“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” (John Keats)

I have started a new project setting works of the Romantic Poets to music. Here is my first attempt “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” by John Keats. I visited his grave in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. It was a strange and spiritual experience! I recorded this at home using Cubase 9.5 and various instruments and plug-ins!

 

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
    Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
    And no birds sing.
 
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
    So haggard and so woe-begone?
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 lullèd 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
       Thee hath in thrall!’
 
I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
    With horrid warning gapèd 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.

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