Gottfried von Strassburg

Tristan: Part II - Tristan

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

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Last Modified 6th January 2020


The mourning for Rivalin and Blancheflor

OH, the sad and sorrowful sight,

Finding one in desperate plight

Yet only then a sadder plight

To see; a more sorrowful sight!

Such honour lay with Rivalin

As he, when life still lived in him,

Had practised, while God did will

That he indeed practised it still,

That now the mourning was as great,

In excess of the common state.

For loyalty, and fair prowess,

Fine deeds, and knightly courtliness,

By his death had been laid low,

Leaving but the pain and sorrow.

As noble as his death had been

So was hers piteous, his queen.

However great the weight of care

Felt by the land and people there,

At the death of their dear master,

Yet the burden was far greater

Of lacking the power wholly

To ease the suffering of his lady

Seized upon by pitiless death.

Let all lament, at every breath,

Her anguish and their sore distress,

Whoever has been roused, no less,

By woman, or hopes so to be,

Should reflect now, profoundly,

Upon how swiftly disaster,

After joy, may fall thereafter

Upon the good and their estate,

How swiftly they may meet ill-fate,

All joy now gone: and life itself.

And then request of God Himself

His favour on true womanhood,

That His mercy, for He is good,

May grant them ease and aid them,

But of the child I’ll speak, of him,

Fatherless and motherless sent

Into this world, and God’s intent.

The Guardians of the Child

REGRET and remembrance true,

For a lost friend, ever new,

Exalts that friendship anew;

So prove the truest of the true.

Regret for a departed friend

Shows loyalty beyond life’s end,

This the recompense, we call

The crown of loyalty, for all

The pain and care; a crown, tis said,

Well befitting, as I have read,

The Marshall, Rual, and his wife,

Who were as faithful in this life

To God as to the world indeed,

Bearing themselves, in word and deed

As one, before the world and God,

Practising well the word of God,

Perfect in faithfulness, and then

This loyalty they did maintain,

Without fail, towards their friend,

Until they reached their own life’s end.

If any on earth deserved to be

Crowned king and queen of loyalty,

For their devotion then, I say,

It must most certainly be they,

For I will tell you, faithfully,

Of this most loyal pair, how he

Acted, and what she did beside.

After Blancheflor, their lady, died,

Once Rivalin was laid to rest,

The infant’s situation, at best,

Seemed adverse, though he’d survived;

And yet he prospered now and thrived.

The Marshal and his good woman

Took care of the little orphan,

And so that none there might pry,

Concealed him from every eye.

They said, and had this proclaimed,

That their lady, or so they claimed,

Had been with child, and it had died

Within the womb, and so twas cried;

And this third death, one grief the more,

Caused greater mourning than before.

All grieved that Rivalin was dead,

Grieved that Blancheflor’s life had fled,

Then grieved that the child was lost,

Who had now perished, to their cost,

Who of all hopes had been their best.

Then, their thoughts were yet distressed

By Morgan, troubling every breath

As much as did their master’s death.

The worst cause of anxiety

The worst thing, of a surety,

Is to have one’s enemy in sight,

Night and day, day and night.

It grips the heart, arrests the breath,

It proves indeed a living death.

In the midst of this, Blancheflor

Was carried to her grave; full sore

Was the weeping above that grave,

To her due honour there they gave;

For, you must know, such bitter grief

All showed, it seemed beyond belief.

Yet I’ll afflict your ears no further

With all the tale of this sad matter,

All their deep mourning and distress,

For too much grief and bitterness

Offends the hearing, and the ear

Can only bear so much, I fear.

And there is naught that is so fine

It does not pall. This tale of mine

Must leave their endless lament

And turn itself, with fresh intent,

To the child who is, without fail

The proper subject of this tale.

The Marshal, li Foitenant

SO doth this world, full oft, from good

To rank ill-fortune swiftly turn,

And afterwards from ill return,

From all that grieves, to what is good.

A true man in the depths of sorrow

Yet must think about the morrow,

And how to save himself and thrive.

For all the while he is alive,

He should live among the living,

Hope to his own self thus giving.

So the Marshal, Foitenant,

He whom ill-fortune thus did haunt,

Bethought himself, at every breath,

Of his land’s ruin, of his own death.

Since all defence had proved in vain,

Nor could he by sheer force obtain

The victory gainst his enemy,

He saved himself by policy.

He spoke to the barons at once,

Gathering to him many a one

From all the land, to sue for peace,

Since there was no other strategy

But to yield now to this Morgan

And then beg mercy of the man.

Their lives and goods they surrendered

Into Morgan’s hands, and rendered

Themselves subject, swore fealty,

Ending the fierce hostility,

Between themselves and Morgan so,

Suing for peace with this strong foe,

So saving the people, and their land.

The faithful Marshal, Foitenant,

Once home, consulted with his wife,

And then, on forfeit of her life,

Commanded her to lie abed,

Like a woman on her childbed,

And after a certain time, to say

That she had borne a child that day

One who was born to be their lord.

With this, the Marshal’s worthy wife,

Good and true, of spotless life,

Floraete, the soul of honour,

Of womanly virtue the mirror,

A gem of goodness, did concur,

Since it redounded to her honour.

She set her mind and body to

Appear in pain to those in view,

Like a woman near to giving

Birth, prepared her furnishings

And room as for her confinement

And knowing well how such things went,

She then feigned to be in labour,

Pretending likewise to suffer

Distraction of mind and body,

Like a woman making ready

To bear the pangs as she must do,

Summoning all her strength anew

So that all her women might see.

