Sunday, December 6, 2009

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

I suddenly remembered the poem by Keats. And I remember when I first read it as a teenager, there was very little that I could understand. I thought it's a good time to revisit it 10 years later. Here is how it goes:

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched knight,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched knight,
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 set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long;
For sideways would she lean, and sing
A faery's song.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

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 gazed and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild, sad eyes--
So kissed to sleep.

And there we slumbered on the moss,
And there I dreamed, ah! woe betide,
The latest dream I ever dreamed
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who 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 side.

And that is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Now for my interpretations.

1. The 'Knight' is a guy who just got dumped by his significant other of many years. And he's going through that phase of self-pity, "I cant go through a relationship again" phase.

2. The guy just slept with a hooker and picked up an STD. And has no clue what to do about it.

3. The guy has a fatal disease, and this is a conversation he's having with his life, personified as a wretched knight.

4. The guy is a rapist, and now it's his conscience that is disrobing him.

Now help me add to this list, will ya?


sam said...

1. The guy was perfectly happy with his girlfriend when the Moral Police come up and lecture him about the ills of pre-marital sex.

2. The poem is actually from a Bollywood movie. The man and woman are from feuding clans and the woman swore to seduce and ruin him. Which she obviously has done.

3. The man is not talking about a woman at all, he's talking about a love affair with alcohol (or pot or substance of a similar nature)

4. The woman is actually a metaphor for the IIT JEE exam. The guy was very excited to have made it to an IIT but he now realizes that his social life is in tatters and his less accomplished friends are out partying.

If I think of some more, you can turn this post into a tag :)

Sudhir Pai said...


Now you've got me thinking, Sam. It's game on.

Sue said...

i set you on my pacing steed

he is so doing her...

piggieontherailway said...

1) Its money he is talking about. chased it and seduced it...but was left wasted..!

2) The knight is actually a woman who falls in love with another, only to be left behind.

Remembered school days and reading and recitation classes sudhir....thank you! :)

Sudhir Pai said...

@ Kash: Oh yea, he's a copywriter who's just been told by an accounts exec. that his award-winning effort won no more than the wrath of the client.

Sudhir Pai said...

@sue: I wonder if a pick-up line like that helps a guy get lucky!

#r!$#!k@ said...

1. This was Keats interpretation of Hotel California long before anyone heard the song

2. Its a metaphor for all desi immigrants to the western worlds.. dreaming of riches but suffering in silence

Reading your posts after a longg time!! How've you been??

Sudhir Pai said...

@ Hrishika: This was Keats' version of the hobbit, a la Led Zeppelin.

I'm the same old, who makes up for his lack of a social life with the pounds he gains.