« PreviousContinue »
ISABELLA, OR THE POT OF BASIL:
A STORY, FROM BOCCACCIO.
Fair Isabel, poor simple Isabel!
Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love's eye! They could not in the self-same mansion dwell
Without some stir of heart, some malady;
It soothed each to be the other by;
With every eve deeper and tenderer still; He might not in house, field, or garden stir,
But her full shape would all his seeing fill;
To her, than noise of trees or hidden rill;
Before the door had given her to his eyes; And from her chamber-window he would catch
Her beauty farther than the falcon spies;
Because her face was turn'd to the same skies;
A whole long month of May in this sad plight Made their cheeks paler by the break of June:
"To-morrow will I bow to my delight, To-morrow will I ask my lady's boon."—
"O may I never see another night,
Lorenzo, if thy lips breathe not love's tune."—
So spake they to their pillows; but, alas,
Honeyless days and days did he let pass;
Until sweet Isabella's untouch'd cheek
Fell thin as a young mother's, who doth seek
"How ill she is !" said he, " I may not speak, And yet I will, and tell my love all plain:
If looks speak love-laws, I will drink her tears,
And at the least 'twill startle off her cares."
So said he, one fair morning, and all day
And to his heart he inwardly did pray
For power to speak ; but still the ruddy tide
Stifled his voice, and pulsed resolve away—
Yet brought him to the meekness of a child:
Alas ! when passion is both meek and wild!
So once more he had waked and anguished
If Isabel's quick eye had not been wed
She saw it waxing very pale and dead,
And straight all flush'd ; so, lisped tenderly,
"Lorenzo ! "•—here she ceased her timid quest,
But in her tone and look he read the rest.
'O Isabella! I can half perceive
If thou didst ever anything believe,
Believe how I love thee, believe how near
My soul is to its doom : I would not grieve
Thy hand by unwelcome pressing, would not fear
Thine eyes by gazing ; but I cannot live
Another night, and not my passion shrive.
K Love! thou art leading me from wintry cold,
And I must taste the blossoms that unfold
In its ripe warmth this gracious morning time."
So said, his erewhile timid lips grew bold,
Great bliss was with them, and great happiness
Grew, like a lusty flower in June's caress.
Parting they seem'd to tread upon the air,
Only to meet again more close, and share
She, to her chamber gone, a ditty fair
He with light steps went up a western hill.
And bade the sun farewell, and joy'd his filL
All close they met again, before the dusk
All close they met, all eyes, before the dusk
Close in a bower of hyacinth and musk,
Unknown of any, free from whispering tale.
Ah; better had it been for ever so,
Than idle ears should pleasure in their woe.
Were they unhappy then ?—It cannot be—
Too many sighs give we to them in fee,
Too many doleful stories do we see,
Whose matter in bright gold were best be read;
Except in such a page where Theseus' spouse
Over the pathless waves towards him bows.
xm. But, for the general award of love,
The little sweet doth kill much bitterness;
And Isabella's was a great distress,
Was not embalm'd, this truth is not the less—
With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt,
And for them many a weary hand did swelt
And many once proud-quiver'd loins did melt
Many all day in dazzling river stood,
To take the anchored driftings of the flood.
For them the Ceylon diver held his breath,
For them his ears gush'd blood; for them in death
Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe
Half-ignorant, they turn'd an easy wheel,
That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.
Why were they proud? Because their marble founts Gush'd with more pride than do a wretch's tears I
Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts Were of more soft asceut than lazar stairs?
Why were they proud? Because red-lined accounts were richer than the songs of Grecian years?
Why were they proud \ again we ask aloud,
Why in the name of Glory were they proud?
xvn. Vet were these Florentines as self-retired
In hungry pride and gainful cowardice, As two close Hebrews in that land inspired,
Paled in and vineyarded from beggar-spies; The hawks of ship-mast forests—the untired
And pannier'd mules for ducats and old lies— Quick cat's-paws on the generous stray-away,— Great wits in Spanish, Tuscan, and Malay.
How was it these same ledger-men could spy
Fair Isabella in her downy nest?
A straying from his toil? Hot Egypt's pest
How could these money-bags see east and west?
O eloquent and famed Boccaccio!
Of thee we now should ask forgiving boon, And of thy spicy myrtles as they blow,
And of thy roses amorous of the moon,
Now they can no more hear thy ghittern's tune,