Gottfried von Strassburg
Tristan: Part I - Rivalin and Blancheflor
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved
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Last Modified 6th January 2020
- The Prologue.
- The Elopement.
- Rivalin takes Blancheflor to Parmenie.
- Rivalin and Blancheflor are wed.
- The death of Rivalin.
- The birth of Tristan.
‘Confessions of Love’
Wagners Tristan and Isolde - Richard le Gallienne, Edward Zeigler and George Alfred Williams (1909)
Internet Archive Book Images
(Note: The first letters of each of verses 2-11 of the original reveal the acrostic ‘DIETERICHT’. The first letter of the first verse is G in the original, presumably signifying Gottfried)
WHAT would there be of true value,
In the good for us which men do
If we then failed to grant value
To all those who that same good do?
The good from good men that we’ve won,
That solely for our good was done,
We should praise, and then have done,
Or other than good it is we’ve won.
I hear people speaking ill
Of that which they seek for still;
Such is a foolish act, and ill,
To will what you would not, still.
A man indeed does well to praise
That which he has need of, always,
And may such true desire to praise
Please him who does so, always.
Worthy and dear that man, to me,
Who both the good and bad can see,
Who, judging other men, and me,
Each man’s proper worth can see.
Skill doth thrive on esteem and praise,
When skill’s deployed right worthily:
Art blossoms, flowering worthily
Where true skill is adorned with praise.
Just as what fails to win esteem
Is washed away in life’s swift stream,
So what is praised upon life’s stream
Sails on, and meets with fair esteem.
Tis sorry to see all those who stray,
Mistaking bad for good, since they
Mistake the good for bad, and they
Judge not aright but ever stray.
Criticism is born of wit,
Yet howe’er well art bears with it,
If envy comes between, then it
Stifles, together, art and wit.
O, excellence, how strait your ways,
And how arduous your days!
Happy the man, his ways, his days,
Who lives your days, who treads your ways!
If I should spend my time in vain,
Though ripe for effort, it is plain
My standing in the world would wane,
And bring to loss what’s meant for gain.
SO, a labour now I undertake,
For the world I love, for its sake,
To solace every noble heart,
Hearts that I hold within my heart,
The world that by my heart is seen,
And not that common world, I mean,
Of those men, of whom I hear tell
That none of them bear sorrow well,
But only long to live in bliss,
And may God indeed grant them this!
But with their world and life, in turn,
This tale of mine has no concern,
Their life doth stray full far from mine,
Another world I have in mind,
That, in one heart, doth bear, complete,
Its dear grief, its bitter sweet,
Its heart’s joy, its painful breath,
Its dear life, its sorrowful death,
Its dear death, and sorrowful life;
To this life may I give my life,
Be part thus of this world, I’ve craved,
To be damned with it, or be saved.
I have lived, so far, in this way,
Have passed my hours so, day by day,
Receiving both help and guidance,
In every troubling instance.
The fruits of my labour now I proffer;
To this world, diversion offer;
So that with this tale of mine,
Its keenest sorrow it may find
Its dire anguish part-abated.
If any keep before their sight
Whatever sets an ill mind right,
It frees them from pain, by its art,
And does good to what hurts the heart.
All will agree, by any measure,
That when a man is left at leisure,
And with love’s longing is troubled,
The weight of longing is re-doubled,
Leisure coupled to longing’s pain
Increases longing once again.
That’s why it’s good for anyone
By heartache and longing wrung,
To do whatever thing he ought
To seek distraction for his thought,
For that will help lighten his mind,
And do his spirit good, he’ll find.
Yet I’d never advise a man
To follow after any plan,
In seeking out his true pleasure,
That doth mar love’s pure measure.
Let those in longing sing
A tale of love’s longing,
Heart and lips the tale devour,
And so, while away the hour.
Yet we hear it often said, and I
All but agree, though with a sigh,
That to occupy a yearning mind
With a tale of yearning, you’ll find,
Will only make the suffering worse.
Tis a saying I would rehearse,
Except for this one objection;
When we are deep in love’s passion,
However love may hurt the heart,
Yet the heart would play its part.
The deeper thus in passion’s fire
Burns the lover with desire,
So the hotter still he will burn,
And the fiercer still he will yearn.
So full of love it is, this pain,
This ill so warms the heart again,
That the noble heart that knows it,
Never willingly foregoes it.
I know it too, as sure as death,
Learnt it all, with anguished breath,
That the man of noble longing
Loves a tale about love’s burning.
Who then wants longing in a tale,
Go no further: for, without fail,
I’ll tell you one, so I here declare,
Of noble lovers who’ll show there,
Proof of pure love: each to other,
A noble lord, and his noble lover,
A man, a woman; a woman, a man:
Tristan, Iseult; Iseult, Tristan.
There are many, and rightly so,
Who may have read of Tristan, though
There are not many, even so,
Who’ve read his tale aright, I know.
For me to criticise them now,
Claim they re-told it anyhow,
Would yet be to deny them good,
Acting otherwise than I should,
And would wrong the tale I tell.
That I will not. They wrote well,
Their motive noble, true and fine,
For the world’s good, indeed, and mine.
They did it wishing good to us,
And whate’er good a man so does
Is both good itself and well done.
But when I claim that they have sung
The tale, yet read it not aright,
Then, say I, I am in the right.
They did not tell it without fail,
As Thomas of Britain tells the tale,
Master of such romances, who
In British books has read them true,
The lives of all the princes, then
Related them for us again.
All that there is of Tristan writ,
Rightly, truly, and as is fit,
I did then seek for everywhere,
All writ, as Thomas wrote, with care,
In Latin tongue or in Romance,
And adopting his very stance,
With many a pain, many a sigh,
As Thomas wrote, then so write I.
Thus after many a search around,
In a single book there I found
All that he spoke of that occurred
In this fair story, every word.
And now after all my reading
Of this tale, full of true longing,
I freely offer this my art
To everyone of noble heart,
As a distraction, and diversion.
Good reading is in my version.
Good? Yes, deepest good you’ll find.
It makes love lovable, lifts the mind,
Strengthens trust so, purifies life,
Adds virtue here where ill is rife.
Should the true man hear or see,
A tale of such pure constancy,
Then virtue and true loyalty
Arise in him accordingly,
Love, constancy, the faithful mind,
Honour; of virtue every kind,
That never otherwise endear
So strongly, or so well, I fear,
As when we tell of loving heart,
Or mourn love’s heartfelt pain, in art.
Love, in truth, is so blessed a thing,
And so blessed in the doing,
Honour and worth no man can reach,
Who will not learn what love doth teach.
So worthy the lives love inspires
So great the virtue that it fires,
Alas, that every thing alive
Does not for such heart’s love yet strive,
And that I see so few who make
Pure longing theirs, for their lover’s sake,
Enduring it without relief,
Expecting no reward but grief,
That when the days of sorrow start
Lies deep, concealed in the heart!
