The Romantic Age (1776-1837)
Historical and social Context
George III was king of Great Britain and Ireland from 1760 to
1820. Britain continued to develop economically and politically.
The British population was divided basically into 3 social classes:
1. The Landowners and aristocracy;
2. The businessmen and industrialists;
3. The masses: they were poop and they had to leave the
countryside to work in the new-built factories.
The economy continued to develop thanks to favourable
circumstances. First of all, the colonies were a source of materials,
then the Bank of England started to operate around the country
and then the transport system, especially the railways, was
Despite the improvements, most people continued to live and work
in bad conditions. The cities became overcrowded and unsanitary.
The idyllic world of nature as presented by many of Romantic poets
is an antidote to the life in the cities.
During this period there were also a lot of protests, such as in 1819
in Manchester where people protested against the rise in the price
The government decided to introduce many reforms:
1. The Factory Act limited working hours and children under 9
2. Factory owners formed their own associations;
3. A police force and a local government were established;
4. A system of national primary education was set up in 1834.
Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalger (1805) and the
decisive victory in Waterloo in 1815 gave Britain the upper hand,
but many people died.
In 1801, with the Act of Union, Ireland became an integral part of
the United Kingdom.
The Romantic period – Literary Context
By the end of the century many poets and artists had started
reacting against the dehumanisation of the new industrial society,
These artists were called Romantics. The word romantic comes
from the French word for medieval sagas “roman”. Initially it meant
exaggerated, but then it took a positive meaning to describe the
expression of personal feelings and emotions.
The Romantic period in Britain started in 1798, when Wordsworth
and Coleridge published the Lyrical Ballads. The sources of the
movement were in German with the Sturm und Drang movement
(storm and stress) led by Goethe.
The most important Romantic poets in England were: Blake,
Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron and Keats. They didn’t take
part to a group, but they shared characteristics such as
imagination (the poet was a visionary who, through imagination,
can find the true beauty and deeper meanings), nature, a simple
language, a nostalgia for the past (especially the Middle Ages)
and for the childhood (because they saw children as pure and
The Romantic poets are traditionally grouped into 2 generations.
The poets of the first generation are Blake, Wordsworth and
Blake’s life was spent in rebellion against the rationalist philosophy
of the 18th century.
Coleridge’s poetry often deals with the mysterious, the supernatural
and the extraordinary.
The Second Generation includes Byron, Shelley and Keats.
Byron was the prototype of the Romantic poet.
Shelley was the most revolutionary and non-conformist of the
Romantic poets. He rejected the institutions of family, church and
Keats spoke about the conflict between the real world of beauty,
imagination and youth.
Three types of novel developed in the Romantic period: the
historical novel, the gothic novel and the novel of manners.
Scott is the inventor of the historical novels. He wrote Ivanhoe, that
was a source for Alessandro Manzoni.
Gothic novels were based on tales of the macabre, fantastic and
supernatural. The greatest Gothic novel is Mary Shelley’s
Jane Austen stands out as one of the Romantic Age’s greatest
writers. Her “novels of manners” speak about middle class, money,
decorum and marriage.
Romanticism in Europe
It was an important literary movement throughout Europe.
In France, it started with J.J. Rousseau who used the word
“romantique” for the first time. In poetry the great names were
Lamartine, De Vigny, Hugo and De Musset. Novel writers were
Balzac and Stendhal.
In Germany there was the Sturm and Drang movement; in Italy the
Romantic movement emerged relatively late with Ugo Foscolo,
Manzoni (and his historical novel I Promessi Sposi) and Leopardi.
William Blake (1757-1827)
William Blake was born in London in 1757. He showed early signs of
artistic talent. The year 1783 marked the beginning of a period of
great creativity in Blake’s life. He published his first volume of
poetry, Poetical Sketches, and invented a new method of printing,
which he called “illuminated printing”.
In 1789 he engraved and published his first great literary work,
Songs of Innocence.
Blake plunged into a deep depression. He lived in a dirty studio,
completely cut off from the rest of the world.
After 1818 he stopped writing poetry but continued to produce
engravings, including the illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy ,
which remained incomplete at the time of his death in 1827.
Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience
They are visual and poetic masterpieces where art and text are
linked. Many of the poems in Songs of Innocence are about
childhood and are written in a simple language that it seems they
could have written by a child.
Childhood comes to an end and adulthood reveals a different world.
In Songs of Experience Blake speaks about corruption and violence
and how individuals are exploited by a cruel world.
The poems are similar to songs because the rhyme schemes and
rhythm are very regular.
He uses symbols, such as innocence that is represented by
children, flowers and lambs.
The Lamb (Songs of Innocence)
Little lamb, who made thee?
Does thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little lamb, who made thee?
Does thou know who made thee?
Little lamb, I'll tell thee;
Little lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild,
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little lamb, God bless thee!
Little lamb, God bless thee!
"The Lamb " is a poem by William Blake, published in Songs of
Innocence in 1789. Like many of Blake's works, the poem is about
religion, specifically about Christianity.
Like the other Songs of Innocence and Experience, The Lamb was
intended to be sung; William Blake's original melody is now lost. It
was made into a song by Vaughan Williams. It was also set to
music by Sir John Tavener, who explained, "The Lamb came to me
fully grown and was written in an afternoon and dedicated to my
nephew Simon for his 3rd birthday." American poet Allen Ginsberg
set the poem to music, along with several other of Blake's poems.
The Lamb can be compared to a more grandiose Blake poem: The
Tyger in Songs of Experience. Critical analysis suggests that both
poems, "The Lamb" and "The Tyger," question the Christian
assumption that God is good; if God is responsible for creating both
the good things in life (the lamb) and the evil things (the tyger),
how can God be good and moral?
The lamb in the poem may be compared to Jesus Christ, who is
also known as "The Lamb of God".
This poem has a simple rhyme scheme : AA BB CC DD AA AA EF DD
The layout is set up by two stanzas with the refrain: "Little Lamb
who made thee?/Dost thou know who made thee?"
In the first stanza, the speaker wonders who the lamb's creator is;
the answer lies at the end of the poem. Here we find a physical
description of the lamb, seen as a pure and gentle creature.
