20 de diciembre de 2007

The Eve of St. Agnes (John Keats 1795-1821)

ST. AGNES’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man;
Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees,
And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan,
Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees:
The sculptur’d dead, on each side, seem to freeze,
Emprison’d in black, purgatorial rails:
Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat’ries,
He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails
To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails.

Northward he turneth through a little door,
And scarce three steps, ere Music’s golden tongue
Flatter’d to tears this aged man and poor;
But no—already had his deathbell rung;
The joys of all his life were said and sung:
His was harsh penance on St. Agnes’ Eve:
Another way he went, and soon among
Rough ashes sat he for his soul’s reprieve,
And all night kept awake, for sinners’ sake to grieve.

How cold is the weather? How much do you like the extract?
What day is the Eve of St. Agnes? I´ll be waiting for your comments. Happy Xmas and a wonderful New Year!!

40 comentarios:

Carmen dijo...

Keats is one of my favourite poets ever! He has such a Romantic life! He died at the age of 26 of TB. His life was one of suffering but this very suffering enabled him to become one of England´s most relevant poets. Here is an example of how he writes. This is a very long poem which you can finish in Spanish comparing both languages; Post your comments, please!

Roberto 4ºb dijo...

Reading the extract , one really can feel the cold and I think this feeling is increased due to the loneliness and silent of the place.

I wish you happy Christmas!!

Noemí 4ºG dijo...

Uf! I am almost shivering with cold... I have to look for some words in the dictionary, but at the first sight it sounds very nice. Thank you very much Carmen and Happy Xmas!

alba dijo...

it's great! i've loved it so much. merry xmas to everyone!!

maria 4ºA dijo...

happy christmas to everyone! how has Santa Claus behaved himself? ;)
The poem is great, I like it very much. Moreover, reading it I´ve felt colder than I was feeling before (I am in Soria... hahaha). I liked his beatiful words describing the winter: the owl the feathers of which were a-cold, frozen grass, frosted breath...

marta dijo...

This is for the 5thAs what do you think about this extract? We are going to talk about it in class

The Bandit dijo...

To be honest, that extract of the poem has made an impression on me, specially the way of describing an icy atmosphere. After reading the first paragraph, the image of an isolated church, dreary, dark and sad-looking, surrounded by a deserted moor, came to my mind. With an excellent use of adjetives the author gets us to feel an unconfortable sensation of coldness in our skin.
On the other hand, even after finding the story of St Agnes, I´m uncapable of understanding the hidden meaning of these nice words. If someone doesn´t mind helping me, I will be very grateful.
If you are interested in St Agnes´ story, here you are: St Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born c. 291 and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of thirteen, the 21 of January, 304. The prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry his son, and on Agnes' refusal he condemned her to death. Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel. As she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. When led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and struck off her head. The basis of the poem is the superstition that a woman would see her future husband if she performed a certain ritual on the eve of Saint Agnes. If she were to go to bed without looking behind her back, her future partner would appear in a dream, eat with her and kiss her.

Paloma 4ºG dijo...

If I have to be honest, I must confess you something: I don’t understand the poem well enough. I like very much the little I’ve understood so, I‘ve tried to find a translation not only in the net, but also in all the book shops in Madrid, but unsuccessfully. It doesn’t exist. Incredible, isn’t it? If it were possible I’d like to read it in class and so we could understand it completely. If not, please, Could you be so kind as to translate it for us? Thank you very much.

marta dijo...
Este comentario ha sido eliminado por un administrador del blog.
Anónimo dijo...


maria jose dijo...

i´m just trying...

María José 5ºA dijo...

