Thursday, April 8, 2010

Adventures in Sinaesthesia: Keatsian Perdition

For our next adventure in sinaesthesia, I bring you something a little less cheerful and a lot more romantic. Here is the first version of Keats' famous poem of enchantment and perdition, La Belle Dame Sans Merci:

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.
Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone? Today\
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 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 looked 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, 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 sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes

With kisses four.
And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed - Ah! woe betide! -
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

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

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side.

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

This is a beautiful poem--erotic and horrific-- and it will be fun to enhance the experience Nancy Ambrose King Plays Oboe Concertos by Mozart, Goossens, Vaughan Williams and Martin?of reading it with some props for your other senses. May I suggest the immortal Grey Flannel as the fragrance for the experience? It is very strange, mossy and bitter, yet ever so delicate with the lovely violet that floats in and out of view. The perfect scent for losing your soul to a vampiric fairy on a bitter day. For music--try Vaughan Williams' ever-so-strange Oboe Concerto. For your tastebuds, suck on the flavigny violet pastilles, which are delicate and hauntingly sweet until you get to the bitter, anisic core. For art, contemplate any one of a number of Pre-Raphaelite renderings of this scene. To drink, Benedictine. And surround your body with velvet or satin, preferably moss-green, lavender-grey, or blood-red. Now try to come out of that reverie.

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