In the second stanza, the lamb is compared with the infant Jesus,
as well as between the lamb and the speaker's soul. In the last two
lines the speaker identifies the creator: God.
The Tyger (Songs of Experience)
Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And, when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?
Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
The Tyger belongs to Songs of Experience which was written by
William Blake. The poet came up with a technique called ‘relief
etching’ to be able to add his illustrations.
The poem contains six quatrains; and its rhyme is assonant, and
follows perfectly the pattern aabb due to, in the case of the first
and the sixth stanzas, the word ‘symmetry’ is pronounced in such a
way that it rhymes with ‘eye’].
With regard to the semantic fields, there are words related to the
tools used by an ironsmith like, for instance, ‘hammer’, ‘chain’,
‘furnace’, and ‘anvil’, in the fourth stanza. Also, we can find a
semantic field related to Nature like, for example, ‘forests’ (line 2),
‘skies’ (line 5), ‘Tyger’ (lines 1 and 21), and ‘Lamb’ (line 20). But,
above all, the poet used a semantic field related to Creation when
he writes words or phases like:
‘What immortal hand and eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?’
The simple structure and the vocabulary help the reader to
understand the main topics or concepts, which are Evil, Good, and
The first impression that William Blake gives is that he sees a
terrible tiger in the night, and, as a result of his state of panic, the
poet exaggerates the description of the animal when he writes:
‘Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night…’
However, paying more attention to what comes next, the author
talks about Evil, and Good, as I said above. These two essential
ideas are symbolised in the ‘Tyger’ and the ‘Lamb’, respectively
(notice that both words have capital letters).
Immediately after seeing the ‘Tyger’ in the forests, the poet asks it
what deity could have created it:
‘What immortal hand and eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?’
The word ‘immortal’ gives the reader a clue that the poet refers to
God. Then, in the second stanza, the author wonders in what far-
away places the tiger was made, maybe, referring that these places
cannot be reached by any mortal. In the third stanza, the poet asks
again, once the tiger’s heart began to beat, who could make such a
frightening and evil animal. Next, in the forth stanza, William Blake
asks questions about the tools used by God. And he names the
hammer, the chain, the furnace, and anvil. All these elements are
used by an ironsmith. Thus, according to the poet, God is a kind of
craftsman. After that, in the fifth stanza, the poet asks two
significant questions. The first one refers to God’s feelings:
‘Did he smile his work to see?’
In other words, was God happy with his creation? The second
‘Did he who made the Lamb make thee?’
William Blake does not understand why or how the deity who is
responsible for good and innocence, is, at he same time, the same
who inserts violence and evil in this world. However, the poet does
not make any statement at any moment. He only asks questions
which invite the reader to think about. Finally, the last stanza is the
same as the first one which may indicate that the author is not able
to understand the world where we live.
William Blake wrote the poem with a simple structure and a perfect
rhyme to help the reader see the images he wanted to transmit.
He was born in 1770 in the Lake District (in the north-west of
England). He lost his parents when he was a child.
When he was an university student, he travelled to France and Italy
and he really appreciated the beauty of landscape.
In 1795 he met Samuel Coleridge, a poet, and they become
friends. Together they discussed, read, wrote and exchanged
theories on poetry.
They wrote “The Lyrical Ballads” (1798), a landmark in English
He moved with his sister Dorothy to the Lake District, a region that
he immortalised in his works. He married and published “Poems in
At the end of his career, he become more conservative politically.
He died in 1850.
The Preface to the Lyrical Ballads is a manifesto for the Romantic
His theories about poetry are:
1. the language should be simple;
2. the subject should consist of situations from common life;
3. the poet is a man speaking to men. He uses his special gift to
show other men the essence of things.
These ideas are exemplified in “I wondered lonely as a cloud”. Here
the language is simple, the subject is the flowers that the poet saw
when walking in the country.
The poet finds his greatest inspiration in nature, which can elevate
the human soul.
He identifies nature with God.
Other works are: The Prelude, a long autobiographical poem in 24
books and Poems in two Volumes.
A certain colouring of imagination (from Preface to
the Lyrical Ballads) - Analysis
This extract is taken from the preface to the second edition of
Lyrical Ballads, regarded as the Manifesto of English Romanticism.
In this passage Wordsworth expressed a new concept of poetry,
based to the real and authentic every day’s life.
For the poet the subject of the poetry are low and rustic life
because in that condition of life all elements co-exist in a state of
The language of poetry is simple but durable and purified: in this
way his poetry can be knew from more people, in fact the poet
doesn’t use philosophical language. Then Wordsworth reflects to
the very identity of the poet: he’s a man speaking to men but
compared with common men the poet has more sensibility,
enthusiasm and comprehensive soul but also has a greater
knowledge of human nature.
The poet analyses also the process which must follow for makes a
First of all the poet lives a sensory experience, then he makes
emotion. In a second time, in tranquillity, with the memory,
kindred the same emotion and at last he writes a poem. In this
passage we can be read the theme which characterizes the
Romantic poetry: an exaltation to the nature which is inseparable
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud – Analysis
Wordsworth is known as a nature poet who found beauty, comfort
and moral strength in the nature. The world of nature is free from
corruption and stress and offers a mean to escape from
"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" (known as "The Daffodils") is
an 1804 poem by William Wordsworth. It was inspired by an April
15, 1802 event in which Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, came
across a "long belt" of daffodils. It was first published in 1807.
The poem is written in iambic tetrameter.
The memory of the daffodils is etched in the speaker's mind and
soul to be cherished forever. When he's feeling lonely, dull or
depressed, he thinks of the daffodils and cheers up. The full impact
of the daffodils' beauty (symbolizing the beauty of nature) did not
strike him at the moment of seeing them, when he stared blankly
at them but much later when he sat alone, sad and lonely and
The inspiration for the poem may have been a walk he took with his
sister Dorothy around a small village in North Yorkshire.
