Blind to the beauties of the surrounding meadows and wooded hillsides,
a young knight in polished armour dramatically throws back his arms and
appears to surrender himself to the lady bending down from the majestic
horse – as if to kiss him. The encounter takes inspiration from Keats'
poem of 1819:
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 set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long;
For side long would she bend, and sing
A faery's song.
Frank Dicksee did not depict the dark outcome of the story, which leaves
the knight devastated, but focuses the composition on the seductive power
of the femme fatale. A fascination with chivalry had existed throughout
the Victorian era, but this painting reflects a rising anxiety over gender
roles at the turn of the 20th century.