Monday, March 22, 2010

Original vs. Published Version of La Belle Dame...which is stronger?

As I read La Belle Dame, I couldn't help but notice the changes between the manuscript and the actual publication. I think that the word change right at the very beginning is significant and changes the way the reader views the knight. "Knight-at-arms" gives the picture that this man is ready for any situation that may come. "Wretched wight" is not as serious and is more laid back in my opinion. Since it repeats in the second stanza, it helps to create this image for the reader.

I think the order of stanzas five and six is also important in understanding the fairy's power over the knight. First, I think it makes more logical sense for him to make the garland for her, become entranced with her, and then take her away on his horse rather than the published version which changes the order. When Keats talks about her "faery song" in the original version, I think it introduces the magical power she has over him. She feeds and loves him, he kisses her, and then she lulls him to sleep (stanzas 7-9). In stanza 9 of the edited edition, the focus is on both of them...and there we slumber'd on the moss,/And there I dream'd-Ah! woe betide!... in contrast to Keat's version...And there she lulled me to sleep/And there I dreamed- Ah woe betide! I think the magical quality is lessened when the emphasis is changed and the intensity of the dream doesn't capture the reader as strongly.

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