Then the infant, in secrecy,

Was laid beside her, so none knew

Except the midwife good and true;

Thus it appeared he was her son.

At once the news about did run

That a son she had borne, within,

The good Marshal’s lady, wherein

Lay truth indeed, for it proved so.

The child that lay beside her, know,

Showed filial loyalty to the end.

That same sweet child did extend

The same sweet affection to her,

That any child indeed should offer

To its mother, and it was well

That he did so, the tale doth tell,

For she devoted all her thought

To him, a motherly love she brought,

As steadfast in her intention

As constant in her affection

As if she’d borne him neath her heart.

For, as the story doth impart,

Never before, and never after

Did man and wife raise their master

With such love, and we shall see

As this tale proceeds, how that he,

The loyal marshal, showed his care,

The paternal affection there,

The efforts he did undertake,

The toil endured for his ward’s sake.

The Christening

NOW that the Marshal’s good wife

Was deemed recovered from the strife

Of childbirth, that is six weeks later,

As customary after labour,

The churching of her child was due,

The son whose tale I tell to you,

And so in her arms she took him,

Becomingly, she carried him,

Into God’s House, most tenderly.

And when, with due ceremony,

She had rendered her offering,

Her retinue accompanying,

In all their splendour, then her son

Was readied for holy baptism,

So that he could, in God’s name,

Be received in that very same

Sacred creed, Christianity,

And whate’er the fate he might see

In time to come, yet he would be,

With no shadow of uncertainty,

Nevertheless, a Christian.

Now, once the priest had on hand

All needed for the christening,

As customary in such a thing,

He asked, regarding the child’s name,

How he should now baptise that same.

The gracious lady went to speak

With her husband then, and did seek

To know what name he wished to be

Conferred upon the child. Now he,

The Marshal, was long silent, there,

Thinking the matter o’er, with care,

As to what name would be fitting,

Considering, from the beginning,

All that accompanied its birth,

All that had happened on this earth,

How all this thing had come to be,

Knowing full well the whole story.

‘My lady,’ he said, ‘all the tale

I had from his father, without fail,

Of all his time spent with Blancheflor.

In such deep sorrow, what is more,

Her longing for him was relieved,

In deep sorrow the child conceived,

In deep sorrow his life began,

So let us call the child Tristan.’

Triste means sorrowful, and so,

Because of all that you now know,

The infant was christened that same,

At once; and Tristan was, by name.

Tristan he was called, from triste,

A name that suited him at least,

In every way appropriate;

We see it in all that we relate,

See what sorrow indeed was there

When his mother the child did bear,

See how swiftly trouble and pain

Burdened him, and proved his bane,

See now how sorrowful a life

He was given, filled with strife,

See now the sorrow of his death

That brought about, with his last breath,

An end to his heart’s pain, at last

And did all other deaths surpass

In a sorrow more bitter than gall.

All that shall read this story, all

Shall know then that Tristan’s name

Accorded what befell that same.

His name indeed described the man,

Named, rightly, as he was, Tristan.

And if you would know why a plan

Was wrought now by the Foitenant,

What drove him to spread a rumour

That the child died with the mother,

There, in the throes of childbirth, lost

With Blancheflor, to their sad cost,

I give you answer then that he

Did all he did from loyalty.

The faithful man did this, you see,

For fear of Morgan’s enmity,

That if he knew about the child

Through force, or perchance through guile,

He would have him murdered, there,

And rob the country of its heir.

That is why that most loyal man,

Adopted the child, you understand,

And raised the lad with such care

That all true people, everywhere,

Should wish him God’s grace, indeed,

Who well-deserved it for his deed.

Tristan’s childhood and youth

NOW that the child had been blessed,

Baptised, as the tale doth attest,

The Marshal’s most virtuous lady

Took the beloved child swiftly

Into her close care once more,

Wishing at all times to ensure

His comfort and his contentment.

This sweet mother was so intent

On tending to his every need,

That if she’d had her way, indeed,

He would never have feared a fall,

But walked on velvet cloth withal.

And she continued to do so

To watch with care how he did go,

Till he his seventh year attained

And understanding he had gained

Of all that people did and said;

The which he had, being thus led.

And then the Marshal, his father,

Placed him with a learned teacher,

And sent him abroad with this man

To acquire the speech of each land,

And so ensured that he did study

And knew all his books right fully,

Setting such work before the rest,

Above all other tasks the best.

This then was the first incursion

Upon his accustomed freedom,

For with this he now entered in

To the constraints of discipline,

Which till then were not revealed

To him, remaining well-concealed.

In these the tender early years,

When he was ready it appears

To taste the first joys of living

The best of them were departing.

Just as he first began to bloom,

The frost of care cast its gloom

That ravages many a young boy,

Withering the first flower of joy.

In his first freedom, the first seed

Of freedom was smothered indeed.

Book-learning and strict discipline

With these his cares did now begin.

Yet one he had started on it,

He so set his mind upon it,

So applied himself with vigour,

That he then did swiftly master

More books, in that short space, faster

Than any child, before or after.

While this study he undertook

Of languages, and book on book,

He also spent long hours intent

On playing each stringed instrument

He found, and practised morn and night,

Learning what was wrong or right,

Till he was marvellously adept.

Long hours of study thus he kept;

One skill today, the next another,

This year well, but next year better.

