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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’

By John Keats (1795–1821)

(See full text.)

ST. AGNES’S EVE—Ah, bitter chill it was!

The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;

The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass,

And silent was the flock in woolly fold;

Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told

His rosary, and while his frosted breath,

Like pious incense from a censer old,

Seemed taking flight for heaven, without a death,

Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man;

Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees,

And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan,

Along the chapel isle by slow degrees,

The sculptured dead, on each side, seem to freeze,

Emprisoned in black, purgatorial rails:

Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat’ries,

He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails

To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails….

A casement high and triple-arched there was,

All garlanded with carven imageries

Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass,

And diamonded with panes of quaint device,

Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes,

As are the tiger-moth’s deep-damasked wings;

And in the midst, ’mong thousand heraldries,

And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings,

A shielded scutcheon blushed with blood of queens and kings.

Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,

And threw warm gules on Madeline’s fair breast,

As down she knelt for heaven’s grace and boon;

Rose-bloom fell on her hands together prest,

And on her silver cross soft amethyst,

And on her hair a glory, like a saint:

She seemed a splendid angel, newly drest,

Save wings, for heaven;—Porphyro grew faint:

She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint….

Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,

In sort of wakeful swoon, perplexed she lay,

Until the poppied warmth of sleep oppressed

Her soothèd limbs, and soul fatigued away:

Flown, like a thought, until the morrow-day;

Blissfully havened both from joy and pain;

Clasped like a missal where swart Paynims pray;

Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain,

As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again….

And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,

In blanchèd linen, smooth and lavendered,

While he from forth the closet brought a heap

Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;

With jellies soother than the creamy curd,

And lucent syrups, tinct with cinnamon;

Manna and dates, in argosy transferred

From Fez; and spicèd dainties, every one,

From silken Samarcand to cedared Lebanon….

She hurried at his words, beset with fear,

For there were sleeping dragons all around,

At glaring watch, perhaps, with ready spear;

Down the wide stairs a darkling way they found.—

In all the house was heard no human sound.

A chain-drooped lamp was flickering by each door;

The arras, rich with horseman, hawk, and hound,

Fluttered in the besieging wind’s uproar;

And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor.

They glide like phantoms into the wide hall;

Like phantoms to the iron porch they glide,

Where lay the Porter, in uneasy sprawl,

With a huge empty flagon by his side;

The wakeful bloodhound rose and shook his hide,

But his sagacious eye an inmate owns;

By one and one the bolts full easy slide;

The chains lie silent on the footworn stones;

The key turns, and the door upon its hinges groans.