Dorothy later wrote in reference to this walk:
“I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy
stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these
stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled
and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that
blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever dancing
ever changing”. (Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere Journal)
Intimations of Immortality
"Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early
Childhood" is a long ode in eleven sections by the English
Romantic poet William Wordsworth. It is a deeply philosophical
work, with themes ranging from the Platonic belief in pre-existence,
to Wordsworth's belief that children have an instinctive wisdom that
adults lack. Composed in the English Lake District, between 1802
and 1804, "Intimations of Immortality" was first published in
Poems, in Two Volumes (1807). It is composed of eleven stanzas.
Wordsworth applies memories of his early childhood to his adult
philosophy of life. According to the author's prose introduction,
"Intimations of Immortality" was inspired in part by Platonic
philosophy. Plato taught pre-existence, meaning that the soul
dwelled in an ideal alternate state prior to its present occupation of
the body, and the soul will return to that ideal previous state after
the body's death. The immortality the title refers to is the
immortality of the soul, "Intimations of Immortality" begins with
the speaker recalling how nature and "every common sight" once
seemed divine to him.
In Stanza II, he reminds himself that rainbows and the like are still
"beautiful and fair" to him, but nevertheless he feels "there hath
past [passed] away a glory from the earth."
In Stanza V, Wordsworth begins to philosophize in earnest. "Our
birth is but a sleep and a forgetting," he says, for our souls
originate in a purer, more glorious realm: heaven itself. Small
children retain some memory of paradise, which glorifies their
experiences on earth, but youths begin to lose it, and adults,
distracted by earthly concerns.
THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
He starts the poem off in the first stanza on the theme of that
heavenly memory; he says that "there was a time" when he could
see heaven in all of nature around him, but now "the things which I
have seen I can see no more," meaning, that memory has faded
with age and time.
In the second stanza the poet says that even though he can still
see the rainbow, the rose, the moon, and the sun, and even though
they are still beautiful, something is different...something has been
lost: "But yet I know, where'er I go, / That there hath past away a
glory from the earth."
In the fifth stanza he says that when we are born, we forget
where we came from; we come "trailing clouds of glory...from
God." He continues by saying, "Heaven lies about us in our
infancy" only to have "man perceive it die away".
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
He was born in 1772. When his father died he moved to a London
charity school for children of the clergy. Then he went to Cambridge
and together with the radical poet Robert Southey he planned the
foundation of an egalitarian utopian community in New England.
The project was abandoned but the two friends collaborated on a
verse drama, The Fall of Robespierre.
He left Cambridge without a degree and married Southey’s sister.
The marriage was a failure and the couple lived apart the most
of their lives.
In 1795 he met Wordsworth and the result of their collaboration
was the Lyrical Ballads (1798), which opened with one of the four
poems Coleridge wrote: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Then he travelled to Germany with Wordsworth and his sister
He was interested in German philosophy, especially the
ideas of Immanuel Kant.
He learned German, studied philosophy and translated Schiller’s
works into English.
Then he went to the Lake District with Wordsworth and he
become addicted to opium. He left for Malta hoping to overcome
In 1810 his friendship with Wordsworth came to a bitter end and he
went to live in London.
He worked as a journalist and he wrote his major prose work,
Biographia Literaria. He died in 1834.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
This is a story of a sea journey through strange and mysterious
oceans. He describes the natural and supernatural events that
occur during the voyage.
It is written in form of a ballad, using short stanzas and repetition.
The lexis and syntax are quite simple. The events of the poem take
place in a ghostly atmosphere and the reader often feels he is
moving from a real to an unreal world and back again.
The story can be interpreted as a spiritual/religious allegory, in
which man is punished for offending God and nature by killing the
albatross. The albatross is a symbol of the Mariner’s sense of guilt.
FIRST PART PRIMA PARTE
It is an ancient Mariner, È un vecchio marinaio, e ferma uno dei tre
And he stoppeth one of three. convitati: «Per la tua lunga barba grigia e il tuo
«By thy long grey beard and glittering eye, occhio scintillante, e perchè ora mi fermi?
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?
The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide, Le porte del Fidanzato son già tutte aperte, e io
And I am next of kin ; sono il più stretto parente; i convitati son già
The guests are met, the feast is set: riuniti, il festino è servito, tu puoi udirne di qui
May’st hear the merry din.» l’allegro rumore.»
He holds him with his skinny hand, Ma egli lo trattiene con mano di scheletro.
«There was a ship,» quoth he. «C’era una volta un bastimento …» comincia a
«Hold off ! unhand me, grey-beard loon !» dire. «Lasciami, non mi trattener più, vecchio
Eftsoons his hand dropt he. vagabondo dalla barba brizzolata!» E quello
immediatamente ritirò la sua mano.
He holds him with his glittering eye— Ma con l’occhio scintillante lo attrae e lo
The Wedding-Guest stood still, trattiene. E il Convitato resta come paralizzato,
And listens like a three years’ child: e sta ad ascoltare come un bambino di tre anni:
The Mariner hath his will. il vecchio Marinaro è padrone di lui.
Il Convitato si mise a sedere sopra una pietra: e
The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone: non può fare a meno di ascoltare attentamente.
He cannot choose but hear; E cosí parlò allora quel vecchio uomo, il
And thus spake on that ancient man, Marinaro dal magnetico sguardo:
The bright-eyed Mariner
«La nave, salutata, avea già lasciato il porto, e
«The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared, lietamente filava sull’onde, sotto la chiesa,
Merrily did we drop sotto la collina, sotto l’alto fanale.
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the light-house top.
Il Sole si levò da sinistra, si levò su dal mare.
The Sun came upon the left, Brillò magnificamente, e a destra ridiscese nel
Out of the sea came he! mare
And the shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.
Ogni di piú alto, sempre più alto finchè diritto
Higher and higher every day, sull’albero maestro, a mezzogiorno …» Il
Till over the mast at noon—» Convitato si batte il petto impaziente, perchè
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast, sente risuonare il grave trombone.
For he heard the loud bassoon.
La Sposa si è avanzata nella sala: essa è
The bride hath paced into the hall, vermiglia come una rosa; la precedono,
Red as a rose is she; movendo in cadenza la testa, i gai musicanti.
