GCSE English coursework: comparison of poems. 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 who has died, and Byron was associating the feelings of emptiness and sorrow when losing a loved one, whether to death or to love.
The sadness in La Belle Dame Sans Merci is unexpected, whereas the sadness in When We Two Parted is anticipated right from the start. Both authors express emotions well and both leave an impression with the reader, but Keats expresses more varied types of feelings. When We Two Parted is a very rhythmic poem and this puts emphasis on certain words. It makes it cold and it isn't flowing. It is very sharp and to the point, as this shows the character is very aware of his feelings, and it creates a reader response as bitterness. La Belle Dame Sans Merci is more flowing and isn't as sharp.
This is because it is a story and is meant to be read a ballad. A ballad is usually a romantic, popular story within a poem or song. As a ballad can be a song, Keats has written the poem in a very fluid rhythm. This keeps the reader interested in the poem as it flows like a story.
In La Belle Dame Sans Merci, the last line of each verse is always shorter as it is as if each verse dies away, just as his love does. The rhyme is an important aspect of the rhythm. In When We Two Parted, Byron has written it in alternate rhyme where lines one and three will rhyme, and then two and four. This puts stress on each word and makes the poem sharper to represent his angered sorrow. The rhyme also helps us to remember the line as rhyme does in nursery rhymes and songs. The rhyming words in When We Two Parted are very strong such as "years" and "tears", however the rhyming words in La Belle Dame Sans Merci only half rhyme such as "loitering" and "sing." Keats does this in the first and last verse and I think he has done this so that those verses stand out from the poem.
In When We Two Parted, Byron has used double- syllable words in rhyming such as "broken and spoken", "morning" and "warning." Doing this accentuates these lines so that the poem is stronger. Both poems use rhyme within their structure, however the rhyme is a lot stronger in When We Two Parted as it is such a sharper poem. Both poems use repetition to make certain lines and stanzas prominent. The first lines of each poem are both repeated at the end of each poem.
However they are repeated for different reasons. In When We Two Parted, the repetition is there to make the characters feeling obvious, whereas in La Belle Dame Sans Merci, the first verse is repeated at the end, to show that he is trapped in an unstoppable spell. La Belle Dame Sans Merci also uses alliteration to make lines stand out:" Alone and palely loitering?" This line repeats the letter "l" as it creates a soft sound like a song to make the tranquil mood. La Belle Dame Sans Merci also repeats certain adjectives to get across how strong they are:" And there I shut her wild wild eyes." The repetition of the word "wild" just shows how aware he is of her eyes and how strongly he feels about them. When We Two Parted also repeats certain words to emphasis a point:" Long, long shall I rue thee." Byron's repetition of the word "long" just shows how heart broken the character is.
T shows that he is in such a state of heart brokenness that he is unable to see things ever getting any better. The themes of both poems create a negative impression towards women. In When We Two Parted, the man comes across as the victim to this evil woman. Really, it takes two for a relationship and so the affair was just as much the main character's fault as it was hers; however she still comes across as the criminal. Reading this poem leaves the reader with a disapproving opinion of women, as if men are always the victims, as they were in this poem. La Belle Dame Sans Merci also has a theme of bad women.
Having read the poem, the reader will want to avoid women as I think the goddess in the story is symbolic of women in general. I think from the character's point of view, women enchant men with their beauty and men can't help but fall in love with them. But once there, women cause them heart break. But still, they don't learn, and men still fall in love with these beautiful women.
For this reason, he has made it sound like women hold a spell over men and can pull them in as if it is a magical power. Both poems use material things to set the atmosphere of the poem. In La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Keats has based a lot of the poem around nature, setting the love affair upon "the meads." Keats includes a lot of words associated with nature such as "birds" and "squirrels." 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..