Infomotions, Inc.The Eve Of Saint Mark / Keats, John

Author: Keats, John
Title: The Eve Of Saint Mark
Publisher: Eris Etext Project
Tag(s): wol; bertha; sabbath; holy; saint; golden; silent; warm; english literature
Contributor(s): Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.)
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 780 words (really short) Grade range: 19-21 (graduate school) Readability score: 41 (average)
Identifier: keats-eve-505
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                             THE EVE OF SAINT MARK
                                 by John Keats

        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,
        Moses' 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 try'd, 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 daz'd with saintly imageries.

        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;
        Lean'd 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 Avadavat,
        And silken-furr'd Angora cat.
        Untir'd 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 parcell'd out from time to time:
       "Gif ye wol stonden hardie wight-
        Amiddes of the blacke night-
        Righte in the churche porch, pardie
        Ye wol behold a companie
        Approchen thee full dolourouse
        For sooth to sain from everich house
        Be it in City or village
        Wol come the Phantom and image
        Of ilka gent and ilka carle
        Whom colde Deathe hath in parle
        And wol some day that very year
        Touchen with foule venime spear
        And sadly do them all to die-
        Hem all shalt thou see verilie-
        And everichon shall by thee pass
        All who must die that year Alas
        -Als writith he of swevenis
        Men han beforne they wake in bliss,
        Whanne that hir friendes thinke hem bound
        In crimped shroude farre under grounde;
        And how a litling child mote be
        A saint er its nativitie,
        Gif that the modre (God her blesse!)
        Kepen in solitarinesse,
        And kissen devoute the holy croce.
        Of Goddes 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 what 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,-

                        THE END


This file was acquired from Eris Etext Project, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts ( by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is keats-eve-505, and it should be available from the following URL:

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