Here are two lines which are metaphors for the time of year the poem is set in which is during winter time. Typical of the time it was written in, this poem is packed with metaphors. When describing the child of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” which in itself is imagery for nature, Keats use of metaphors bring a mystical feel upon the lady, as her “eyes were wild”. In the next stanza, he describes how the knight makes garlands for her, which were to smell wonderful, “and fragrant zone”. The next use of metaphors is when he is dreaming, and finds out the
“La Belle Dame sans Merci, Hath thee in thrall”. He realises he is now dying, as he “awoke on the cold hill’s side. ” Therefore, this poem could be a metaphor for Keats’ own disease, which sadly killed him. This may be the reason for the negative use of nature in the poem compared to that in “Isabella” written earlier (when he was not so badly affected by tuberculosis) and nature plays a ‘good’ role in love. In the final stanza, the symbolism is clear. “… the sedge is withered from the lake/And no birds sing”
This illustrates the knight’s intense sadness. The whole experience can be summed up in that nature meets something that looks like its complement, but is rather its destruction. “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” comprises of twelve stanzas that are composed of quatrain with each last line being shortened: ” And no birds sing. ” Line 4 This idea of shortened last lines emphasise feelings of emptiness. There is not a commonly used rhyming scheme in poems generally like the one present in “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”
“Isabella” was written and finished a little earlier, on the 27th of April 1818. ‘Isabella’ is a story from Boccaccio whereas “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is a ballad. In the poem, Isabella is portrayed as a heroine with a gentle, innocent and passionate twist to her character. Isabella is eager to experience love with Lorenzo. Readers are forced to share not simply in the initial delight of the lovers, but in the responsibility of the discovery of their secret by Isabella’s brothers, because the narrator reveals their secret meeting place to them.
Both Lorenzo and Isabella suffer pitifully before achieving their short accomplishment, and the misfortune of Isabella’s grief, from the moment of Lorenzo’s murder, mounts until eventually she succumbs to her sorrows and dies. In this poem, Keats explores the nature of love and its tragic outcome. Keats also refers to the harmony of the melancholy “O Melancholy, linger here awhile! O Music, Music, breathe despondingly! ” lines 433 – 434 Alongside that, Keats calls onto the Music and Echo to breathe “syllables of woe” which are appropriate to the muse of the heartbreak, Melpomene.
Throughout the poem, Keats avoids using boring descriptions of intrigue and seduction. And the place that Lorenzo and Isabella achieve their love is subtly described as “a bower of hyacinth and musk. ” line 85 Here the images used of nature are not just a symbolism of love but of propagation. In “Isabella” nature in one way is used as a metaphor for the beauty of the love between the two lovers’ (Lorenzo and Isabella): “Twin roses by the zephyr blown apart Only to meet once again more close, and share. ” Lines 73 – 74
This is in contrast to “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” because in that poem images of nature are closely related to ideas of pain and destruction when in “Isabella” nature is very much part of the beautiful love theme throughout “Isabella. ” However, in “La Belle Dame San Merci” there are occasions when positive imagery relates to that in “Isabella” and that is the part when the knight and enchantress first meet which there is a romantic connection. Continuing with the plot, Lorenzo’s love for Isabella increases when he is a spirit because when he sees her pale complexion he finds her even more beautiful.
She revives in strength when she tends his severed head at home, and the head with herbs washed into it by her tears, perfumes the basil and makes it grow. The use of vivid imagery leaves the reader quite amazed at the depth Keats has gone into to describe Isabella’s love and pain over Lorenzo. Keats’s description of Lorenzo’s words as a ‘strange sound’ accompanied by a ‘ghostly under-song’, ensures the voice synecdoche displaces the description of his physical state “And through it moan’d a ghostly under-song. “