Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
The Flight (from The Eve of St. Agnes)
By John Keats (1795–1821)
 
(See full text.)

  FULL on this casement shone the wintry moon,
  And threw warm gules on Madeline’s fair breast,
  As down she knelt for heaven’s grace and boon;
  Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
  And on her silver cross soft amethyst,        5
  And on her hair a glory, like a saint:
  She seem’d a splendid angel, newly drest,
  Save wings, for heaven:—Porphyro grew faint:
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.
 
  Anon his heart revives: her vespers done,        10
  Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees;
  Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
  Loosens her fragrant boddice; by degrees
  Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
  Half-hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,        15
  Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
  In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.
 
  Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,
  In sort of wakeful swoon, perplexed she lay,        20
  Until the poppied warmth of sleep oppressed
  Her soothed limbs, and soul fatigued away;
  Flown, like a thought, until the morrow-day;
  Blissfully havened both from joy and pain;
  Clasped like a missal where swart Paynims pray:        25
  Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain,
As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again.
 
  Stolen to this paradise, and so entranced,
  Porphyro gazed upon her empty dress,
  And listened to her breathing, if it chanced        30
  To wake into a slumberous tenderness;
  Which when he heard, that minute did he bless,
  And breathed himself: then from the closet crept,
  Noiseless as fear in a wide wilderness,
  And over the hushed carpet, silent, stept,        35
And ’tween the curtains peeped, where, lo!—how fast she slept.
 
  Then by the bed-side, where the faded moon
  Made a dim, silver twilight, soft he set
  A table, and, half anguished, threw thereon
  A cloth of woven crimson, gold, and jet:—        40
  O for some drowsy Morphean amulet!
  The boisterous, midnight, festive clarion,
  The kettle-drum, and far-heard clarionet,
  Affray his ears, though but in dying tone:—
The hall-door shuts again, and all the noise is gone.        45
 
  And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,
  In blanched linen, smooth, and lavendered,
  While he from forth the closet brought a heap
  Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;
  With jellies soother than the creamy curd,        50
  And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;
  Manna and dates, in argosy transferred
  From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
From silken Samarcand to cedared Lebanon.
 
  These delicates he heaped with glowing hand        55
  On golden dishes and in baskets bright
  Of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand
  In the retired quiet of the night,
  Filling the chilly room with perfume light.—
  ‘And now, my love, my seraph fair, awake!        60
  Thou art my heaven, and I thine eremite:
  Open thine eyes, for meek St. Agnes’ sake,
Or I shall drowse beside thee, so my soul doth ache.’
 
  Thus whispering, his warm, unnerved arm
  Sank in her pillow. Shaded was her dream        65
  By the dusk curtains:—’twas a midnight charm
  Impossible to melt as iced stream:
  The lustrous salvers in the moonlight gleam;
  Broad golden fringe upon the carpet lies:
  It seemed he never, never could redeem        70
  From such a steadfast spell his lady’s eyes;
So mused awhile, entoiled in woofed phantasies.
 
  Awakening up, he took her hollow lute,—
  Tumultuous,—and, in chords that tenderest be,
  He play’d an ancient ditty, long since mute,        75
  In Provence called ‘La belle dame sans mercy’:
  Close to her ear touching the melody;—
  Wherewith disturbed, she uttered a soft moan:
  He ceased—she panted quick—and suddenly
  Her blue affrayed eyes wide open shone:        80
Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured stone.
 
  Her eyes were open, but she still beheld,
  Now wide awake, the vision of her sleep:
  There was a painful change, that nigh expelled
  The blisses of her dream so pure and deep.        85
  At which fair Madeline began to weep,
  And moan forth witless words with many a sigh;
  While still her gaze on Porphyro would keep;
  Who knelt, with joined hands and piteous eye,
Fearing to move or speak, she looked so dreamingly.        90
 
  ‘Ah, Porphyro!’ said she, ‘but even now
  Thy voice was at sweet tremble in mine ear,
  Made tuneable with every sweetest vow;
  And those sad eyes were spiritual and clear:
  How changed thou art! how pallid, chill, and drear!        95
  Give me that voice again, my Porphyro,
  Those looks immortal, those complainings dear!
  Oh leave me not in this eternal woe,
For if thou diest, my Love, I know not where to go.’
 
  Beyond a mortal man impassioned far        100
  At these voluptuous accents, he arose,
  Ethereal, flushed, and like a throbbing star
  Seen ’mid the sapphire heaven’s deep repose;
  Into her dream he melted, as the rose
  Blendeth its odour with the violet,—        105
  Solution sweet: meantime the frost-wind blows
  Like Love’s alarum pattering the sharp sleet
Against the window-panes; St. Agnes’ moon hath set.
 
  ’Tis dark: quick pattereth the flaw-blown sleet:
  ‘This is no dream, my bride, my Madeline!’        110
  ’Tis dark: the iced gusts still rave and beat:
  ‘No dream, alas! alas! and woe is mine!
  Porphyro will leave me here to fade and pine.—
  Cruel! what traitor could thee hither bring?
  I curse not, for my heart is lost in thine,        115
  Though thou forsakest a deceived thing;—
A dove forlorn and lost with sick unpruned wing.’
 
  ‘My Madeline! sweet dreamer! lovely bride!
  Say, may I be for aye thy vassal blest?
  Thy beauty’s shield, heart-shaped and vermeil dyed?        120
  Ah, silver shrine, here will I take my rest
  After so many hours of toil and quest,
  A famished pilgrim,—saved by miracle.
  Though I have found, I will not rob thy nest,
  Saving of thy sweet self; if thou think’st well        125
To trust, fair Madeline, to no rude infidel.’
 
  ‘Hark! ’tis an elfin-storm from faery land,
  Of haggard seeming, but a boon indeed:
  Arise—arise! the morning is at hand;—
  The bloated wassailers will never heed:—        130
  Let us away, my love, with happy speed;
  There are no ears to hear, or eyes to see,—
  Drowned 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.’        135
 
  She hurried at his words, beset with fears,
  For there were sleeping dragons all around,
  At glaring watch, perhaps with ready spears—
  Down the wide stairs a darkling way they found,
  In all the house was heard no human sound.        140
  A chain-drooped lamp was flickering by each door;
  The arras, rich with horseman, hawk, and hound,
  Fluttered in the besieging wind’s uproar;
And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor.
 
  They glide, like phantoms, into the wide hall!        145
  Like phantoms to the iron porch they glide,
  Where lay the Porter, in uneasy sprawl,
  With a huge empty flagon by his side:
  The wakeful bloodhound rose, and shook his hide,
  But his sagacious eye an inmate owns:        150
  By one, and one, the bolts full easy slide:—
  The chains lie silent on the footworn stones;
The key turns, and the door upon its hinges groans.
 
  And they are gone: ay, ages long ago
  These lovers fled away into the storm.        155
  That night the Baron dreamt of many a woe,
  And all his warrior-guests, with shade and form
  Of witch, and demon, and large coffin-worm,
  Were long be-nightmared. Angela the old
  Died palsy-twitch’d, with meagre face deform;        160
  The Beadsman, after thousand aves told,
For aye unsought-for slept among his ashes cold.
 
 
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