There are many similarities and differences between the two poems: “When We Two Parted”, written by Lord Bryon, and “La Belle Dames Sans Merci”, written by John Keats. I shall be exploring these poems and seeing connections and differences between them, so that I am able to compare them.
The storyline of both poems is based around love, and so they are similar in that respect, however I think the poems bring out different types of emotions. When We Two Parted is melancholy throughout, and is a lament for a lost love. This is different to La Belle Dame Sans Merci, as it is more enchanting and more to do with desire than love. It becomes exotic and bewitching, with the mood of the poem continuously changing. John Keats starts his poem, hoping that the reader will feel sympathetic for the character, and curious to what is wrong with this knight. However, it lifts to a fairytale mood, where the character is filled with lust towards this mysterious woman. It becomes exciting, and Keats creates the exotic mood with words such as “wild” which are contrary to the harmonious appearance that this woman has. He makes this fairy-like charming impression by describing her as “light” and “sweet”. It then moves to a threatening, victimized ambiance where by the woman has enchanted him into a spell, and he is trapped. Here Keats uses words such as “pale”, “death”, “cold” and “horrid” to show how the knight has become the victim of this unpleasant experience. It then ends with the silent mood it started off with, as if the knight is going in an unending circle. This clever ending was designed to surprise the reader, and leave them with a sense of mystery. In When We Two Parted, the reader does not share the experience with the character as they do in La Belle Dame Sans Merci, and so doesn’t go through the emotions that the reader is feeling. Lord Byron wrote the poem as if looking back on the experience and the entire poem has been written so that the reader understands the characters feelings, and is sympathetic towards him. Lord Byron creates this sorrowful atmosphere using words cold words such as “chill” and descriptions such as “pale grew thy cheek”. As is there is no warmth or affection left in the relationship. Byron uses “a knell” to emphasize the pain in this man’s heart. A knell is a bell that is rang for someone wh...
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...uirrels”. I think this concentration on nature is ironic as there is something somewhat unnatural about the relationship with this mysterious woman. Perhaps there really is no such woman and the character finds his happiness within the natural surroundings, where his imagination comes into play. In When We Two Parted, Byron uses cold objects such as dew on grass, which comes on a frosty morning, just as the characters feelings are frosty. He also uses funeral bells too as a method of getting across his feeling of emptiness. Using these material things helps the reader associate it to life and helps create the mood in the poem.
Overall I think that the poems cannot help but be similar in some areas as they are both based around the concept of loving and loosing. However I think that they are very different to one another due to the way the author’s have written them. I personally prefer La Belle Dame Sans Merci as I think it is a more interesting poem and leaves the reader with a better impression. Once reading Keats’s poem I felt curious towards the character’s reasons for his actions, and stirred by the ending. I felt it raised more interesting questions than When We Two Parted.
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