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The Eve of St. Agnes

The Eve of St. Agnes

by John Keats

The Supernatural Theme

In "The Eve of St. Agnes," both Madeline and Porphyro are made out to have some control over supernatural forces—Madeline is described as a "conjurer" (124) and Porphyro as the "liege-lord of all the Elves and Fays" (121). That said, the difference between the imagination and good old-fashioned "magic" à la Harry Potter is a pretty subtle one—the poem is full of terms like "faery fancy" (70), which seem to seem to encompass both poles of the spectrum.

Questions About The Supernatural

  1. Why do you think the enchantments are characterized as "cold" (134) and "pale" (169)? 
  2. Do you think there are actual supernatural forces at work in this poem? Why or why not?
  3. Where does the storm that Porphyro and Madeline run into come from?
  4. What distinction, if any, do you see between magic, dreams, and visions in this poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Any way you look at it, Madeline does indeed see her beloved Porphyro on the Eve of St. Agnes after faithfully following the ritual's rules. Therefore the "enchantment" or "legend" of St. Agnes came through for her. High fives all 'round.

Sorry magic lovers. The magical or supernatural elements of this poem are basically all creations of the characters' imaginations, not the products of actual fairies or long-dead Christian martyrs.

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