The Eve of St. Agnes

By John Keats

980 ratings - 3.69* vote

'Hoodwink'd in faery fancy...' This volume contains a selection of Keats's greatest verse - including his gothic story in verse, 'The Eve of St Agnes', and the mysterious 'Lamia' - exploring themes of love, enchantment, myth and magic. 'Hoodwink'd in faery fancy...' This volume contains a selection of Keats's greatest verse - including his gothic story in verse, 'The Eve of St Agnes', and the mysterious 'Lamia' - exploring themes of love, enchantment,

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Book details

Paperback, 56 pages
Original Title
The Eve of Saint Agnes
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Sean Barrs

This poem has a real good story to it; it wasn’t a conveyance of metaphor, but a story of love and longing. It’s a narrative poem, which means it’s fairly long and plot driven. It’s really quite imaginative in this because it explores different types of dreams and wishes through a few different devices. I quite like it. It’s a little enchanting:

“Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.”


She’s dreaming when she is awake, which signifies her longing to be elsewhere. She wants to be with her other half, but circumstance and petty feuds keep them separate. They long to be together. It also creates a sense of otherworldliness and magic. It’s not just realism; there is a sense of fantastic in the poem. She sees beyond what is there in front of her; she can “conjure” up fanciful ideas; she can imagine, and therefore see, something more than reality. But, I did find myself growing a little bit bored with the poem towards the end. I do prefer my poems much shorter with a sharp meaning.

This was enjoyable, but is not a style of poetry I normally get on with. I like poetry that makes me think. Poetry that has everything of the surface may as well be prose. It has a good plot, and it’s a pleasure to read, but that’s it. It’s quite forgettable. I liked some of the other poems in here too, but none of them really stood out for me in particular. I will read more by Keats in the future, and hopefully I will find something a little better than this one. I already have his full works on my bookshelf; there’s bound to be something in there I love.

Penguin Little Black Classic- 13


The Little Black Classic Collection by penguin looks like it contains lots of hidden gems. I couldn’t help it; they looked so good that I went and bought them all. I shall post a short review after reading each one. No doubt it will take me several months to get through all of them! Hopefully I will find some classic authors, from across the ages, that I may not have come across had I not bought this collection.

Leonard Gaya

Keats is a sort of Arthur Rimbaud of English literature: a dazzling and short-lived young genius. This small volume presents a few of Keats’ poems. Some are rather long (The Eve of St Agnes, Lamia), others are quite short (La Belle Dame sans Merci, Ode to Psyche, Ode to a Grecian Urn).

When reading out-loud, Keats’ narrative stanzas sound expressive, lofty, somewhat archaic, pedantic even. As for their meaning, I have to humbly confess that either my mind wasn’t quite into it or Keats’ symbolism — which abounds in medieval and classical references — is a bit too obscure to be easily grasped at first read. I could not possibly appreciate the tea if the urn is sealed.


Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,
In sort of wakeful swoon, perplexed she lay,
Until the poppied warmth of sleep oppressed
Her soothèd limbs, until the morrow-day;
Blissfully havened both from joy and pain;
Clasped like a missal where swart Paynims pray;
Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain,
As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again.


Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philisophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomèd mine -
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-personed Lamia melt into shade.


A rose sanctuary will I dress
With the wreathed trellis of a working brain,
With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,
With all the gardener Fancy e'er could feign,
Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same:
And there shall be for thee all soft delight
That shadowy thought can win,
A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
To let the warm Love in!


Well of course it's great stuff because it's Keats (Literary circular logic exemption granted). I looked it up because Ron Rash quotes it for epigram in his novel The Cove, which I just finished. It's not essential for understanding the novel, but does enrich the reading, as both are about forbidden romances (and nobody does romance better than a Romantic, surely!). The poem is pretty long, about 380 lines, and will require a few more readings before I could offer anything more substantial -- and I confess I sneaked a peak at Wikipedia summary post-reading to help sort out the basic story line, which is not to suggest that it's impenetrable -- I just jumped in and read it quickly once for the gist -- but knowing a bit about St. Agnes and her Day does help. I've long reread and loved a number of Keats' shorter poems, but never the longish narrative poems. Now I feel inspired to read more of them. Keat's seems to have inspired other fiction writers, as well. Cheever quotes "Bright Star" -- "would I were stedfast as thou art / Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night ... " -- in his bizarre short story about a traveler who encounters lengthy narrative graffiti in barroom men's rooms, "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin." (which, if memory serves me correctly, is ref to Book of Daniel: 'you have been found wanting,' something along those lines. And so it goes, an endless looping of writers cribbing from and yakking to each other across the centuries ...


I may or may not picked up this collection solely due to the fact that Keats is Oscar's favorite writer, indeed he considered him the greatest English poet of the century. When Wilde was just 22 and touring Europe he visited the grave of Keats and said it was the holiest place in Rome. At the tender age of 22, I visited Oscar's grave in Paris for the first time in my life and was overcome by emotion as well. So it is far to say that what Oscar is to me, Keats is to Oscar, naturally, I had to check the guy out.

