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Comparing the Two Poems: When We Two Parted and La Belle Dame Sans Mer

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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

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