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.
Il Convitato si percuote il petto, ma non può
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast, fare a meno di stare a udire il racconto. E così
Yet he cannot choose but hear; seguitò a dire quell’antico uomo, il Marinaro
And thus spake on the ancient man, dall’occhio brillante.
The bright-eyed Mariner, «Ed ecco che sopraggiunse la burrasca, e fu
«And now the storm-blast came, and he tirannica e forte. Ci colpì con le sue irresistibili
Was tyrannous and strong: ali, e, insistente, ci cacciò verso sud.
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.
Ad alberi piegati, a bassa prora, come chi ha
With sloping masts and dipping prow, inseguito con urli e colpi pur corre a capo chino
As who pursued with yell and blow sull’orma del suo nemico, la nave correva
Still treads the shadow of his foe, veloce, la tempesta ruggiva forte, e ci
And forward bends his head, s’inoltrava sempre piú verso il sud.
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.
Poi vennero insieme la nebbia e la neve; si fece
And now there come both mist and snow, un freddo terribile: blocchi di ghiaccio, alti
And it grew wondrous cold: come l’albero della nave, ci galleggiavano
And ice, mast-high, came floating by, attorno, verdi come smeraldo.
As green as emerald.
E traverso il turbine delle valanghe, le rupi
And through the drifts the snowy clifts nevose mandavano sinistri bagliori: non si
Did send a dismal sheen: vedeva più forma o di bestia — ghiaccio solo
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken— da per tutto.
The ice was all between.
Il ghiaccio era qui, il ghiaccio era là, il ghiaccio
The ice was here, the ice was there, era tutto all’intorno: scricchiolava e muggiva,
The ice was all around : ruggiva ed urlava. come i rumori che si odono
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, in una sincope.
Like noises in a swound!
Alla fine un Albatro passò per aria, e venne a
At lenght did cross an Albatross, noi traverso la nebbia. Come se fosse stato
Thorough the fog it came; un’anima cristiana, lo salutammo nel nome di
As if it had been a Christian soul, Dio.
We hailed it in God’s name.
Mangiò del cibo che gli demmo, benchè nuovo
It hate the food in ne’er had eat, per lui; e ci volava e rivolava d’intorno. Il
And round and round it flew. ghiaccio a un tratto si ruppe, e il pilota potè
The ice did split with a thunder-fit; passare fra mezzo.
The heilmsman steered us through!
E un buon vento di sud ci soffiò alle spalle, e
And a good south wind sprung up behind; l’Albatro ci teneva dietro; e ogni giorno veniva
The Albatross did follow, a mangiare o scherzare sul bastimento,
And every day, for food or play, chiamato e salutato allegramente dai marinari.
Came to the mariners’ hollo!
Tra la nebbia o tra ’l nuvolo, su l’albero o su le
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud, vele, si appollaiò per nove sere di seguito;
It perched for vespers nine; mentre tutta la notte attraverso un bianco
Whiles all the night, through the fog-smoke white, vapore splendeva il bianco lume di luna.»
Glimmered the white moon-shine.»
«Che Dio ti salvi, o Marinaro, dal demonio che
«God save thee, ancient Mariner! ti tormenta! — Perchè mi guardi cosí, Che
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!— cos’hai?» — «Con la mia balestra, io ammazzai
Why look’st thou so?» —With my cross-bow l’ ALBATRO!
I shot the ALBATROSS
THIRD PART PARTE TERZA
There passed a weary time. Each throat E passò un triste tempo. Ogni gola era riarsa,
Was parched, and glazed each eye ogni occhio era vitreo. Un triste tempo, un
A weary time! A weary time! triste tempo! E come mi fissavano tutti quegli
How glazed each weary eye! occhi stanchi! Quand’ecco, guardando verso
When looking westward I beheld occidente, io scorsi qualche cosa nel cielo.
A something in the sky.
At first it seemed a little speck, Da prima, pareva una piccola macchia, una
And then it seemed a mist; specie di nebbia; si moveva, si moveva, e alla
It moved and moved, and took at last fine parve prendere una certa forma.
A certain shape, I wist.
A speck, a mist, a shape. I wist! Una macchia, una nebbia, una forma, che
And still it neared and neared: sempre più si faceva vicina: e come se volesse
As if it dodged a water sprite, sottrarsi ed evitare un fantasma marino, si
It plunged and tacked and veered. tuffava, si piegava, si rigirava.
With throats unslaked, with black lips backed, Con gole asciutte, con nere arse labbra, non si
We could nor laugh nor wail; poteva nè ridere nè piangere. In quell’eccesso
Through utter drought all dumb we stood! di sete, stavano tutti muti. Io mi morsi un
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood, braccio, ne succhiai il sangue, e gridai: Una
And cried, A sail! a sail! vela! Una vela!
With throats unslaked, with black lips backed, Con arse gole, con nere labbra bruciate, attoniti
Agape they heard me call: mi udiron gridare. Risero convulsamente di
Gramercy! they for joy did grin, gioia: e tutti insieme aspirarono l’aria, come in
And all at once their breath drew in, atto di bere.
As they were drinking all.
See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more! Vedete! vedete! (io gridai) essa non gira più,
Hither to work us weal; ma vien dritta a recarci salute: senza un alito di
Without a breeze, without a tide, vento, senza corrente, si avanza con la chiglia
She steadies with uproght keel! elevata.
The western wave was all a-flame, A occidente l’acqua era tutta fiammeggiante; il
The day was well nigh done! giorno era presso a finire. Sull’onda occidentale
Almost upon the western wave posava il grande splendido sole quand’ecco
Rested the broad bright Sun. quella strana forma s’interpose fra il sole e noi.
When that strange shape drove suddendly
Betwixt us and the Sun.
E a un tratto il sole apparve listato di strisce
And straight the Sun was flecked with bars, (che la celeste Madre ci assista!) come se
(Heaven’s Mother send us grace!) guardasse dalla inferriata di una prigione con la
As if through a dungeon-grate he peered sua faccia larga ed accesa.
With broad and burning face.
