Womanhood in The Eve of St. Agnes and La Belle Dame Sans Merci and Mariana by Keats
In the two poems "Mariana'' and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci'' and the
extract from ''The Eve of Saint Agnes'' the poets portray three
diverse perceptions of women. The reader distinguishes a woman as a
temptress, a woman whom is vulnerable and is dependent on man, and a
woman who is nubile and is innocently seductive.
"La Belle Dame Sans Merci" is a ballad, written in 1819. In this
ballad, the femme fatale deceives the Wretched Wright she meets. He
falls in love with the Belle Dame instantly and is convinced that she
too is in love with him; "She look'd at me as she did love". The
Tempter is "beautiful, a faery's child"; the Belle Dame looks
magnificent on the outer surface however beauty is only skin deep as
there is an inner wickedness about her. Her "eyes were wild" and she
enchants the Wretched Wright with "faery's song's". 'Faery's' were
thought to be from 'another place'. Her love was weird but wonderful
to the Wretched Wright,
"And sure in language true she said,
I love thee true."
The Belle Dame is conveyed, as a temptress who knowingly destroys
men's hearts, even from reading the title the reader knows this. The
title is translated to mean 'A Beautiful Lady Without Merci'; this
shows us that she is dangerous to men. "I saw pale kings, and princes
too", the Belle Dame had intentionally starved more men before the
Wretched Wright form love.
This contrasts with "The Eve of St. Agnes" where the reader observes
another type of temptress, Madeline, in the poem 'Mariana'. Madeline
is unknowingly seductive to the weak Porphyro. Porphyro even sings to
"La belle dame sans merci:
Close to her ear" as Madeline would not wake up and put him out of
his desperate craving for love. The reader feels compassion for
Porphyro as he waits for his Madeline. At this point he seems to
relate to the Wretched Wright as they both undergo suffering during
the wait for their loves. Madeline and the Belle Dame give the
impression they are similar too, they together appear beautiful, pure
virgins. "Her hair was long, her foot was high", the Belle Dame was
un-married. In the 'Eve of St. Agnes' the title proposes to the reader
that 'St. Agnes' is Madeline, she is "like a saint", "so pure a
thing". With this supremacy they both seduce their men. Nevertheless
the reader knows that Madeline wakes up and puts Porphyro out of his
misery and yet he may not appear as fantastic as in her dreams. They
love each other and Porphyro does not need to suffer any longer and
love now becomes a positive thing unlike in ''La Belle Dame Sans
Merci'' and in ''Mariana''.
In all three poems love is associated with suffering and anguish.
Although the hapless victim of loves intent differs from poem to poem.
In 'The Eve of Saint Agnes' and 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' the reader
understands man to be dependant on woman, he is cast under loves