Along with this, he learned to ride

With shield and lance at his side,

And how to spur his mount lightly

Put it to the gallop boldly,

Then wheel about, give it free rein,

And urge it with his knees again,

All done as it was meant to be,

In true accord with chivalry.

He found constant recreation

And pleasurable occupation,

In fencing hard, in wrestling,

In jumping high, and in running

And in throwing the javelin,

While showing all his skill therein.

And we know of a certainty,

That none, whoever they might be,

Could ever track and hunt as well

As he, for such the tale doth tell.

At many a game and courtly art

He excelled, and knew his part.

And beauty too, did so adorn

This young man that no other born

Of woman ever showed so fine,

For all about him was sublime

In quality of mind and manner.

Yet his good-fortune was later

Clouded, as I have read, by ill,

Doomed, as he was, to trouble still.

Now, Rual the Marshal, was fain

To summon the lad home again,

When he was in his fourteenth year,

And had him ride, and thus appear

About the realm, and at first-hand,

Study the people of that land,

So their ways he might know well.

And this he did, the tale doth tell,

Performing all so thoroughly

That in his time no youth might be

As highly skilled in that country

Or well-equipped as was Tristan.

And all, whether woman or man,

Showed goodwill and a friendly eye,

As we rightly should, say I,

To him whom worthiness did bless, 

Who kept from all unworthiness.

The Abduction

NOW, at this time, there chanced to be

A merchant-ship off Parmenie,

One that had sailed there from Norway,

A lone ship that had made its way

Across the sea, and came to shore,

And after a while, then did moor

In the harbour at Canoel,

At the foot of that same castle

Where the Marshal did reside,

And had indeed there at his side

His ward, the young lord Tristan.

Now came, from the merchantman,

Its traders to display their wares,

And it was soon known, everywhere,

What merchandise they had for sale.

And there among, so runs the tale,

Was that which would bring Tristan ill,

For there were falcons, trained to kill,

And other fine birds of the chase.

These were talked of in every place,

So that two of the Marshal’s sons

(Boys being eager for their fun)

Took Tristan, their foster-brother,

With them to seek out their father.

And when to the Marshal they came,

Then they asked, in Tristan’s name,

Indeed, right earnestly they sought,

That the falcons should be bought

To please them and their brother.

Now, the noble Rual would never

Have left a single thing undone

That could please his foster-son,

For he so cherished this Tristan,

That it was known by every man,

How he yet favoured the lad more

Than he had favoured any before

In the court, or that whole country.

Nor showed such devotion even

Towards his very own children,

Thus to all the world he showed

With what loyalty he followed

His dead lord, his worth and honour.

He rose and as a loving father

He now took Tristan by the hand,

And made his way toward the strand

Accompanied by all his sons,

And his retainers who, as one,

Either for business or pleasure,

Followed their lord at their leisure,

Down to the ship; what gives delight

Or takes one’s fancy was in sight,

All that might the heart regale

Gems, clothing, silk was there on sale,

All that might catch the buyer’s eye

Was heaped up there, in vast supply.

There the finest hunting-birds too,

Young goshawks just out of mew,

Sparrow-hawks, and peregrines,

Kestrels, hobbies and merlins,

And hawks that had not learnt to fly,

Red-feathered eyasses, met the eye,

Of all then of this goodly supply,

Tristan was now allowed to buy

Fine sparrow-hawks, merlins also.

And then because he wished it so,

Hawks were purchased for the others,

Whom he thought of as his brothers,

Thus each received gifts, as required.

But when they had what each desired,

And purchased aught that they did lack,

And were intent on journeying back,

It chanced that Tristan saw, aboard,

Hanging there, a fine chessboard,

With its field of squares and frame

All decorated, full fine that same,

And wondrously made and fair,

A work of beauty, I declare.

A set of fine chessmen beside

Superbly carved he then espied,

Fashioned of purest ivory.

He looked at them attentively,

Tristan, that accomplished youth.

‘Oh, noble merchants, speak the truth,

So help you God, come now, confess,’

He cried, ‘know you the game of chess?’

He spoke all this in their own tongue.

They gazed at the lad, one so young,

For next to none in those parts knew

Their speech; with interest anew,

Examining the boy closely,

And thought that never did they see

So handsome a youth, one blessed

With manners far above the rest.

‘Yes, my young friend,’ one replied,

‘Not a few of us here take pride

In our skills, versed in the game.

If you would like, come, test my claim.’

For I will take you on, indeed!

Done!’ Tristan cried, ‘tis so agreed!’

And thus the two sat down to play.

The Marshal spoke: ‘I shall away,

For to the castle I must return,

Stay here if you wish, in turn

My other sons will go with me,

Your tutor stays for company,

He’ll see that you come to no harm.’

So the Marshal, noble and calm,

Returned with all his retinue,

Except for Tristan’s tutor who

I can declare, most truthfully,

And as doth witness the story,

Was reared far more carefully,

For noble thought and courtesy,

Than any other squire was ever,

Most fitting as Tristan’s tutor,

And Curvenal that was his name.

He had learned much, that same,

Had many an accomplishment

Appropriate for his intent

Of teaching the boy, in turn.

That gifted lad, eager to learn,

That well-bred youth, Tristan,

Now sat and played, man for man,

So skilfully and courteously

That all the merchant company

Who gazed at him, now, as one,

Confessed in their hearts, each one,

No youth had they seen, of sense,

Adorned with so much excellence.

But whate’er talent for the game

He showed, their greater acclaim

Was for the thing that in their eyes

Occasioned the greater surprise,

That a child so spoke many tongues,

So fluent from his lips, that none

Had ever heard them spoken so

In any place where they did go.

