Sunday, 11 January 2015

'La Belle Dame Sans Merci': La Belle Dame's Side of the Story

Sophie Whitehead writes a monologue from the perspective of La Belle Dame from Keats' poem. See, also, Keats' original poem (below the break), first published in 1819. 

Beware of the power man has. 

The feeling of subordination one receives when sometimes near them. Yet I was young, a faery child not yet turned 18. Unable to believe such things whilst, wandering in the woodland, I stumbled across an unknown figure lurking in the backdrops of the hooded forest. 

I was cautious about how to approach. An animal? No. A man? Yes. I had seen others before him often stumbling through and across this wooded gauze, seemingly searching for the impossible. 

My eyes grew wide as the figure returned my glance. The late moon danced off his armor, causing a silhouette of darkness to fall on the lighted ground. My heart grew faster. Here he was coming towards me. I grasped my long hair for protection, suddenly conscious of how it drew about me in its length like a soft quilt and watched cautiously as he approached. 

Still I remained silent. I pranced like the animals that surrounded me, light footed, ready to escape yet as he approached he was softer, and I was lulled into his embrace. He seemed more gentle than the others I had seen around here. In his hand was a soft bouquet of flowers, lilies in fact. The flower of death, I thought not, as I watched him eagerly with my eyes, wild with curiosity. I let this stranger look at me, touch me, speak to me in the softest of tones; as if I was a being he had not encountered before. 

And it was then, as he stroked my long, long hair that I realized it was not inspecting me as originally thought; oh no this was something far more profound. He wasadoring me. I was the object of his admiration. Never before had I felt so beautiful, so transfixed by something in my life. Many men had walked these fields but no one had ever held my heart like this one did. 

I grew happy with this man. Short time passed and I taught him how to be free with nature, how to appreciate the little things. However time causes tricks. Slowly he seemed bored so I gave him more. I gave all I had to this man. This was not enough to please his wandering mind, however. I knew I could not please him anymore. I took him back to my home, an invitation of the life we could have had but for him he fell out of love as quickly as he had fallen into it. 

This made me cold. I cried, a soft hum to myself but he did not like this. A display of emotion was clearly not wanted; perhaps only he was allowed to show his feelings and he shut my eyes and tied up my hair. Tears trickled down as he tried to control the fire inside of me but I grew harder, stronger. Inside a feeling of domination grew over me. 

Faery friends had told me the problem of man, how their feelings can wilt and die, as fickle as a plant out of water and how all can seem a dream. So that is what I did. I lulled him too into the dream he had lulled me. More tears filled my eyes as I regained the power I had lost before. Gone were the games. Gone was the fun. I was not a woman awaiting the grey. I knew this forest; it was my home. I knew where the poisonous berries lay, I knew where the nightshade grew.  How dare a foreigner mess with my life, with the melody of the forest? 

I had tried to enlighten him to my life but he would grow bored. They always grew bored. So I threw upon him an enchantment, a spell if you like, that would ensure nothing like this could ever happen again. And with gleaming tears I recalled what a friend had once told me. Beware of the power man has. 

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

John Keats

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 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 fill sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
  With kisses four.

And there she lulled 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 gaped 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.

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