La Belle Dame Sans Merci

- 1795-1821

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

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

I see a lilly on thy brow,
  With anguish moist and fever dew;
And on thy cheek 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 set her on my pacing steed,
  And nothing else saw all day long;
For sideways would she lean, and sing
  A faery's song.

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.

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 gazed and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild sad eyes—
  So kissed to sleep.

And there we slumbered on the moss,
  And there I dreamed, ah woe betide,
The latest dream I ever dreamed
  On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings, and princes too,
  Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cried—"La belle Dame sans merci
  Hath thee in thrall!"

I saw their starved lips in the gloam
  With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke, and found me here
  On the cold hill side.

And this is why I sojourn here
  Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
  And no birds sing.

More by John Keats

On First Looking into Chapman's Homer

Much have I traveled in the realms of gold
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet never did I breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise—
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

To Fanny

Physician Nature! let my spirit blood!
   O ease my heart of verse and let me rest;
Throw me upon thy tripod, till the flood
   Of stifling numbers ebbs from my full breast.
A theme! a theme! Great Nature! give a theme;
         Let me begin my dream.
I come—I see thee, as thou standest there,
Beckon me out into the wintry air.

Ah! dearest love, sweet home of all my fears
   And hopes and joys and panting miseries,—
To-night, if I may guess, thy beauty wears
         A smile of such delight,
         As brilliant and as bright,
   As when with ravished, aching, vassal eyes,
         Lost in a soft amaze,
         I gaze, I gaze!

Who now, with greedy looks, eats up my feast?
   What stare outfaces now my silver moon!
Ah! keep that hand unravished at the least;
         Let, let the amorous burn—
         But, prithee, do not turn
   The current of your heart from me so soon:
         O save, in charity,
         The quickest pulse for me.

Save it for me, sweet love! though music breathe
   Voluptuous visions into the warm air,
Though swimming through the dance’s dangerous wreath,
         Be like an April day,
         Smiling and cold and gay,
   A temperate lily, temperate as fair;
         Then, heaven! there will be
         A warmer June for me.

Why this, you’ll say—my Fanny!—is not true;
   Put your soft hand upon your snowy side,
Where the heart beats: confess—'tis nothing new -
         Must not a woman be
         A feather on the sea,
   Swayed to and fro by every wind and tide?
         Of as uncertain speed
         As blow-ball from the mead?

I know it—and to know it is despair
   To one who loves you as I love, sweet Fanny,
Whose heart goes fluttering for you every where,
         Nor when away you roam,
         Dare keep its wretched home:
   Love, love alone, has pains severe and many;
         Then, loveliest! keep me free
         From torturing jealousy.

Ah! if you prize my subdued soul above
   The poor, the fading, brief pride of an hour:
Let none profane my Holy See of Love,
         Or with a rude hand break
         The sacramental cake:
   Let none else touch the just new-budded flower;
         If not—may my eyes close,
         Love, on their last repose!

I cry your mercy—pity—love!—ay, love

To Fanny.

I cry your mercy—pity—love!—ay, love!
  Merciful love that tantalises not
One-thoughted, never-wandering, guileless love,
  Unmask'd, and being seen—without a blot!
O! let me have thee whole,—all—all—be mine!
  That shape, that fairness, that sweet minor zest
Of love, your kiss,—those hands, those eyes divine,
  That warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured breast,—
Yourself—your soul—in pity give me all,
  Withhold no atom's atom or I die,
Or living on, perhaps, your wretched thrall,
  Forget, in the mist of idle misery,
Life's purposes,—the palate of my mind
Losing its gust, and my ambition blind!