This most courtly of courtiers,

Now and then did grant their ears

Items of courtly information,

And terms, of foreign derivation,

Correctly pronounced, by the way,

With which he did adorn his play.

Then he sang, excellently well,

Chansons, subtle in their spell,

And refloits too, and estampies.

And he so persevered with these

And other marks of courtliness,

That the merchants did confess,

Speaking together, secretly,

That if, by means of trickery,

They could perchance lure him away,

They would find the thing would pay;

Profit and honour they would reap.

So they bade their oarsmen keep

Alert and stand by to depart,

While they exercised some art

In weighing anchor, their intention

That it escape the lad’s attention.

They put to sea, so quietly,

And so gently, that neither he

Nor Curvenal was quite aware,

Until they were a mile from there,

The landing-place left far behind.

So intent, thus rendered blind,

Upon that very game of chess,

Their only thought was of success.

But now they their wits did gather,

Once Tristan had proved the winner,

And they began to look about,

Then Tristan was filled with doubt,

Recognising what they had done.

You ne’er saw man born of woman,

So thoroughly discomforted,

And rising to his feet, he said:

‘Ah, noble merchants, speak to me,

By God what would you do with me?

Where are you taking me, this day?’

‘Look friend,’ said one, ‘have now your say,

But none can save you from your fate,

You must sail with us, soon and late,

So behave well, and be content.’

Tristan, now knowing their intent,

Raised such a cry that Curvenal,

Who till then felt no fears at all,

Began to grieve at his very heart,

And so troubled them from the start,

That, now indeed, the whole ship’s crew

So miserable and sullen grew,

Because of Curvenal and the lad,

The good in them now turned to bad.

They set the tutor in a skiff

And before setting it adrift,

Gave him an oar that he could ply,

And a loaf, that he might not die,

And told him then to set a course

For where’er he chose, but perforce

Tristan must go along with them.

With this, they voyaged on again,

And left him there to wander so,

Now prey to many a care and woe.

Curvenal, the tutor, is set adrift

CURVENAL drifted on the water,

Many a woe then he did suffer,

Woe for the fate you understand

That had o’er-taken his Tristan,

Woe at his own fate, by and by,

For he thought that he must die,

Since he could not row a boat,

Never once having taken note

Of such, and so he cried aloud:

‘Lord God, what must I do now?

Lord, I have never known such fear.

For there is not another here,

And Lord, to sail I know not how.

Lord God, may you preserve me now,

And be my shipmate on the sea!

For I’ll attempt, if you’ll aid me,

A venture I’ve ne’er made before;

Guide me to safety, I implore!

The Marshal receives the sad news

WITH this he laid hold of the oar,

And, in God’s name, he sought the shore;

Thus in a short while he reached land

(God in his grace did so command),

And reaching the castle did confess

The dire events. In their distress

The Marshal and his good lady

Were so grieved in soul and body

So lamented, and gave such sighs,

Had Tristan died before their eyes

They could have felt no deeper

Sorrow nor a pain more bitter.

So the pair went down together,

Full of the grief they did suffer,

And all their followers beside

To the shore, at the ebbing tide,

To mourn for the child they’d lost.

Many a tongue bemoaned the cost,

Praying God’s aid to him be sent.

There rose many a true lament,

Their grief was such, their grief was so;

And when at eve they sought to go,

When it was time thence to depart,

Though they had each mourned apart,

Now they joined their voices as one,

And chanted, as if in unison;

So chanted here, so chanted there,

The one refrain, they all did share:

‘Beas Tristant, curtois Tristant,

Tun cors, ta vie, a de comant!

Fair Tristan, courteous Tristan,

Your body and life be in God’s hand!

Your dear life and your sweet body

We here commend to God’s mercy!’

The Storm

THE Norwegians, meanwhile, sailed on,

Bearing the lad where’er they’d gone,

And they had so conceived the thing

They would have realised everything

Concerning him, most profitably.

But He that orders all things, He

Who, ordering them, sets them aright,

Whom wind, and sea, and all in sight

Must serve in fear and trembling,

Frustrated now that very thing.

For by his will and his command,

A storm arose o’er sea and land,

So perilous and powerful proved it,

They could make no way against it,

And must let the ship be driven

By the wild wind out of heaven,

And fearing it could not survive,

Despaired of coming out alive;

Having abandoned, one and all,

Themselves to that vile force they call

Chance, where all’s set at a venture;

Trusting in fate as to whether

They survived this elemental war,

For indeed they could do no more

Than leave all things to destiny,

And face the fury of the sea.

First heaving up towards the sky,

Then plunging down from on high

Into the depths there, far below,

The rising breakers tossed them so

Up and down, and here and there,

Not one could stand in that affair.

Thrown now to one side of the ship,

Now to the other, away they’d slip,

Not one of them could keep his feet.

For eight days and nights complete

This was their state of existence,

Without the power of resistance,

Exhausted, till there came a shout,

One of the crew at last cried out:

‘My masters all, by God, I swear

The wretchedness of this affair

Is brought about by God’s command.

That we are driven so far from land

That the waves rage, the wind roars,

And we half-dead, must have its cause,

In the treachery that we did plan,

Our kidnapping of this Tristan,

Our snatching of him from his friends.’

‘Yes, tis why this storm God sends,’

They cried as one, ‘yes, yes, tis so!’