Ohimè! (pensavo io, e il cuore mi batteva
Alas! (thought I, and mi heart beat loud) forte), come si avvicina rapidamente, ogni
How fast she nears and nears! momento di più! Son quelle le sue vele, che
Are those her sails that glance in the Sun, scintillano al sole come irrequiete fila di ragno?
Like restless gossameres?
Son quelle le sue coste, traverso a cui il sole
Are those her ribs through which the Sun guarda come traverso a una grata? E quella
Did peer, as through a grate? donna là è tutto l’equipaggio? È forse la Morte?
And is that Woman all her crew? o ve ne son due? o è la Morte la compagna di
Is that a DEATH? and are there two? quella donna?
Is DEATH that Woman’s mate?
Le sue labbra eran rosse, franchi gli sguardi, i
Her lips were red, her looks were free. capelli gialli com’oro: ma la pelle biancastra
Her locks were yellow as gold: come la lebbra… Essa era l’Incubo VITA-IN-
Her skin was as white as leprosy, MORTE, che congela il sangue dell’uomo.
The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.
Quella nuda carcassa di nave ci passò di fianco,
The naked hulk alongside came, e le due giocavano ai dadi. «Il gioco è finito! ho
And the twain were casting dice: vinto, ho vinto!» dice l’una, e fischia tre volte.
«The game is done! I’ve won, I’ve won !»
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.
L’ultimo lembo di sole scompare: le stelle
The Sun’s rim dips, the stars rush out: accorrono a un tratto: senza intervallo
At one stride comes the dark; crepuscolare, è già notte. Con un mormorio
With far-heard whisper o’er the sea, prolungato fuggì via sul mare quel battello-
Off shot the spectre-bark fantasma.
Noi udivamo, e guardavamo di sbieco, in su. Il
We listened and looked sideways up! terrore pareva suggere dal mio cuore, come da
Fear at my heart, as at a cup, una coppa, tutto il mio sangue vitale. Le stelle
My life-blood seemed to sip! erano torbide, fitta la notte, e il viso del
The stars were dim, and thick the night, timoniere splendeva pallido e bianco sotto la
The steersman’s face by his lamp gleamed white; sua lanterna.
La rugiada gocciava dalle vele; finchè il corno
From the sails the dew did drip— lunare pervenne alla linea orientale, avendo alla
Till clomb above the eastern bar sua estremità inferiore una fulgida stella,
The horned Moon, with one bright star
Within the neither tip.
L’un dopo l’altro, al lume della luna che pareva
One after one, by the star-dogged Moon, inseguita dalle stelle, senza aver tempo di
Too quick for groan or sigh, mandare un gemito o un sospiro, ogni marinaro
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang, torse la faccia in una orribile angoscia, e mi
And cursed me withe his eye. maledisse con gli occhi.
Duecento uomini viventi (e io non udii nè un
Four times fifty living men, sospiro nè un gemito), con un grave tonfo,
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan) come una inerte massa, caddero giù l’un dopo
With heavy tump, a lifeless lump, l’altro.
They dropped down one by one.
Le anime volaron via dai loro corpi —
The souls did from their bodies fly,— volarono alla beatitudine o alla dannazione; ed
They flied to bliss or woe! ogni anima mi passò d’accanto sibilando, come
And every soul it passed me by il fischio della mia balestra.
Like the whizz of my cross-bow.
FOURTH PART PARTE QUARTA
«I FEAR thee, ancient Mariner, «Tu mi spaventi, vecchio Marinaro! La tua
I fear thy skinny hand ! scarna mano mi fa pura! Tu sei lungo, magro,
And thou art long, and lank, and brown, bruno come la ruvida sabbia del mare.
As is the ribbed sea-sand,
I fear thee and thy glittering eye Ho paura di te, e del tuo occhio brillante, e
And thy skinny hand, so brown.» — della tua bruna mano di scheletro…»— «Non
«Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest! temere, non temere, o Convitato! Questo mio
This body dropt not down. corpo non cadde fra i morti.
Alone, alone, all, all alone, Solo, solo, affatto solo — solo in un immenso
Alone on a wide, wide sea! mare! E nessun santo ebbe compassione di me,
And never a saint took pity on della mia anima agonizzante.
My soul in agony.
The many men, so beatiful! Tutti quegli uomini così belli, tutti ora
And they all dead did lie: giacevano morti! e migliaia e migliaia di
And a thousand thousand slimy things creature brulicanti e viscose continuavano a
Lived on; and so did I. vivere, e anch’io vivevo.
I looked upon the rotting sea, Guardavo quel putrido mare, e torcevo subito
And drew my eyes away; gli occhi dall’orribile vista; guardavo sul ponte
I looked upon the rotting deck marcito, e là erano distesi i morti.
And there the dead men lay.
I looked to heaven, and tried to pray; Alzai gli occhi al cielo, e tentai di pregare; ma
But or ever a prayer had gusht, appena mormoravo una prece, udivo quel
A wicked whisper came, and made maledetto sibilo, e il mio cuore diventava arido
My heart as dry as dust. come la polvere.
I closed my lids, and kept them close, Chiusi le palpebre, e le mantenni chiuse; e le
And the balls like pulses beat; pupille battevano come polsi; perchè il mare ed
For the sky and the sea and the sea and the sky il cielo, il cielo ed il mare, pesavano opprimenti
Lay like a load on my weary eye, sui miei stanchi occhi; e ai miei piedi stavano i
And the dead were at my feet. morti.
The cold sweat melted from their limbs, Un sudore freddo stillava dalle loro membra,
Nor rot nor reek did they: ma non imputridivano, nè puzzavano: mi
The look with which they looked on me guardavano sempre fissi, col medesimo
Had never passed away. sguardo con cui mi guardaron da vivi.
An orphan’s curse would drag to Hell La maledizione di un orfano avrebbe la forza di
A spirit from on high; tirar giù un’anima dal cielo all’inferno; ma oh!
But oh! more horrible than that più orribile ancora è la maledizione negli occhi
Is a curse in a dead man’s eye! di un morto! Per sette giorni e sette notti io vidi
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse, quella maledizione… eppure non potevo
And yet I could not die. morire.
