You can read the first part of Keats’s ballad here.
Madeline wakes up and she realizes that her dream vision of Porphyro does not correspond to the man she has before her eyes: reality does not meet up with her expectations.
“How chang’d thou art! how pallid, chill, and drear!
Give me that voice again, my Porphyro,
Those looks immortal, those complainings dear!
Oh leave me not in this eternal woe,
For if thou diest, my Love, I know not where to go.” (1)
He is so pale that for a moment she fears he is on the point of death. After that, she asks him to look at her and speak to her as he did in her dreams, thus reassuring her that he is not going to die and saving her from “eternal woe.” What she wants is for her visionary Porphyro to come back again. Her wish is granted.
Porphyro enters her dream and there they are united in a mystic marriage (apparently sexual communion with her).
Beyond a mortal man impassion’d far
At these voluptuous accents, he arose,
Ethereal, flush’d, and like a throbbing star
Seen mid the sapphire heaven’s deep repose;
Into her dream he melted, as the rose
Blendeth its odour with violet,—
Solution sweet: meantime the frost-wind blows
Like Love’s alarum, pattering the sharp sleet
Against the window-panes; St. Agnes’ moon hath set. (2)
When the spell of the night and the magic visionary state come to an end, and Porphyro tells Madeline that he is not a dream, she expresses the fear that he will abandon her:
“No dream, alas! alas! and woe is mine!
Porphyro will leave me here to fade and pine.—
Cruel! what traitor could thee hither bring?
I curse not for my heart is lost in thine,
Though thou forsakes a deceived thing;—
A dove forlorn and lost with sick unpruned wing.” (3)
But Porphyro addresses her as his bride, (“My Madeline! sweet dreamer! lovely bride!”),
and urges her to get out of bed and leave with him immediately, since morning is approaching.
“Awake! arise! my love, and fearless be,
For o’er the southern moors I have a home for thee.“(4)
In the and, they flee into the storm and manage to run away from the castle without anyone’s notice.
The last word is “cold,” so the poem in some ways ends as it began, with cold, deathly tones .
NB: In the original version of this poem, Keats emphasized the eroticism of that experience, but his publishers, who feared public reaction, forced him to be less sensuous
“Come sei cambiato! Come sei pallido, freddo e tetro!
Porphyro mio, voglio quella tua voce indietro
quegli sguardi immortali, quei cari lamenti!
Oh, non lasciarmi in questi eterni tormenti,
perché se muori, io non so, amore mio, dove andare.”
Con passione più forte che d’uomo mortale,
a questi voluttuosi accenti egli si alzò
etereo, vermiglio, come astro pulsante
nella profonda quiete del cielo di zaffiro;
nei sogni di lei egli si fuse come la rosa
confonde il suo profumo con la viola, —
dolce unione: e mentre il vento soffiava pungente
come sveglia d’Amore, battendo sul nevischio tagliente
e contro le vetrate, tramontava la luna di Sant’Agnese.
“Ahimè, ahimè, non è un sogno, me meschina
Porphyro mi lascerà qui a struggermi e languire.
Crudele! Chi è il traditore che qui ti condusse?
Ma io non maledico, perché il mio cuore è nel tuo smarrito
anche se tu abbandoni questa creatura ingannata
colomba derelitta e perduta dall’ala non tarpata.”
“Svegliati! Alzati! amor mio, e non aver timore,
perché oltre le brughiere del sud ho una casa per te “.
Image: Peter Alexander Hay (1866-1952) “THE EVE OF ST. AGNES”