The French title translates into "The beautiful woman without mercy," exposing the root of the poem. The beautiful woman is so powerful that warriors cheer "Hath thee in thrall," suggesting every man is her slave and she also possesses the power to "starve their lips in the gloam."
Love lacks mercy in the poem Christabel, as well. Christabel falls under spell, and falls in love with Geraldine, disgracing her father and the family name, while dishonoring her engagement to her knight. This poem is teeming with characters tormented by love, loyalty, and disgrace.
Romantic theme flows throughout both poems, and Keats and Coleridge emphasize how the moods of human beings and nature coincide. The Romantic period also consists of betrothed knights, tortured with illusions of mythical love and fairies.
The similarities of the poems are clear in their poetically romantic suspense. The conflict of making a decision regarding love and consequence are the struggles the protagonist faces in Christabel and La Belle Dame sans Merci.
The verse in the fifth sonnet of La Belle Dame sans Merci, "Full beautiful-a faery's child, her hair was long, her foot was light, and her eyes were wild." Men (knights) carry the illusion of woman as a strong, mythical being, possessing the ability to manipulate through mystery and romance. Nobility being a strong strain in the poem, the knight chivalrously "made a garland for her head," crowning her to be his own.
Romanticism laced with fairies delight is referred in Christabel also. The last sonnet of the poem apprises the mythical fairy saying, "A fairy thing with red round cheeks, that always finds, and never seeks." The romantic illusion of woman glittered and flushed, light as air, is the image the reader assumes when reading the verses of both Keats and Coleridge.
However, while the recurring theme of tortured romance is the same in Christabel and La Belle Dame sans Merci, the endings vary greatly. Neither end happily, but Christabel and Geraldine are able to surpass familial torment and find a way to love forever. Not so for the betrothed character of La Belle Dame sans Merci, who is bequeathed only one night with his dame fairy, only to be left alone and heartbroken.
Keats' verse "And this is why I sojourn here, alone and palely loitering," gives insight to the loneliness of this man and he is left to wonder if he could have dreamed or imagined his romantic experience with the beautiful woman in the night. Keats resolves his romantic conflict with the man losing the woman goddess. The reader can infer that many have been left in the wake of the woman he loves, with "horrid warning gaped wide." He wasn't any different from the warriors the beautiful woman left behind.
Coleridge, however, demonstrates a very real love theme in Christabel: the familial struggle. Christabel's father is terribly disappointed in her for falling in love with Geraldine and dishonoring Sir Leoline. "His heart was cleft with pain and rage," allows the reader feel the suffering that this father feels after such a betrayal. "Dishonored by his only child," speaks volumes as to the emotion of anger and hate that is inflicted upon Christabel after she is caught in the torrid affair. The price of love is dear for her and Geraldine.