Why would noble mind, if it could,
Not suffer ill for endless good,
For many joys but one sorrow?
He that the pain of love’s arrow
Ne’er hath felt, ne’er knew love’s joy.
For joy and pain in love’s employ
Are forever found together.
Man must win praise and honour,
While both of them experiencing,
Or without them come to nothing.
If the two whose tale I tell again
Had not for love suffered such pain,
Such sorrow for the sake of joy,
Within one heart, without alloy,
Their name and story would never
Have brought such rapture ever
To many a noble heart, such blessing.
The tale’s good too, in the hearing,
Still is as sweet and ever new,
And their devotion ever true,
Joy, and pain, anguish and need.
And though they died, as we now read,
Long since, yet their sweet name lives on,
And in the world their death, in song,
Will live on and on, forever,
To honour-seekers bringing honour,
Inspiring the loyal with loyalty.
Their death must live eternally,
For us, the living, fresh as before.
For to hear the tale told once more,
Of such trust, such perfect loyalty,
Heart’s joy, heart’s sorrow, endlessly,
This to all noble hearts is bread.
With this their death lives on, the dead,
We read their life, we read their death,
As sweet as bread in every breath;
Our bread their death, their living breath;
So lives their life, so lives their death.
So they live still and yet are dead,
For the living, their death is bread.
Now whichever of you would hear again,
Their life, their death, their joy, their pain,
Let him lend heart and ears, to me,
And all he desires shall come to be.
THERE was a lord, in Parmenie,
Of tender years, such the story,
All this have I, a true account
Of his adventures, from the fount.
In birth he was the peer of kings,
A prince in lands, and sundry things,
Handsome in person, and delightful,
Brave, noble, generous and faithful;
To those whose joy in his gift lay
This lord, he brought joy every day,
As with its brightness does the sun.
He brought delight to everyone,
A paragon of knighthood he,
Bringing his race greater glory,
He was the true hope of his land.
Of all the qualities in a man
A knight should have he lacked none,
Except for prudence; he was one,
Fond of pleasures dear to his heart,
Who did as he wished from the start.
Thus he suffered, as will be seen,
For, sadly, it has ever been,
That youth and wealth will yet advance
Hand in hand with pure arrogance.
It never occurred to him to forbear,
As they do who wield power with care.
Evil for evil, was his course,
Ever countering force with force.
Such was the substance of his thought,
Not following virtue as he ought.
Now, such things can’t last forever,
That for each wrong he may suffer,
A man repays such coin in kind.
God knows, we often must be blind
In life to much that meets the eye,
Or meet with ruin, by and by.
If we’ll not overlook harm done,
Then greater harm from it will come.
That’s how a wild bear is brought low,
The creature dealing blow for blow
Until the hammer dazes it.
That glove this lord must surely fit,
Or so I think, since he went on
Taking revenge yet fell headlong,
Bringing vengeance on his own head,
In fatal error – as I have said.
Yet there was no malice in him,
Which is oft the common failing,
It was but his tender youth again,
That spurred him on and led to pain.
It was simply his thoughtless youth,
A young lord’s taste of power, in truth,
That opposed his own best interest,
An adventurous spirit, no less;
Youth, in the heart, full blossoming,
With all the arrogance that may bring.
He did as do those nobly bred
Who never learn to think ahead,
Shut his eyes to unhappiness,
Loved life, and living, to excess.
And when that life was on the rise,
Like to the daystar in the skies,
Smiling down on earth below,
He thought (it can never be so!)
That he would always live that way,
That life’s sweetness would ever stay.
Ah, no: his life, but scarce begun,
Was but in one swift moment done.
Just when his own bright morning star
Was set to shine out from afar,
Evening, concealed until then,
Began to fall; his star again
Descending suddenly from sight,
Turned his brief dawn to darkest night.
What he was called, this history
Reveals to us, all the story
Of his adventures writ within.
His own true name was Rivalin,
Though men called him Canelengres.
Many believe, and others guess,
That he was a lord of Lyonesse,
And was king of that land no less,
But, from all his sources, Thomas,
Having read their tales, assures us
That, wholly to the contrary,
He was in truth of Parmenie,
And held another land in fief
From a Breton lord, and that he
Owed fealty thus to that man,
Whom Thomas names as Duke Morgan.
Now when this lord named Rivalin
Had, as his rank required of him,
Been a knight for three years or so,
And knew all that a knight must know,
Acquiring the art of chivalry,
Of war the skills and mastery,
(For he had wealth, and land, and men)
Whether he was provoked then,
Or proved arrogant, I cannot say,
But the book says, be it as it may,
He attacked Morgan before long,
Accusing Morgan of some wrong;
Invading his lands, in full strength,
So effectively that, at length
Fortresses fell into his hands,
With all of their surrounding lands;
The citizens were forced to yield,
Their surrender both signed and sealed,
To ransom their lives and property,
Till he’d swelled his mighty army,
From all the plunder that he took,
And, so it says in my fair book,
He steadily increased his power,
Increasing it from hour to hour,
Wherever he progressed, until,
He could take towns and forts at will.
Rivalin though was not unscathed,
With loss of many a man he paid,
For Morgan was ever on his guard;
Rivalin, countering, fought hard,
In open battle, time and again,
And in this manner loss and gain
Form part of war and chivalry.
Such is war from its beginning
To its end; losing and winning.
Morgan, indeed, did the same,
Forts and towns his spoils became,
Depriving his foe of goods and men,
Taking possession, now and then,
Harming him as much as he could,
Although it did him little good,
For he was assailed by Rivalin,
Who attacked, and penned him in,
So far reduced him too that he
Was defenceless, failed to see
A way to save himself at all,
Watching his towns and castles fall.
Everywhere he found hard pressed,
Even the strongest forts and best.
Rivalin attacked these anew,
Invested them and skirmished too,
Fighting so relentlessly
Their defenders had to flee
Scurrying back inside the walls,
While, before them, Rivalin calls
For tournaments and such displays.
So Rivalin found a hundred ways
To harass Morgan on every hand,
With pillage and with fiery brand,
Till Morgan requested parley,
And, after prolonged entreaty,
A truce between them was agreed
A year’s peace, or so we read,
And both gave their security,
With oaths, and forts as surety,
As custom evermore demands.
So Rivalin returned to his lands,
Delighted with his victory,
Rewarding his men handsomely,
And, filling them too with delight,
Sent them home, footman and knight,
All equally in rare good spirits,
While doing himself much credit.
Not long after this success,
Rivalin thought to progress,
Making an expedition again
More for pleasure than for gain,
Equipped as magnificently
As ambition aspires to be.
Everything required, indeed
All the stores he might need
On his travels, were laid by,
Aboard a vessel moored nearby,
Enough for a year and a day.
