LamiaFeedback on part 2 Themes: Imagination Truth and beauty Negative capability Nature Women Anything else?
The Eve of St Agnes• 20th January• St Agnes is the patron saint of young virgins – she vowed that he body be consecrated to Christ and she rejected all her suitors.• According to belief, on this night, young virgins will dream of their future husbands.
Spenserian Stanzas• So called as they were used by Edmund Spenser, writing poetry in the 16th Century.• When a stanza is more than 8 lines long, something grand is being attempted or achieved.• Imagine deciding that not only is every stanza going to have 9 lines, but that each stanza will rhyme: a-b-a-b- b-c-b-c-c.• This is very difficult, it means that the poet need 2 ‘a’ rhymes and 4 ‘b’ rhymes and 3 ‘c’ rhymes.• Why would a poet do this? What does this tightly controlled rhyme scheme offer?
• Not only do all the stanzas have this rhyme, but they also consist of 8 lines of iambic pentameter (ti tum, ti tum, ti tum, ti tum, ti tum – with the stress on the even numbered syllables) and then an alexandrine (a line of 12 syllables).• What are the effects?
Effects of rhyme and rhythm• Keats is using an antique rhyme and rhythm to create an antique- sounding romance – age/time is important in this narrative. St Agnes’ Eve – Ah bitter chill it was! a• Using something so difficult as The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold: grass, The hare linp’d trembling through the frozen b a Spenserian stanzas builds up a And silent was the flock in wooly fold:while he told Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, b b really coherent structure. His rosary, and while his frosted breath, Like pious incense from a censer old, c b• The ‘b’ rhymes hold the stanza Seem’d takingVirgin’sfor heaven, without a death,saith. Past the seet flight picture, while his prayer he c c together interlocking with the ‘a’ and ‘c’ rhymes, while the final couplet of ‘c’ rhyme has been prepared earlier.
How/why is this structure important?• What does it tell us about the setting?• What does it tell us about the use of time and sequence?• What does it tell us about the way the narrative will develop?• Is there any suggestion that things will be amiss in this narrative? Does the structure suggest that the reader will have any questions?
The story It is the eve of St Agnes, and a bitterly cold night. An ancient pensioner returns from his prayers through an empty chapel. He hears the sound of music coming from the castle above but continues on his way to say prayers for the souls of sinners. In the castle, preparations for the celebratory feast held on St Agnes’ Eve are completed and the guests arrive. The narrator turns away from them to focus on Madeline who, oblivious to the guests and the music, is thinking only of the legend of St Agnes. Virgins who observe certain ceremonial rites on this particular eve may see their future husbands in their dreams. Meanwhile, Porphyro approaches the castle; he is in love with Madeline, but their fathers are sworn enemies. He gets in to the castle and and learns from Angela, the aging nurse, that Madeline is performing the rites associated with St Agnes.
The storyAngela reluctantly agrees to help Porphyro conceal himselfin Madeline’s bedchamber and then brings a selection ofdelicacies from the feast. Porphyro watches Madelineprepare for bed and fall asleep and then arranges thedelicacies on a table. He tries but fails to awaken her.Eventually, playing her lute, he arouses her from dreams ofhim to a state between sleeping and waking in which sheconfesses her love; at this point ‘into her dream he melted(line 320). Their relationship is consummated as a stormarises, and Madeline is fully awakened. Initially distressedand fearing he will now forsake her, she eventually consentsto elope with her lover and the two steal out of the castleunder cover of the storm which now rages outside. Thepoem concludes with a reminder from the narrator that thisall happened long ago.
Questions – to answer for homework – each answer should be quite detailed (not essay length) • What is the purpose of the old man saying prayers at the beginning of the poem? • Why do you think Angela agrees to help him hide in Madeline’s room? • Many of the images used in the poem suggest oppositions and set up boundaries: the cold outside is set against the warmth within. What other examples can you find? • What use does Keats make of: – Music? – Colours?