I had some problems with my comment, sorry. This is the first time I write something here, you realize, don´t you? (:D)Well, about the poem... Yesterday Marta told us that the vocabulary was easy... well, I´m not so sure (and she asked us not to looking up the words in a dictionary...)I can understand broadly but I don´t reach the atmosphere because of the words that I don´t know, (yes, I know... I need to improve my vocabulary... )In my opinion the worst verse is the 3rd. Nevertheless it is a nice poem, I can feel it so I hope to solve my doubts tomorrow in class.
Bandit, thank you for St Agnes´story. At the beginning I thoght that St. Agnes´life could be no very important in this poem, it could be just that the Eve of St. Agnes is in January (always cold in England) and this image used in the title of the poem help the reader to create the right atmosphere for the reading. Why did Keats choose this day? well,maybe because of the superstition Bandit told us. I´ve never heard about it before, but I think that maybe in England it can/could be a well known tradition so everybody could relate inmediately the title with the date and that with coldness and winter. On the other hand... well, St. Agnes is a saint, a virging (=a pure person, in Christian´s terms) and the man is named as "holy man" so they can be related in a way, and according to the story I can imagine St. Agnes praying without loose the faith as the aged man...
What do you think?

marta dijo...

I am sorry you find it a little difficult... tomorrow we talk about it I will explain it to you. It is certainly in winter you have grasped the idea.

Carmen dijo...

Thank you, Bandit, for the story of St. Agnes; it´s mentioned in the following stanzas and it is relevant to the actual story of the poem, which is about a girl who believes in St. Agnes and performs the rites... continue reading...You say you´ve missed some information because of the language, but I think you´ve understood a lot: the icy atmosphere, the cold church, the bleakness of the picture and above all the beauty of the description. romanticism is about beauty "first in beauty should be first in might", says Keats, therefore if you have grasped the beauty of the words you are starting to belong to the club of those who can read, appreciate and understand (beauty, character, feelings,etc.) in a different language! you´ve come quite a long way since we met, haven´t you?

Carmen dijo...

Paloma, I absolutely refuse to translate anything for my students, who can understand it in English!!!!! I forbid you to lie to yourself, you can understand that extract perfectly well!! Can you appreciate ita beauty? do you feel the cold? Are you able to see the frosted breath of the beadsman going up as he breathes? That is what you have to understand nothing else and, in fact, you do. I know.

The Bandit dijo...

You are right, Carmen, I have just posted my comments on the blog twice and the first time was, at least, a month ago. From now on, I promise to collaborate a little bit more on this interesting proyect. I think it´s an excellent tool in order to improve our English and over all it helps us to raise our frame of mind when we are disappointed in relation to English. Should you see mistakes on my comments, please correct me!!. I have to admit I´m quite surprised at my comment because two people have found useful my information about St Agnes and it makes me feel very proud. Finally, I would like to recommend you a new website "www.wikilengua.org" where you will be able to resolve doubts and questions in connection with our native tongue. Bye.

marta dijo...

Hi Bandit, you can´t imagine how useful your comments were, we were talking about you in the fifth year class today and you´d be surprised how many people have read your comment, thanks

Carmen dijo...

Bandit, do you now see why I wanted you on the video? you have made quite a hit with your post with the fifths and this even though they haven´t seen you!!!!
I do not think I´ll need to correct you much. Both comments are good.
Thanks beforehand for your future contributions....you are one of us now!

Paloma dijo...

Ok Carmen, you have done it again. You have got me to spend half of the morning translating the poem.
I don’t care whether I don’t understand everything when I’m reading, and usually I never use a dictionary, but in this case I needed to understand every single word. Why? for two reasons. The first one is that I’m reading a book set in the middle Ages, and this poem describes the ambience to perfection. The second one is that whenever I find something in English or in Spanish I like very much, I need to catch every aspect in order to appreciate the whole beauty contained in the text. In this poem there are some contractions and words that I’ve never seen before and made very difficult for me to understand part of the second verse and the third.
Now I’m able to see not only the frozen weather, also a Gothic church and the monk dying, because he dies, doesn’t he? As you see, even after have been working in the poem for a long time and using three different dictionaries, I ‘m not understand the third verse well enough.
In my humble opinion the poem is lovely but I think we need your help to enjoy it completely.

Carmen dijo...

