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And freezes utterly unto the bone
Those dainties made to still an infant's cries : Then 'gan she work again ; nor stay'd her care, But to throw back at times her veiling hair.
Until her heart felt pity to the core
And so she kneeled, with her locks all hoar,
Three hours they labour'd at this travail sore ;
Why linger at the yawning tomb so long?
The simple plaining of a minstrel's song!
(XLVII) The sixth line has been a topic of censure ; but I think wrongly. Taken in itself apart from the poem, it might be held to be an inopportune description ; but in the context of this most tragic and pathetic story, it has to me a surpassing fitness-a fitness astonishing in the work of a youth of Keats's age in 1818. The idea of maternity thus connected as it were by chance with the image of this widowed girl on the borders of insanity emphasizes in the most beautiful way the helpless misery of a life wrecked by the wickedness of others, and throws into ghastly contrast the joy of what should have been and the agony of what was.
(XLVIII) Hunt observes here—“ It is curious to see how the simple pathos of Boccaccio, or (which is the same thing) the simple intensity of the heroine's feelings, suffices our author more and more, as he gets to the end of his story. And he has related it as happily, as if he had never written any poetry but that of the heart."
Fair reader, at the old tale take a glance,
For here, in truth, it doth not well belong To speak :-0 turn thee to the very tale, And taste the music of that vision pale.
They cut away no formless monster's head,
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. 'Twas love; cold,-dead indeed, but not dethron'd.
And then the prize was all for Isabel :
And all around each eye's sepulchral cell
With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,
Of precious flowers pluck'd in Araby,
Through the cold serpent-pipe refreshfully,
(XLIX) “The very tale" will be found as wish to “turn" to it.
the Appendix for such
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.
And she forgot the blue above the trees,
And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
And the new morn she saw not : but in peace
Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
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.
O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
Unknown, Lethean, sigh to us–O sigh!
(LIV) Whether the “
savage and tartarly" assailants of Keats's day availed themselves of the word leafits in the 8th line for an accusation of word-coining, I do not know; but as far as I have been able to ascertain this diminutive of leaf is peculiar to the present passage.
Spirits in grief, lift up your heads, and smile ;
Lift up your heads, sweet Spirits, heavily, And make a pale light in your cypress gloonis, Tinting with silver wan your marble tombs.
LVI. 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 ;
For simple Isabel is soon to be
Let not quick Winter chill its dying hour!-
Her brethren, noted the continual shower
Among her kindred, wonder'd that such dower
Why she sat drooping by the Basil green,
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
This hidden whim; and long they watch'd in vain ;
And seldom felt she any hunger-pain;
As bird on wing to breast its eggs again;
And to examine it in secret place :
yet they knew it was Lorenzo's face:
And so left Florence in a moment's space,
O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
From isles Lethean, sigh to us— sigh!
For Isabel, sweet Isabel, will die ;
Asking for her lost Basil amorously;
Of her lorn voice, she oftentimes would cry