The Beautiful Lady (with a high sex drive)

Dear readers, 

John Keats REALLY loves love…and death. They go hand in hand with each other, of course. In his poem “La Belle Dame sans Merci”, Keats presents a classic: A knight is seduced by a fairy because she’s beautiful and falls in love with her. Aw. Then the knight dies. Yikes. Through a dialogue format and a number of other poetic devices, Keats portrays this tragic romance which not only takes on a dark twist but also raises questions over love.

Composed of 12 quatrains, the poem is moved along by iambic tetrameter which is in the first 3 lines of each stanza. Thus, the repeating tetrameter both stresses words and sets up a cadence resembling a ballad of music. Aiding this, we also have end-stopped lines in the form of repeating commas, exclamation marks, question marks, periods, and semicolons. Having established the rhyme scheme, readers, let’s move onto the tone. In the first stanza of the poem, we read: “O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, Alone and palely loitering? The sedge has withered from the lake, And no birds sing.” (1-4) Here, we get a sense that the knight in question is miserable and the speaker wonders why he suffers in his described paleness and loneliness. After the speaker repeats this question “O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms” in line 5, the knight responds and explains how he came upon a fairy who was “Full beautiful—a faery’s child, Her hair was long, her foot was light, And her eyes were wild.” (14-16) This detailed fixation on the fairy’s beauty, specifically body parts, is further emphasized by the consonance of “f” and “w” and “l”. Readers, is it possible that this section also serves to display the male eye of desire based on the focus on physical beauty and further evidence in the poem.

For one, notice how further in the poem that the knight reveals: “ I set her on my pacing steed, And nothing else saw all day long,..” (21-22). This is a sexual innuendo implying that the knight had sex with the fairy “all day long.” So far, the knight is infatuated with the fairy purely based on how she pleasures his eye and his body. Furthermore, the knights recalls how “sure in language strange she said— ‘I love thee true’. ” (27-28) “Sure in a language strange”?? If the fairy is speaking in a language “strange”, how does the knight understand exactly what she’s saying? Is this meant as love is a universal translator or that the knight is completely disillusioned with his obsession over the physicality of this fairy who can apparently have sex all day?

Another device I noticed was what I thought were allusions to the femme fatale. The first red flag is when the knight characterizes the fairy to have “wild” eyes. Wild beings that are beautiful are often deadly, is my thought. In addition, after the sex part, the knight explains that the fairy “found me roots of relish sweet, And honey wild, and manna-dew,..” (25-26) and she “lulled me asleep” (33) in “her Elfin grot” (29). Following the knight falling asleep, he dreamed of “pale” (37-38) kings, princes, and warriors who cry “ ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci Thee hath in thrall!’ ” (39-40) Hmmm, knight conveniently falls asleep after having sex all day and then being fed roots he somehow knows the names of… Not to mention the dream of the “pale” men who warn the knight that the fairy has him in “thrall”. The repetition of pale and the unionized warning very clearly indicates that the men are ghosts who were victims of the fairy. So now the question remains: Did the fairy kill the night with energy-sucking sex like a succubus or did she poison him with the roots? Either way, I think Keats is warning us… Love can be fatal. It can even end up killing you. 

Sincerely, Alucard

London Bridge is falling down- sorry wrong poem but same river

Dear readers,

Imagine walking down the streets of London. A city that’s been described to be vibrant and bustling with rich interaction and spectacular sights. Would you see it this way? Well, William Blake doesn’t. Sorry (Blake isn’t sorry). Blake’s poem London is organized in 4 short stanzas consisting of quatrains and an ABAB rhyme that aid in the sights and sounds being described in the poem that is a commentary on society and the government.

Through the figure of a traveler and literary lens, Blake describes wandering through his surrounding setting which is “each chartered street” (1) where he sees faces of passing people that have “marks of weakness, marks of woe.” (4) In establishing this bleak setting of streets that are chartered into systems for order , Blake also introduces the poetic voice that has a sorrowful tone in this face of society’s misery that is displayed by the people’s facial expressions as they walk in these streets. I would like to postulate a question to my beloved readers: With this detailed observance, is it possible society is being described as miserably suffering due to the control as imposed upon them by the power hungry upper class/ government?? Because Blake hints at this control through the “chartered” streets. Someone had to charter them and it most certainly wasn’t the lower class who had no money or power to charter streets in the first place. 

In stanza 3, Blake transitions from sight to sound. Curious, Curious. Who is this “chimney-sweeper” (9) that cries? And why is the church “blackening”(10)? How do these two completely opposite subjects relate? Upon research, you will find that a chimney-sweeper during this time period in London was the lowest of lowest in class as being a chimney-sweeper was a low paying and thankless job. Oh and did I mention a lot of young orphaned children were working as chimney-sweepers and churches were responsible for them? We just love exploitation and abuse. But with this background context, I think the chimney-sweeper and church are directly connected due to class and power. Hence, the chimney-sweeper cries from being forced to perform hard labor and the church blackens for its lack of humanity towards the chimney-sweeper. 

Sincerely, Alucard

The sublime soul

William Wordsworth’s “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” is such a romantic poem. Literally and periodically. “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” is composed of five stanzas in iambic pentameter which adds a natural cadence mimicking regularly paced human speech. Writing from the point of view of a returning admirer, Wordsworth deeply immerses his soul in the calming beauty of this specific setting of nature that in fact, never mentions this “Tintern Abbey”.

Right away in the first two opening lines of the poem, our attention is drawn to the repetition of “five” that occurs three times: “Five year”, “Five summers”, and “Five long winters” (l. 1-2).  This repetition immediately emphasizes just how long these five years felt to him that time has passed in nature’s equivalent to five summers and five winters. Further on, seclusion is also repeated which invokes an image of nature as separate from the world of man in its own wild “secluded” world where everything is untouched. Thus, when the narrator is in “towns and cities”(l. 27) where he experiences “hours of weariness”(l. 28), all he has to do is remember the undisturbed tranquility of the landscape to feel “sensations sweet”(l. 28). In other words, it is like a man being revived by the memory of sensations his lover has ingrained into his heart and brain. 

It’s not just his own mood that changes though. His entire being comes into focus when he is induced into the sublime peace: 

“Until, the breath of this corporeal frame

And even the motion of our human blood

Almost suspended, we are laid asleep

In body, and become a living soul:” (l. 44-47)

As described in these lines, Wordsworth looks within and sees in his mind’s eye that he has transformed into “a living soul” as he has been guided to being free of his “corporeal frame” that bears human burdens previously described as “hours of weariness” (l. 28)  and “the heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible world” (l. 40-41)