Tristan is abandoned on shore

THUS they resolved to let him go,

And if there were to come a calm,

If wind and water scorned to harm

Them all and they put in to shore,

They would hinder him no more;

Let him go free, where’er he pleased.

And thus the raging tempest ceased,

For now that they were all agreed,

The rigours of their voyage indeed

Abated, at that very hour.

The storm it ended in a shower,

The sea grew calm, the strong wind died,

The waves did, in a breath, subside,

The sun shone brightly as before.

Now they were free to act once more,

And swiftly, for in those eight days

The wind had driven them astray,

Toward Cornwall’s coast, and now

They were so close to shore, I vow,

The cliffs were clearly in their sight,

And so they went about, outright,

And then sought out a sheltered bay.

Tristan they landed straight away,

Set him ashore, and once on land,

Pressed a loaf of bread in his hand,

And some other stores of theirs.

‘Friend, be you now in God’s good care,

Find better fortune in his keeping!’

They called out, in swiftly leaving;

Then to their ship the longboat ran.

He laments and prays

AND what did he do then, Tristan,

Tristan the castaway? Why, yes

He wept as doth a child, no less;

For such is all a child can do

When all goes wrong for him, tis true.

There the poor wretched castaway

Clasped his hands, then he did pray

Earnestly to the Lord above.

‘Oh now, Almighty God of Love,

In the fullness of your mercy,

Extend all your goodness to me,

Sweet God, humbly now, I pray,

Have mercy upon me this day,

And show your kindness to me now,

Since you have chosen to allow

My severance from home like this.

Be my guide so, and lead me then

To sight here of my fellow men.

I gaze around, and find nearby

No living thing that meets the eye,

No creature does my vision bless.

How I do dread this wilderness!

On whate’er place my sight I bend,

I can see naught but this world’s end;

Where’er I turn my eyes, see only

Desert spaces, wasteland, merely

Empty ground, wild cliffs, wild sea.

Sad the vision it brings to me!

More than all, I fear some creature,

A wolf, or other fierce of feature,

Will to my frail life put an end.

Moreover the sun doth descend,

And evening now begins to fall.

It will go ill for me withal,

If I delay here much longer.

If I go not twill prove an error,

If I go not soon, benighted,

In this waste, wild, unlighted,

All for me will soon be over.

And in front of me, moreover,

There are hills and rocky heights.

While the descending sun still lights

Their crests, I’ll climb one if I can,

And look for any signs of man.

Perchance some hovel I might see

Or a larger dwelling there may be

Further off, where I might find

Help from folk if they prove kind,

So that then somehow or other

I’ll keep body and soul together.’

And so he stood, and turned to go.

His clothing I will mention though,

He had a robe and mantle on,

Of rich silk, marvellously done.

The Saracens had made the thing,

Its hems edged with fine braiding,

Corded with silks, subtly chosen,

Embroidered and interwoven,

In their exotic style, so tailored

To his handsome form moreover,

It seemed, from their fair effect,

That finer clothes were never yet

Cut more nobly, to better plan,

By any woman, nor any man;

And the story claims, moreover

That this fine brocade was greener

Than is the greenest grass in May,

Its ermine lining, it doth say,

Was so white that none whiter

Is, or was, or could be, brighter.

He reaches a broad road

NOW, since he was obliged to go

Tristan, troubled and full of woe,

Prepared himself for his journey.

So he tucked his robe up neatly,

A little higher beneath his belt,

Rolled his cloak up like a pelt,

And hoisted it on his shoulder;

Then before the day grew older,

He set of swiftly into the waste,

And made his way with some haste

Through forest and more open land,

Finding no track there to hand,

And not a sign of one displayed,

Except the one he himself made.

He forged a trail there with his feet,

As with his hands a track he beat;

His arms and legs he used alone.

Over brushwood, over stones,

Higher and higher, he did fare,

Until he reached an upland where

He came upon a woodland pass,

Narrow and overgrown with grass,

This he followed as he descended

Hoping that where the track ended

He might then find a broader road.

In a little while, as on he strode,

He came to a wider road indeed,

One good for any man or steed,

A beaten track in every way.

Beside it for some time he lay,

To rest himself; lamenting yet.

His heart would not let him forget

His dear friends and his own land,

With those he’d known on every hand,

Such that his thoughts grieved him sore.

Thus he began to pray once more

To God, and most piteously:

Gazing towards heaven, devoutly:

‘Lord,’ he prayed, ‘oh, Lord above,

How far I am now from the love

Of my father and my mother!

How much better if I had rather

Shunned the cursed game of chess,

That I will no more love or bless!

And be damned to the peregrine,

The sparrow-hawk, and the merlin;

For I was torn from my father;

Because of them, and my other

Friends: from all my acquaintance.

Those who would my fate advance,

Those who wished me good-fortune,

Sorrow and grief is now their tune.

I know dear mother how you torment

Yourself and how your soul is rent.

Father your heart is filled with pain;

You both are bowed with grief again.

If only, dear Lord, both could know

I was alive, and I knew so,

Great then would be your mercy,

To both of them, and then to me.

I know only too well that they

Will ne’er be happy for a day,

Unless by God’s will they know

That I live; oh, may it be so,

Lord that doth bring comfort here

To all who are troubled, be near,

Let them count me with the living!’

The Two Pilgrims

NOW, while Tristan was lamenting

By the roadside, there did appear,

Two aged pilgrims, drawing near,

Of godly aspect, and full of days,

Men who do travel all the ways;

And their white hair was all unshorn,

Long beards they had, such as are borne

By God’s children, and those who go

As pilgrims wandering to and fro.

