"The Music, Yearning Like A God In Pain"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: It is the Eve of St. Agnes, January 20, and bitter cold. The owl, with ruffled-up feathers, is cold, and the hare limps through the frozen grass. A priest in the chapel, telling his rosary with numb fingers, breathes out a cloud that rises like incense. His prayers finished, he takes his way out of the chapel and hears the music for the great party for a thousand guests. A member of the household, however, the Lady Madeline, daughter of the Lord of the castle, has her mind not upon revelry but upon the sacred rites of St. Agnes' Eve. It had been told her that if young virgins followed the ritual faithfully they would have visions of their lovers. They had to go supperless to bed and lie upon their backs, looking neither to one side or the other, but straight up. As Madeline prepares to go through the ceremonies she scarcely hears the music, yearning like a god in pain; she goes through the throng assembled for the party without noting the guests. Her downcast eyes see only sweeping trains upon the floor. Amorous youths come up to her to pay their court, but she does not see them: her heart is elsewhere.

Full of this whim was thoughtful Madeline:
The music, yearning like a God in pain,
She scarcely heard: her maiden eyes divine,
Fixed on the floor, saw many a sweeping train
Pass by–she heeded not at all: in vain
Came many a tiptoe, amorous cavalier,
And back retired; not cooled by high disdain,
But she saw not: her heart was otherwhere:
She sighes for Agnes' dreams, the sweetest of the year.