Write a detailed critical analysis of ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, based upon your study of D’avanzo’s ‘A poem about Poetry and Imagination: La Belle Dame sans Merci’. Consider your own views as well as extracts from the text. The difficult aspect of reading D’avanzo’s text was putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. Like a jigsaw, it is only once you manage to fit it all together that you can come to an informed view of the whole picture. Also, each section or point is not able to stand by itself.
All the parts interlock and must be thought of as a single entity to understand the analysis made by D’avanzo. However, after several re-readings, I now feel able to tackle a critical analysis of my own, augmented by what he has raised in his article. I will attempt to convey a full understanding of both D’avanzo’s article and Keats’ poem. I feel the challenge in writing this essay is to do so in a way that is not disjointed. A strangely appealing aspect of ‘La Belle Dame’ is that Keats began the poem with the end of a story. In this respect is similar to modern “Who done it?
” novels, in which one popular technique is to start by revealing the murderer, then working through the book showing the process of the story leading up to that point. This method has a very unique impact to it, and in my opinion strengthens the descriptions in the first stanza. For example, the words ‘alone’, ‘palely’ and ‘withered’ all describe the mood of the poem. D’avanzo has a very fitting summing up of Keats’ first stanza, “The poet begins… with a stark picture of a dying season…. anguished and deathly pale. ” However, this is a look at the ‘knight of arms’ after an event.
Keats has created intrigue here, as he makes us want to know what has happened to make this knight so downcast and dreary. Stanza two begins with just that, “O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,”. Another point to note is that Keats has cleverly added to the intrigue by suggesting something is missing, or conveys emptiness, by having a short line at the end of every stanza. It disrupts what would otherwise be a smooth rhythm. It is not until stanza four that the ‘main story’ begins, in the style of a flashback. He met an extremely beautiful lady one day in the meads, and obviously got to know her.
He says she is “a faery’s child”. This is a way of emphasizing her beauty through giving her a supernatural identity. In reference to this passage in the poem, D’avanzo says that this description of the faery-child is more significant. He explains that curly hair is indicative of Apollo, the God of poetry. Why is this worth noting? Apollo’s curly hair, associated with the controlling idea of poetry and Imagination, and carrying secondary connotations of beauty, fertility, youth and vigour, is transferred to La Belle Dame. She becomes in this poem the female presider of poetry.