Poe’s “Annabel Lee" and Keats’s "La Belle Dame sans Merci" depict the destructive effects that women exercise upon men. In both poems, women, by death and deception, harm their adoring lovers. In "Annabel Lee," Annabel dies and leaves the speaker in isolation; in "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," the fairy, "La Belle Dame," captures the speaker’s heart, and then deserts him. The common theme of both poems, that love generates harmful effects, is a reflection of both poets’ upsetting and harmful childhood experiences.
Poetry, Keats purports, "comes from the ferment of an unhappy childhood working through a noble imagination" (Keats 16). The "lesson of [Keat’s] boyhood" was that "the intensity of the beauty, the joy, the pleasure, and the bitterness of their loss" is "necessary for a poem" (Keats 17). The deaths of [Poe’s] parents, foster mother, and wife develop a similar intensity in the form of a "lingering pity and sorrow for the dead" (Whitman 61). The implied malevolence in "Annabel Lee" and "La Belle Dame sans Merci" echoes these poets’ pasts; the poems’ speakers are unable to live sanely or comfortably after experiencing and then losing the objects of their exquisite affection. Furthermore, the speaker’s names are concealed, stressing the importance of the women over the speakers.
While both poets believe that love creates destructive situations, they differ about most damaging kind of love. Poe believed that an innocent and sexless love hurt the greatest: his speaker went insane from "love that was more than love," while he and his lover were "child[ren]." Poe’s "aesthetic religion" was a "worship of the beautiful…in all noble thoughts, in all ho...
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...a Belle Dame sans Merci" through their "fascination with the doomed nature of love" (De Reyes 107).
Allen, Hervey. Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Holt, 1934
De Reyes, Mary. "John Keats." Poetry Reviews. 3 vols. 1913
Keats, John. "La Belle Dame sans Merci." The Poetical Works of John Keats. London: Macmillan, 1884.
Moise, Edwin. "Keats's ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’." The Explicator. Washington DC: Heldref, 1992
Poe, Edgar. "Annabel Lee." 15 Aug. 1997. Stefan Gmoser Online. Online. America Online. 12 Jan. 1998
Saintsbury, George. "Edgar Allan Poe." Prefaces and Essays. Virginia: Macmillan, 1933
Whitman, Sarah. Edgar Poe and His Critics. New York: Haskell House, 1972
Wilbur, Richard. "Poe and the Art of Suggestion." Critical Essays on Edgar Allan Poe. New York: G. K. Hall, 1987
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