Thursday 12:20 Cam du Plessis
These two stanzas are an introduction therefore they can be considered as a preparation for the reader, they prepare the reader for what is to come. This preparation is done through the effects of tone, atmosphere, setting and through the use of an elaborate stanza scheme. The first aspect, tone, is defined as a modulation of the voice expressing a particular feeling or mood (Oxford Dictionary). Even though this is written work, one can imagine what the tone is if it was being spoken. The constant repetition of the cold weather hints that the cold is an important symbol. Winter is associated with barrenness; it destroys leaves and everything that is not strong enough to survive. Winter is not associated with happiness anything good; most bad stories start with “It was a cold night...”.Hence, the tone of this poem is ominous and the effect is that it warns the reader that what is to come is not ‘all sunshine and happiness’. Atmosphere is connected to the tone as Abrahams describes it as; “is the emotional tone pervading a section or the whole of a literary work, which fosters in the reader's expectations as to the course of events, whether happy, terrifying or disastrous” (Abrams 14). According to this definition, the effect of the atmosphere is that because the reader has, is some sense, been warned of what is to come by the tone of the poem, the reader now expects ominous occurrences through the rest of the reading. Therefore an atmosphere of tension has been created and the reader’s curiosity is heightenedWhen Keats creates a setting, he creates the setting of a Renaissance period through religious imagery; “Virgin’s picture” (Keats). Abrams defines settings as; “The overall setting of a narrative or dramatic work is the general locale, historical time a social circumstances in which its action occurs”. All the religion connotations may seem like him only criticising religion at first but he is in introducing the reader to the setting. The effect of this is that the reader receives the image of a setting with an antique feel to it. This poem is based on a superstition that on the Eve of St. Agnes, if one goes through specific rituals they will dream of who they will marry. However, because he uses religion in a poem based on a superstition, it could mean Keats is suggesting that religion is nothing but superstition. The elaborate stanza form is the typical Spenserian stanza, nine lines, eight of which are iambic pentameter and the last time being an iambic hexameter with the rhyme scheme ababbbcc. The rhyme scheme does not form a notable rhythm; however it does give the effect of being uniform and tight. The effect of the tight structure without rhythm is that it warns the reader that upcoming readings are not going to be joyful. Rhythm is associated with joyful contents, for example; children’s poems have rhyme that gives the poem rhythm and there are hardly any ominous children’s poems out there. In conclusion, the effect of the two introductory stanzas is to prepare the reader for what is to me, they hint at what the reader should expect.
Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Boston: Earl McPeek, 2005 Department of English, Rhodes University. Handout on The Eve of St. Agnes. 2014 Oxford University Press. Oxford dictionary of English . Ed. Stevenson, Angus.