"A Poor, Weak, Palsy-stricken, Churchyard Thing"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This poem reveals Keats's interest in medieval legends, and it contains many romantic elements–the love of the remote and the old, the interest in far-away lands and supernatural events. As he prays, an "ancient Beadsman" hears the noise of revelry in the castle. But a pure maiden named Madeline is oblivious of the celebration, for she dreams of the legend of St. Agnes's Eve: on that night (January 20) a virgin could have a vision of her future lover. Young Porphyro, who loves Madeline but is hated by her relatives, steals into the castle, where his only friend is "one old beldame" named Angela. Old Angela warns him to leave, but he wants her to help him enter Madeline's bedroom so that he can appear to the maiden as her lover. The old lady berates Porphyro, who vows to reveal himself to his foes if she does not aid him. Old Angela answers him, and her speech foreshadows the approaching deaths of her and the "ancient Beadsman":

"Ah! why wilt thou affright a feeble soul?
A poor, weak, palsy-stricken, churchyard thing,
Whose passing-bell may ere the midnight toll;
Whose prayers for thee, each morn and evening,
Were never missed." Thus plaining, doth she bring
A gentler speech from burning Porphyro;
So woeful, and of such deep sorrowing,
That Angela gives promise she will do
Whatever he shall wish, betide her weal or woe.