Now he had often heard men say
How full of courtliness and noble
Was the young King of Cornwall,
Whose star was in the heavens high,
King Mark, who did, beneath the sky,
Order his realm with a strong hand,
His Cornwall, and thus all England.
Now, Cornwall it was his by birth,
But England came to him of worth;
He’d held it all, so tell the tales,
Since the Saxons, men of Gales,
Drove out the Britons, everywhere
Made themselves the masters there,
Such that the land once called Britain
Lost its name then and so became,
In honour of that former land
Of the Saxon Gales: their England.
When they had thus achieved its fall,
And shared it out amongst them all,
They all wished to be little kings,
And be the petty lords of things,
All to their own sad detriment,
For they wrought such devilment,
Butchering, slaying one another,
In the end they had no other
Recourse but King Mark’s protection.
Since then under his direction,
They had indeed served him so well,
So reverently, as tales tell,
No kingdom ever served a king
More faithfully in everything.
And thus his name, we understand,
Was known in every neighbouring land,
No other was so esteemed as he;
His court where Rivalin longed to be.
And there he now planned to stay,
With Mark, a year and a day,
That he a better knight might be,
Devoting himself to chivalry,
Polishing his manners more.
For, in his noble mind, he saw
That if he learned the courtly ways
Of foreign lands he’d earn more praise
For his own manners, without doubt.
With this in mind, he set out,
Leaving his people and his lands
In his loyal marshal’s hands,
A fair lord born of that country,
Who’d served him long and faithfully,
His name Rual, li Foitenant.
So Rivalin was swiftly gone,
With twelve lords he crossed the sea,
Needing no company but these,
They were an ample following.
Now, after sundry journeyings,
Near to Cornwall’s coast he heard,
(For at sea they brought him word),
That the most noble King Mark
Was at Tintagel; so his barque
He now sailed towards that place,
Landing there, in a brief space,
And, to put a swift end to care,
He found the king established there.
Rivalin then attired his men
In rich clothes, as befitted them,
And when he reached the royal court,
King Mark received him as he ought
Honouring him and all his men.
The welcome shown to Rivalin
The high honour, his reception,
Surpassed in their high distinction
Any such shown to him before,
In any place, on any shore.
Musing on all this was pleasant,
The courtly life so elegant,
That more than once Rivalin thought:
‘It must be God Himself that brought
Me to this land, and this people,
Fortune desires to treat me well.
All that I’ve heard of Mark is true,
Here all’s so open to the view,
And his is a courtly existence.’
So he told King Mark the essence
Of all that had led to his visit.
And when Mark was apprised of it,
And understood his every need,
He answered: ‘Welcome then indeed!
I, and my wealth, throughout the land,
All shall be at your own command!’
Rivalin found the court pleased him,
The court again was pleased by him.
Rich and poor found him worthy,
Everyone esteemed him truly,
Fonder of him than any guest;
He was deserving of success,
Rivalin, in his excellence,
Was ready to serve, in every sense,
That entire courtly company,
With his wealth, and personally,
In a spirit of friendliness.
Thus he lived there in true goodness,
And high esteem, every day
Pursuant of the knight’s true way,
And all courtly qualities, too,
Until Mark’s festival was due.
This annual festivity
Mark so requested and decreed,
That when the knights from far and wide
Were summoned they would swiftly ride,
Journeying, on every hand,
From the Kingdom of England,
Every year, at the royal call,
Into the realm of far Cornwall,
And brought with them in company,
Full many a lovely lady,
And many a beauteous thing.
Now all of this great gathering,
Was agreed, appointed and set
For blossom-time: and there they met,
During the sweet month of May,
Between its birth and its last day,
At Tintagel, or hard nearby,
Where all-comers could meet the eye,
On the loveliest meadow seen,
The fairest there has ever been,
Before or since, in any age.
Soft summertime had decked the stage
With all her sweetest industry,
And smoothed the fields in gaiety.
With every little woodland bird,
All delighting to be heard,
Flowers, grass, leaves, buds that vie
In soothing of the gentle eye,
With all that delights the noble
Heart was that May-meadow full.
All that a man might want was there
Of all the riches May might share,
Both the sunlight and the shade,
Near the fount, the lime-tree glade,
Every soft and tender breeze
Regaling King Mark’s company,
In its own particular way;
The flowers there all bright and gay
Smiling from the dew-wet grass;
And the green turf, as they did pass,
May’s companion, sweetly dressed
Decked in all her summer best,
And the flowers, in shining wise,
Reflected brightly in their eyes.
The sweet blossom on every tree,
Seemed to smile so pleasantly,
That the heart and then the mind
Went out to it and so, in kind,
Returned again its radiant smile,
Through the eyes, that shone the while.
The sweet birds’ pure and gentle song
So lovely, echoing all along
The vale, and all about the hills,
The mind and all the hearing fills
Refreshing both along the dale.
Then the heaven-sent nightingale –
So sweet that bird, and dear to me,
May it sing on ever sweetly –
Sang, among the blossoms free,
Singing with such mastery,
Many a fine and noble heart
Was roused, inspired by its sweet art.
So all of that fair company
Were lodged among the greenery,
In joy and perfect merriment
Each one according to their bent.
As each had hopes of true pleasure
So each there displayed their measure.
The rich encamped there all richly,
The courtly beside the courtly;
Here beneath the silk they lie,
There beneath the flowery sky.
Some beneath the linden trees,
Others in arbours of green leaves,
Sheltered by the living bough.
Neither hosts nor guests, I avow,
Were ever lodged so pleasantly
As, on that field, that company.
And all things too were plentiful,
The food and dress were bountiful,
Of which the king had laid in store,
For a noble feast, and then full more,
Than any guest could ever wish.
King Mark was so lavish in this,
His feast it proved so rich and fine,
That not a man there was might pine,
They were all happy to a man.
And so the festival began.
Whatever a man might wish to see,
Here was his opportunity,
Every spectacle to delight;
Whatever man longed to see, he might.
With some the ladies were their aim,
Some sought the jousting, or a game
Performed with shields and blunt lances,
Others there preferred the dances.
Of whatever a man might love
There was indeed more than enough,
For all the world thus, it appears,
All who then were young in years,
Vied together, at their leisure,
To contest that festive pleasure.
And King Mark, the noble and good,
The paragon there of knighthood,
Beside the beauties there arrayed,
Among the pavilions displayed,
Set there another gem, alone,
A rarest wonder of his own,
And that was Blancheflor, his sister,
A lovely girl, far lovelier
Than all fair women anywhere.
For of her beauty they declare,
That no man alive ever glanced
At her face, with eyes entranced,
Without his loving woman more,
With all her graces, than before.
This heavenly sight, so displayed
There, upon the meadow, made
Many a knight high-spirited,
Left many a heart exalted.
And within that fine field of view,
Was many another woman too,
Who might well indeed have been
In beauty’s noble ranks a queen.
They by their mere presence there
Shed joy and rapture everywhere,
And gladdened many a true heart.
