The famous poet John Keats wrote “The Eve of St Agnes” in 1819. Keats was born in 1795 in London, but contracted tuberculosis in his early years and died at the young age of twenty-six. Keats was the youngest of the Great Romantics. The Romantics were a group of poets who rebelled against the change in social, moral, political and religious aspects of life in their time. They used the beauty of nature and imagination of the time to help create their poetry. The title of Keats’ poem “The Eve of St Agnes” tells the reader what the poem is about.
St Agnes was a nun, who wanted to protect her virginity and refused to be married. She was beheaded on the first 21st of January. Traditionally if a young girl went to bed, clothes less, without eating and only looking forward and upward on St Agnes Eve she would see the man she was to marry in her dream. This suspicion is what Keats has based his narrative romantic poem on. His poem is the story of a young girl who believes in the Eve of St Agnes suspicion and dreams of her love. However a young Knight comes to see her while she sleeping. The girl wakes up, they fall in love, consummate, and in the morning leave.
Keats has used the Romantic theme of Williams Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in his poem. There is a feud between the young girls family and the Knights family. Just as in Romeo and Juliet. The introduction to Keats’s poem sets the scene. “St Agnes Eve, Ah bitter chill it was! The owl for all his feathers was a cold. ” Keats describes how cold it its outside on the winter night, and uses the animals to emphasise the freezing weather. The owl is supposed to survive the winter yet – it is cold. “The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass.
” Again the use of the hare emphasises the bitter winter outside, so cold, the hare limps. Keats then continues his description of the setting and atmosphere by describing the inside. Where a Beadsman is praying in a small chapel. The emphasis on the bleak night is continued. “Numb were the Beadsman fingers” and ” his frosted breath” show that the inside is almost frozen reinforcing the winter time at which this poem is set. Keats develops the introduction by describing the Beadsman and his actions. “Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees, And back, returneth, meagre, barefoot and wan,”
The Beadsman is poor; he has no shoes, and he is thin, ill and old. “Already has the his death bell rung. ” Throughout Keats’ poem certain words are slightly changed to make the poem sound medieval. “Riseth,” and “Sayeth” give and archaic impression. Keats develops his story by describing the castle and the events taking place inside. He creates a word picture describing the entire guests beautifully dressed, “With plume, tiara, and all rich array. ” This sets the scene of the ball. Furthermore Keats sets a happy scene, “with triumphs gay. ” This shows laughter and people enjoying themselves.