Linen cowls each man did wear,

And such clothes as those who fare

On pilgrimage are wont to do,

And on their outer garments too

Seashells were sewn, all around,

And many a token was found

There also, from some foreign land.

Each bore a staff in his right hand,

Their head-gear and their other dress,

Their state and calling did profess.

These servants of God to cover

Their thighs wore linen trousers

Tied tightly about their legs down

To near their ankles, all around,

Leaving but a hand’s breadth bare,

As were the ankles; they did fare

Bare-footed thus, along the way,

Over whate’er upon it lay.

To show that they were penitent,

Upon their backs, as on they went,

They bore fronds of sacred palm,

And chanted now some holy psalm,

Or prayer; all the good they knew,

They chanted as they came in view.

Tristan, seeing two men appear,

Spoke to himself again, in fear.

‘Dear Lord’, he cried, anxiously.

‘What now is to become of me?

If these coming towards me now

Catch sight of me, then I allow

I may be captured, once again!’

But as they neared him, these two men,

He recognised, by staff and dress,

That they were pilgrims no less;

And seeing they were holy men,

He found his courage once again,

And so his spirits rose, and he

Prayed yet again most fervently.

‘Praise be to you, O Lord,’ he cried,

Good folk are these that I have spied,

Of these two I need have no fear.’

They saw the boy as they drew near,

Where he reclined, while Tristan,

Rising, and crossing his two hands

On his breast, did most politely,

Rise to greet them. Then, intently,

They both gazed, for by his gesture

They perceived his courtly manner.

Speaking then in voices no less

Filled with a pleasant friendliness,

The pair, saluting him on meeting,

Both uttered a gentle greeting,

With a ‘deu sal, beas amis,

God save you, whoe’er you be,

Fair friend!’ While Tristan then bowed

His thanks to them, and spoke aloud,

In his good French, ‘de benei’

He cried, ‘si sainte companie!

May God in beneficence bless

Those graced with such saintliness!’

Then they asked of him, these two:

‘Now dear child, say, whence come you,

Or who was it that brought you here?

Tristan was wise beyond his years,

Cautious and shrewd, so did assail

Their ears with a marvellous tale.

‘Most holy ones,’ he said to them,

‘I was born here, and had ridden

With some others to the chase,

Hunting in this wooded waste,

But then indeed, I know not how,

Was parted from the rest, I vow,

From both the huntsmen and the hounds.

They know all the woodland bounds,

And forest paths, as I do not,

So that I strayed, by who knows what

Strange paths, till I was utterly lost.

I found a trail, that to my cost

But brought me to a deep ravine,

Where my horse, the slope unseen,

Suddenly plunged headlong down.

I felt myself thrown to the ground,

And found that both the horse and I

Lay in a heap, and by and by

The horse rose, but I could not mount,

Nor grasp the reins, on any account,

Or even reach the stirrup, while he

Careered away among the trees.

And then, since he had fled, I came

To where you find me, in the same

Wandering manner, nor do I know

Where I am, nor which way to go.

And now good people, be so kind

As to tell me, to ease my mind,

What place you might be headed to?

‘Friend, they answered him, ‘we two,

If the good Lord so wills, intend

That we, at this day’s journey’s end,

Shall rest in Tintagel this night.’

Tristan, who proved no less polite,

Then asked to join their company.

‘Why yes, dear child, most certainly,’

Cried the pilgrims, ‘if there you’d go,

Then come with us, let it be so.’

Tristan set out then with this pair,

And many a thing spoke of there,

As they went along together.

Courtly Tristan, as was his manner,

Was cautious in his speech, and so

Whene’er they showed a wish to know

Aught about him, he gave answer

As needs required, and went no further.

His words and bearing were both such,

While never saying overmuch,

That indeed these holy people,

Wise through age, thus venerable,

Considered him blessed with favour,

In both his manner and demeanour,

And in his handsome form as well,

His elegant clothes they could tell

Were of rich fabrics, finely made;

His situation thus they weighed:

‘God of Goodness, Lord on high,

Who is this lad, and whence and why

Comes he here?’ said each inwardly.

‘He bears himself so courteously.’

So they wondered, all their intent

To watch him closely as they went,

And thus the three progressed the while

Till they had marched a goodly mile.

The Hunt

NOW there came both sights and sounds.

King Mark of Cornwall’s baying hounds,

His uncle’s pack, so runs the tale,

Were, at that moment, on the trail

Of an antlered stag, in full flight;

Nearby it turned, as if to fight.

It having thus been run to ground,

The hounds their quarry did surround,

While the stag itself stood at bay.

The harrying while it sped away,

Had robbed the creature of its strength.

The huntsmen closed in, at length,

With a great clamour as, at will,

Their horns sounded for the kill.

Tristan when the hart he saw,

A red deer of five years or more,

Addressed the pilgrims full wisely,

‘Sirs, here are the hounds, you see,

The people those I lost today,

And here they bring a stag to bay,

But now I’ve found them all, tis plain,

And I am with my friends again.

By your leave, I’ll join them now.’

‘God bless you child, may He allow

Good fortune to attend you too!’

‘My thanks then, may God preserve you!’

Tristan, the courteous, replied.

Then he swiftly turned aside,

And ran to where the hart was slain.

The master of the hunt was fain

To dress the quarry on the grass,

Set on its haunches, one great mass,

As boars are placed; twas all amiss.

‘How now, master, and what is this?’

