Last weekend, I went to the Hugh Lane Gallery and fell in love with the Harry Clarke stained glass windows again. This time, I took the time to read up on the poem that inspired them... I wasn't expecting it to be so risqué!
The Eve of Saint Agnes was written by John keats on 1819. The poem is inspired by an ancient tradition where young maidens would fast and go to bed early on 20th January and hope to dream of their future husbands. In the poem, Madeleine had been forbidden by her father, Lord Maurice, to marry Porphyro who was a sworn family enemy.
"Keats based his poem on the superstition that a girl could see her future husband in a dream if she performed certain rites on the eve of St. Agnes; that is she would go to bed without any supper, undress herself so that she was completely naked and lie on her bed with her hands under the pillow and looking up to the heavens and not to look behind. Then the proposed husband would appear in her dream, kiss her, and feast with her." via Wikipedia.
Brave Porphyro makes his way to the castle and with the help of a maid, is led to Madeleines's room. After spying her preparing for bed, he prepares a feast of rare delicasies! When she wakes up, he declares his undying love for her and promises her a life together over the southern moors. They escape the castle past the party revelers. I suspect there were a few grisly deaths along the way but the girl gets the guy which is the main thing!
The poem describes how there were 'a thousand guests' at the castle party. There was a marine theme to the costumes and many are decorated with peacock feathers, sea shells and pearls. There are even some seaweed-like head dresses. Harry Clarke loved to go to the Aran Islands. He was inspired by nature and loved to sketch jellyfish, shellfish and seaweed as well as butterflies, dragonflies and flowers.