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dealings and was very comely and agreeable of person, wherefore, Isabella being often in his company, it befell that he began strangely to please her; of which Lorenzo taking note, at one time and another, he in like manner, leaving his other loves, began to turn his thought to her ; and so went on the affair, that each being alike pleasing to the other, it was no great while before, taking assurance, they wrought that which each of them most desired. Continuing on this wise and enjoying great pleasure and delight one with the other, they knew not how to deal so secretly but that, one night, Isabella, going whereas Lorenzo lay, was, unknown to herself, seen of the eldest of her brothers, who, being a prudent youth, for all the annoy it gave him to know this thing, being yet moved by more honourable counsel, abode without sign or word till the morning, revolving in himself various things in respect of the matter. The day being come, he told his brothers what he had seen the past night of Isabella and Lorenzo, and after long advisement with them, determined (so that neither to them nor to their sister should any reproach ensue) to pass the thing over in silence and feign to have seen and known nothing thereof, till such time as, without hurt or loss to themselves, they might avail to do away this shame from their honour, ere it

In this mind abiding and devising and laughing with Lorenzo as was their wont, it came about that one day, feigning to go forth the city, all three, a'pleasuring, they carried him with them to a very lonely and remote place, and there, the occasion offering, slew him, whilst he was off his guard, and buried him whereas none should know of it; then, returning to Messina, they gave out that they had despatched him somewhither on some of their business, the which was the lightlier credited, that they were often used to send

go farther.

him abroad on their occasions. Lorenzo not coming back and Isabella often and instantly enquiring for him of her brothers, even as one to whom the long delay was grievous, it befell one day, as she was very urgently asking after him, that one of them said to her “What meaneth this? What hast thou to do with Lorenzo, that thou askest thus often of him ? An thou enquire for him more, we will make thee such answer as thou deservest.” Wherefore the girl, sad and grieving and fearful she knew not of what, abode without more asking; yet many a time anights would she piteously call him and pray that he would come, and whiles with many tears she would make moan of his long tarrying; and thus, without a moment's gladness, she abode expecting him alway, till, one night, having thus much lamented Lorenzo for that he returned not and being at last fallen asleep weeping, he appeared to her in a dream, pale and all disordered, with clothes rent and mouldered, and her-seemed he bespoke her thus: “O Isabella, thou dost nought but call on me, grieving for my long delay and cruelly impeaching me with thy tears. Know therefore that I may never more return to thee, for that the last day thou sawest me, thy brothers slew me.” Then having discovered to her the place where they had buried him, he charged her no more call him nor expect him and disappeared : whereupon she awoke and giving faith to the vision, wept bitterly. In the morning, being risen and daring not to say aught to her brothers, she determined to go to the place appointed, and see if the thing were true that had so appeared to her in the dream. Accordingly, having leave to go somedele abroad for her disport, she betook herself thither, with all convenient haste, in company of one who had been with her aforetime and was privy to all her doings, and there, clearing

away the dead leaves from the place, she dug whereas the earth seemed the less hard. She had not dug long before she came upon her unhappy lover's body, yet nothing changed nor rotted, and thence knew manifestly that her vision was true, wherefore she was the most distressful of women; yet, knowing that this was no place for lament, she would fain, an she but might, have borne away the whole body, to give it fitter burial; but seeing that this might not be, she with a knife cut off the head, as best she could, and wrapping it in a napkin, laid it in her maid's lap. Then casting back the earth over the trunk, she departed thence, without being seen of any, and returned home, where, shutting herself up in her chamber with her lover's head, she bewept it so long and bitterly, that she bathed it all with her tears, and kissed it a thousand times in every part. Then, taking a great and goodly pot, of those wherein they plant marjoram or sweet basil, she laid therein the head, folded in a fair linen cloth, and covered it up with earth, in which she planted sundry heads of right fair basil of Salerno; nor did she ever water these with other water than that of her tears or rose or orange-flower water. Moreover she took wont to sit still near the pot and to gaze amorously upon it with all her desire, as at that which held her Lorenzo hid, and after she had a great while gazed upon it, she would bend over it and fall to weeping so sore and so long, that her tears bathed the basil, which, by dint of such long and assiduous tending, as well as by reason of the richness of the earth proceeding from the rotting head that was therein, grew passing fair and sweet of savour. The girl, doing without cease after this wise, was many times seen of her neighbours, who to her brothers, wondering at her waste beauty and that her eyes seemed to have fled forth her head [for weeping),

related this, saying “We have noted that she doth every day after such a fashion.” The brothers, hearing and being certified of this and having once and again reproved her therefor, but without avail, let secretly carry away from her the pot, which she missing, with the utmost instance many a time required, and for that it was not restored to her, stinted not to weep and lament till she fell sick, nor in her sickness did she ask aught else but the pot of basil. The young men marvelled greatly at this continual asking and were minded therefore to see what was in this pot; so, emptying out the earth, they found the cloth and in this the head, not yet so rotted but that they might know it, by the curled hair, to be that of Lorenzo. At this they were mightily amazed, and feared lest the thing should get wind; wherefore, burying the head again, without word said, they privily departed Messina, having made their dispositions to withdraw thence, and betook themselves to Naples. The girl, ceasing never from lamenting and still demanding her pot, died weeping; and so her illfortuned love had end. But after a while, the thing being grown manifest to many, there was one who made thereon the song that is yet sung and that runs thus:

Alack ! ah, who could the ill Christian be,

That stole my pot away ? &c.

Philomena's story was right pleasing to the ladies, for that they had many a time heard sing this song, yet could never, by asking, come to know the occasion of its being made.




AFTER many fruitless efforts to find, by enquiry among Italian scholars in England, the poem alluded to by Boccaccio at the close of the Story of Isabella, I have had the good fortune to come upon it through the kindness of Miss Violet Paget of Florence, who has obtained for me at the same time some interesting details from Professor Comparetti. This high authority believes that the song is no longer sung in Sicily; but it recurs, it seems, as a very favourite song, in medieval manuscript and printed collections of popular poetry, and even in Tuscany with certain Sicilian expressions. As sung in Tuscany with its Sicilian ancestry thus stamped upon it, it was so popular that one frequently meets, at the head of medieval and renaissance songs, the formula “The air is that of the Basil Pot song." The poem was printed in Florence before the middle of the sixteenth century in a collection of Canzoni, and is quoted in Alessandro d’Ancona's Storia della Poesia Popolare Italiana ; but the text I have found it easiest to refer to is that given in a modern edition of Boccaccio, namely Il Decameron di Messer Giovanni Boccacci Riscontrato co' migliori testi e postillato da Pietro Fanfani (Firenze, Successori Le Monnier, 1880). In the first volume of this

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