Monday, 20 January 2014

The Eve of St Agnes

One of the texts I studied for AS English literature last year was a poem by John Keats called The Eve of St Agnes. It's a tale of two young lovers who elope and escape the constraints placed upon them by the girl, Madeline's, father. Feel free to read it here. I think it's beautifully written. The text really resonated with me because who doesn't dream about finding true love and running away with them to live happily ever after? I know I do, and I know it's on an almost daily basis.

Madeline's nurse tells her about St Agnes's day which happens every day on the 21st January, and that the night before - if certain rites are performed - a girl's future husband will come to her in her dreams. However, this only happens if the girl goes to bed without any supper, sleeps naked and with her hands under her pillow, and lies with her back to her bedroom door. Madeline is enthralled by the idea and does exactly as the nurse has told her. She goes to sleep and, sure enough, a young man appears in her dream. They fall in love and get married.

In actuality, a young man named Porphyro sneaks into the castle in which Madeline and her family live. He creeps up to Madeline's bedroom, sees her undress and get into bed, and watches her sleeping. He then goes over to her bed while she's only half awake, and it's implied that they have sex. It doesn't sound entirely consensual to me. As far as Madeline is concerned though, she's just dreaming. When she wakes up and sees Porphyro, she's terrified he'll leave her, and so she persuades him to elope with her.

After I read this, my best friend and I vowed to put this date, the 20th January in our calendars so we too could get a glimpse of our future husbands in our dreams. I'm a sucker for magic and superstition and old fairy tales, so I'm pretty excited. But, let me tell you, I won't be going to bed without dinner, no sir. I also won't be sleeping naked because I always manage to kick my duvet off and my dad comes in every morning to wake me up. I do sleep with my hands under my pillow but I like to thrash around whilst I sleep so there's no guarantee I won't be facing my door. We'll see what happens. (There will also be no one breaking into my house, watching me sleep, and there will be no non-consensual sex either.) 

Perhaps it's all some psychological trick and now that I know I'm meant to be dreaming of a future husband, I'll have someone already in mind as I go to sleep, who will eventually end up in my dream. Who knows? Let me know if this idea appeals to you too, because, well, yolo.

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