I´m very happy to find that my "babies" need me!!!! The case is quite different, you do not need to understand everything, in fact this is quite difficult issue in life itself, isn´t it? Do you fully understand any text in Spanish? How about your husband, children or even yourself? It´s next to impossible to comprehend anything and everything, then why English? A poem should be read for feeling, what it gives you, how you react to it; if you have missed something but perceive some sort of emotion when you finish the reading you have understood the meaning of beauty, which is easy to see and not so easily appreciated. However, I will very gladly do it with you all in the ICT room.
The drawback of this is that I do hope you can read on without me in the future!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

marta dijo...

Paloma a very interesting comment and Carmen´s too typical: she wants you to be self-sufficient but she likes the fact that you need her, and don´t we all. I´ll just tell you something read again but with these clues: the monk doesn´t actually die, though he is old and his live is drawing to an end, the tombs that he goes past are those of other people as the ones you see in churches of the nobles and the rich that are usually on the aisles of the old churches. Our monk goes past them as he walks along.

Carmen dijo...

I wonder what Marta´s means when she says "..and Carmen´s too typical"? I am particularly "untypical"! Can you explain yourrself beter? Perhaps then, I can make it out.

marta dijo...

I meant your comment is typical of yours,i.e.: You like your "babies", as you call them, to need you.

Carmen dijo...

Sorry Marta but I still cannot make it out. Meee like my babies to need me? You do not know me too well. When people need others they put a rope round their necks, and that´s not very pleasant! Laura does it to Marian and I pity her! what I like is to be able to help and the sensation of trust, nothing to do with need.

Carmen dijo...

Going back to beauty and the effect it produces on the beholder, please look at today´s frontpage in La Razón and comtemplate Zapatero´s face admiring the startling Sheikess of Qatar!!! A poem in itself!!!
I´ll be taking the photo to class just in case you miss it.

marta dijo...

Carmen,I meant that too,you have misinterpreted my comment. For me "need" is positive or, at least I took it in that light. I think the idea of the "rope round the neck" is more suitable for "depend" than for "need", really. However I am very sorry to have been the cause of the misunderstanding specially as I entered in a conversation that was between you and one of your students.

The Bandit dijo...

Je, je. Marta and Carmen, I thought this blog was created to encourage us to read not to discuss about trivial matters, wasn´t it?. As the famous poet Pipi Estrada said: "Time is an eraser". I´m completely sure that in a couple of days you will forget that childish argument. I wish you would stop discussing about teacher´s matters and focus your attention on promoting reading among us. (I would like you to understand this comment as a joke but I´ve got my doubts becouse, currently, both of you are a bit susceptible)

Claudia 4º B dijo...

Hi! Really nice poem and thanks to Bandit for his explanations on it.
As we have been talking about women´s beauty in some classes I would like to post a poem by Patrick Kavanagh. It is dedicated to all women in my class ( If I may, boys). I hope you like it.

Now I must search till I have found my God-
Not in an orphanage. He hides
In no humanitarian disguise,
A derelict upon a barren bog;
But in some fantastically ordinary incog:
Behind a well-bred convent girl´s eyes,
Or wrapped in middle class felicities
Among the women in a coffee shop.
Surely my God is feminine, for Heaven
Is the generous impulse, is contented
With feeding praise to the good. And all
Of these that I have known have come from women.
While men the poet´s tragic light resented
The spirit that is Woman caressed his soul.

Carmen dijo...

Ok Marta, I was just asking myself what the hell you meant, however all this has given the Bandit a chance to enjoy himself(I´m always glad when people have a good time)and the possibility of giving us a telling off and finding fault with us since we are "susceptible"!(I also mean this as a joke, Bandit). Don´t think ill of him, he has been like this since the beginning of the year, hasn´t he? but I think he is improving... I almost think he is starting to come to terms with me! When you meet him, on the 25th April, you will see that he improves on acquaintance!!!!

Carmen dijo...

Bandit, thanks for your advice. I´ll try to follow it. Sorry I have not posted the quote I promised. I´ve been unable to find it!!! I´ll continue looking. It may be easier to read the play again since I´ve wondering up and down the acts to no avail!

