John Keat`s “La Belle Dame” In “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad,” John Keats, the author, relates feelings of heartache to the reader by using metaphors of somberness and sorrow. The poem is set around a knights story of how his heart had been broken when he was left by a woman whom he had recently fell in love with. The woman, an apparent succubus, comes to the knight in what seems to be some variation of a dream, and makes love to him. A succubus is known as a demon female evil spirit that comes to Earth and has sexual intercourse with men while they sleep. The knight tells of how they met, their brief courtship and intervening period, and ultimately the end of their erotic episode.
Keats uses metaphors to elude to acts of sexuality throughout the entire ballad. At the beginning Keats writes of how a passerby stops to ask a knight why he is walking around so sad and dismal. He tells the knight that he looks pale and flushed as if he had been sweating. The passing stranger wants to know what could be troubling the knight, and what could have him wandering around the edge of the lake in the dead of winter looking so pale and distraught. The knight begins his tale by describing to his listener that he once met a beautiful lady in the meadow.
He speaks of how she had long flowing hair, a tall, thin body, and strange eyes, which seemed to have a wild, wild look about them. He exclaims that she must have been the child of a fairy. When they met he made gifts for her, which he crafted from vines and flowers. They included a garland for her head, bracelets for her wrists, and a belt for her to wear around her waist, near her “fragrant zone.” Keats uses the term “fragrant zone” to symbolize this womans sensuality. He refers to this area as being a region which gives forth a seemingly sweet aroma.
After the reception of these gifts, the knight and the evil temptress began to kiss and to caress each other. Then the sultry spirit passionately moaned as the he set her atop of his “pacing steed,” and they began making love. Their sexual episode stretched over the length of the entire day. They would frequently change positions as she repeated her “fairys song” of orgasmic pleasure. When the erotic session came to an end, the succubus showed her deceptiveness as she replenished the knight with wild fruits and sweet roots of relish, as if she too were experiencing the irrepressible feelings of affection.
She took him to her “elfin grot,” and fraudulently wept to him of her sorrows. He gave his best endeavor to comfort her. As they lied upon the hillside, the knight fell off into a seemingly nefarious trance as the lady began to sing to him a beautiful song which set his mind at ease so he would drift off to sleep. The knight tells of the thoughts he had while he lie dreaming on that cold hillside. He said he saw kings, princes, and warriors alike. All were wandering aimlessly, looking distraught and pale. They would cry out, “La bele dame sans merci hath thee in thrall!” Which in translation means, the lovely lady without pity has enslaved thee. What they meant by that was that they too had once been lead astray by the female demon spirit, known as the succubus.
When the knight awoke he found himself lying on the cold hillside alone. His lady of the meadow was now gone, and with her she took the poor knights soul. She left him with nothing other than a feeling of complete emptiness that has haunted him to this day. That could be why the poor knight walks “alone, palely loitering, though the sedge is witherd from the lake, and no birds sing.” Suc-cu-bus .noun 1. A female demon that was said to descend upon and have sexual intercourse with a man while he is sleeping.