Theme: Love (obsessive, the enchantment of being in love rather then enduring love), Death, Abandonment, Sad/sentimental

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Type: Ballad

Background

  • Written by John Keats – one of the Romantic poets
  • The title means “the beautiful lady without pity”
  • Sees a knight on the verge of death because of his romantic encounter – showing the dangers of obsession

Symbolism & Imagery

  • Flowers are associated with love. However, lilies are associated with death and the knight’s rose is withering and fading symbolizing the end of their romantic relationship
  • Beginning of the poem is in autumn but with the lady, it seems to be spring/summer – she may control the seasons or does her beauty make the knight think it is summer
  • The word “pale” appears many times in the poem. This could be a reference to the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse who is depicted as riding on a pale steed
  • The poem sounds like a dream/fantasy sequence

Themes

  • This poem is about love, but it does not end happily ever after
  • The knight is enslaved by the fair lady and then abandoned.  This leaves the knight to mope around the lake “haggard” and “pale”.  It isn’t the first time the lady has done it, the end of the poem sees a series of “pale kings”, “princes”, and “warriors”
  • Supernatural – The poem is part folk ballad, romance and fairy tale. The lady seems to ensnare any man she meets – is she casting a spell or are men too easily obsessed
  • Reality – the entire knight’s experience is like a dream. What is real and what is fantasy
  • Abandonment – The knight is left, abandoned on a “cold hill side”. The lady abandons him without pity. The repetition of “alone” in the first and final stanza emphasizes this
READ:
18th Century Poetry Analysis: John Keats & Alexander Pope

Form

  • Poem is a ballad – written in short stanzas with a regular rhyme and meter
  • Language of the poem is archaic and has a fairy tale quality to it

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