What exactly do Madeline and Porphyro get up to?

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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What exactly do Madeline and Porphyro get up to?

Postby Bloggs » Wed Dec 18, 2002 3:49 pm

A recent article in English Review stated without question that Madeline and Porphyro consummate their love in 'Eve of St Agnes'. Is this common belief or is anyone as innocent as me and believes they don't? It is undoubtedly an erotic poem and he is described at that point as a 'throbbing star' but how much should we read into him 'melting into her dream'? I'd be interested to know what anyone else thinks.

If you haven't read 'Eve of St Agnes' you should! :roll:

Postby Hope » Fri Dec 20, 2002 10:31 pm

Hey! Personally, I'm not sure if they do or not! There are several ways you can read it I think, and I don't think anyone can ever know for sure what Keats meant! I feel that the Eve of St Agnes, whilst it had it's beautiful and sensitive moments, it comes across a little too contrived and melodramatic for my liking! Even Keats himself admitted it was not one of his best works, saying it was too "smokeable"...

has anyone ever read "To Hope"? It's my favourite and it's the one that got me hooked on Keats! :)
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Madeline and Porphyro

Postby swallow » Thu Jan 23, 2003 12:04 am

I am certain that Madeline and Porphyro engage in a passionate and dreamy love-making. That 36th stanza is indeed one of the most erotic passages in English poetry. Porphyro acts on his love in a way that Keats himself and Fanny Brawne never could, and at the end Madeline and Porpyro can flee, "away into the storm," putting their fulfilled love at an impossible distance from the reader (or the poet...) forever.

Postby Hope » Thu Jan 23, 2003 6:43 pm

but are you sure that Keats & Fanny Brawne never could?....We discussed this in class today - i'm not sure Keats remained a virgin throughout his life - his biography says that he had a disease similar to syphalis which can only be sexually transmitted. poor keats! i wish he had been able to marry fanny not contract TB! We would have witnessed so much more of his genius!
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Postby Despondence » Sun Jan 26, 2003 3:13 pm

What...? Are you saying that, consensus among the scholars hold that Keats died a virgin? Heavens! It appears I have hopelessly much to catch up with; had better read some biography (alas I'm working on my phd thesis right now, so enlightenment in this respect must wait). But to the point, I find that pretty hard to believe. In several of his letters (mainly to Reynolds, I would guess, and maybe to G&T) there are jokes and allusions of a clear sexual character - and not particularly virtuous ones either, but rather saucy ones if the editor is to be believed (the language was too high and cryptical for me to decipher myself...).

I was under the illusion that he probably had experimented some in his youth (well..), to get at least the flavor of it. Perhaps during his early apprenticeship. But like anybody, he probably just had some bad sex that destroyed a few of his delusions and boyish fancies - isn't that's enough to make anybody a poet? That's what I thought his Fancy with Fanny B was all about - the first chance ever to fall in his lap for making it right, making it divine; making it worthy of poetry.

Well I'm just speculating, but I kind of doubt whether Keats could have written all that he did lacking any love-making experience (even bad experiences may serve as well as good experiences in this respect - perhaps even better!). Perhaps someone has a better and more educated answer/speculation on this.

Postby substatique » Tue Apr 01, 2003 1:41 am

I think M's dream was a sexy dream.

"She uttered a soft moan" in her sleep (294).

"She panted quick" in her sleep again (295).

"The blisses of her dream so pure an deep" (301).

She moans and sighs as she awakes (303).

I think this is why she is disappointed with P when she wakes up: because the sex is interrupted. Thus, in stanza 36 when P "arose...like a throbbing star" (317-8), he is melting into her dream by recalling sexual fantasies about him in reality. Therefore, in stanzas 37 and onward, M is pleased with him again. What else could explain her quick reversal of opinion?

I admit that the first time I read this poem I thought that the sexual interpretation took a lot out of the poetry of the moment. Melting into someone's dream seemed nicer to me if it was a metaphor for their love rather than for sexual intercourse. However, I now think that Keats is just making the sex poetic, and that doesn't really detract from the poem.

As an aside, Neitzsche also contracted syphillis from one of his first sexual experiences, which sort of put him off the subject for the rest of his (far longer) life.

Postby Sarah » Tue Jun 03, 2003 12:16 pm

I'm fairly sure that M & P do have sex. It is worth remembering that The Eve of St Agnus was censored by Keats publishers before it wsa released so it was probably more explicit ad erotic originally. Also I agree with the earlier posts. In some letters (Not the ones usually published for use in schools) Keats talks about having sex and using prostitutes which was common at the time. His relationship with Fanny was different because it was about love not just sex and the double standards at the time meant that she had to remain 'pure' untill she was married.

Postby annieb » Sat Jun 07, 2003 9:22 pm

i think we are supposed to be unsure as readers. (negative capability etc) But the way i see it, Porphyro takes Madeline. It is not consenting sex as she is unaware of whether she is asleep or awake. i really like this poem but find Porphyro i really hateful character who rob's Madeline of her innocence, therefore forcing her to flee.

Postby Matt » Thu Jan 08, 2004 3:48 pm

I do not see Porphyro as a character to be hated.

I do not think that Porphyro is somesort of evil sexual predator. I think that Porphyro, like Madeline, is a young passionate youth, daunted by the burning love he feels for Madeline. The event where Madeline and Porphyro consummate their relationship should not be looked on as moment of seediness or rape or forced consent but a beautiful moment between two young, inexperienced lovers. Anybody else agree?

I have written an essayentitled 'To what extent is Madeline simply the victim of a trick?' based on a comment by Jack Stillinger. Email me at mat18220201@hotmail if you'd like to view this essay. I'm not experienced in the writing of essays of this nature and i'm only young so perhaps the essay isn't as informed as some of you would like but i'm proud of it.
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Yes to That!

Postby Rich » Sun Jan 11, 2004 10:45 pm

I too believe they have sex, which is why his publishers were so sticky about that particular passage. In their eyes, such over passion would be detrimental to the sale of the poem and it might spawn attacks on Keats as an immature writer, hardly in control of his passions. It was certainly frowned upon for that very reason upon publication.


Postby Anonymous Iggy » Sun Jan 25, 2004 5:24 pm

Sarah wrote:I'm fairly sure that M & P do have sex. It is worth remembering that The Eve of St Agnus was censored by Keats publishers before it wsa released so it was probably more explicit ad erotic originally.

Just out of curiosity, do you have any resources to back this up? I'm writing a paper on Keats -- specifically the theme of love in his poetry -- and I'd love to have some information like this *in other words, this is the only place so far where I've heard that*
La Belle Dame Sans Merci hath me in thrall!
Anonymous Iggy
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