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The Eve of St Agnes Read-Along

Wednesday 20 January 2021, 7:00 pm9:00 pm


The Eve of St Agnes is traditionally the night on which a maiden in want of a husband performs a certain set of bed-time rituals to conjure one up. This folk tale inspired John Keats to write his Romantic Medieval narrative poem of the same name – and we’re going to magically recreate the whole story on 20th January – St Agnes’ Eve itself.

John Keats. Illustration © Linda Hughes.

Poetry Society colleagues and friends Julia Bird and Mike Sims have run many Keats-themed events at Keats House in Hampstead, the Keats Shelley House in Rome and at festivals throughout the UK. They combine a love of Keats’ poems and writings with a playful and social approach to an audience.

They and pre-invited audience members will perform the whole of Keats’ ‘The Eve of St Agnes’, breaking off every now and then for digressions on the history and legacy of the poem. Download your own reading version of the poem here.

For those that would like subtitles, the event will be auto-captioned. If you haven’t been to an autocaptioned event before, Zoom can now enable a service which adds live subtitles to an event.

‘The Eve of St Agnes’ is a poem set on a snowy night during a party in a remote castle. Keats’ party guests are dressed in their finery: ‘plume, tiara, and all rich array’. If you’d like an excuse to dress up in your own finery, please feel free … and if you’d really like to go to town, we’d be very happy to see some fancy dress versions of the poem’s characters. Our dress code is much more relaxed than the Castle Baron’s however … so this is only an option if it’s fun for you!

‘St. Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was! / The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold’. Pour yourself a warming drink – brewed or mulled – and join us for a magic-filled evening of Keats’ poetry.

This event is part of The Poetry Society’s Keats200 programme. Keats200 is a celebration of Keats’s life, works and legacy, beginning in December 2018 through to February 2021 and beyond. It is led by three major partners – Keats House, Hampstead, The Keats Foundation and the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association – and is open to all individuals and organisations who have an interest in Keats or poetry. The bicentenary of Keats’s most productive years as a poet, and the period when he found inspiration, friendship and love, is an exciting opportunity to (re)discover and enjoy his works as well as engage with poetry and its ongoing relevance to us all today.