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Adapted from Boccaccio's Decameron, Isabella is written in ottava rima (the stanza form that Byron brought back from Italy). Isabella and Lorenzo fall in love with each other, but he is in a society class beneath her, she is from a wealthy family and lives with her two brothers. For a while they are secretly in love, but do not speak of it. Then she falls ill and Lorenzo braves the risk of being shunned. But she is ill because she is in love with Lorenzo and is pining away. When he speaks of his love to her, her spirits are lifted and they begin to steal secret moments together. Her two brothers overhear and see them, and because he is of a lower class and unable to support her financially, they plot to murder him so that she has no chance of marrying him against their wishes.
So they slay him in the forest and bury him. Then they return to tell Isabell they had sent him on business far away. She pines for Lorenzo and after months, starts to fade in beauty because of her loss of love and life without Lorenzo. One night Lorenzo appears to her in a vision and tells her of his death at the hands of her brothers and where he is buried. She takes an old nurse with her and together they unearth his grave. Isabella removes his head from his body and wraps it in a scarf, then plants it in a pot and covers it with basil.
She cares for the basil with her tears and love, laments over the potted basil and grieves like a widow. The brothers are puzzled over her obsession for the basil and steal it away from her. Then they discover the secret beneath the basil, and destroy it. Isabella is destroyed as well, and cries for her sweet basil.
Shelley, A Defense of Poetry (essay). Shelley was moved to write this essay by an ironic statement made by Thomas Love Peacock in his volume The Four Ages of Poetry. Peacock stated that poetry was no longer useful because of the progress of technology and science. Shelley began his defense of poetry by distinguishing between reason and imagination, asserting that reason is a lesser faculty, having to do only with the analysis of things. He argued that imagination sees values and relationships and therefore is a creative faculty. Poetry, Shelley stated, is the expression of the imagination.
Shelley traces the development of poetry from early "savage" times to mature civilizations. He believes that the function of poetry is to give order to the world and thereby to give pleasure. Thus, poets act as legislators, inventing the "art" of life, and also as prophets, because they focus on the eternal and infinite rather than just the local and temporary. By this broad definition even philosophers like Plato or Bacon were poets, and the great poets--Shakespeare, Dante, and Milton--were philosophers.
The effect of poetry is, first of all, pleasure. But more than that, poetry makes people better by softening their natures, by enlarging their sympathies, by encouraging love, and by not being narrowly moralistic. Shelley states that the best poets do not try to teach and that society needs poets. He argues that humans have more practical and technical knowledge than they can possibly use, but that without the values embodied in poetry such knowledge is used to exploit people and cause them misery.
Shelley further proposes that poetry does not come from the reason or the will but rather form the mind in moments of inspiration. He states that the imagination creates far more beautiful images than the composing poet can record. Thus a poet is a person of greater than ordinary sensibility. The poet is happy in the operations of his own mind because he "turns all things to loveliness."
Finally, Shelley proposes in a second part (never written) to discuss contemporary poetic practice. He felt that he was living in an era of great poetry, at a time when enormous social and political upheaval was inspiring poetry. What he called "the spirit of the age" gave power to each individual poet. Shelley concluded with the most famous phrase of the essay: "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World." (Also mentions Dante)
OVERVIEW: This poem, the first part of which was written in 1797, is also a fragment. Coleridge had wanted to include it in the 1800 Lyrical Ballads, but it was not yet finished; it was still incomplete when he finally published it in 1816. As it stands, the poem is the beginning of a medieval tale about a demon or witch.' It is writen in a strange meter of four stresses to a line, and a varying number of unstressed syllables. (Such a meter was used in medieval Anglo-Saxon poetry.)
PART 1. At the poem's opening, it is midnight in Landdale Castle. Everyone is asleep except Christabel, the lovely daughter of Sir Leoline, the lord of the castle. Christabel is roaming in the woods, thinking about her lover, a knight to whom she is betrothed but who is now far away. Hearing a moaning coming from the other side of an oak tree, Christabel discovers a beautiful pale lady, barefoot and with jewels in her hair, who begs for help. Her name is Geraldine. She tells Christabel that she was abducted from her home by five warriors, who tied her to a white horse and brought her to this oak tree and left her, vowing to return. Geraldine begs Christabel for help. They walk back to the castle of Sir Leoline, at the entrance to which Geraldine falls down and must be lifted over the doorstep. This is the first of several hints that Geraldine is an evil spirit, because such beings cannot pass on their own through a doorway that has been blessed. Likewise, when Christabel utters a prayer of thanks to "the Virgin" that they are safe inside, Geraldine cannot join in the prayer. The old watchdog does not bark at this stranger; he only mutters in his sleep, and the ashes in the fireplace suddenly flame up as Geraldine passes by. In Christabel's chamber the two ladies undress for sleep. They lie down together, Christabel wrapped in the arms of Geraldine. As Christabel sleeps, the guardian spirit of her dead mother is driven away by Geraldine. Thus, by the end of the first part, the poet has led the reader to the conclusion that Geraldine is entrapping Christabel or trying to seduce her, to capture her soul. But he reminds us that "saints will aid if men will call."
PART 2. It is morning. Geraldine and Christabel rise and dress, but Christabel retains an uneasy sense of the sinister influence of Geraldine. They visit Sir Leoline, to whom Geraldine introduces herself as the daughter of Lord Roland de Vaux, a man who had once been Sir Leoline's closest friend but had since become a bitter enemy. Captivated by the beauty of Geraldine, who embraces and kisses him, Sir Leoline tells his bard Bracey to travel to the castle of Lord Roland and invite him to come back to Langdale Castle. Meanwhile, Sir Leoline challenges the five scoundrels who abducted Geraldine to appear at a tournament one week later to defend, if they can, their honor. But, seeing Geraldine's influence over her father, Christabel asks that the guest be sent home at once. Sir Leoline, captivated by Geraldine and in a fury at this breech of hospitality, responds angrily to his daughter. Christabel cannot explain her fears because her tongue has been bewitched by Geraldine. The second part ends with the poet's meditation about the irrational anger of a parent toward an innocent child.