The Eve of St Agnes

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Keats' ‘The Eve of St Agnes' explores forbidden love, and the belief that has become encompassed in this. With Porphyro being prevented from seeing Madeline due to a previous feud, she must believe that their love will become somehow fulfilled – and this is why she appears to participate in this romantic superstition of St. Agnes. Stanza XXXIV, describing Porphyro as "the vision of her sleep", appears to confirm Keats' belief in the romantic ideal of St. Agnes, yet this is quickly dashed – "There was a painful change, that nigh expell'd/The blisses of her dream so pure and deep". Porphyro can never live up to the heightened expectations developed in the dreams of Madeline, since as the critical extract details, Madeline prefers "her own forever absent dream-representation of [Porphyro's] voice and identity". Porphyro finds it impossible to recreate the "looks immortal" and "complainings dear" of her dream, and this therefore foreshadows the "eternal woe" that she will suffer in a life with the real, not imagined, Porphyro. This change in him causes her to "weep", and this both present and future sorrow is further emphasised by the pathetic fallacy of the outside weather: "Tis dark: the iced gusts still rave and beat". This Romantic theme runs throughout the poem, as her awakening from her dream quickly dashes the initial belief of Madeline in her eternal love.

Closely linked in with this theme of belief is that of religion. Both Porphyro and Madeline appear almost heavenly, and religious imagery runs throughout the poem. Madeline initially appears in an innocent "azure-lidded sleep", and wearing "blanched linen", giving her very definite angelic qualities. Equally, Porphyro's "glowing hand" draws godly connotations, enhanced further by the lightness of the "golden dishes" and "baskets bright" being laid out, drawing parallels with the archetypal light and glowing imagery of heaven. The reader is also reminded of da Vinci's ‘The Last Supper', further...
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