Now, to display his martial art,
Came each knightly host and guest,
Crowding, the noblest and the best,
Gathering from every direction.
And King Mark himself made one,
With his companion Rivalin,
And others of his noblemen,
Who all took the greatest trouble,
To appear both fine and noble,
To attract polite attention,
And gain creditable mention.
Draped with sendal and rare silk,
Trappings of snow, as white as milk,
Or decked out in scarlet or green,
Many a charger now was seen,
In blue, yellow, violet; bright,
Wherever a man turned his sight,
Were others clad in subtle fabric,
Fine-woven as if by magic,
Chequered cloth, or parti-coloured,
Diversely sprigged and flowered.
The knights they were in garments dressed
Of wondrous sumptuousness,
Pleated and slashed, did there parade.
And summer too itself displayed
A wish to keep Mark company,
Scattered through all that assembly
You saw many a coronet
Of flowers, its gifts all nobly set.
In their sweet summertime array
They now indulged in courtly play.
Here, and there, and everywhere,
Wove together, and fought with flair,
Displaying their skills, ever new,
Until they passed, in fine review,
Before the place where fair Blancheflor
That miracle on earth, and more
Sweet lovely women sat that day
To watch the knights at their display;
For all the men they rode so nobly,
So majestically, so proudly,
That they attracted every eye.
And yet none there could e’er deny
Whate’er there was to lose or win,
It was the courtly Rivalin
Who excelled all others that day
And bore the greatest prize away.
The ladies were quick to name him,
Declaring that no man beside him
Revealed a horsemanship so fine,
So expert was he, so divine;
And so they praised his every move.
‘Behold!’ as one they cried, ‘that youth:
Now there goes a heavenly man,
How everything of his is done
And in such a heavenly way!
And then how truly handsome, pray!
For he is so well formed and strong,
See how nobly he rides along!
How firmly he doth hold his shield
It barely wavers in the field!
How the lance sits there in his hand!
How fine his robes and elegant!
How he holds his head! His hair!
How charming all that’s present there!
He’s altogether heavenly,
And then how happy she will be,
Destined to be loved by him!’
Now, as she watched brave Rivalin,
Blancheflor the fair and the good
Noted all that ever she could,
For everything the women said
Re-echoed sweetly in her head.
She had welcomed him, for her part,
For he had entered in her heart;
Despotically now had he come
To rule there in her heart’s kingdom,
Take up the sceptre and the crown,
Yet so deep in her did it sound,
So well concealed, as to forestall
Suspicion there, among them all.
Now that the horsemanship was over,
The riders there began to scatter,
And each knight then took his own way
Went wherever his own thoughts lay:
It so fell out that Rivalin
Chanced, in the course of his, to win
A place near to lovely Blancheflor,
She it was that he passed before,
Catching her eye, he addressed her,
In French he spoke, as he neared her:
‘Ah, Dieu vous sauvez, belle!’
‘Merci!’ replied the courteous girl,
And then, continuing modestly:
‘May God indeed, who so richly
Enriches every heart, I find,
So enrich your heart and mind!
And my grateful thanks to you,
Though there is a small matter too,
I can’t absolve you of, for one.’
‘What, sweet lady, can I have done?’
Replied the courteous Rivalin.
She said: ‘Why, through a friend within
My knowledge, ever the very best,
You’ve caused me great pain and unrest.’
‘Good God,’ he thought, ‘now what is this?
What can it be has gone amiss,
And has so greatly displeased her?
What error must I discover?’
Deeming that, all unwittingly,
In doing his knightly duty
He might have dealt harm to someone,
Some kinsman of her own undone,
So rendering her heart full sore,
Something that she now blamed him for.
Not so. For the true friend, she meant,
Was her heart, it was his advent
Had brought her pain: without a doubt,
This was the friend, she spoke about.
But he knew naught of the matter,
And so in his own sweet manner,
He apologised profusely:
‘Lovely woman, don’t be angry,
Or bear any ill will towards me,
If all this is true you tell me,
Then pass judgement upon me too,
And whatever you wish, I will do.’
The sweet girl answered: ‘It may be
That I don’t hate you precisely,
Yet love you not for it either.
Hereafter we’ll see, however,
What amends to me you might offer,
For the wrong you’ve made me suffer.’
And so he bowed, as if to go,
And she then, with a sigh, spoke low,
The lovely girl, as from the far
Depths of her heart there, saying: ‘Ah,
Dear Friend, may God on high bless you!’
From that time onwards, these two
Thought of each other constantly.
Rivalin went pondering deeply,
Considering, from every aspect,
Why Blancheflor should be so vexed,
And what indeed it all might mean.
Upon each gesture he had seen,
And her greeting, he quietly mused,
Her sigh, farewell, the words she’d used,
He marked them all and separately,
And by so doing came to see
Her sweet blessing and her low sigh
As signs of love and, by and by,
He’d soon arrived at the belief,
That both of these two things, in brief,
Revealed nothing less than love.
So deeply then did this thought move
His soul, it swift turned towards her,
And, drawing Blancheflor, it led her,
So that she might his heart command,
Into that kingdom, his heart’s land,
With all now that this thing might mean,
And crowned her there as his true Queen.
Now Blancheflor and Rivalin
The King, that is, and his sweet Queen,
Ruled as one, and in equal part,
Their own fair kingdom of the heart;
Her heart it fell to Rivalin,
His became hers, there within.
Yet all the while neither lover
Knew how it was with the other.
They had, the two, so deeply won,
So single-mindedly, their One,
And with such harmonious thought,
That Justice was rightly wrought.
He had taken her to his heart,
Feeling there the selfsame dart,
That she had felt: the selfsame pain.
So he began to doubt again
What it was she truly desired,
And by what motive she was fired,
Whether it was by love or hate,
He wavered thus from state to state,
His spirit flying to and fro,
His thoughts indeed wandering so,
Now settling here, now settling there,
That he was netted in the snare;
Twisting about, this way and that,
By his own mind he was trapped,
Till he, entangled so in thought,
Powerless to escape, was caught.
And so, involved in his own plight,
Rivalin showed, as well he might,
The lover’s spirit is precisely
Like a bird that’s flying freely,
That, in freedom, might have climbed
But settles on a twig that’s limed,
And on discovering its mistake,
When a fresh flight it would make,
Is stuck by its feet in the lime.
It beats its wings then, for a time,
And, as it does so, tries to rise,
And yet however hard it tries,
Has but to touch the twig lightly,
To find itself held more tightly.
It struggles then with all its might,
This way and that, in crippled flight,
Till it exhausts itself, wholly,
Glued there, be-limed, to the tree.
Likewise, destined to act the slave,
So does the freest mind behave.
When it is lost in sad love-longing,
So will love, its wonders working,
Snare a man in love-born sadness:
Then will the lover strive, in madness,
His former freedom to regain,
And yet love’s sweetness, once again,
Be-limes him there, and drags him down,
Until he’s so ensnared, so bound,
That struggle fiercely as he can,
Nothing he does can free the man.
And so it was with Rivalin,
Longing so closely drew him in,
Love so ensnared him with its art,
Love, for the Queen now of his heart,
That the entanglement, we see,
Brought him great uncertainty,
For in his mind he failed to tell
Whether she wished him ill or well.
He was doubtful as to his fate,
Whether he’d won her love or hate.
Nor dreaming in hope, nor in despair,
Brought him closer or further there.
Hope and despair, cruelly though,
Drove him endlessly to and fro.
Hope spoke of love, despair of hate.
Mired in this conflict so, his fate
Was such that he must fail to find,
In either, assurance for the mind,
Neither in hatred nor in love.
So his thoughts all unsettled move
Drifting about uncertainly,
Hope flows, despair’s an ebbing sea.
In neither is there constancy,
Both ever at war, discordantly.
Now when despair attacked him so,
Claiming Blancheflor was his foe,
Then he faltered and sought to flee:
Yet hope returning endlessly,
Offered him love and fond illusion,
So he was left there, in confusion.
Such was the conflict that his feet
Could neither advance nor retreat.
Love drew him in with greater might,
The more he tried to take to flight.
The greater his efforts to resist
The more firmly did love insist.
So love won through adversity
Till hope achieved its victory,
Despair was overcome at last,
And Rivalin believed, heart-fast,
He was loved by his Blancheflor.
Heart and mind, in accord once more,
Were fixed on her in such a way,
That not a thing could say him nay.
And yet, though love with its sweet art
Had seized both Rivalin’s mind and heart
Subduing them both to her will,
Yet he had scant idea, still,
How keen might be the suffering;
How great the pain that love might bring.
Reflecting on his adventure
With her, his very own Blancheflor,
And every detail from the start
To this day, etched upon his heart:
Her golden hair, her face, her brow,
Her cheeks, her chin, her sweet mouth,
The Easter Morning, that sunrise,
That dawned smiling in her eyes,
Then Love came to seize him, truly,
That most fierce incendiary,
Stoking the flames of his desire,
Setting his burning heart on fire,
Till suddenly true Love revealed,
No longer left within, concealed,
The heartfelt sadness, now made plain
Love’s pure longing and its deep pain.
Another life would now begin,
A fresh new life was granted him,
In action and in deepest thought,
So great the change that it had brought,
Rivalin was a different man,
And all then that he now began
All was wondrous in its strangeness,
As if twere done out of blindness.
For now his innate temperament
True love had altered, his intent
As wild now and capricious
As ever true Love can make us.
His former life now went awry,
His heartfelt laughter now did die,
And the smile once seen so often,
Now appeared so very seldom,
That silence and deep sadness too
Was now the only life he knew,
Seeing that all his joyfulness
Had yielded so to lovesickness.
Nor might Blancheflor now elude
Love’s longing and inquietude.
The one longing she must suffer,
The same for him as he for her.
Love, the great tyrant over all,
It held her also in its thrall,
Invading her so powerfully
That it had robbed her utterly
Of all her previous composure.
And now, in her own demeanour,
She was at odds, unusually,
With herself and reality.
Whatever delighted her before,
Whatever she used to adore,
All seemed nothing to her now.
Her life indeed was forced to bow
To the dictates of Love’s sweet art,
The pain that lay so near her heart.
And yet with all she suffered there
All her burden of pain and care,
She knew not what this was she bore,
For never had she known before
Such heartache, such great heaviness,
Such yearning, such deep weariness.
‘Alas!’ time and again, she cried,
‘God, what a life I live!’ And why?
What comes now to trouble me?
Many a man I’ve chanced to see,
And yet no harm was ever done.
Now, ever since I saw this one,
My heart has never been as free
Or happy as it once used to be.
The glances that I cast on him,
They are indeed the very thing
That has made me so heart-sore.
My heart was never hurt before,
Yet has been deeply wounded now.
It has transformed me, I allow,
Has altered me in body and soul.
And yet, if what has happened so,
Happens to every woman, who
Hears him and sees him as I do,
If this is his nature, this the cost,
Then, oh, what beauty will be lost
And wasted on this ruinous man.
Or if it’s some sorcery he planned,
Some enchantment he has learned,
That this strange marvel now has earned,
And all this marvellous suffering,
Best he were banished from the living,
Ne’er to be seen by any woman.
God knows, because of him, I am
In pain and sorrow here below!
I’ve ne’er looked at him, even so,
Or looked on any man I see,
With eyes that spoke hostility,
Nor signified ill will to any.
What fault of mine then can it be,
That can have hurt me so deeply
By one to whom I was ever friendly?
Yet why should I blame this fair knight?
The fault can scarce on him alight.
Whate’er heartache I have from him,
Or take upon myself through him,
Is, God knows, all my own doing,
My own heart its fate pursuing.
I saw many, besides this one,
How could he help it, if alone
Of all the others in that field,
Tis he to whom my feelings yield?
I heard many a lady fair,
Bandying his fame here and there,
Like a ball struck to left and right,
Singing his praises as a knight,
Praising his body, and his wit,
Speaking always to his credit.
With my own eyes I saw them too,
All his fine qualities on view,
And in my own heart have I read
What in him was so nobly bred,
My senses were infatuated
And my heart on him fixated.
In truth these things have blinded me,
They were the real sorcery,
These through which I was lost, the charm,
For he himself did me no harm,
That loved one, of whom I complain,
And in complaint accuse again.
My foolish and wayward mind,
This, it is, has the power to blind,
This, it is, that will do me ill;
So wilful, all the while, to will
What it would cease to desire
If it but thought now to aspire
To all that is noble and right.
Yet it cares only to delight
In its own wishes, where it can,
Concerning this godlike man,
With whom it was so easily
Taken, and indeed so swiftly.
And then, Dear God, what is more,
If I may think this with honour,
And need not blush with deepest shame,
A maiden, for my own good name,
I think that this heavy heart’s-pain
That I suffer, all my heart’s strain,
This can only be caused by love.
Love it is that makes my thoughts move
Towards him with inner longing.
And whatever is its meaning,
Something of all this here at hand
Speaks of love now and of a man.
All that, my life through, I have heard
Of love, each and every word
Of what women do truly feel,
Into my own heart now doth steal.
All that sweet and true heart’s-pain
All that doth noble hearts so strain
With its sweetest pain, in part
All that now stirs in my own heart!’
Now the courtly lady seeing
Within the depths of her being,
In her heart, and in her mind too,
As true lovers are bound to do,
That Rivalin her companion
Would her heart’s happiness become,
Her highest hope, and her life’s best,
Her gaze on him she did arrest,
At every opportunity.
Whenever, with propriety,
She could greet him all covertly,
Exchanging glances tenderly.
Whenever, with love invested,
Her eyes now strayed and rested
On him, the much enamoured man,
With love’s sweet gaze, then he began
To note it: love, and all that hope
He placed in her, now gave full scope
To his courage, so fuelled desire,
So lit, within, love’s burning fire,
He returned her gaze as swiftly,
More boldly, and more tenderly
Than ever he had done before.
When opportunity he saw,
He greeted her too, with his eyes.
Once the lovely girl realised
That he now thought as did she,
She was rid of anxiety,
All the care that she did suffer,
Fear that he’d little love for her.
Now she knew that within his mind
His thoughts of her were true and kind,
As lovers’ of their lover, should be.
He knew that of hers equally.
Knowing this set them both on fire.
Both were filled with the one desire,
Loving, they doted on each other
With all their loving heart’s power.
They knew in truth what men do say
That there, where lovers’ glances play,
Tis there the flames of love arise,
Desire blazes in such eyes.
Now when Mark’s festival was done,
And all the crowd of nobles gone,
Then there came fresh news to him
That his harsh foe, a rival king,
Had invaded his royal land
With such a mighty force in hand
That if he were not defeated
He would swiftly see completed
The ruin of all he overran.
So then a host, an armed band
Of fair warriors Mark gathered
And in strength he met and countered,
Fought the foe and conquered him,
Killed and captured so many men
That great good fortune did him shield
Who, all unscathed, escaped that field.
There noble Rivalin, it did betide,
Was wounded deeply in the side,
So penetrated by a spear,
The hurt so deep, and so severe,
That, in sorrow, his loyal men
Now carried him swift home again
To Tintagel, as one half-dead,
And laid him down upon his bed,
As one who was about to die.
Then the news spread, by and by,
That Canelengres a mortal
Wound had suffered in the battle.
Lament was heard on every hand
At court and all throughout the land,
For they grieved who knew his talents
Regretting that his excellence
His sweet youth, handsome body
His much-admired nobility,
Must now vanish with their friend,
Who’d met so untimely an end.
His friend King Mark did equally
Grieve for him and most sorely,
Lamenting o’er Rivalin more
Than for any other before.
Many a noblewoman sighed,
Many a lady mourned and cried,
And all who’d ever met his sight,
Were moved most deeply at his plight.
But howe’er deep the misery
That they felt at the tragedy
There was one now above all
His own Blancheflor we recall,
She the noble, pure, and courtly
Who grieved now for him constantly,
And in her heart, and eyes again
Revealing there her dear heart’s pain,
Wept for him, as she made moan.
And whene’er she was alone,
Able then to vent her sorrow,
Dealt herself blow after blow,
Upon herself, she now beat there
A thousand times and more, just there,
Above her heart in deepest pain,
Struck hard again and yet again.
So did she treat, this sweet lady,
All her lovely sweet young body,
Lost in such piercing misery
That she would indeed have gladly
Bartered her life away, all for
Any death not born of Amor.
And in truth she would have died
Of the sorrow that she must hide,
But for this one hope that fed her,
One prospect that yet buoyed her
That of once more seeing him,
However to that she might win;
And having once more seen him there,
Then she would gladly suffer care,
All that her fate to her might bring.
This kept her among the living,
Until she felt sufficiently
Calm to reflect in what way she
Might gain but that one sight of him
Demanded by her suffering;
And this roused her to remember
The kind nurse who had raised her,
Who had at all times everywhere
Taught her ward and cared for her,
And never let her from her side.
In her she sought now to confide,
Speaking to her nurse privately,
Complaining to her mournfully,
As ever they do, and have done,
Who are in a like condition.
In her eyes the sadness showed,
And now her hot tears overflowed,
Descending in a brimming stream
Making her saddened face to gleam.
Clasping her hands together, she
Gestured at her imploringly:
‘Ah, my life!’ did Blancheflor cry,
‘Ah,’ she moaned, ‘Ah, now I die!
Ah, my dearest nurse come show
Me your devotion, for I know
A wondrous thing it is, no less!
Since you are the soul of goodness
On which my fate and life depend,
And you alone may succour send,
I’ll tell you all my heart’s distress,
Relying still upon that goodness.
Now, help me, nurse, or I must die!’
‘My lady, say then why you cry
And thus complain so bitterly?’
‘Ah, dare I say it openly?’
‘Yes, dear lady, so speak again.’
‘A dying man, he kills me, then,
Of Parmenie, this Rivalin.
If I can, I would yet see him,
If I might find a way you see,
Before he’s ever lost to me.
He, I fear, will not recover.
If you’ll only bring me succour,
I shall then deny you nothing,
While I am among the living.’
The nurse she did consider now:
‘If this one thing I should allow
What harm indeed could it e’er do?
The man’s half-dead and, tis true,
Who knows but that he’ll die today,
Or tomorrow, I’d save, I say,
My lady’s life and her honour,
And she would love me forever
More than any other woman.’
‘My lady’, she cried, ‘my dear one,
Your sorrow pains me at the heart,
If I can but muster the art
To ease your bitter suffering
Why then, I’ll do that very thing.
I’ll go myself, at once, to view
The man, and so return to you.
I shall discover his true state,
Where and what his impending fate,
And who indeed is nursing him.’
So she went away to find him
And as if she were there to grieve,
She let him know, all privily,
Her lady’s desire to visit
If he might only arrange it
Fittingly, and honourably.
Then she returned again swiftly
To tell her lady of what befell.
Next she cloaked the girl, right well,
Beneath a beggar-woman’s dress,
Hiding her face, and her distress,
With the aid of a heavy veil,
And led her onwards without fail,
Clasping her hand, to Rivalin.
All the people that lay within
He now quietly sent away,
So that there, all alone, he lay,
Claiming that in such solitude
Relief from his cruel pain ensued.
Then the nurse at once appeared,
With a doctor, so she declared,
Successfully admitted then,
She bolted the door tight again;
‘And now, my lady, here he lies!’
Then gazing deep into his eyes
The lovely girl at once drew close,
‘Ah woe the day, and ever woe
To me the day that I was born!
Lost is my hope, and I forlorn!’
Rivalin did his best to bow
His head as much as did allow
His wound a dying man to do.
But this his Blancheflor scarcely knew,
Paying him now indeed no mind,
Seated beside him as if blind,
Laying her face now and then
Against the face of Rivalin,
Until it seemed gradually
From joy and grief, quietly, slowly,
All the strength fled from her body.
Now her lips that once showed rosy
Grew pallid, and her flesh also
Lost its hue, all that bright glow
That was its customary state;
In her eyes daylight did abate
And all grew sombre, dark as night.
She lay there, without sense or sight;
Helpless now, and quite motionless,
Her cheek against his she did press
As though she were a woman dead.
But then she rallied, roused instead,
From this direst extremity,
She clasped him to her side gently,
And laying her mouth close to his,
She granted him kiss after kiss,
A hundred thousand, and swiftly,
Till her mouth indeed had truly
Aroused all his concealed desire,
For on her lips there burned love’s fire:
Her mouth it brought to him delight,
Her mouth it so restored his might,
He pressed the noble girl fiercely
To his almost half-dead body,
Full closely, and with tenderness.
And soon desire achieved success,
And both their loving aim achieved,
For the sweet woman now conceived,
A child obtained of his body,
Though poor Rivalin was nearly
Dead, of the girl and of her love.
Had it not been for God above
He would have perished utterly,
Yet lived: as it was meant to be.
Thus Rivalin did yet recover,
And the lovely girl, Blancheflor,
Unburdened, burdened was again,
Though otherwise, with fresh heart’s-pain.
Freed of great sorrow for the man,
But with greater sorrow at hand;
Freed from the pain of her heartache,
Yet, with her, death she yet doth take:
Her heart’s ache is by love exiled,
Yet death received with the child.
But whatever form her recovery,
However it came about that she
Was unburdened, and burdened again,
Then with joy, and now with pain,
She saw nothing else before her
But beloved love and the lover.
Nor child nor mortal tragedy
Within her claimed her reverie,
Love and the man it was she knew,
She acted in ways true lovers do,
To which the living should aspire.
Her heart, her thought, her true desire,
Dwelt wholly now on Rivalin,
And his thought dwelt on her again
And then upon her love also,
In their thoughts they both did know
One love alone, and but one bliss,
For he was hers, and she was his;
He was now her, and she was him,
There Blancheflor, there Rivalin.
There Rivalin, there Blancheflor,
Where the two: there true amour.
Now there life was lived together,
There they found joy in each other,
And brighter now their spirits fared,
With all that they together shared.
And so whenever circumstance
Could further ought of their romance,
They were so full of earthly joy,
Their happiness without alloy,
They’d not have given their two lives,
For any other paradise.
BUT nothing here lasts for long,
And hardly had these two begun
To live life at its very best,
Enjoying all true happiness,
When news there came to Rivalin
That his foe, Morgan, once again
Was invading Rivalin’s land.
A vessel lay there close at hand
And this boat now was soon equipped,
For Rivalin, and stores were shipped,
And horses then were slung aboard,
For this sudden voyage abroad.
Now when the lovely Blancheflor
Knew what journey lay in store,
Why then, for her beloved man
Once more indeed her ills began.
For her heart-ache was such that she
Could barely hear and scarcely see.
The colour of her living flesh
Was now once more as pale as death.
One word her lips alone let pass,
One anguished cry she gave: ‘Alas!’
That was all she uttered plain,
‘Alas!’ cried, ever and again.
‘Alas: the man! Alas for Love!
What toil to me you now do prove,
To me, how harsh is your burden,
Love; that is the world’s affliction!
So fleeting is the joy in you,
Fickle you are, and never true,
In you what is’t the world doth see?
Rewarding us with treachery,
What you deliver in the end
Is ne’er as fine as you pretend
When with such brief joy you lure
Us to sorrow for evermore!
Every one of your false phantoms,
And all of your sweet deceptions,
Delude all things alive in truth,
Of which I am the living proof.
Of all the joy I thought was mine
Only, of all, heart’s-death I find.
The man I set my hopes upon
He from me must soon be gone!’
To this lament there entered in
Her faithful lover Rivalin,
Who came to her with heavy heart
To speak his farewell and depart.
‘Your servant’ he cried, ‘my lady,
I must leave for my own country.
Sweet woman: God keep your days
Right full of joy and health always!’
Once more now her heart must suffer,
Once more now her senses leave her;
For in her nurse’s lap she lay,
As pale as death, fainting away.
When her loyal fellow-sufferer
In longing, saw the far greater
Suffering of his dearest one,
He played the good companion,
For what she suffered lovingly
He shared, in tender sympathy.
Colour, strength now left his body,
And he slumped down dejectedly,
Burdened by their sorrowful fate,
And yet he could scarcely wait
For his lady to recover
From her swoon to gently clasp her
And take her thus, the unhappy
Woman to him all tenderly
And kiss her face now and her eyes
And her mouth, in many a guise,
And there he did caress her so,
That, at last, his lover also
Gaining awareness, by and by,
Raised herself and with heartfelt sigh
Of her own will she, as before,
Sat herself upright once more.
Now Blancheflor was herself again,
And saw her lover, now her bane,
In agony at this, his plan,
‘Ah’ she cried, ‘my blessed man,
How I suffer because of you!
My lord, since I saw you, tis true,
Many a heartache have I borne,
And in my heart bear still this morn,
Because of you, of you alone!
If I may now hereby make moan,
Without offence, I would yet see
You act more kindly towards me.
My lord and friend, you dealt to me
Many wounds but, above all, three
Lasting, fatal, unreconciled,
The first is that I am with child,
Whose birth will be the death of me,
Unless God grants His aid to me.
The second is far worse; dishonour
He will know, my lord and brother,
When he learns what has occurred,
When he hears that shameful word,
He’ll have me slain then, in a breath,
And in disgrace I’ll meet my death.
And yet the third doth wound the most,
More bitter tis than death almost.
For I know well, that it may be
My brother lets me live, you see,
And does not slay me but instead
Disinherits me, and on my head
Heaps disgrace, takes all I own,
Goods and honour, I’ll be known
Forever as one without a name.
My child I must raise, that same
Will have indeed a living father,
Yet helpless to aid its mother.
And yet I would ne’er complain
If I alone might bear the shame,
If, with my royal family,
The king my brother, might be free,
Of the dishonour it must bring,
And of myself; of all this thing.
For when folk tell of the matter,
Say that I am with child, rather,
And spread the news everywhere,
Two realms will be, by this affair,
Disgraced indeed, you understand,
This Cornwall: and then England.
And woe to me, if that should be,
That all do set their gaze on me,
And cry that two realms, mine the blame,
Were both disgraced and put to shame.
Better I were dead, and forgot,
You see, my lord, such is my lot,
This my sorrow, my heart’s lament,
The which for all my days is meant
To prove a living death to me,
Unless you aid me, certainly,
My lord, and God doth ease my pain,
Or ne’er shall I feel joy again.’
‘My dear lady’, replied her lord,
If any sorrow I have caused,
I will atone for it come what may,
And I do swear that, from this day,
Never on my account again
Shall you be caused or shame or pain.
For I have had such joy of you,
That whate’er may come to us two,
A deep injustice it would prove
If ever, for my sake, my love,
You should bear the least distress.
My lady, to you I now confess,
So you may know my heart and mind:
The pain, the joy, good, ill, you find,
All of whate’er may befall you,
All that I take upon me too;
Beside you I shall ever be,
However great the trials you see.
And now to your wish give voice,
And let your heart make the choice,
Whether I yet should stay or go.
