Task 1: What’s Going On?
1. In pairs, place the modern-day translation next to the
original text of the poem where you think the two match
1. Get your interpretation checked by the teacher, and
then glue it onto your page.
2. Don’t lose it! We will be referring to this poem over this
lesson and the next.
The speaker of the poem comes across a "knight at arms"
alone, and apparently dying, in a field somewhere. He asks
him what's going on, and the knight's answer takes up the
rest of the poem. The knight says that he met a beautiful
fairy lady in the fields. He started hanging out with her,
making flower garlands for her, letting her ride on his horse,
and generally flirting like knights do. Finally, she invited him
back to her fairy cave. Sweet, thought the knight. But after
they were through smooching, she "lulled" him to sleep,
and he had a nightmare about all the knights and kings and
princes that the woman had previously seduced – they
were all dead. And then he woke up, alone, on the side of a
Things you need to know
• Poem written on April 21, 1819
• Keats at this time was unsure of whether to enter into a
relationship with Fanny
• Keats recorded a dream in which he met a beautiful woman in
a magic place which turned out to be filled with pallid, enslaved
• “bewitching and sorrowful misery” - Rossetti, D.G. John Keats:
Criticism and Comment. London, 1919.
• Keats is known as the ‘poet of beauty and sensuality’
Task 2: Characteristics
1. Choose either EMOTION, THE SUPERNATURAL or
NATURE and discuss with a partner how the poem
explores this theme.
2. Choose a quote to demonstrate your point and write a
couple of sentences describing how the characteristic
can be linked to the poem e.g.
1. In the poem, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci,’ Keats explores the
theme of nature. This is demonstrated when….
2. The speaker of the poem refers to the supernatural when he
states, ‘…..’. This quote demonstrates that…
• The fairy is not from the real world = supernatural
• Vampires, elves and enchantresses who enslaved mortals
started to appear in the literature of the Romantic Era
• The enchantress of La Belle is one of a long tradition of
supernatural beings who have charmed mortals into
• The entire poem could sound like a dream sequence or a
fantasy, with all the fairy ladies and "elfin grots."
• You discover something that you think you really like. You don’t
really understand it, but you’re sure it’s the best thing that’s
ever happened to you. You are thrilled. You focus on it. You
give in to the beauty and richness and pleasure, and let it
overwhelm you to the point that you forget everything else.
• Then the pleasure is gone. Far more than a normal letdown,
the experience has left you crippled emotionally, but it remains
an important part of who you feel that you are.
• Seasons and cycles - Does the fairy lady control the seasons?
Or does her beauty make the knight think that winter is
• In this poem, nature represents all that the protagonist (the
knight) loves and needs. If everything is right with the knight,
nature is blossoming.
• In literature, the sun is always brighter and the flowers always
hold more beauty when the main character is going through
happy times. Humans tend to associate good weather and
health in the land around with good times in characters’ lives
Language & Form
• "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" is a ballad, which is an old-
fashioned, folksy style of poem that typically tells a story.
• Ballads use simple language that would appeal to less
educated people, like farmers and laborers.
• Ballads were primarily an oral form – people would
memorize them and pass them on to their friends and
family by memory, rather than from a book. Poets like
Keats tried to mimic this style in their written works.
Let’s look at the poem a little closer
Task 4: Create a table for analysis
• What event, situation, or experience does the poem
describe or record?
• This is the theme or message of the poet.
• What is the poet’s purpose in writing this? What
message does he or she want to communicate?
• What is the predominant emotion, or mood, of the poem?
• Is it sombre, jovial, foreboding, serene, flippant,
• What emotions or feelings does the poet seek to evoke in
• What are the specific skills used by the poet when
creating his or her work?
• Think structure, connotative words, imagery and sounds
• Make sure you mention explicit poetic techniques
• Having analysed the
poem, it is important to
synthesise (i.e. pull all
the information together)
into a summary.
• How is it reflective of the
What are gaps?
What are silences?
Can focusing on gaps in the poem and silenced voices
offer modern readers fresh insights into the poem and
modern social life?
Task 3: Why should I care?
1. In three minutes, write down all the things (or
themes) you can think of in the poem that
might be relevant to readers today.
What aspects of the human experience have stayed the same?
In today’s world, what might the lady symbolise?
• Complete the quiz on My SRC. There are 11 questions,
10 of which are multichoice.
• You need to complete this by Thursday’s lesson at the
latest. Miss Feeney and myself will be able to see who
has completed it.
Some of the topics he wrote about
• The Ancient World
• The inevitability of death
• The contemplation of beauty
• The fear of not being remembered
Like all good stories, this one leaves us
with a bunch of questions
Is the wicked temptress trying to destroy men for sheer
cruelty, or are her tactics her way of defending her life?
Is she as sad and frustrated as the men whose lives she
Does the knight stay by the lake because he sees no
further purpose in living or because he expects the woman
Hinweis der Redaktion
What does the title mean? La Belle = beautiful Dame = Women Sans mercy - merciless Sans merci = without mercyThe beautiful woman without mercy
Circular poetry - when the top meets the bottom.
Begin relating back to MLD for relevance. Reinforce that the base ppt in under ‘poetry tools’ in Romantic/Vic poetry on Portal.
Notice how I did say ‘happy’, ‘sad’ or ‘angry’. Impress me with your vocab! MATCHING TECHNIQUES TO THE POEM - Use of nature to make a comment about him dying. – symbolism of lily of death.
The dangers of obsession Manipulation via beauty Failed romantic relationships Addiction Basing your identity on another person
Resilience – bouncing back What happens to people who live in fantasies? Ideal life?
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