by John Keats (1795 - 1821), as Caviare

O what can ail thee, knight‑at‑arms
Language: English 
Available translation(s): GER ITA
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.

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

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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,


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:

  • Also set in French (Français), a translation by Jean Neymarck (1889 - 1913) ; composed by Jean Neymarck.

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
  • HUN Hungarian (Magyar) (Mihály Babits) , "La belle dame sans merci"
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "La belle dame sans merci", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Ted Perry , Garrett Medlock [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 48
Word count: 284