The Eve of St. Agnes: Stanza 4 - Summary

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That ancient Beadsman heard the prelude soft;
And so it chanc’d, for many a door was wide,
From hurry to and fro. Soon, up aloft,
The silver, snarling trumpets ’gan to chide:
The level chambers, ready with their pride,
Were glowing to receive a thousand guests:
The carved angels, ever eager-eyed,
Star’d, where upon their heads the cornice rests,
With hair blown back, and wings put cross-wise on their breasts.


      The old Prayers-man hears the soft introductory music, coming out of the castle-hall, when the doors happen to be opened by people hurrying in and out. Soon, the castle-chambers were filled with a thousand guests who arrived amidst the growling sound of silver trumpets.

      In the last lines Keats refers to the sculptural decorations on the walls of the great hill. The figures of angels had been carved under the cornice. The expression in eyes of the angels was keen and inquisitive and they looked down with a fixed gaze. Their hair was brushed backward and their wings were folded on their breasts in the shape of a cross (because the cross is a holy sign). The figures of angels carved under the cornic lent a solemn grandeur to the hall. What is noteworthy in these lines is Keats’s power of lending life and movement even to senseless sculptural decorations. The carved figures of angels are here represented as staring with eager glances as if it is possible for them to see anything.

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