Cried Tristan, courteous as ever:

‘In God’s name, halt, for whoever

Saw a fine stag butchered thus?’

The master rose from the carcase,

And gazing held him in his view.

‘Well then, boy, what should I do?

When we dress a deer in this land,

We work this way, you understand,

First skin the stag, and then divide

It top to bottom, then either side,

And into four, so no quarter

Proves larger than any other.

That’s the method here, we employ.

Are you versed in the art, my boy?’

‘Yes, master,’ cautiously he phrased

His answer, ‘but where I was raised,

That’s not the way in which tis done.’

‘How so?’ There rose the next question.

‘Why, we eviscerate the hart.’

‘My friend, unless you play a part

And show me how to “eviscerate”,

How can I know of what you prate.

For no man knows of such, I fear,

In all of this great kingdom here,

Nor have I heard it named either,

By any, native-born or stranger. 

Dear boy, what is “eviscerate”?

Be so kind as to demonstrate.

Come now, “eviscerate” this hart!’

‘Why yes, dear master, for my part,’

Said Tristan, ‘since you so request,

By your leave, I’ll do my best

To perform it in our manner,

If such would give you pleasure,

As far as I’ve retained it all,

And can our custom yet recall.’

The master viewed the young stranger

With a smile, himself another

Bred to courtesy, familiar

With all the graces moreover

A man of quality should show.

‘Yes, dear friend,’ he said, ‘do so!

And if you’ve need of anyone,

Then I, and my companions,

Will right willingly lend a hand,

Place or turn him, you understand,

In any way whatsoever;

You only need point a finger.’

Tristan the exile, doffed his cloak,

And placed it on a stump of oak,

Then he tucked his robe higher,

And after adjusting his attire,

Rolled up his sleeves, and then

Addressed his hair once again,

Smoothing it behind his ears.

Then, despite his tender years,

All those present at the kill,

Who were gazing at him still,

Eyed him ever more closely,

As they considered inwardly

All his bearing and his manner,

Which brought them, indeed, great pleasure,

They considered all about him

And in their hearts knew everything

Was excellent and noble there;

His garments all proved rich and rare,

His form was fine, so his stature,

For he possessed a manly figure.

The huntsmen all pressed around,

To gaze upon this lad they’d found.

Then the exile, this young Tristan,

Who now played the true huntsman,

Approached the stag, and seized it,

And on its back he tried to ease it.

Yet, using all the strength he had,

Twas still too heavy for the lad.

So he asked them courteously

To place it so, as it should be,

Setting it on its back at rest,

And readying it to be dressed.

The dressing of the stag

ALL he asked was swiftly done.

First to the head he did come,

And began to remove the hide,

Slitting the skin, and once inside,

Stripping it from the muzzle down,

There where it lay upon the ground.

Then returned to the forequarters,

And freeing them in short order,

First to the right, then the left;

Then from the rear-quarters cleft

The hide, flaying them likewise.

Then from the flanks he did prise

The skin, carefully, at each side;

Then from the holds he cut the hide,

Working downwards from the head,

And on the ground the hide he spread.

Back to the fore-quarters, without rest,

He now parted them from the breast,

Leaving the breast and ribs still whole.

The quarters he set aside. His goal

Was then to sever breast from chine,

And from the flanks, tine by tine,

Yet with three ribs from either side.

(Such is the way to dress a hart,

Take the breast, but where you part

It from the chine take three ribs too,

Just as the art requires you to)

Then Tristan turned swiftly about

And cut the hind-quarters right out;

Both legs together, you will conceive,

For what should be left he did leave,

The meat where the back doth sail

Beyond the loins toward the tail,

For nigh a hand’s breadth and a half,

The cut that’s called, in cow or calf,

The haunch, by those who know the art.

The ribs on either side he did part,

Those he had left, from the backbone,

Then the paunch to the gut, I own,

And since this ill became his hands,

He cried: ‘Two men it now demands!

Pull this away and so prepare

Our taking up the hide, with care!’

So was the stag now dismembered,

The hide ta’en, as he’d remembered,

According to the rules of the chase.

The breast and flanks, they did place,

And all the quarters, fore and hind,

To a place apart, there assigned;

With that the breaking-up was done.

‘There, master,’ cried the exiled one,

‘The kill is dressed, such is the art

Of evisceration of a hart.

When you have gathered your men

You may do the fourchie then.’

‘The fourchie, what is that, dear boy?
What term is this that you employ?

You have shown us hunting lore,

And excellent it is, and more,

And performed it like a master.

Now go on and show hereafter

All your skill to the full, and we

Will grant our aid as previously.’

Tristan to the woods ran speedily,

And cut a forked branch from a tree,

Which those who do the fourchie know

Term the fourche indeed, although

There is no need to use that name,

Since fork and fourche both mean the same.

Having returned with the branch,

The liver now he did retranch,

And then the entrails separately,

Then next the testes he did free

From the pizzle, and on the grass

He sat and some fibres did pass

About these parts, and then did cast

Round his fork a length of green bast,

And tied them to the fourche, so.

‘Now, gentlemen, you must know

That this we name the fourchie

For so tis called in my country,

Since all to the fourche is so tied,

And that tis fitting can’t be denied;

Since on the fork is where it fits,

Tis on the fork that it now sits.

Let some bearer take it in hand;

Nor doth the day pass in our land

Without remembering the quarry.’

‘The “quarry” why Lord bless me,

And what is that?’ the huntsmen said,

‘Better speak Saracen instead.

What then is the “quarry”, dear boy?

