Madeline following the ritual’s rules on the Eve results in her seeing her beloved Porphyro. So either the legend of St.Agnes and it’s magic does work in reality or it’s all imagination. The reader don’t actually know if it’s reality or imagination. And that’s exactly what Keats wants, as he, himself was troubled by the lack of imagination there was at the time. He may want to challenge us to think about it rather than being presented with an easy conventional way of thinking about the poem. This can be seen when Madeleine’s “regardless eyes” are “hoodwinked” (deceived) by “faery fancy”, the alliteration of “f” emphasizes the effect of this metaphorical and magical blindfold and so when she sees things there is no way of knowing as the reader whether she’s seeing reality or imagining things.
So Keats either set about this poem is the glorification of romantic love and reality or it celebrates imagination. Keats also confuses us with Porphyro, we can see him as a terrible person for devising a “stratagem” to trick Madeline into thinking he’s a vision delivered by a Christian ritual. However, you could also believe that it’s her freedom of imagination which is responsible for “conjuring” Porphyro as her perfect lover.
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And it’s Madeleine that deceives herself rather than Porphyro deceiving her. And once again we are confused on what to think of Porphyro.The juxtapositions Keats creates start to merge as we approach the climax of the poem. Examples of this come later in the poem; for example when Madeline enters her “wakeful swoon”, this use oxymoron is very paradoxical and causes us to lose the order and sense of the situation and we don’t know if she’s awake or asleep.
When she opens her eyes in and looks at Porphyro later in the poem, is she imagining or is it real? Keats sets up contrasts throughout the poem, then the reality and imagination start blending into each other, and eventually Porphyro “melts” into the dream of Madeline. So it’s as if reality and imagination become one dimension. You could also say that Madeline never actually wakes up and the whole poem is her dream.