Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

The Eve of St. Mark

  • Upon a Sabbath day it fell;
  • Twice holy was the Sabbath bell,
  • That call’d the folk to evening prayer.
  • The city streets were clean and fair
  • From wholesome drench of April rains;
  • And, on the western window panes,
  • The chilly sunset faintly told
  • Of unmatur’d green vallies cold,
  • Of the green thorny bloomless hedge,
  • Of rivers new with spring-tide sedge,
  • Of primroses by shelter’d rills,
  • And daisies on the aguish hills.
  • Twice holy was the Sabbath bell:
  • The silent streets were crowded well
  • With staid and pious companies,
  • Warm from their fire-side orat’ries;
  • And moving, with demurest air,
  • To even-song, and vesper prayer.
  • Each arched porch, and entry low,
  • Was fill’d with patient folk and slow,
  • With whispers hush, and shuffling feet,
  • While play’d the organ loud and sweet.
  • The bells had ceas’d, the prayers begun,
  • And Bertha had not yet half done
  • A curious volume, patch’d and torn,
  • That all day long, from earliest morn,
  • Had taken captive her two eyes,
  • Among its golden broideries;
  • Perplex’d her with a thousand things, —
  • The stars of heaven, and angels’ wings,
  • Martyrs in a fiery blaze,
  • Azure saints in silver rays,
  • Aaron’s breastplate, and the seven
  • Candlesticks John saw in heaven,
  • The winged Lion of Saint Mark,
  • And the Covenantal Ark,
  • With its many mysteries,
  • Cherubim and golden mice.
  • Bertha was a maiden fair,
  • Dwelling in the old Minster-Square;
  • From her fire-side she could see,
  • Sidelong, its rich antiquity,
  • Far as the bishop’s garden-wall;
  • Where sycamores and elm-trees tall,
  • Full-leav’d, the forest had outstript,
  • By no sharp north-wind ever nipt,
  • So shelter’d by the mighty pile.
  • Bertha arose, and read awhile,
  • With forehead ’gainst the window-pane.
  • Again she tried, and then again,
  • Until the dusk eve left her dark
  • Upon the legend of St. Mark.
  • From plaited lawn-frill, fine and thin,
  • She lifted up her soft warm chin,
  • With aching neck and swimming eyes,
  • And dazed with saintly imag’ries.
  • All was gloom, and silent all,
  • Save now and then the still foot-fall
  • Of one returning homewards late,
  • Past the echoing minster-gate.
  • The clamorous daws, that all the day
  • Above tree-tops and towers play,
  • Pair by pair had gone to rest,
  • Each in its ancient belfry-nest,
  • Where asleep they fall betimes
  • To music of the drowsy chimes.
  • All was silent, all was gloom,
  • Abroad and in the homely room;
  • Down she sat, poor cheated soul!
  • And struck a lamp from the dismal coal;
  • Leaned forward, with bright drooping hair
  • And slant book, full against the glare.
  • Her shadow, in uneasy guise,
  • Hover’d about, a giant size,
  • On ceiling-beam and old oak chair,
  • The parrot’s cage, and panel square;
  • And the warm angled winter screen,
  • On which were many monsters seen,
  • Call’d doves of Siam, Lima mice,
  • And legless birds of paradise,
  • Macaw, and tender av’davat,
  • And silken-furr’d Angora cat.
  • Untired she read, her shadow still
  • Glower’d about, as it would fill
  • The room with wildest forms and shades,
  • As though some ghostly queen of spades
  • Had come to mock behind her back,
  • And dance, and ruffle her garments black.
  • Untir’d she read the legend page,
  • Of holy Mark, from youth to age;
  • On land, on sea, in pagan-chains,
  • Rejoicing for his many pains.
  • Sometimes the learned eremite,
  • With golden star, or dagger bright,
  • Referr’d to pious poesies
  • Written in smallest crow-quill size
  • Beneath the text; and thus the rhyme
  • Was parcel’d out from time to time:
  • — “Als writith he of swevenis,
  • Men han beforne they wake in bliss,
  • Whanne thate hir friendes thinke hem bound
  • In crimped shroude farre under grounde;
  • And how a litling child mote be
  • A saint er its nativitie,
  • Gif thate the modre ( God her blesse! )
  • Kepen in solitarinesse,
  • And kissen devoute the holy croce.
  • Of Goddis love and Sathan’s force, —
  • He writith; and thinges many mo:
  • Of swiche thinges I may not show.
  • Bot I must tellen verilie
  • Somdel of Sainte Cicilie;
  • And chieflie whate he auctorethe
  • Of Sainte Markis life and dethe.”
  • At length her constant eyelids come
  • Upon the fervent martyrdom;
  • Then lastly to his holy shrine,
  • Exalt amid the tapers’ shine
  • At Venice, —

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Keats, John. “The Eve of St. Mark.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, by G. Kim Blank. Edition 3.3 , University of Victoria, 5 September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_the_eve_of_st_mark.html.

Chicago Style: Note

John Keats, “The Eve of St. Mark,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_the_eve_of_st_mark.html.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Keats, John. “The Eve of St. Mark.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_the_eve_of_st_mark.html.