The moving Moon went up the sky, La vagante luna ascendeva in cielo e non si
And no where did abide: fermava mai: dolcemente saliva , saliva in
Softly she was going up, compagnia di una o due stelle.
And a star or two beside—
Her beams bemocked the suiltry main, I suoi raggi illusori davano aspetto di una
Like April hoar-frost spread; distesa bianca brina d’aprile a quel mare
But where the ship’s huge shadow lay, putrido e ribollente; ma dove si rifletteva la
The charmed water burnt alway grande ombra della nave, l’acqua incantata
A still and awful red. ardeva in un monotono e orribile color rosso.
Beyond the shadow of the ship, Al di là di quell’ombra, io vedevo i serpi di
I watched the water-snakes: mare muoversi a gruppi di un lucente candore;
They moved in tracks of shining white, e quando si alzavano a fior d’acqua, la magica
And when they reared, the elfish light luce si rifrangeva in candidi fiocchi spioventi.
Fell off in hoary flakes.
Within the shadow of the ship, Nell’ombra della nave, guardavo ammirando la
I watched their rich attire: riccheza dei loro colori; blu, verde-lucidi, nero-
Blue glossy green, and velvet black, vellutati, si attorcigliavano e nuotavano; e
They coiled and swam; and every track ovunque movessero, era uno scintillio di fuochi
Was a flash of golden fire. d’oro.
O happy living things! no tongue O felici creature viventi! Nessuna lingua può
Their beauty might declare: esprimere la loro bellezza: e una sorgente
A spring of love gushed from my heart, d’amore scaturì dal mio cuore, e istintivamente
And I blessed them unaware: li benedissi. Certo il mio buon Santo ebbe
Sure my kind saint took pity on me, allora pietà di me, e io inconsciamente li
And I blessed them unaware. benedissi.
The self same moment I could pray; Nel momento stesso potei pregare; e allora
And from my neck so free l’Albatro si staccò dal mio collo, e cadde, e
The Albatross fell off, and sank affondò come piombo nel mare.
Like lead into the sea
The “Rime of the ancient mariner” is made up of seven parts
and is set in a boundless sea with days of pitiless sun and nights lit
by the moon.
It is introduced by an argument containing a short summary of the
whole poem and consists of two narratives: one is made up of the
captions (=didascalie) which constitute the framework and
introduce the protagonist and his listener, the other is the poem
itself, which deals with the extraordinary adventures of the
In the first part the ancient mariner stops a wedding guest to tell
him his dreadful tale. He narrates how he and his fellow mariners
reached the equator and the polar regions after a violent storm.
After several days an albatross appeared through the fog and was
killed by the mariner.
The shooting of a bird may seem a matter of little moment, but
Coleridge makes it significant in two ways. First of all, he does not
say why the mariner kills the albatross and what matters is
precisely the uncertainty of the mariner’s motives, which suggests
the essential irrationality of the crime. Secondly, this action is
against nature and breaks a sacred law of life.
The mariner’s motives for killing the albatross, one of the most
interesting aspects of the poem, remain a mystery. The act in effect
is pure, without motivation, and radically separates him from the
symbolic community and from the logical chain of cause and effect.
The third part shows how the mariner’s guilty soul becomes
conscious of what he has done and of his isolation from the world.
A phantom ship comes closer to the doomed crew (=equipaggio
condannato) and is identified as a skeleton ship. On board Death
and Life-in-Death, seen as ghosts, cast dice (=gettano i dadi); the
former wins the mariner’s fellows, who all die, and the latter wins
the mariner’s life.
In the fourth part this sense of solitude is stressed and the guilty
soul of the mariner is cut off not merely from human intercourse
(=rapporti) but also from nature. Then the mariner, unaware
(=inconsapevole, ignaro), blesses the water snakes and begins to
re-establish a relationship with the world of nature.
The poem, written in the form of a medieval ballad, creates a
universe where realistic and supernatural events coexist (see page
64). The landscape is portrayed in a mysterious, dream-like
way and is populated not only by the albatross, a bird whose killing,
according to the mythology, is considered a sacrilege, but also by
horrible sea-monsters which surround the ship after the bird’s
death. The presence of spirits and angels also contribute to create a
strange, almost magical atmosphere.
George Gordon Byron
He was born in London in 1788. His father died when he was only 3
years old, possibly committing suicide.
In 1807 he published his first work, Hours of Idleness, a collection
of sentimental poems. When his great uncle died, he inherited the
title (Baron Byron of Rochdale).
In 1809 he made his Grand Tour, a typical trip abroad that
educated young men. He visited all the Mediterranean countries.
Back in England he published the first two cantos of Childe Harold.
He was just 24 years old and he became famous.
His private life was the source of much scandal, especially the
rumour about a relationship with his half-sister.
Then he left England and went to Geneva, to Italy and to Greece.
He died in 1824, he was just 36 years old.
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is a lengthy narrative poem written
by the poet George Gordon, Lord Byron. It was published between
1812 and 1818 and is dedicated to "Ianthe", the term of
endearment he used for Charlotte Harley (the artist Francis Bacon's
great-great-grandmother). The poem describes the travels and
reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a
life of pleasure and revelry, looks for distraction in foreign lands; in
a wider sense, it is an expression of the melancholy and
disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-
Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. The title comes from the term
childe, a medieval title for a young man who was a candidate for
The poem contains elements thought to be autobiographical, as
Byron generated some of the storyline from experience gained
during his travels through Portugal, the Mediterranean and Aegean
Sea between 1809 and 1811. Despite Byron's personal distastes for
the poem , which he felt revealed too much of himself, it was
published by John Murray and brought him a large amount of public
attention. Byron stated that he woke up one day and "found myself
The work provided the first example of the Byronic hero. The idea
of the Byronic hero is one that consists of many different
characteristics. The hero must have a rather high level of
intelligence and perception as well as be able to easily adapt to new
situations and use cunning to his own gain. It is clear from this
description that this hero is well educated and by extension is
rather sophisticated in his style. Aside from the obvious charm and
attractiveness that this automatically creates, he struggles with his
integrity, being prone to mood swings or bi-polar tendencies.
