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'"La Belle Dame Sans Merci" By John Keats Is A Puzzling, Haunting Poem' How Far Do You Agree With This View?'

956 words - 4 pages

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci" translates to 'the beautiful woman has no mercy'. This is not the first time in Keats's poetry that we have heard this phrase- he also used it in "The Eve of St Agnes", another romantic poem rich "negative capability". It is as if these syllables have continued to haunt him; he has expressed this questioning in "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" by presenting us with the set for a story, but no conclusion or closure. Initially this ballad looks quite simplistic, the structure of the poem being a ballad looks very different from Keats other poems, and the reader can be fooled into believing its like a rhyme; not taking the content seriously. However the structure is effective in creating a haunting atmosphere. The short stanzas give an abrupt feeling to the poem, and the fourth shorter line ending the stanza gives a rapid but unfulfilled closure to that section.Keats uses the most common form of ballad I think to emphasis the impact of the content of the poem. The story of is of a treacherous woman who tempts men away from the real world and then leaves them- their dreams unfulfilled and their lives blighted. A haunting ominous effect is created throughout Keats's use of formal features of a traditional ballad. Keats uses the traditional features of a ballad, such as repetition of words and phrases, as well a quatrain rhyming scheme and four line stanza. However Keats alters the traditional ballad by shortening the last line of each stanza; with fewer stresses. The repetition was used to aid the memory in conventional ballads, however Keats uses it to enhance the haunting effect, creating a feeling of the word being echoed for the reader. The shorter last lines of each stanza cause the stanza to end abruptly, and make us feel as if something is being withheld or is absent. These lines are quite are unsettling statements; leaving the reader asking many questions. For example "no birds sing" is repeated as last line twice for the first and last stanza. The repetition of the phrase enhances to feeling of no closure, as if the reader has travelled in a circle leaving with unanswered questions. As the reader one questions why no birds sing in what is obviously a rural area, it is an unnatural declaration on Keats behalf. Subtle imagery is used to enhance a felling of "haggard" and "withereth" surroundings. Keats doesn't describe the setting of the story in great detail, rather suggests moods, atmospheres within his use of words, leaving the reader in anticipation of answers that are not received. Each stanza leaves you with a curiously unfinished feeling, and the repetition of words and phrases encourage a strangely hypnotic effect on the reader. This hypnotic effect increases the...

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