La Belle Dame Sans Merci
Look again at the poet’s description of their loved one in ‘Shall I compare thee?’ Compare this with another poet’s description of their loved one in one of the other poems from the pre-1914 selection.
La Belle Dame Sans Merci
I will compare the sonnet ‘Shall I compare thee?’ written by William Shakespeare to the ballad ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ written by John Keats. I have chosen to compare these two poems as they share various themes and contain differences too. ‘Shall I compare thee’ celebrates the beauty of the man’s beloved? The poem shows that the poet wants beauty to last forever and that in fact, it will. ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ is about a lady who is supernatural and holds a strange power over the knight and other strong men. Both women have an overpowering beauty that the men wish to last forever. One is kept alive through a dream and the other through literature.
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‘Shall I compare thee’ compares the loved one’s beauty to the beauty of a summer’s day shown in line one; ‘Shall I compare thee to a Summers day?’ The poet shows that the lady is more beautiful than summer for many reasons. The use of the symbol: inline four shows that the points will be explained. The women’s beauty will last forever because the poet has written this poem. Line fourteen says “So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ means the beautiful woman without pity. The lady is described as a magical creature shown inline fourteen which says “full beautiful – a faery’s child.” Line sixteen gives a hint to the fact that the lady is not all that she seems and she is in fact not perfect. “her eyes were wild.” The message of the poem is that even the strongest knight in the land can be destroyed by love. The woman was beautiful and supernatural yet the dream turned bad and ended and the woman was not as she had seemed.
‘Shall I compare thee’ uses various techniques? Summer and the sun are personified inline-four. Inline five a metaphor is used to describe the sun; “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines.” Another metaphor is used in line nine which describes the woman’s beauty. Line eleven personifies death and line thirteen and fourteen use repetition to emphasize the poet’s point. ‘Shall I compare thee’ is a sonnet in the traditional form of Shakespeare’s sonnets which use iambic pentameter? Iambic pentameter creates the feel of the heartbeat of love. The structure of the sonnet is 14 lines altogether which comprises of an octet and sestet. The rhyming scheme is AB AB CD CD EF EF GG. The rhyming couplet at the end of the poem brings the poem to a close.
‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ uses pathetic fallacy which means human feelings are compared with inanimate objects. It matches the knight without the beautiful woman. There is no nature. Everything is gone. Line six describes the knight before the poet knows about the beautiful woman. It says “So haggard and so woebegone?” Lines twenty – four to twenty – eight describe the woman as supernatural; “in language strange.” Lines thirty – seven and thirty – eight show the knight is under the beautiful woman’s spell and there is also the use of repetition here. The very last verse is the repetition of verse one and stresses the reason why the knight is so unhappy. He is under the spell of the woman and can’t break free. ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci is a ballad with twelve stanzas which each comprised of four lines; a quatrain. The rhyming scheme is ABCB.
Both poems share similarities and differences in their techniques. They use personification, metaphors and similes throughout the poem often to emphasize the message of love and beauty. Much repetition is also used in both poems again emphasizing the point of each poem. However, each poem has a different structure and therefore this changes the tone of the poem completely and the way in which it is read.
In conclusion, although there are rather a few differences between ‘Shall I compare thee’ and ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ there are more significant similarities. Both poems describe their loved ones as perfect and have the same perception of their woman. Yet one poem describes the appearance of love and one describes feelings of love. Overall both women are beautiful and one woman’s beauty is kept alive through literature, the other woman’s beauty is kept alive through a dream.
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