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Awakening up, he took her hollow lute,-
sbone : Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth sculptured stone.
Her eyes were open, but she still beheld,
Who knelt, with joined hands and piteous eye,
“Ah Porphyro !” said she, “but even now
Oh ! leave me not in this eternal woe,
Beyond a mortal man impassion'd far 13
Seen 'mid the sapphire heaven's deep repose ;
Like love's alarum, pattering the sharp sleet
'T is dark ; quick pattereth the flaw-blown sleet :
Though thou forsakest a deceived thing ;-
"My Madeline! sweet dreamer! lovely bride!
Saving of thy sweet self; if thou think'st well
“ Hark! 't is an elfin storm from faery land,
Drown'd all in Rhenish and the sleepy mead:
Awake! arise ! my love, and fearless be ; For o'er the southern moors I have a home for thee."
She burried at his words, beset with fears,
Flutter'd in the besieging winds' uproar;
They glide like phantoms into the wide hall;
The chaius lie silent on the foot-worn stones; The key turns, and the door upon its hinges groans.
And they are gone; ay, ages long ago,
The beadsman, after thousand aves told,
“The Eve of St. Agnes.”—St. Agnes was a Roman virgin, who suffered martyrdom in the reign of Dioclesian. Her parents, a few days after her decease, are said to have had a vision of her, surrounded by angels and attended by a white lamb, which afterwards became sacred to her. In the Catholic Church, formerly, the nuns used to bring a couple of lambs to her altar during mass. The superstition is (for I believe it is still to be found), that, by taking certain measures of divination, damsels may get a sight of their future husbands in a dream. The ordinary process seems to have been by fasting. Aubrey (as quoted in “ Brand's Popular Antiquities”) mentions another, which is, to take a row of pins, and pull them out one by one, saying a Paternoster; after which, upon going to bed, the dream is sure to ensue. Brand quotes Ben Jonson :
And on sweet St. Agnes' night,
Which an empty dream discovers. 2 " The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold." - Could he have selected an image more warm and comfortable in itself, and, therefore, better contradicted by the season ? We feel the plump, feathery bird, in his nook, shivering in spite of his natural household warmth, and staring out at the strange weather. The hare cringing through the chill grass is very piteous, and the “ silent flock” very patient;
and how quiet and gentle, as well as wintry, are all these circumstances, and fit to open a quiet and gentle poem! The breath of the pilgrim, likened to “pious incense,” completes them, and is a simile in admirable“ keeping," as the painters call it; that is to say, is thoroughly harmonious with itself and all that is going on. The breath of the pilgrim is visible, so is that of a censer; the censer, after its fashion, may be said to pray; and its breath, like the pilgrim's, ascends to heaven. Young students of poetry may, in this image alone, see what imagination is, under one of its most poetical forms, and how thoroughly it “ tells.” There is no part of it unfitting. It is not applicable in one point, and the reverse in another.
3“ Past the sweet Virgin's picture,” &c.-What a complete feeling of winter-time is in this stanza, together with an intimation of those Catholic elegances, of which we are to have more in the
poem! 46" To think how they may ache,” &c.—The germ of the thought, or something like it, is in Dante, where he speaks of the figures that perform the part of sustaining columns in architecture. Keats had read Dante in Mr. Cary's translation, for which he had a great respect. He began to read him
. afterwards in Italian, which language he was mastering with surprising quickness. A friend of ours has a copy of Ariosto containing admiring marks of his pen. But the same thought may have struck