LOVE, VISION, AND DESTINY
I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful, a fairy's child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.
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!"
KEATS, "La Belle Dame sans Merci:
A Ballad," 13–16, 37–40
In Keats' "La Belle Dame sans Merci," a lonely knight-at-arms encounters a dryadlike girl whose eyes capture his gaze. Although he symbolically endeavors to overcome her waywardness by closing her "wild" eyes with kisses, the knight senses that the relationship cannot endure. In his dreams, the knight can see the "death-pale" succession of lovers from the girl's past. By the end of the poem, the knight has become a voyant-visible, able to see another's past and present while anticipating the dangerous future that awaits him should he remain where "the sedge is wither'd from the lake / and no birds sing" (3–4, 47–48).
Virgil uses similar visual imagery in the Aeneid to illustrate the creation and destruction of Dido and Aeneas' relationship. Virgil interweaves visual description with amatory allusions, contrasting vision and love of Aeneas' future country with the lovers' glances and the present reality of their love
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Publication information: Book title: The Primacy of Vision in Virgil's Aeneid. Contributors: Riggs Alden Smith - Author. Publisher: University of Texas Press. Place of publication: Austin, TX. Publication year: 2005. Page number: 97.
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