The Eve of St. Agnes: Stanza 22 - Summary

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Her falt’ring hand upon the balustrade,
Old Angela was feeling for the stair,
When Madeline, St. Agnes’ charmed maid,
Rose, like a mission’d spirit, unaware:
With silver taper’s light, and pious care,
She turn’d, and down the aged gossip led
To a safe level matting. Now prepare,
Young Porphyro, for gazing on that bed;
She comes, she comes again, like ring-dove fray’d and fled.


      Old Angela was on her way from Madeline’s bed-chamber to her own quarter down-stairs. She had just placed her trembling hand on the rail of the staircase and was cautiously feeling for the stairs to go down, when Madeline appeared there. Madeline held a burning candle fixed in a silver candle-stick and was lost in her own thoughts when she saw her old nurse. Then she was filled with anxiety about Angela’s safety and with an affectionate care, led the old nurse down to the level floor which was covered with a mattress on which there was no danger of Angela’s stumbling or falling down. In acting thus, Madeline seemed to be an angel especially entrusted by God with the duty of rendering a service to her old nurse.

      After leaving old Angela on the safe level floor, Madeline hurried to her bed-chamber in order not to waste any time. At that time she could be compared to wood-pigeon which is frightened by some danger and, in a slate of panic, flies to its nest to take shelter there. She was afraid and nervous lest she should miss those dreams which she had been waiting for. She was now ready to undress and lie down in her bed. The poet asks young Porphyro to get ready to gaze upon the bodily charms of his beloved and to enjoy the heavenly sight which he would see. In these lines, the poet cleverly prepares the reader also for the delicious sight of Madeline’s bodily charms. These are suggestive lines.

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