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The Eve of St. Agnesis built up of a series of deliberate contrasts. By means of a close examination of three distinct passages, explore Keats' use of contrast in the poem.

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Introduction

Alex Ezrati 12*6 The Eve of St. Agnes is built up of a series of deliberate contrasts. By means of a close examination of three distinct passages, explore Keats' use of contrast in the poem. There are three main contrasts used in this poem - Christian/Pagan imagery, cold/warm images, and often the contrast of colour. In a way, temperature and colour are linked; deep reds, yellows and oranges represent heat and life, whereas blues and silvers indicate chill absence of life. Also in The Eve of St. Agnes is a strong question of whether Porphyro's intentions are honest and wholesome, or if he is somehow using Madeline's trance-like state and helplessness to his perverse advantage. It is also full of wonderful Keatsian paradoxes, which will also be outlined in the contrast analyses. There is a strong element of the harsh outside world invading the warmth and safety of Madeline's glowing room, and also the suspense of the other guests, who could catch the unwelcome Porphyro at any time. Through constant clashes of colour, emotion, light and sound, Keats makes this a very unsettling and suspenseful poem, showing a far darker and more ominous side to the dominating man's role in courtly love. ...read more.

Middle

'That ancient Beadsman heard the prelude soft; And so it chanc'd, for many a door was wide, From hurry to and fro. Soon, up aloft, The silver, snarling trumpets 'gan to chide: The level chambers, ready with their pride, Were glowing to receive a thousand guests: The carved angels, ever eager-eyed, Star'd, where upon their heads the cornice rests, With hair blown back, and wings put cross-wise on their breasts.' This is a passage from earlier in the poem, and refers to the Beadsman, an ancient holy man who prayed for the souls of sinners all his life. It uses contrasts of colour, sound, and also life and death. In the first line, the music is described as 'soft', however the trumpets are later described as 'snarling'. On one hand, this gives the trumpets themselves life, but it also makes them seem somehow unwelcoming, harsh and angry. The silver trumpets also contrast with an earlier description of 'Music's golden tongue'. Is the prelude soft, warm and golden or cold and silver? Normally Keats refers to music as a beautiful thing, however it seems the Beadsman is annoyed and angered by it. His stony, cold silence is invaded by the chaotic music when the doors are opened, again a reference to the contrasting outside world breaking in, and contrast between the icy cold stone walls of the chapel and the rich, 'glowing' warm chambers outside. ...read more.

Conclusion

The wicked Porphyro begs for a 'Morphean amulet', Morpheus being the God of sleep, and when the hall door is opened, he becomes afraid that Madeline will awaken and ruin his twisted, voyeuristic fun. In this passage, we really see the other side of Porphyro; that which has no chivalric morals, and acts like a thief in the dark, coming to 'rob her nest'. In other passages, he has been honourable at least on the outside, speaking of courtly love and marriage, and swearing upon the saints, but here we see the true, scheming Porphyro. However, there is an underlying foreboding and sense of death in this passage. Even before Madeline awakes, the sky is already fading into darkness, the twilight is no longer bright and the one element of life, the music, is described as 'in dying tone' as the hall door shuts it out. This is probably the first unsettling hint that no matter how young, innocent and beautiful you are, nothing is really sacred, and the cold death of outside is a constant reminder to this. Behind what seems on the outside a classic romantic tale of love having no bounds, wooing in secret and beautiful colours, music, and courtly love, lies the story of a man lacking morality, and looking to corrupt the innocence of a helpless beautiful maiden. ...read more.

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