The Eve of St. Agnes: Stanza 1 - Summary

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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.


      In this stanza, the poet has given us a vivid picture of the intense cold of St. Agnes Eve. It is so cold that even the owl is suffering, in spite of its thick coat of feathers, the hare is trembling while limping over the grass which is itself frozen, and even the woolly sheep are silent in their fold on account of the bitter cold. The old Prayers-man’s fingers are benumbed with cold. His frozen breath is seen rising up in front of the picture of Virgin Mary, like holy incense burnt before her, in an old censer, (vessel for burning incense). The frozen breath is compared to a departing soul just freed from the body and taking its flight for heaven without passing through the process of death. (This description like many others in this poem, looks like an exquisitely beautiful miniature painting).

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