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That old nurse stood beside her wondering,
Until her heart felt pity to the core

At sight of such a dismal labouring,

And so she kneeled, with her locks all hoar,

And put her lean hands to the horrid thing:
Three hours they labour'd at this travail sore;

At last they felt the kernel of the grave,

And Isabella did not stamp and rave.

Ah! wherefore all this wormy circumstance?
Why linger at the yawning tomb so long'!

O for the gentleness of old Romance,

The simple plaining of a minstrel's song!

Fair reader, at the old tale take a glance,
For here, in truth, it doth not well belong

To speak :—O turn thee to the very tale,

And taste the music of that vision pale.

With duller steel than the Persian sword
They cut away no formless monster's head,

But one, whose gentleness did well accord

With death, as life. The ancient harps have said,

Love never dies, but lives, immortal Lord:
If Love impersonate was ever dead,

Pale Isabella kiss'd it, and low moan'd.

'T was love; cold,—dead indeed, but not dethroned.

In anxious secrecy they took it home,
And then the prize was all for Isabel:

She calmed its wild hair with a golden comb,
And all around each eye's sepulchral cell

Pointed each fringed lash; the smeared loam
With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,

She drench'd away : — and still she comb'd and kept

Sighing all day—and still she kiss'd and wept.

LII.

Then in a silken scarf,—sweet with the dews

Of precious flowers pluck'd in Araby, And divine liquids come with odorous ooze

Through the cold serpent-pipe refreshfully,—
She wrapp'd it up ; and for its tomb did choose

A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,
And cover'd it with mould, and o'er it set
Sweet Basil, which her tears kept ever wet.

LIII.

And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,
And she forgot the blue above the trees,

And she forgot the dells where waters run,
And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;

She had no knowledge when the day was done,
And the new morn she saw not: but in peace

Hung over her sweet Basil evermore,

And moisten'd it with tears unto the core.

LIV.

And so she ever fed it with thin tears,

Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,

So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
Of Basil-tufts in Florence ; for it drew

Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,

From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:

So that the jewel, safely casketed,

Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.

LV.

O Melancholy, linger here awhile!

O Music, Music, breathe despondingly! O Echo, Echo, from some sombre isle,

Unknown, Lethean, sigh to us—O sigh! Spirits in grief, lift up your heads, and smile;

Lift up your heads, sweet Spirits, heavily, And make a pale light in your cypress glooms, Tinting with silver wan your marble tombs.

IVI.

Moan hither, all ye syllables of woe,

From the deep throat of sad Melpomene!

Through bronzed lyre in tragic order go,
And touch the strings into a mystery;

Sound mournfully upon the winds and low;
For simple Isabel is soon to be

Among the dead: She withers, like a palm

Cut by an Indian for its juicy balm.

LVII.

O leave the palm to wither by itself;

Let not quick Winter chill its dying hour !— It may not be—those Baalites of pelf,

Her brethren, noted the continual shower
From her dead eyes ; and many a curious elf,

Among her kindred, wonder'd that such dower
Of youth and beauty should be thrown aside
By one mark'd out to be a Noble's bride.

LVIII.

And, furthermore, her brethren wonder'd much
Why she sat drooping by the Basil green,

And why it flourish'd, as by magic touch;

Greatly they wonder'd what the thing might mean:

They could not surely give belief, that such
A very nothing would have power to wean

Her from her own fair youth, and pleasures gay,

And even remembrance of her love's delay.

Tax.

Therefore they watch'd a time when they might sift
This hidden whim; and long they watched in vain;

For seldom did she go to chapel-shrift,
And seldom felt she any hunger-pain;

And when she left, she hurried back, as swift
As bird on wing to breast its eggs again:

And, patient as a hen-bird, sat her there

Beside her Basil, weeping through her hair.

Yet they contrived to steal the Basil-pot,
And to examine it in secret place:

The thing was vile with green and livid spot,
And yet they knew it was Lorenzo's face:

The guerdon of their murder they had got,
And so left Florence in a moment's space,

Never to turn again. —Away they went,

With blood upon their heads, to banishment.

O Melancholy, turn thine eyes away!

O Music, Music, breathe despondingly! O Echo, Echo, on some other day,

From isles Lethean, sigh to us—O sigh!
Spirits of grief, sing not your " Well-a-way!"

For Isabel, Sweet Isabel, will die;
Will die a death too lone and incomplete,
Now they have ta'en away her Basil sweet.

Piteous she look'd on dead and senseless things,
Asking for her lost Basil amorously:

And with melodious chuckle in the strings
Of her lorn voice, she oftentimes would cry

After the Pilgrim in his wanderings,

To ask him where her Basil was ; and why

'T was hid from her: "For cruel 't is," said she,

"To steal my Basil-pot away from me."

And so she pined, and so she died forlorn,

Imploring for her Basil to the last.
No heart was there in Florence but did mourn

In pity of her love, so overcast.
And a sad ditty of this story born

From mouth to mouth through all the country pass'd: Still is the burthen sung—" O cruelty, To steal my Basil-pot away from me!"

THE

EVE OF ST. AGNES.

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