Generally, the hero has a disrespect for any figure of authority,
thus creating the image of the Byronic Hero as an exile or an
outcast. The Hero also has a tendency to be arrogant and cynical,
indulging in self-destructive behaviour which leads to the need to
seduce women. Although his sexual attraction through being
mysterious is rather helpful, this sexual attraction often gets the
hero into trouble. The character of the Byronic Hero has appeared
in novels, films and plays ever since.
Once more upon the waters! yet once more!
And the waves bound beneath me as a steed
That knows his rider. Welcome to their roar!
Swift be their guidance, wheresoe'er it lead!
Though the strain'd mast should quiver as a reed,
And the rent canvas fluttering strew the gale,
Still must I on; for I am as a weed,
Flung from the rock, on Ocean's foam to sail
Where'er the surge may sweep, the tempest's breath prevail.
Ancora una volta sulle acque! Sì, ancora una volta! E le onde sotto
di me come un
destriero che conosce il suo cavaliere. Sia benvenuto il loro
tumulto! Veloce sia la loro guida,
ovunque essa conduca! Anche se l'albero maestro ritto dovesse
una canna, e la vela squarciata sventolando coprire la tempesta,
proseguire, perché sono come un'alga strappata dalla roccia, sulla
dell'Oceano, per navigare ovunque l'ondata possa spazzare, o l'alito
Childe Harold’s is going to sail for a new journey, he doesn’t really
know where he is going nor why. All around him the rough ocean
roars and strong winds blow. He says he can’t feel joy nor sadness
leaving his country, England (Albion), as it used to occur to him in
the past (“ ...but the hour’s gone by, when Albion’s lessening
shores could grieve or glad mine eye”.)
He is not worried nor frightened by the ocean: those waves are
familiar to him (“as a steed who knows his rider” – lines 6-7). Even
if the weather were worse than that and there were a storm
(“though the strain’d mast should quiver as a reed, and the rent
canvas fluttering strew the gale”), yet he would go on, he would
leave, because he feels forced by a natural impulse, stronger than
his will (“ for I am as a weed flung from the rock…”).
He was born in London in 1795. His father was killed in an accident.
In 1816 he abandoned his profession for poetry. He became friends
with Shelley and in 1817 he published his first book of poems.
He also met Wordsworth, who exercised an important influence on
In the same year he left London and went to the Lake District,
where he was impressed by the beautiful landscape.
In 1819 he dedicated himself to writing and he produced some of
his finest works, including his five great odes.
He went to Italy and he died in 1820.
He wrote Ode On a Grecian Urn, Ode to Psyche, To Autumn, Ode
On Melancholy and Ode To a Nightingale. These are lyrical
meditations on art and beauty, experience and aspirations,
mortality and dreams.
"Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a poem written in 1819 and published
in 1820. He was inspired to write the poem immediately after
reading articles by Benjamin Haydon discussing art. However,
Keats also knew of other works on classical Greek art and had
firsthand exposure to the Elgin Marbles. All of these experiences
reinforced his belief that classical Greek art was both idealistic and
captured Greek virtues, the basis for the poem.
Divided into five stanzas of ten lines each, the ode contained a
narrator's discourse about a series of designs on a Grecian urn. The
poem focuses on two central scenes: one in which a lover eternally
pursues a beloved without fulfillment, and another of villagers
about to perform a sacrifice. The final lines of the poem declare
that "'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' – that is all / Ye know on
earth, and all ye need to know”:
Ode on a Grecian Urn
by John Keats
Thou still unravished bride of quietness!
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flow’ry tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal -yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoyed,
For ever panting and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” -that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Ode sopra un’urna greca
Tu della quiete ancora inviolata sposa,
alunna del silenzio e del tempo tardivo,
narratrice silvestre che un racconto
fiorito puoi così più che la nostra
rima dolcemente dire,
quale leggenda adorna d’aeree fronde si posa
intorno alla tua forma?
Di deità, di mortali o pur d’entrambi,
in Tempe o nelle valli
d’Arcadia? Quali uomini
son questi o quali dei,
quali ritrose vergini,
qual folle inseguimento, qual paura,
quali zampogne e timpani,
quale selvaggia estasi?
Dolci le udite melodie: più dolci le non udite.
Dunque voi seguite, tenere cornamuse, il vostro canto, non al facile
senso,ma, più cari, silenziosi concenti date all’intimo cuore.
Giovine bello, alla fresca ombra mai può il tuo canto languire, né a
quei rami venir meno la fronda.
Audace amante e vittorioso, mai mai tu potrai baciare, pur
prossimo alla meta, e tuttavia non darti affanno: ella non può
sfiorire e, pur mai pago, quella per sempre tu amerai, bella per
O fortunate piante cui non tocca perder le belle foglie, né, meste,
dire addio alla primavera;
te felice, cantore non mai stanco di sempre ritrovare canti per
ma, più felice Amore!
fervido e sempre da godere, e giovane e anelante sempre, tu che di
tanto eccedi ogni vivente passione umana, che in cuore un solitario
dolore lascia, e sdegno: amara febbre.
Chi son questi venienti al sacrificio?
E, misterioso sacerdote, a quale verde altare conduci questa, che
mugghia ai cieli, mite giovenca di ghirlande adorna i bei fianchi di
Qual piccola città, presso del fiume o in riva al mare costruita, o
sopra il monte, fra le sue placide mura, si è vuotata di questa folla
festante, in questo pio mattino?
Tu, piccola città, quelle tue strade sempre saranno silenziose e mai
non un’anima tornerà che dica perché sei desolata.
O pura attica forma! Leggiadro atteggiamento, cui d’uomini e
fanciulle e rami ed erbe calpestate intorno fregio di marmo chiude,
invano invano il pensier nostro ardendo fino a te si consuma,
pari all’eternità, fredda, silente, imperturbabile effige.
Quando, dal tempo devastata e vinta, questa or viva progenie
anche cadrà, fra diverso dolore, amica all’uomo,
rimarrai tu sola,
“Bellezza è Verità” dicendo ancora:
“Verità è Bellezza”. Questo a voi, sopra la terra, di sapere è dato:
questo, non altro, a voi, sopra la terra,
é bastante sapere.
