"Wretched Wight" or "Knight at arms" whi

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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"Wretched Wight" or "Knight at arms" whi

Postby bard of passion » Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:48 am

When I first read 'La Belle Dame sans Merci' it was in the excitement of the Beatles' "Michelle" sung by Paul with some lyrics in French. French Olympians were in vogue (what was that guy's name that all the girls went ga-ga over??) and everyone started to sign up for French language courses in middle school.

Into that tumultuous time, 'La Belle Dame' was printed in its later version (the one that was pushed by Leigh Hunt) with its signature "wretched wight."

Whenever I read this (and I do often, since in High School I dramatized it for my final in Theater [and my wife NEVER lets me forget it!) I find myself using BOTH texts, choosing a phrase from one and a line from the other.

Is this typical bipolar behavior of Clan Keats??

Which is your favorite version. And why. Should we reedit it for poor John?
Last edited by bard of passion on Mon Jan 22, 2007 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Saturn » Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:56 am

I had a bit of an argument on this subject a few years ago:

See here:

viewtopic.php?t=275
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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Postby bard of passion » Fri Jan 19, 2007 1:10 am

Interesting exchange with that soi-disant chevalier.

I find myself mixing the two ballads when I get into my early fall Keats mood and start pacing the house reciting this and Ode to Autumn, Ode to a Nightengale, [my namesake poem], The Devon Maid [the wife's favorite].

It's bad enough the synapses miss now and then, but to mix and match "with kisses four" with "So kiss'd to sleep" is unsettling!

I do prefer "wretched wight" since it is evocative of an early ballad's vocabulary to the redundant "knight at arms." What else would be the knight be "at'"?

I also prefer the present tense of 'to be' in the first stanza. I think it sets a better, more immediate tone of place. ["The sedge is withered from the Lake].

Of course, random noun capitalization is always good for discussion and "poet's intent" threads!
Last edited by bard of passion on Fri Jan 19, 2007 2:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby bard of passion » Fri Jan 19, 2007 2:04 am

More on this ballad.

This poem is so unlike Keats and so Keatsian in its subtlety and craftsmanship.

The best poems seem Minerva-like in their birth: dropped upon the masses whole and complete. The ballads and poems of centuries past have the sheen of comfort throughout their words. Well-worn becoming so worn well in our memory and in our preferences.

If this poem were to have been found without attribution, there is nothing in its style that would give one thought that it belongs to the Keatsian canon. It is so effortless and smooth.

Look at this:

And I awoke, and found me here
On the cold hill's side.

Straightforward and poetic. Plain and pregnant with so much possibilities! This language is scion to the branch of English prosody stretching back through the KJV and Bishop's Bible through the anonymous lyrics and the native tradition (They Flee From Me That Sometime Did Me Seek) and forward to the Yeats' "Why So Pale and Wan, Fond Lover?"

His use of language is so studied as to be effortless. It's as if he translated it and updated it from the 15th century. Truly timeless.

To me, whenever I read this poem I immediately recall another that surely was written by the same hand, sung by the same scop:

Western wind, when will thou blow
the small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms
and I in my bed again.

It boggles how much finesse Keats had as a craftsman with words. He seems so much ahead and behind of his times.
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Postby Saturn » Fri Jan 19, 2007 2:19 am

bard of passion wrote: He seems so much ahead and behind of his times.


Absolutely.

To misquote [I think] what Jonson said of Shakespeare:


"He was of our time and for all times"
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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Re: "Wretched Wight" or "Knight at arms" whi

Postby bard of passion » Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:29 am

As to the posting by Imno012:

I couldn't have said it better myself.

-Bard of Passion
"I can see!" cried the blind man, as he picked up the hammer and saw.
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Re: "Wretched Wight" or "Knight at arms" whi

Postby bard of passion » Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:29 am

As to the posting by Imno012:

I couldn't have said it better myself.

-Bard of Passion
"I can see!" cried the blind man, as he picked up the hammer and saw.
bard of passion
 
Posts: 52
Joined: Thu Jan 18, 2007 7:00 am
Location: san luis obispo, ca


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