La Belle Dame Sans Merci: Romance and the Dream of “Language Strange”
This concluding chapter examines John Keats's poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci and argues that it is representative of the Romantic poets' recuperation of the melancholic structure of early modern romance as a means to passionately engage with the internal world of the imagination. The poem tackles the beautiful and sometimes fatal consequences of a passionate love for an otherworldly, phantasmic woman, and its Spenserian language implies the intervening influence of early modern romance. It depicts sweet yet sinister pleasures that seem entirely Keatsian, but the faery's seductive “language strange” points to a distilled form of the voice of atra voluptas which is evident from Petrarch to Edmund Spenser. The melancholic pleasures of loss—specifically the loss of love—occupy a central place in La Belle Dame.
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