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The LiederNet Archive

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O what can ail thee, knight‑at‑arms

Language: English

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
   [Alone]1 and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither'd from the lake,
   And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms!
   So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
   And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow
   With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy [cheeks]2 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 made a garland for her head,
   And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look'd at me as she did love,
   And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
   And nothing else saw all day long,
For [sidelong would she bend]3, and sing
   A faery's song.

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 wept, and sigh'd full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
   With kisses four.

[And there]4 she lull'd me asleep,
   [And there]4 I dream'd -- [Ah!]5 woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream'd
   On the cold [hill's side]6.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
   Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
[They]7 cried -- "La Belle Dame sans Merci
   Hath thee in thrall!"

[I saw their starved lips in the gloom,
   With horrid warning gaping wide,]8
And I awoke and found me here,
   On the cold [hill's side]6.

And this is why I sojourn here,
   Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
   And no birds sing.

Translation(s): CZE FRE GER ITA

List of language codes

W. Mayer sets stanzas 1, 4, 3, 5, 7, 9-12 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)

Note: in the published form of this poem, each stanza has a Roman numeral. We have removed them.

First published in Indicator, May 1820

1 Stanford: "So lone"
2 Hindemith: "cheek"
3 Hindemith: "sideways would she lean"
4 W. Mayer: "There"
5 omitted by W. Mayer
6 W. Mayer: "hillside"
7 Hindemith, W. Mayer: "Who"
8 omitted by W. Mayer; Hindemith:
I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
   With horrid warning gapèd wide,

Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator] and Ted Perry and Garrett Medlock [Guest Editor]


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Settings in other languages, adaptations, or excerpts:

Other available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • CZE Czech (Čeština) (Jaroslav Vrchlický) , "La belle dame sans merci"
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , "La belle dame sans merci", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "La belle dame sans merci", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Text added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.

Last modified: 2019-05-23 08:29:29

Line count: 48
Word count: 284

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     - Emily Ezust

La belle dame sans merci

Language: Czech (Čeština) after the English

Co je ti, bledý rytíři,
tak zmaten, váháš, v tváři žel,
již svadlo sítí u jezer,
pták oněměl.

Co je ti, bledý rytíři,
tak zhublý jsi a zdrán,
veverky sýpka plna jest,
však pustý lán.

Na čele tvém zřím liliji
jest vlhká děsem, zimnicí
však svadne bledá růže též
tvé na líci.

Já potkal ženu na nivě,
tak luznou jako dítě vil,
zrak divý, nožka křídlo jen,
vlas dlouhý byl.

Já květy ozdobil jí skráň
i páže, tělo, — božský sen! —
jak v lásce na mne pohledla
a vzdychla jen.

Já zved ji svého na oře,
jen viděl ji, až západ byl,
u cesty stanouc, zpívala
tu píseň vil.

Hledala pro mne kořínky
a med a sladkou mannu tam
a divně zněl ten její vzdech,
ó jak tě ráda mám!

Mne zatáhla pak v elfů sluj
a plakala a vzdychla pak
až divými jsem polibky
jí zavřel zrak.

A pak mne skolébala v sen
a já jsem snil — ó jaký sen! —
ten poslední, jemuž jsem vpad
na svahu hory v plen.

Já bledé krále, panice zřel
a bledých bojovníků řad,
ti křičeli „damou sans mercy“
jsi pro vždy jat!

Já v šeru viděl její rty
se otevřely v děsný sten
já zbudil se na svahu tom
sám opuštěn.

A proto bledý bloudím zde
a váhám, v tváři žel,
kde svadlo sítí u jezer,
pták nezapěl.

Note: in the published form of this poem, each stanza has a Roman numeral. We have removed them.

Submitted by Andrew Schneider [Guest Editor]


Based on
  • a text in English by John Keats (1795 - 1821), as Caviare, "La belle dame sans merci", appears in Life, Letters, and Literary Remains, of John Keats, first published 1820 GER ITA
      • This text was set to music by the following composer(s): Harold Bronson, Geoffrey Bush, Frederick Shepherd Converse, George Dyson, Cecil Armstrong Gibbs, John Danforth Herman Greenwood, Patrick Arthur Sheldon Hadley, Paul Hindemith, Oliver Ive, Mabel Jennings, Mark Leviton, William Mayer, Jean Neymarck, Norman Houston O'Neill, Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, Sir, Bryony Phillips, Wallingford Riegger, Reginald Chauncey Robbins, Edmund Duncan Rubbra, Cyril Meir Scott, Masters van Someren-Godfery, Charles Villiers Stanford, Sir, Lily Strickland, Louise Juliette Talma, M. Ryan Taylor, Irene Varley, Alvin S. Wiggers. Go to the text.

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

    [ None yet in the database ]

Text added to the website: 2019-05-12 00:00:00.

Last modified: 2019-05-23 08:29:12

Line count: 48
Word count: 228