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The Eve Of St. Agnes
by Keates When Robert Graves said, "There is one story and one story only that will prove worth your telling," he was talking about romance. A great work of romance offers an environment that is amenable to the mysterious and the miraculous. Keats uses images of mystery, adventure, and of the unknown to enhance the romantic feel of his poem The Eve of St. Agnes. In the second line of the poem, Keats uses the image of the owl to set a tone of the mysterious and unknown. We all have associations of the owl with wisdom or mysticism. The owl is a nocturnal bird of prey that has held mankind's curiosity for thousands of years. We are two lines into the poem and we already feel that there is something supernatural and romantic about the setting. The use of the words "frozen grass, numb fingers," and "frosted breath," place us deeper into the unknown romantic world. We get the impression that we should be home; huddled around a fire. Only a hero or a villain would be out on a night like this. Since we feel this way, the story is starting in a quiet, but a foreboding way. This improved the romantic feel of the poem. The image of the beadsman praying for the virgin is a strange, romantic idea to us as well. The thought of someone being paid to pray for someone long dead is foreign to us. Since this is something that does not happen very much anymore, we are pulled into the past; a romantic past, with which we associate castles, dragons, knights, and magic. The adventurous and therefore the romantic feel of the poem is amplified. The word virgin itself brings up feelings of curiosity and romance. Virgins have been sacrificed, guarded by dragons, and kept in tall towers in romance stories. A feel for the type of poem is beginning to be formed in our minds. The romantic feel of the poem is reinforced because now we are expecting a wondrous tale of adventure and heroism. In the chapel, the beadsman feels that "the sculptured dead seem to freeze." He senses that the statues that line the sides of the chapel are somehow alive, but frozen. Although at first I passed over this line, it left an impression of darkness and unknown details. This magnified the mysticism and the romance of the poem. As we approach midnight, Keats improves the romantic feel of the poem by using the phrase, "the hallowed hour was near at hand." This piques our interest. Something is going to happen at that "hallowed hour," but exactly what, we don't know. The fact that the hour we are waiting for is midnight also adds to the occult sentiments we are already feeling. Midnight is the witching hour; the hour when our coach turns back into a pumpkin. Something magical is going to happen. The romantic feel of the poem is intensified. The author also uses the phrase "He cursed thee and thine, both house and land." This leaves the impression that a mystical spell has been cast. Visions of witches and evil surface, and we begin to think that our hero may be in for a bit more than he bargained for. The supernatural forces him to handle. The adventurous feel of romance is heightened. The romantic feel is emphasized further when the hero is trying to find Madeline; his love. He asks Angela to tell him "by the holy loom which none but secret sisterhood may see," where she is. He is referring to the custom of leaving lambs wool on the alter for nuns to weave into garments for themselves. We feel there is some kind of secret organization that has existed for untold ages. This adds to the romantic feel of the poem. In the fourteenth stanza the romantic feel is developed further by the use of the words "Thou must hold water in a witches sieve, and be liege-lord of all the Elves and Fays." This entire line is full of wonder and mystery. We should also note that the words "Elves and Fays" are capitalized. This is Keats' way of putting even more emphasis on the mystical idea of elves and fairies. This arouses our feelings of adventure; which is part of romance. The fact that the old crone kept a closed wondrous book of riddles also fortifies the romantic feel of the poem. Firstly, riddles are questions or statements testing ingenuity. This itself is curious enough, but the fact that the book is closed places this statement off the scale. We cannot know the riddles now or ever because the book is closed. The romantic feel of the poem has been augmented. The romantic feel of the poem ," The Eve of Saint Agnes", is enhanced by the use of images of mystery and the unknown. These types of images cause us to think about far away lands, dragons, witches and other magical wonders. Since one of our aims when we read romance is to escape, these images are very effective.

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