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1795-1821

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

 


John William Waterhouse: La Belle Dame Sans Merci
 

 

 

O what can ail thee, Knight at arms,
     Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the Lake
     And no birds sing!

O what can ail thee, Knight at arms,
     So haggard, and so woebegone?
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 looked 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 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 sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
     With kisses four.

And there she lulléd me asleep,
     And there I dreamed, Ah Woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dreamt
      On the cold hill side.

I saw pale Kings, and Princes too,
     Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried, "La belle dame sans merci
     Thee hath in thrall!"

I saw their starved lips in the gloam
     With horrid warning gapéd 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 withered from the Lake
     And no birds sing.