the eve of st. agnes

romanticism

This poem hinges on the superstition that virgins might receive visions of their future husbands on St. Agnes’ Eve.  Here’s the brutal story of St. Agnes herself:

According to tradition, Saint Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born c. 291 and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve[2] or thirteen during the reign of the Roman EmperorDiocletian, on January 21 304.

The Prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry his son, and on Agnes’ refusal he condemned her to death. As Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel. As she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. When led out to die she was tied to…

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