Carmen dijo...

Claudia, what a nice little poem! I like the line of the convent girl(I am one of those!!!) and of the women in the café.

Paloma 4º G dijo...

I can’t avoid loving this poem. For me the best moment in Friday’s class was when we were reading and comment this text. I think it’s absolutely wonderful. You can feel the cold and the loneliness of the man; you can hear the music and, even, see the sculptures in the Church. You aren’t here any more, you are moved to the middle Ages, to a very different time and atmosphere. Everything is amazing, well described, real. As I’ve said I love it.


A very nice poem!!! It explains how important is for catholic people to do some penitence in order to purify their alms when they think they had done someting wrong. It´s is just a simbolic way, that all catholic people understand, of asking for forgiveness

Elena Martínez 4ª A

maria 4º dijo...

I liked thwe poem because you can feel the coldness, and, as Carmen said, Keats drew a winter picture that drives you to that situation. It is the act of catholics when they are going to the death and they feel sad because of his living actions. It is very easy, I think, and very common to regret just before dying to receive God´s pardon and to rest in heaven "per secula seculorum".

Mariló dijo...

It is a hash and dramatic poem. Thus the reader can find a older man who prays to take all his sins out of his body, in a holly penance, suffering and being sorrowful. He remained in a church sorrounded by dead sculptures between knights and ladies, he prayed oratories and suffers in silent by all the sinners. Awaiting for his time of death. How sad!! I feel really pity for his soul and his sins.

Carmen dijo...

I must have focussed a great deal on penitence, by the look of those three comments. I ask myself why? Perhaps I have sinned too much? I am thinking of a near death? I like neither option!!!!!

maría 4º dijo...

hahaha! It is curious to see how we understood the same thing after reading Keats' poem. I think that we all are this man, independently of the age that we have. We usually think about the death and we always are regretting of our sins. So don´t worry, because we are doomed to be wrong and then to rectify. Certainly, I consider that it is better and more useful to obtain people´s pardon than God´s. But I know that it is not a catholic´s thought, though our crazy world would be better if we said 'sorry' more times, which seems to be the hardest word, as the song says. Don´t you think so? This is what I have learnt after studying all my life among priests!!

Roberto 4ºb dijo...

Hi! Everybody. Last Friday we were analyzing the extracts of John Keats’ posted on the blog and it was quite interesting because once you are able to understand their content you really enjoy it a lot. Therefore, I recommend you to attend these classes. It might be nearly impossible to learn things like these anywhere else.

Although “To Autumn” is considered probably the best poem ever written in the History of Britain, I prefer Saint Agne’s Eve because the poem makes you feel both the cold and the suffering as if you really were the protagonist of the situation.

maría luisa dijo...

On Friday, when we had read this poem and Carmen explained it for us, we could feel the Cold in our bodies and we could see the darkness of the scene and tiredness of the barefoot man.
I liked very much the part of “His prayer he saith….” I was imaging the chapel illuminated with lights in different tones of grey and cool blues to increase the sensation of cold.
“The joys of all his life were said and sung” It’s amazing this line. I was very impressed by the sense of these words. How many things can be expressed when a person knows the soul of a language!

María Luisa 4ºC

Anónimo dijo...

I wouldn't have imagined three years ago that I would be reading this again in Woldingham, this snowy, freezing day...
Thank God that there were poets like Keats to speak so beautifully about life, beauty, death... Certainly, you can feel the freezing atmosphere, the cold winter, the cold church and the churchyard with all the sculptur'd dead that seem to freeze are, the owl and the hare, limp'd trembling through the frozen grass... You can see the white of the snow and the frosted breath -the only warmth in the scene- wandering around, taking flight for heaven, as if it were pious incense from a censer old.
You can see the decadence of the man, the sinner, meagrer, barefoot, wan, praying his rosary, waiting patiently and hopelessly for the deathbell to ring...

Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins