Study Guide

The Eve of St. Agnes Stanza 18

By John Keats

Stanza 18

"Ah! why wilt thou affright a feeble soul?
A poor, weak, palsy-stricken, churchyard thing,
Whose passing-bell may ere the midnight toll;
Whose prayers for thee, each morn and evening,
Were never miss'd."—Thus plaining, doth she bring
A gentler speech from burning Porphyro;
So woful, and of such deep sorrowing,
That Angela gives promise she will do
Whatever he shall wish betide her weal or woe.

  • Gee, Porphyro, why you gotta be such a jerk? Angela's drawing on the noble tradition of "Kid, I'm too old for this nonsense."
  • Notice how Angela becomes more tightly aligned with our Beadsman from the first few stanzas: in addition to the general old-feeble-pathetic stuff, she calls herself a "churchyard thing," which is a little funny when you think about the fact that she's not in a churchyard—the Beadsman is. 
  • In addition, she says that her "passing-bell may ere the midnight toll," which brings you right back to when the speaker said of the Beadsman, "already had his deathbell rung" (22). It sounds like both these people may croak before the night's over. 
  • Apparently, her "plaining" (complaining, for us modern folks) has an effect, and Porphyro tries to bring her round to his side, this time with "a gentler speech."
  • Hey, it turns out that gentler speech works like a charm: Angela promises to help him out, whether it helps or hurts her ("weal" is an old-fashioned word for "well").
  • She's not just agreeing to help him carry out his plan, though—Angela says she'll do "whatever he shall wish," which brings us back to the language of conjurors, witches, and fairies.