (alternate) world. The fact that the woman speaks to him in a strange language also shows that she is not from this world. However, even in the world of imagination the knight starts to lose his power and his happiness. In the beginning of the experience the knight is in control, But close to the end as his imaginary world begins to collapse, he starts to lose control and the woman takes control. The reader sees this when he says, "and she lulled me alseep and there I dream'd." The knight has a dream about kings and knights warning him that La Belle Dame is a destroyer of men. That dream is revelation that La Belle Dame (imagination) does not help improve the situation of a person that is depressed , but instead she makes it worse.

After the dream the knight gets back to reality. The knight decides to stay in the deserted area by himself because he has become more depressed than he was before the experience. The knight comes to the realization that he can't live in the imaginary world for ever. He realizes that there is no hope because even the world he creates at some point fails him, so he has become more depressed and decides to stay by himself so he can recreate the experience and feel the happiness that he once felt.

Keats Syllabus

M, Sept. 25 Keats, Online overview
Lyric Poems, pp. 1-34, 51, 52
"On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"
"When I have fears that I may cease to be"
"Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art"
W, Sept. 27 Lyric Poems, pp. 34-45
"Ode to a Nightingale"
"Ode on a Grecian Urn"
M, Oct. 2 Lyric Poems, pp. 45-62
The Eve of St. Agnes"
"To Autumn"
W, Oct. 4 Lyric Poems (continued)
"La Belle Dame sans Merci"
"Ode on Melancholy"
**Supplemental Reading**
      Reading Lyric Poetry
      The Lyric Stanza: A Convention
      Lyric Epiphanies and Speakers
      The Romantic Meditative Ode
F, Oct. 6, Online lesson
Lyric Poems (continued)
"Ode to Psyche"
Caucus: To read and to send postings
T, Oct. 10 Lyric Poems (continued)
Paper 1 due
**Supplemental Reading**
      Topics for Paper
      Introduction to Writing Your Paper"
      Writing your Paper: An Illustration
      Critical Essays, written by students
      Personal Response Essays,
            written by students
      Essays of Society or General Analysis,
            written by students
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