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That old nurse stood beside her wondering,
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:
At last they felt the kernel of the grave,
And Isabella did not stamp and rave.
Ah! wherefore all this wormy circumstance?
O for the gentleness of old Romance,
The simple plaining of a minstrel's song!
Fair reader, at the old tale take a glance,
To speak :—O turn thee to the very tale,
And taste the music of that vision pale.
With duller steel than the Persian sword
But one, whose gentleness did well accord
With death, as life. The ancient harps have said,
Love never dies, but lives, immortal Lord:
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,
She calmed its wild hair with a golden comb,
Pointed each fringed lash; the smeared loam
She drench'd away : — and still she comb'd and kept
Sighing all day—and still she kiss'd and wept.
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,—
A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,
And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,
And she forgot the dells where waters run,
She had no knowledge when the day was done,
Hung over her sweet Basil evermore,
And moisten'd it with tears unto the core.
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
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.
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.
Moan hither, all ye syllables of woe,
From the deep throat of sad Melpomene!
Through bronzed lyre in tragic order go,
Sound mournfully upon the winds and low;
Among the dead: She withers, like a palm
Cut by an Indian for its juicy balm.
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
Among her kindred, wonder'd that such dower
And, furthermore, her brethren wonder'd much
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
Her from her own fair youth, and pleasures gay,
And even remembrance of her love's delay.
Therefore they watch'd a time when they might sift
For seldom did she go to chapel-shrift,
And when she left, she hurried back, as swift
And, patient as a hen-bird, sat her there
Beside her Basil, weeping through her hair.
Yet they contrived to steal the Basil-pot,
The thing was vile with green and livid spot,
The guerdon of their murder they had got,
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!
For Isabel, Sweet Isabel, will die;
Piteous she look'd on dead and senseless things,
And with melodious chuckle in the strings
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.
In pity of her love, so overcast.
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!"