As I was drinking my coffee this morning, I glanced at another literary blog, which among other topics mentioned Keats's poem "La Belle Dame sans Merci." Immediately I was seized with a longing to read it, and you can find it here and read it too, if you are so inclined.
The first thing I noticed were the echoes of Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"--voice, character, mood. I have no idea if this was purposeful or accidental, and it doesn't matter anyhow. But I felt the ripples between the two poems.
The second thing I noticed was the gloomy teenage-boy narrator, palely loitering around the school lockers while the belle dame made another conquest in her elfin grot . . . "oh, she treats me mean, she treats me cruel."
Please don't bustle over to tell me that the poem is much greater and more subtle than my callow response might indicate. I know, I know, and truly I love it and believe it in it in ways that transcend that schoolboy reenactment. On the other hand, our adolescent selves never die. The hurt and glory and self-pity of those days thrum beneath our aging carapaces. We are damaged goods, and Keats makes sure I don't forget the old familiar clumsiness and pain, even as he urges me, and himself, beyond them.
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.