The "Ode on a Grecian Urn" portrays what Keats sees on the urn
himself, only his view of what is going on. The urn, passed down
through many centuries portrays the image that everything that is
going on on the urn is frozen.
In the first stanza, the speaker, standing before an ancient Grecian
urn uses apostrophe when he speaks to the urn as if it is alive.
The speaker describes the pictures as if they are frozen in time. It
is the "still unravish'd bride of quietness," "foster-child of silence
and slow time." He speaks to the urn and not about the urn, he
treats the urn like it is listening to him like a human. He also
describes the urn as a "historian," which can tell a story. He
wonders about the figures on the side of the urn, and asks what
legend they portray, and where they are from. Keats uses an oxy
moron "unravish'd bride" meaning a virgin bride, a bride who has
not been taken though she is married.
In the second stanza, the speaker looks at another picture on the
urn, this time of a young man playing a pipe, lying with his love
beneath a tree. The speaker says that the piper's "unheard"
melody's are sweeter than to a mortal's ear or melody, because
they are unaffected by time. Though he can never kiss his lover
because he is frozen in time, He should not grieve because her
beauty will never fade.
In the third stanza, he looks at the trees surrounding the lovers,
and feels happy that they will never shed their leaves; he is happy
for the piper because his songs will be "for ever new," and happy
that the love of the boy and the girl will last forever, unlike mortal
love, which slowly turns into "breathing human passion," and
eventually vanishes, leaving behind only a "burning forehead, and a
In the fourth stanza, the speaker examines another picture on the
urn, this one of a group of villagers leading a heifer to be sacrificed.
He wonders where they are going "To what green altar, O
mysterious priest...", and where they have come from. He imagines
their little town, without the villagers, and tells it that its streets will
"for evermore" be silent, for those who left it, frozen on the urn,
will never return.
In the last stanza, the speaker again addresses the urn itself,
saying that it, like Eternity, "doth tease us out of thought." He
thinks that when his generation is long dead, the urn will remain,
telling future generations its puzzleling story or lesson.
The final two lines in the poem "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" "that
is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know" could mean that
Keats didn't really know the real truth and believed that beauty and
truth was the truth to him alone, and it couldn't be argued because
there is no definate truth.
La Belle Dame Sans Merci
There are 2 versions:
Oh what can ail thee, knight-at- Ah, what can ail thee, wretched
Alone and palely loitering? Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the The sedge is wither'd from the
And no birds sing. And no birds sing.
Oh what can ail thee, knight-at- Ah, what can ail thee, wretched
So haggard and so woe-begone? So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full, The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done. And the harvest's done.
I see a lily on thy brow, I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever- With anguish moist and fever
And on thy cheeks a fading rose And on thy cheek a fading rose
Fast withereth too. Fast withereth too.
I met a lady in the meads, I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful - a faery's child, Full beautiful - a faery's child;
Her hair was long, her foot was Her hair was long, her foot was
And her eyes were wild. And her eyes were wild.
I made a garland for her head, I set her on my pacing steed,
And bracelets too, and fragrant And nothing else saw all day long,
zone; For sideways would she lean, and
She looked at me as she did love, sing
And made sweet moan.
A faery's song.
I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long, VI
For sidelong would she bend, and
sing I made a garland for her head,
A faery's song. And bracelets too, and fragrant
VII She look'd at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.
She found me roots of relish
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she She found me roots of relish
said - sweet,
'I love thee true'. And honey wild, and manna dew;
And sure in language strange she
VIII said -
'I love thee true.'
She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed VIII
And there I shut her wild wild She took me to her elfin grot,
eyes And there she gazed, and sighed
With kisses four. deep,
And there I shut her wild wild
So kiss'd to sleep.
And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed - Ah! woe IX
The latest dream I ever dreamt And there we slumber'd on the
On the cold hill side. moss,
And there I dream'd - Ah! woe
The latest dream I ever dream'd
I saw pale kings and princes too, On the cold hill side.
Pale warriors, death-pale were
they all; X
They cried - 'La Belle Dame sans
Merci I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Hath thee in thrall!' Pale warriors, death-pale were
They cried - 'La Belle Dame sans
Hath thee in thrall!'
I saw their starved lips in the
With horrid warning gaped wide, I saw their starved lips in the
And I awoke and found me here, gloam,
On the cold hill's side. With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke, and found me here
On the cold hill side.
And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered And this is why I sojourn here,
from the lake, Alone and palely loitering,
And no birds sing. Though the sedge is wither'd
from the lake,
And no birds sing.
The poem describes the encounter between an unnamed knight and
a mysterious fairy. It opens with a description of the knight in a
barren landscape, "haggard" and "woe-begone". He tells the reader
how he met a beautiful lady whose "eyes were wild"; he set her on
his horse and they went together to her "elfin grot", where they
began to make love. Falling asleep, the knight had a vision of "pale
kings and princes", who warn him that "La Belle Dame sans Merci
hath thee in thrall!" ( The Lady without pity has you in her
charm !). He awoke to find himself on the same "cold hill's side"
where he is now "palely loitering".
Although La Belle Dame Sans Merci is short (only twelve stanzas of
four lines each, with an ABCB rhyme scheme), it is full of enigmas.
Because the knight is associated with images of death — a lily (a
symbol of death in Western culture), paleness, "fading",
"wither[ing]" — he may well be dead himself at the time of the
story. He is clearly doomed to remain on the hillside, but the cause
of this fate is unknown. A straightforward reading suggests that the
Belle Dame entraps him, along the lines of tales like Thomas the
Rhymer or Tam Lin. More recent feminist commentators have
suggested that the knight in fact raped the Belle Dame, and is
being justly punished — this is based on textual hints like "she
wept, and sigh'd full sore". Ultimately, the decision comes down to
whether Keats wrote the poem as a simple story, or as a story with
a moral: given his other work, this may be more an evocation of
feeling than an intellectual attempt at moralising.