The Eve of St. Agnes: Stanza 13 - Summary

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He follow’d through a lowly arched way,
Brushing the cobwebs with his lofty plume;
And as she mutter’d “Well-a—well-a-day!”
He found him in a little moonlight room,
Pale, lattic’d, chill, and silent as a tomb.
“Now tell me where is Madeline,” said he,
“O tell me, Angela, by the holy loom
“Which none but secret sisterhood may see,
“When they St. Agnes’ wool are weaving piously.”


      Porphyro follows her through a low vaulted passage. The lofty plumes of his helmet brush the cobwebs which had gathered at the ceiling of this unfrequented passage. All the time the old woman utters interjections of grief. At last Porphyro finds himself in a small moonlit room, which is dimly lighted, has latticed windows and is as chill and silent as a tomb.

      This is a reference, to one of the religious ceremonies that were performed on St. Agnes’ Eve in honor of St. Agnes. Two lambs, which had been previously dedicated to St. Agnes and kept unshorn as a sign of such dedication, were shorn on St. Agnes’ Eve. The wool of these lambs was then spun and woven into a fabric. This was done by the pious nuns in a convent. The nuns would spend the whole night doing this. The next day (St. Agnes’ day), this wollen fabric along with the two lambs was offered to St. Agnes at a special ceremony. The loom on which the wool was woven was regarded as holy. Porphyro here charges Angela by that holy loom to tell him the truth. He says: “By that holy loom, Angela, tell me where Madeline is”, that Angela may not put him off.

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