But alas! My opinion of the man is quite mixed. I can definitely see merit in his poetry and would even say that Keats had a way with words (I especially liked the narrative style of Lamia) but overall he didn't manage to evoke any form of emotion in me. I found his poetry quite hard to grasp, yet not interesting enough to spend my time researching it further. I don't feel like I'm missing out by not properly understanding the meaning and intention behind The Eve of St Agnes. I know my darling child Oscar would be quite mad at me for this ... but we love to piss each other off. It's fine.

And so instead of leaving you with my favorite quote of this collection I will leave you with a poem by Oscar. Aren't I classy?
The Grave of Keats

Rid of the world’s injustice, and his pain,
He rests at last beneath God’s veil of blue:
Taken from life when life and love were new
The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
Fair as Sebastian, and as early slain.
No cypress shades his grave, no funeral yew,
But gentle violets weeping with the dew
Weave on his bones an ever-blossoming chain.
O proudest heart that broke for misery!
O sweetest lips since those of Mitylene!
O poet-painter of our English Land!
Thy name was writ in water——it shall stand:
And tears like mine will keep thy memory green,
As Isabella did her Basil-tree.
Personally, I think that this is one of the most important pomes Oscar has ever written, especially due to the last two lines. They seem to be an early echo of what Oscar was to write seventeen years later in Reading Goal: And alien tears will fill for him / Pity's long broken urn / For his mourners will be outcast men / And outcasts always mourn – these iconic lines are actually his epitaph. It's uncanny how these two passages mirror one and another and I wouldn't put it past Oscar to put himself on the same pedestal that he put his favorite writers on. You gotta be your own #1 fan. ;)

Oh, and in case you needed more proof of Oscar's gay heart and soul, here's what he wrote to Emma Speed, the daughter of Keats' brother George, after she invited him to browse through Keats' personal collection of letters and journals: "What you have given me is more golden than gold, more precious than any treasure this great country could yield me ... I am half enamoured of the paper that touched his hand, and the ink that did his bidding, grown fond of the sweet comeliness of his charactery, for since my boyhood I have loved none better than your marvellous kinsman, that godlike boy, the real Adonis of our age ... In my heaven he walks eternally with Shakespeare and the Greeks."

Oh well, one day I'll write love letters about Oscar the way he did about Keats. 


"Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

- John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"


Vol 12 of my Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set. The small selection of Keats' poems contains, as the title would suggest:

1. The Eve of St. Agnes
2. La Belle Dame sans Merci. A Ballad
3. Lamia
4. Ode to Psyche
5. Ode on a Grecian Urn

It is a nice introduction to Keats for those who haven't read him in some HS poetry section, or college poetry class. He is good, if you like Romantic poetry. The guy can write verse. I actually read all of these before (except for the title poem).

Michelle Curie

"Beauty is truth, truth is beauty, - that is all
Ye need to know on earth, all ye need to know."

Oh, how wonderful a collection! This Little Black Classic features five of John Keats' poems, two of which are fairly long and narrative and probably my favourites out of those included. The Eve of St Agnes tells the story of two lovers who long to be together - it's interesting, because plot-wise it's quite realistic, but solely through the way Keats writes a whole new dimension of magic and enchantment is added to it.

Lamia is about how the god Hermes and Lamia, a beautiful queen of Libya who became a child-eating daemon, came to meet and it's another very beautifully written poem. The shorter ones are fun as well, as they're actually written in a quite straight-forward manner and are still rather free to interpretation.

"And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Through the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing."

Keats himself was a somehow tragic figure. He's considered one of the main figures of Romantic poets, even though his work only started to get published four years before his death, which came at the age of 25. I suppose because of his allusions to nature and his sensual style of forming verses he can be considered a very classic Romantic representative, so if you are into this sort of poetry his work is definitely worth reading!

In 2015, Penguin introduced the Little Black Classics series to celebrate Penguin's 80th birthday. Including little stories from "around the world and across many centuries" as the publisher describes, I have been intrigued to read those for a long time, before finally having started. I hope to sooner or later read and review all of them!


It's Keats. Do I need to say more?

Okay, it's a got a female vampire in it.


Read all my reviews on

Having never read anything by Keats before, but having heard a lot of it, I was really looking forward to this collection of five of his poems.

The poem of the title is the longest and it is, as his other poems, very visual. It really tells a story, and while this is a nice change for the other poetry so far in the Little Black Classic collection, it also became slightly dull after a while. It is a long story, and my thought wandered after a while, wondering if it couldn't have been a bit shorter.

Nevertheless a nice introduction.

Little Black Classic #13


It was probably not the right time for me to read this classic but well it happened.

I actually enjoyed the way the poems were written (everything that rhymes is good with me) but the stories (?) of the poems were just meh. I couldn't really enjoy it, though I must admit that it's not as easy to read for someone who picked up English as a third language. I feel bad rating it only 2 stars, especially because Keats seemed to get better and better with each poem he wrote and wouldn't he have died so early on in his life I would guess he would have published way more and greater stuff.

Seriously admire everyone who loves poems and gets them - I can't till now >.<