OLDIE PODCAzT 127: The Eve of St Agnes and a Bleak Midwinter

Yesterday I neglected to repost, on the very Eve of St. Agnes, a PODCAzT I made a while back.  HERE

I, fan of poetry that I am, read out Keat’s poem, 42 Spencerian stanzas.  It is very romantic and torrid and lush, with marvelous moments and imagery.

It is imbued with the revival of romantic, courtly love which was coming back into vogue in the early 19th century.  The poem takes inspiration in part from a superstition, which I explain in an introduction.

The Eve of St Agnes would inspire the Pre-Raphaelites, as a matter of fact.  One of their circle, was Christina Rossetti, a poet in her own right.

Christina Rossetti wrote a poem which later was made into a Christmas carol: In the Bleak Midwinter.  We are still within the Christmas cycle until Candlemas, after all.

When I first posted this, a few prudish knuckleheads had a spittle-flecked nutty in my combox, but we pretty much ignored or deleted them.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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18 Responses to OLDIE PODCAzT 127: The Eve of St Agnes and a Bleak Midwinter

  1. gracie says:

    Thank you for posting that; it was beautiful.

  2. Muv says:

    Gosh Father Zed, nothing like a bit of Victorian hothouse emotion to get the macassar running down the inside of your clerical collar. Ever been to Birmingham City Art Gallery? Worth a visit if you can when you come to Blighty. Chock full of Burne-Jones.

    [Nonsense. As Fr. Finigan will tell you, clerics use only the very finest, non-melting Macassar! But wait… perhaps you are an auntie-macassar?]

  3. Kathleen10 says:

    Very beautiful! My favorite reading or story is heavily visual, and it is that, although the wonderful image you provided was lovely to look at while you read the poem, and very nicely I should add. It is snowing heavily outside my window currently and to sit and hear a poem was very pleasant. One can’t help but make the comparison, this poem is as far from contemporary culture as seems possible. We have forgotten how to be lovely. Contemporary music, art, writing, none of it seems lovely. But this is timeless. Thank you for sharing it. Great art of any form is a gift from God and an homage to him at the same time.

  4. StWinefride says:

    Regency, not Victorian! :)

  5. lsclerkin says:

    Oh, my. Does that warm my old English major heart.
    I’m keeping that one, Father. :)

  6. Traductora says:

    The Pre-Raphaelites were descended from artists in the so-called Nazarene Movement. These people were early 19th century painters, mostly from German speaking cultures, coming out of a sort of Pietist movement combined with early Orientalism. Some of them became Catholics after the “main” studio moved to Rome.

    I saw a great and completely exhaustive Pre-Raphaelite exhibit at the Tate in 2012, and it was really enough to kick your socks off. Very, very beautiful, and regardless of their personal lives, very devout in many cases.

  7. yatzer says:

    Lovely, thank you.

  8. Elizium23 says:

    Wow! That is a gorgeous painting which adds to the beauty of the podcazt I listened to in full. Also, lol@ your apparent reference to The Big Comfy Couch. I always liked that Loonette…

  9. Marc M says:


    Oh jeez. That one may require absolution…

  10. wilky says:

    Try Tennyson’s St Agnes’ Eve. Where I live the snowdrops are blooming.

  11. jameeka says:

    This made my drive to work this morning exceedingly enjoyable

  12. Father Z, I seem to be having a problem with your podcast player. It keeps stopping every few minutes, and resetting my place. Has anyone else had this issue?

  13. benedetta says:

    Thank you for re-posting Fr.!

  14. Marine Mom says:

    Give me the lowest place: not that I dare
    Ask for that lowest place, but Thou hast died
    That I might live and share
    Thy glory by Thy side.

    Give me the lowest place: or if for me
    That lowest place too high, make one more low
    Where I may sit and see
    My God and love Thee so. Christina Rossetti

  15. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Chillingly poignant, the sense of transience at the end of the poem, as if the warmth and heat of the narrative has all been extinguished. When Keats wrote it, he was only 24, but already quite ill: he had barely another couple of years to live.
    Re: ‘beadsman’ – The word ‘bead’ comes from the old english word ‘biddan’ = to pray; in Middle English ‘bedes/beads’ are ‘prayers’. It’s an interesting reminder of the old pre-Reformation English custom of leaving a posthumous bequest for an almsman to pray every day for one’s soul. (Perhaps if it were resumed as an inheritance tax-free incentive, it might help solve the generational pensions crisis! :-)
    Keats wrote the poem while living in Wentworth Place in Hampstead – his house is maintained as a Keats Museum, and well worth a visit. It has been recently restored by the City of London (who also own the nearby Hampstead Heath, where Keats frequently walked).
    Some pictures of the house here, and a video:

  16. Therese says:

    The Christmastide Virgin feasts, my favorite time of year. ;-)

    By the way, my husband’s Combat Rosary yesterday, just in time for our anniversary. It’s amazingly beautiful and looks utterly indestructible. Thank you so much, Father.

  17. Isn’t this an image of the purity of love for which women might wish?

    Am I wrong?

  18. AnAmericanMother says:

    Have to post this — Kipling’s take on “The Eve of St. Agnes”. It’s one of his deeply layered stories – stick with it, all will become clear: