Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
La Belle Dame Sans Merci
By John Keats (1795–1821)
AH, what can ail thee, wretched wight, 1
  Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge is withered from the lake,
      And no birds sing.
Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,        5
  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;        10
And on thy cheek a fading rose
      Fast withereth too.
I met a lady in the meads
  Full beautiful, a faëry’s child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,        15
      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 faëry’s song.        20
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,        25
  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 sighèd deep,        30
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        35
      On the cold hillside.
I saw pale kings, and princes too,
  Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cry’d—“La belle Dame sans merci
      Hath thee in thrall!”        40
I saw their starved lips in the gloom
  With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke, and found me here
      On the cold hillside.
And this is why I sojourn here        45
  Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
      And no birds sing.
Note 1. In the version by Lord Houghton of this poem, this line and its repetition in the second stanza run, “Oh, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms!” and that form of the line is often met, with other changes. [back]

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