Select Poems by John Keats

La Belle Dame Sans Merci


AH, what can ail thee, wretched wight,

Alone and palely loitering;

The sedge is wither'd from the lake,

And no birds sing.


Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,

So haggard and so woe-begone?

The squirrel's granary is full,

And the harvest's done.


I see a lilly on thy brow,

With anguish moist and fever dew;

And on thy cheek a fading rose

Fast withereth too.


I met a lady in the meads

Full beautiful, a faery's child;

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

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 faery's song.


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,

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 gaz'd and sighed deep,

And there I shut her wild sad eyes—

So kiss'd to sleep.


And there we slumber'd on the moss,

And there I dream'd, ah woe betide,

The latest dream I ever dream'd

On the cold hill side.


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!"


I saw their starved lips in the gloam

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 from the lake,

And no birds sing.

John Keats, 1820

Transcribed and formatted exactly as printed in the first Modern Library (Random House, Inc.) edition of The Complete Poetical Works of John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley.