The Eve of St. Agnes: Stanza 37 - Summary

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’Tis dark: quick pattereth the flaw-blown sleet:
“This is no dream, my bride, my Madeline!”
’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,
“Though thou forsakest a deceived thing;—
“A dove forlorn and lost with sick unpruned wing.”


      It is dark and the snow-drifts blown by the gusts of wind are striking the window-panes with a pattering sound. Porphyro addressing her as his bride (in the eyes of God, assures Madeline that it is no dream that she is seeing). He is there in flesh and blood. The icy gusts of wind are still raging outside in the dark. Madeline now really awakes and says that if it is not a dream, all the greater misfortune for her, alas! for, Porphyro is likely to leave her there to fade and pine (turn pale and wither away). She tells him that it must be a cruel traitor who has brought Porphyro there.

      These words contain Madeline’s lament on realizing that Porphyro was actually and bodily there and that she was not just seeing a dream. She said that it would be cruel on his part to leave her now to suffer the pangs of separation and to decline in health as well as in spirits. To have brought him into her bed-room was an act of treachery on the part of the person who had been responsible for it.

      Having given her heart to Porphyro, she could not now curse him. But it would be an act of desertion for him to leave her behind after having made love to her. She was like a helpless and lonely dove who, having been sick, had not trimmed or pruned her feathers. In other words, he would be betraying her if he now went away, leaving her behind.

      The way in which she speaks to Porphyro in this stanza makes it clear that what Keats meant by ‘solution sweet’ in line 322 is the sexual embrace of the lovers. If that had not been the meaning, why should Madeline say, “Thou forsakest a deceived thing?” In what way has she been deceived? Why should she compare herself with a forlorn dove, lost with sick, unpruned wing? Obviously she means that, having robbed her of her chastity, it would be an act of disloyalty and betrayal on his part to leave her behind.

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