Poem Summary- The Eve Of St Agnes, John Keats

A short poem summary- The Eve Of St Agnes, John Keats.

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Preview of Poem Summary- The Eve Of St Agnes, John Keats

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Poem Summary
The Eve of St Agnes
Spenserian rhyme scheme ­ very regular stanzas, with 9 lines to each stanza with Rhyme
scheme of A, B, C, B, B, D, B, D, D , omniscient narrator- is this Keats and someone he
knew? ­ This is a poem of contrast as `La Belle' portrays women as manipulators and
deceivers and in this poem women are portrayed as naive and weak- why is Keats doing
St Agnes day- an old tale consisted of if a young virgin fell asleep with an empty stomach
on St Agnes eve then they would dream of their future love/husband: `young virgins might
have visions of delight'. Madeline a young girl of high status and wealth, left a family party
early to go to sleep as she was excited to see the man she would marry in her dreams.
`She danced along with vague, regardless eyes'- showing how she wasn't really
interested in the party at all and just wanted to go to sleep to dream of the man she would
fall in love with- innocent and naive.
`Meantime, across the moors, had come young porphyro with heart on fire for Madeline'
Porphyro a young man travelling across fields to meet Madeline on this evening? Why on
this evening? Is he going to use her?
`Butteress'd from moonlight'- why is he hiding in the shadows? What has he got to hide?
Is he a criminal- if he is caught then will he get sent away, he clearly cannot risk this. Is
this also foreshadowing what he will do later (hide in the closet).
Porphyro then hides in Madeline's closet in her room, he brings up food from the banquet
to tempt Madeline, as she hadn't been eating all day in an attempt to achieve the dream
she desired. `Golden dishes... of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand'- alliteration and
sibilance here.
Reference here to religion at the time as well as superstition surrounding society at the
We are unsure if Porphyro really does love Madeline as its believable when he says- "upon
his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured stone"- he is so madly in love with her, he
He plays music to her but we are unsure if he is getting inside her dream or if he is trying
to wake her? Is he being genuine or is he trying to use her?
This is when the reader begins to question if Madeline is awake? `Here eyes were open,
but she still beheld" ­ is she pretending to be asleep as she is scared? Is she under a
spell? Is she fully aware of what's going on around her but deceiving him? - Themes are
already forming here.
`"Ah! Porphyro" she said, "but even now" Thy voice was a sweet tremble in thine ear"-
She's talking to him and he is controlling her now- masculinity, male dominance.
Did he know all along she was asleep? `My Madeline sweet dreamer".
When Porphyro says "Arise- Arise! The morning is at hand"- Rushing her away because
they're love is forbidden or because they are madly in love and want to spend all time
Pathetic Fallacy- "The winds uproar".
Repetition of `Phantoms"- suggesting that this is what they will become. We really believe
that Porphyro did just Madeline when he wants to be with her forever.
Theme of observation runs throughout, this is mirrored in ­ The Kite Runner, The Great
Gatsby, Porphyria's Lover etc.
`Of witch and Demon, and large coffin"- foreshadowing that they will just fade into the
background and die because they have run away.
Left wondering if this is what Madeline really wanted? Or if it was just a young innocent
girls misfortune that a sinister man came and pretended to be in her dream and took her
Themes- Love, power, male dominance, masculinity, deception, religion, magic.


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