La Belle Dame Sans Merci

by JOHN KEATS (1795-1821)

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Ah, 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 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 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 faery’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 we slumber’d on the moss,
And there I dream’d, ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cry’d— ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci,
Hath thee in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gapèd 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 wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

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