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“[L]iterary work is not a closed system”, it is part of a pre-existing conversation present within society (Sider 331). The poetics of romance and sensibility seem particularly concerned with reader involvement. This idea is exemplified in Keats’ poem, “Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil”. Neither the poet nor the reader is an uninvolved observer, in “Isabella”, merely there to watch the tale of Isabel and Lorenzo’s unrequited love unfold. Throughout “Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil” Keats elicits readers to be part of the conversation and respond to the telling of the story.
Keats wrote “Isabella” in an octava rima sonnet format. Each stanza contains eight lines, which are written in iambic pentameter and follow an A B A B A B C C rhyme scheme. For the most part the format is strictly followed, but there are a few points, where Keats has played with the syntax slightly to maintain the rhyme scheme, such as line 6; “It soothed each to be the other by”. It is an interesting coincidence that Keats chooses to follow such a restrictive format to express large concepts such as love and sympathy, making the poetry bound by rules just as Isabel and Lorenzo’s love is restricted by social rules. So the poet and his characters are equally restrained. Being able to successfully balance all the features of a sonnet, meter, rhyme, and syntax, not only demonstrates Keats talent as a poet but encourages readers to continue reading, focusing on the implications of the story being told...