Home  »  English Poetry II  »  535. La Belle Dame Sans Merci

English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

John Keats

535. La Belle Dame Sans Merci

‘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 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 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 lulléd 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 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 wither’d from the lake,

And no birds sing.’