Study Guide

The Eve of St. Agnes Stanza 12

By John Keats

Stanza 12

Get hence! get hence! there's dwarfish Hildebrand;
He had a fever late, and in the fit
He cursed thee and thine, both house and land:
Then there's that old Lord Maurice, not a whit
More tame for his grey hairs—Alas me! flit!
Flit like a ghost away."—"Ah, Gossip dear,
We're safe enough; here in this arm-chair sit,
And tell me how"—"Good Saints! not here, not here;
Follow me, child, or else these stones will be thy bier."

  • The old nurse, in an effort to convince Porphyro to vamoose ASAP, tells him about some of the guests.
  • They sound like a delightful bunch: their hobbies include cursing Porphyro's family and family property and, presumably, thinking about killing them. 
  • Think about the hodge-podge collection of names you've got at this point: Madeline, Porphyro, Hildebrand, and Maurice. The fact that they don't belong to one place or time heightens the unreal feel of the poem; you've got an ancient Greek name (Porphyro) right alongside names like Madeline and Hildebrand, which seem more at home in a medieval European castle.
  • By the way, when Porphyro calls the nurse "Gossip," he's calling her his "close, secret-sharing confidant," not 'mean girl who talks about people behind their backs.
  • Porphyro wants the nurse to chillax and take a seat, but she tells him they have to relocate pronto or the stones they're standing upon are going to end up supporting his coffin.
  • If you ever wondered what a bier is (come on, you know you have), it's a little structure made to bear up somebody's coffin/burial casket.