La Belle Dame sans Merci

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La Belle Dame sans Merci
by John Keats
Illustration by W. J. Neatby

Original Version[edit]


O what can ail thee, knight at arms,
     Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has 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 fairy'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 sidelong would she bend, and sing
     A fairy'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 full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
     With kisses four.

And there she lulled 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 starv'd lips in the gloam
     With horrid warning gaped 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.

Revised Version[edit]

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

;2
Ah what can ail thee, wretched wight,
     So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
     And the harvest’s done.

;3
I see a lilly on thy brow,
     With anguish moist and fever dew;
And on thy cheek a fading rose
     Fast withereth too.

;4
I met a lady in the meads
     Full beautiful, a fairy’s child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
     And her eyes were wild.

;5
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.

;6
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.

;7
She found me roots of relish sweet,
     And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said,
     I love thee true.

;8
She took me to her elfin grot,
     And there she gaz’d and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild sad eyes—
     So kiss’d to sleep.

;9
And there we slumber’d on the moss,
     And there I dream’d, ah woe betide
The latest dream I ever dream’d
     On the cold hill side.

;10
I saw pale kings, and princes too,
     Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cry’d—”Le belle Dame sans mercy
     Hath thee in thrall!”

;11
I saw their starv’d lips in the gloom
     With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke, and found me here
     On the cold hill side.

;12
And this is why I sojourn here
     Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
     And no birds sing.