Women of “Christabel and ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci'”
“Christabel,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge was written in 1798. It is about the invasion of a disguised witch, Geraldine into the lives of a lonely baron, Leoline and his daughter, Christabel. Geraldine soon captures the heart of Leoline, and alienates his daughter. “La Belle Dame Sans Merci, a ballad by John Keats is written some years later in 1820. In a similar concept to “Christabel.” A supernatural woman, or a siren if you will, captures the heart of a knight, only to leave him her slave for eternity. Although they take on unique plots, the poem and the ballad draw many parallels. “Christabel” and “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” are two similar romantic works thematically taking on the intrigue of women and the power of seduction.
First, romanticism is characterized by several details that are evident in both stories. It usually requires simple language and pertains to a medieval subject matter having to do with fantasy or the supernatural. There is always an emphasis on beauty, emotion, sensuality and nature. Both works embody most, if not all, of these traits. The romanticism of these poems grants the exploration of women as a force that is mysterious, beautiful and captivating.
“Christabel” begins with the Baron’s daughter, Christabel, roaming the woods late at night waiting for her betrothed lover. In her wanderings, she is startled by the angelic presence of a woman, Geraldine, who claims to be kidnapped. Christabel takes her back to the castle and offers her warmth and hospitality. Coleridge uses foreshadowing, dropping not-so-subtle hints that Geraldine is a witch, such as when Christabel carries her over the blessed threshold or when the ashes flame or the dog barks. These occurrences go unnoticed by Christabel. Geraldine and Christabel then go to bed together in one another’s arms. Geraldine is soon introduced to Sir Leoline who is immediately enthralled by her. Christabel becomes suspicious and requests that the guest leave but her father berates her lack of hospitality. Christabel cannot explain her fears because the witch has “stole her tongue.”
Christabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a poem that precious itself of being ambiguous. This is because, apparently, its author had conceived it as a larger poem and said to have the complete plot in mind. However at some point he gave up his idea of writing it complete and published the first two parts. The highlights of these two parts is what I pretend to comment on inthe following text. The ...
Two forms of seduction are seen in this poem. One is Geraldine seducing Christabel in an attempt to capture her soul. Immediately, Christabel is fascinated by Geraldine’s beauty and mystery. It is Geraldine who suggests that Christabel “unrobe” herself and they lay naked together. This creates a sense of closeness and sensuality. Christabel lays awake at night staring longingly at Geraldine. One may infer this as either sexual or out of pure awe and admiration. Regardless, Geraldine has succeeded in captivating Christabel.
Geraldine then seduces Sir Leoline, but without much effort. Geraldine tells Leoline that she is the daughter of Lord Roland De Vaux, a once close friend of Leoline’s who is now a bitter enemy, establishing a common ground from the beginning. The beauty of Geraldine, who embraces and kisses him, also captivates Leoline. He then challenges Geraldine’s kidnappers to defend their honor. When Christabel tries to explain her fears to her father, he lashes out at her and will not hear of it.
“La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” is a slightly simpler story. It begins with a dying knight who met a beautiful wild-looking woman in the forest. The knight falls in love with her and decks her with flowers. She does not speak the same language as him, but looks at him with utmost desire. The knight is convinced the woman loves him and he kisses her to sleep. He falls asleep also and dreams of kings, princes and warriors all pale as death. In his dream, they claim to be the woman’s slaves. The knight awakens cold and lonely, only to realize that he is now her slave too.
Woman to Man by Judith Wright At first glance, the title seemed to have more than one connotation.' Woman to Man;' is the woman giving something to the man, maybe a gift?' Woman to Man.' Maybe the title is trying to compare the two genders? I was slightly confused when I read this poem at first, but it became apparent from the rich metaphors, that it was about the sexual relation between the woman ...
The seduction in this poem is obvious. The woman seems to be a siren or perhaps a goddess and uses her charm and beauty to win the heart of a man. All she has to do is simply look at him and moan and he is eternally hers as she moves on to the next victim.
“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” means the beautiful woman without mercy. Clearly, both of these women fit that description. Both women seem fantastical in their beauty. Their angel-like features is what made them so attractive and the seduction part was easy. For example, Geraldine with the gems in her hair, the woman with her wild eyes. Men were thus rendered helpless. Furthermore both women are met in the context of nature, suggesting that they are products of beauty that is nature.
Geraldine and the nameless woman both use their incredible beauty in order to deceive humans, namely men. Specifically, both prey on vulnerable men. In “Christabel,” Leoline is lonely and still not over his wife’s death. The knight, probably a young man in search of love, was eager to meet this beauty and hastily displayed his love for her. Whether evil is an appropriate word is debatable. It seems difficult to use such a strong word to portray such supposed beauty. Geraldine holds more impure qualities than the other woman, although to call her a witch should be substantial enough. It is unclear what Geraldine wants exactly but it is clear that she will get it. The mysterious woman does not seem to have a concrete goal in mind. To seduce men seems to be her main purpose on Earth.
These poems were written in the 19th century. What is interesting about them is their portrayal of women. In 19th century works, the women usually plays a role that may not be insignificant but indicative of their place in society at that time. Women writers are just beginning to emerge but even most of their tales do not give women a sense of power, like these poems do.
The authors of these poems put women in a position of control. Geraldine wins the heart of Christabel immediately and then of her father immediately. The women does not even have to speak to win the heart of a man. These are not stories of true love, these are stories of deceit and for once the woman is the deceiver. It is true that the women are not human, but their mysticism is symbolic of the mystery that is a woman. They give women a sense of wonder and intrigue. In addition, both stories end in question as to further symbolize the mystery of women and leave the reader in uncertainty.
It all started when God made woman second: The Woman Question The woman question was not born when Eve ate the apple; no, it all began when Eve was created second. God can t be at fault for the woman question; after all, men wrote the bible. A man wrote a story about creation: Man is born first and is given life by the Almighty. Woman is born second and is given life by the Almighty and from the ...
Both of these poems are part of an age old theme: Seduction. The power of seduction is very great and shows the weakness of men. Seduction is mainly a form of sensuality. To be seductive, one must be sensual. In both poems, neither women had to say much. Their looks were enough (which makes an interesting comment on how beauty effects image).
Both men were almost brainwashed by these women. Was it a spell? Possibly, but the women left profound impression.
Geraldine and the siren play very small roles in the broad span of literature. However, both are central to views of women. Both women exert power and control, uncommon for a work of that time. This shows that even when women are assigned these subservient roles in society, men know that women are magnificent creatures and should not be taken lightly. These poems take on a theme that displays two of many women powers of women; the power of beauty and seduction that lead to profound influence and control.