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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 -- 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 'Twas hid from her : “ For cruel 'tis,” 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 borne
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!”
St. AGNES' Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was !
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold ;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold :
Numb were the Beadsman's fingers while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem'd taking flight for heaven without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his prayer he
His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man;
Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees,
And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan,
Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees :
The sculptured dead, on each side seem to freeze,
Emprison'd in black, purgatorial rails :
Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat'ries,
He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails
To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails.
Northward he turneth through a little door,
And scarce three steps, ere Music's golden tongue
Flatter'd to tears this aged man and poor;
But no-already had his death-bell rung;
The joys of all his life were said and sung:
His was harsh penance on St. Agnes’ Eve:
Another way he went, and soon among
Rough ashes sat he for his soul's reprieve,
And all night kept awake, for sinner's sake to grieve.
That ancient Beadsman heard the prelude soft;
And so it chanced, for many a door was wide,
From hurry to and fro. Soon, up aloft,
The silver, snarling trumpets 'gan to chide :
The level chambers, ready with their pride,
Were glowing to receive a thousand guests :
The carved angels, ever eager-eyed,
Stared, where upon their heads the cornice rests, With hair blown back, and wings put cross-wise on
At length burst in the argent revelry,
With plume, tiara, and all rich array,
Numerous as shadows haunting fairily
The brain, new stuffd, in youth, with triumphs gay
Of old romance. These let us wish away,
And turn, sole-thoughted, to one Lady there,
Whose heart had brooded, all that wintry day,
On love, and wing’d St. Agnes' saintly care,
As she had heard old dames full many times declare.
They told her how, upon St. Agnes' Eve,
Young virgins might have visions of delight,
And soft adorings from their loves receive
Upon the honey'd middle of the night,
If ceremonies due they did aright;
As, supperless to bed they must retire,
And couch supine their beauties, lily white ;
Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
Of Heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire.
Full of this whim was thoughtful Madeline :
The music, yearning like a God in pain,
She scarcely heard: her maiden eyes divine,
Fix'd on the floor, saw many a sweeping train
Pass by-she heeded not at all : in vain
Came many a tiptoe, amorous cavalier,
And back retired; not cool'd by high disdain,
But she saw not: her heart was otherwhere;
She sigh'd for Agnes' dreams, the sweetest of the year
She danced along with vague, regardless eyes,
Anxious her lips, her breathing quick and short :
The hallow'd hour was near at hand: she sighs
Amid the timbrels, and the throng'd resort
Of whisperers in anger, or in sport;
'Mid looks of love, defiance, hate, and scorn,
Hoodwink'd with faery fancy; all amort,
Save to St. Agnes and her lambs unshorn,
And all the bliss to be before to-morrow morn.
So, purposing each moment to retire,
She linger'd still. Meantime, across the moors,
Had come young Porphyro, with heart on fire
For Madeline. Beside the portal doors,
Buttress'd from moonlight, stands he, and implores
All saints to give him sight of Madeline,
But for one moment in the tedious hours,
That he might gaze and worship all unseen; Perchance speak, kneel, touch, kissin sooth such
things have been.
He ventures in: let no buzz'd whisper tell:
All eyes be muffled, or a hundred swords
Will storm his heart, Love's feverous citadel :
For him, those chambers held barbarian hordes,
Hyena foemen, and hot-blooded lords,
Whose very dogs would execrations howl
Against his lineage: not one breast affords
Him any mercy, in that mansion foul,
Save one old beldame, weak in body and in soul.
Ah, happy chance! the aged creature came, Shuffling along with ivory-headed wand, To where he stood, hid from the torch’s flame, Behind a broad hall-pillar, far beyond The sound of merriment and chorus bland : He startled her; but soon she knew his face, And grasp'd his fingers in her palsied hand, Saying, “ Mercy, Porphyro! hie thee from this place; They are all here to-night, the whole blood-thirsty race!
“ Get hence! get hence! there's dwarfish Hil.
debrand ; He had a fever late, and in the fit He cursed thee and thine, both house and land: Then there's that old Lord Maurice, not a whit More tame for his grey hairs—Alas me! flit! Flit like a ghost away.”—“Ah, Gossip dear, We're safe enough ; here in this arm-chair sit, And tell me how”—“Good Saints! not here, not
here; Follow me, child, or else these stones will be thy bier.”
He follow'd through a lowly arched way,
Brushing the cobwebs with his lofty plume;
And as she mutter'd “ Well-a-well-a-day!"
He found him in a little moonlight room,
Pale, latticed, chill, and silent as a tonıb.
“ Now tell me where is Madeline,” said he,
“O tell me Angela, by the holy loom
Which none but secret sisterhood may see,
When they St. Agnes' wool are weaving piously.”