If you’d have me stay, be it so,
Then I will know what befalls you,
Or if you would the voyage approve,
And chance your fate upon the sea,
To travel to my home with me,
Then I myself, and all I own,
Will e’er be yours and yours alone.
You have treated me so well, here,
I must strive all I can, tis clear,
To return your favour, fully.
Whate’er you decide, my lady,
Your wish is my desire too,
What you command, so I will do.’
‘Bless you, my lord,’ she replied,
You have so favoured me beside,
May God grant you reward also;
I should kneel at your feet and so
Bear thanks towards you evermore.
My lord, and love, I can no more,
As you know well, now linger here.
I cannot hide from folk, I fear,
My trouble, and the child I bear,
If I could steal away somewhere,
That would be the wisest thing,
Knowing not what fate may bring.
My lord, what may your counsel be?’
‘My lady, he said, ‘hark to me:
Tonight, when I shall go aboard
Be there already, let none record
Your coming there, all eyes deceive,
Meanwhile I shall be taking leave
Of all, and I will meet you there,
With my own followers, with care
It shall be so! Thus it must be.’
Once they had spoken then, swiftly,
An audience he did demand,
And told the news of his own land
To King Mark, of the trouble there.
He asked leave, and away did fare,
Took leave of all the company;
At this arose a heartfelt plea:
The cries, for Rivalin, of regret
Were greater than for any yet.
Many the blessing wished on him,
That God might, in gazing on him,
Guard his life and honour, in all.
Now, as evening began to fall,
He came to his ship in harbour,
And taking his things aboard her,
Found his lady already there,
The lovely Blancheflor; with care
The ship was readied, and set sail,
And bravely weathered every gale.
Rivalin takes Blancheflor to Parmenie
NOW when Rivalin reached his land
And heard of all the trouble on hand
That Morgan on his people wrought,
The mighty forces he had brought,
He summoned his marshal to him,
A man he knew was loyal to him,
One in whom he had trusted fully,
In his absence, to rule the country,
Holding power through all the land:
This was Rual, li Foitenant.
Ever a worthy man and true,
For never had he proved untrue.
He told Rivalin the state of all,
For he knew well, and did recall
For his lord the forces on hand,
And the trouble throughout the land.
‘But now, my lord, that you are here,’
He said, ‘in time, I have no fear,
Since God Himself grants your return,
The cure, our victory, we shall earn;
These troubles we shall overcome,
Our hearts now high, there is no room
For anguish, we shall banish fear.’
Then Rivalin spoke of his dear,
Of his sweet adventure, more
Concerning his own Blancheflor.
The marshal was more than pleased,
‘Indeed, my lord,’ he said, ‘I see
How you honour grows on earth
Your reputation and your worth,
All the joy that you have won;
All rising like the rising sun.
Never upon this earth you’d find
Another woman, to my mind,
Could add to yours such a name.
So, my lord, as regards that same,
Since she has treated you so well,
Then you should in your thanks excel.
As soon as this business is won,
The burden lifted, when tis done,
That lies so heavy upon us all,
You should proclaim a festival,
A noble feast, appointed richly,
And name her there quite openly
Before your friends and family,
As your wife, and thus I’d advise:
That in God’s church you realise,
The marriage, as customary,
For laymen and clergy to see,
In accord with Christian law,
For the good of your soul, and more.
And thus, believe me when I say,
In all your affairs, from that day
Greater benefit will be won.’
Rivalin and Blancheflor are wed
AND as he said, so it was done,
For in marriage he did take her,
And once wedded to each other
Rivalin placed her in the hands
Of faithful Rual, li Foitenant,
Who led her then to Canoel,
And into that selfsame castle
From which his lord took his name,
For Canelengres was that same.
Canel derives from Canoel,
And within that very castle,
There dwelt Rual’s wife, a woman
Who had, with wifely devotion,
And her heart and soul, accepted
The life that they had elected.
Rual commended their mistress
To his good wife, who her did bless
With all that her rank did require.
The death of Rivalin
RUAL returned then to his sire,
And the pair conferred together,
Regarding all the land did suffer,
The present trouble and discord.
So they sent messengers abroad
Calling the armed knights to gather,
Turning all their skill and power
On the matter of their defence.
Then with the army they went thence
To meet with Morgan and his host.
Their advance was thwarted almost,
For Morgan and those about him
Being prepared for Rivalin,
Granted him a hard-fought battle.
And, there, many a brave knight fell,
Many were struck or put to rout!
Scant the mercy shown thereabout!
Many a man was sorely pressed,
Many were wounded in the breast,
Many lay dead upon that field.
In that fell war where few did yield
Fell, worthy of lament, that knight,
Whom the world should grieve outright,
If it were not a waste of breath
To grieve for one long lost to death.
For Rivalin, the Good, lay there,
Who yielded never a foot where
Knightly prowess or lordliness
Were put severely to the test.
Despite the crush of the mêlée,
His men defended him that day,
And brought his body from the fight,
Lamenting o’er that noble knight,
In deepest grief bore him away
And buried him as one who may
Be said to have thus borne no less
Than their honour from the press,
To lie with him within the grave.
And if I were to wildly rave
And say how each of them lamented,
How each man cried as if demented,
What good were that? None! For all
Were dead with him; with him did fall
Their honour, and their wealth, indeed
All that a brave man doth most need,
All that with which a lord may bless
His people and grant happiness.
Now all is over, all, be it said,
For now brave Rivalin is dead.
No more can now be done for him,
Than any fallen knight, I mean,
Except what’s fitting for the dead.
Tis how things are, when all is said;
The world must do without him now,
May God in heaven lave his brow,
Who never failed a like brave heart!
The birth of Tristan
NOW must I exercise my art,
And tell what became of Blancheflor.
For when to her the news they bore
That lovely woman, and did impart
Those tidings, what she felt at heart,
Lord God, preserve us from knowing
What that was, beyond all showing!
This I doubt not, for it is plain
Ne’er did a woman know such pain,
Ne’er such heartbreak for any man,
As she: nor does, nor will, nor can.
Her heart with sorrow overflowed
To all the world indeed she showed,
How much she took his death to heart.
And yet her suffering ne’er did start
A single tear that eyes might see,
Dear Lord above, how could that be,
That she shed not one tear alone?
Her heart, in truth, had turned to stone.
No life at all remained within her,
Except the life that made her suffer,
The child within that suffering brought,
That life that with her own life fought.
Did she cry out in pain ever,
In her distress? No, forever,
From that sad moment she was dumb.
Not one cry from her mouth did come,
Her mouth, her voice, her heart, her mind,
They were lost to her; all confined,
The lovely girl spoke not nor cried
With bitter grief, nor groaned nor sighed,
She but sank down in her dismay,
And so lay there till the fourth day,
More piteous than any woman.
Writhing and bending she began
Her labour, twisting to and fro,
Without ceasing, till she bore so,
In pain and anguish there, a son;
Lo, he was born; her life was done.
End of Part I of Gottfried’s Tristan