No explanation need you employ,

Just do the thing, that we might see,

Show us this, of your courtesy;

We then shall understand it more!’

Tristan was ready as before.

He took the heartstrings, where hung

The heart (for from them tis strung),

Cutting the heart from the pluck;

Each half of the heart he then took

Slicing downwards, and then, once more,

Sliced each, to cut the whole in four,

And threw all down upon the hide.

Once more then he delved inside,

And took the spleen and lungs also

Then onto the hide they too did go.

Pluck-string and gorge, and the rest,

He cut at the top of the upper breast,

Then swiftly he removed the head

And antlers from the neck, and said:

‘Place these with the breast, quickly,

Then remove the backbone, wholly,

And if any poor folk have a mind

To that, give it them and be kind,

Or do whate’er is customary.

Now see how I prepare the quarry.’

Then all the company gathered round

To inspect the hide on the ground.

Tristan took up what now lay there

All in its place, and then did prepare,

The quarry, as he had said. The four

Quarters of the heart they now saw

On the corners of the hide, displayed

As custom sought, had been so laid.

He chopped up the lungs and spleen

The paunch and gut, all that was seen

As fitting for the hounds to claim,

Into small pieces for those same,

And spread them all out on the hide.

This done, to the hounds he cried,

With a: ‘Ça, ça, ça!’ summoning all,

They came in a trice to the call,

And stood there over their reward.

‘There you are, said the young lord,

And this, back home in Parmenie,

We huntsmen do call the quarry,

And I’ll tell you the reason why:

On the cuire, the hide, it doth lie,

And so tis now a hunting term,

And quarry comes from cuire in turn,

Derived thus from a word for hide.

For the hounds must ne’er be denied,

And then the practise does them good,

Since they like the taste of blood,

And so the bits that are put aside

Flesh the hounds, set on the hide.

Now you have seen the quartering

Is all the art to your liking?

For that is all there is to it.’

‘Young lord,’ they said, ‘indeed tis fit

For all and what else could you mean?

We clearly know, for we have seen,

That all this last was well-devised

For the hounds’ good, and is so prized.’

Tristan is asked his name

THEN spoke out the good Tristan:

‘Since I have done all that I can,

You may carry the hide away.

And believe me if, on this day,

I could have served you further,

It would be so. Now each bearer,

Should cut his withies, and truss

His portion separately. With us,

Should go the head, borne in hand,

Conveyed to court, you understand,

With appropriate ceremony.

Take it yourselves, and you will be

More courtly still in every way.

For you know yourselves, I say,

How a stag should be presented,

Which as a fair gift is intended.

Present it there then, fittingly!’

The master and his men saw he

Was wondrously knowledgeable;

The lad had shown he was able

To practise all the hunting art

As to the dressing of the hart,

And was well-versed what’s more

In every kind of hunting lore.

‘Listen, dear boy,’ they now replied,

‘These hunting terms that you applied,

All that you have shown and told,

Are so intricate and manifold,

Unless we see to what they tend

And of this business make an end,

All that’s done will count for little.’

A horse they did swiftly saddle,

And begged him to be pleased to ride

With them to court, all by their side,

In the way that custom dictated,

If he were not with hunting sated,

And display his arts to the end.

‘That would be fitting,’ Tristan said,

‘Take up the hart, and bear the head!’

Then he mounted and they set out.

They could scarce wait to turn about

And ride together in company,

Awaiting their opportunity,

To talk together of this affair,

Of whence he came, and how got there,

And longed to know his situation.

And this, their topic of conversation,

Tristan too, was considering gravely;

So he began, and very subtly,

To invent for them a tale,

With which he might their ears regale.

Whate’er one thinks of what he told,

Twas no child’s tale he did unfold.

‘Between these shores and Brittany,

There, lies a land called Parmenie,’

So Tristan artfully began,

‘My father is a well-known man,

A merchant there, and he doth lead

A fine and pleasant life indeed,

Fitting to a merchant I mean,

But, that all the truth be seen,

He is known less for wealth you’d find,

Than for his qualities of mind.

He taught me everything I know.

Now, merchants came there also

From foreign countries, and I

Their speech and customs learnt thereby,

And I was seized with the intent,

An urge that would scarce relent,

To go into those foreign lands.

As I conceived twas in my hands

To visit many a far kingdom,

And strange peoples, I did come

Upon a way to elude my father,

And finding where they did gather,

Voyaged with the merchants here.

Thus in your country I appear;

And now that you all have heard

My story, true in every word,

I trust you will like my answer.’

‘Ah, dear child,’ all did concur,

‘It was a noble wish of yours.

Curiosity leads hearts to explore;

Good things it teaches everyone.

Fair lad, and our true companion,

May God bless that pleasant land

Where so excellent a young man

Was raised by a mere merchant!

Of all the kings, on earth present,

Not a one could raise one better.

But tell us, now: your noble father,

How did he name you, that good man?’

‘Tristan,’ he said, ‘my name’s Tristan.’

Deus adjut: God help me, though’

Cried one, ‘why did he name you so,

Better he’d named you, at the font,

“Juvente bele et la riant:

The fine lad and full of laughter”.

So they rode conversing after

Each in his own manner, yet

The jests and thoughts of all were set

On the lad who rode by their side,

While each of his companions tried

To ask some question of the same.

It was not long before they came

To where a castle could be seen.

Tristan toward a linden did lean,

Broke a leafy branch of that tree,

And wove two garlands, then he,

Setting one of them on his head,

The larger on the master’s, said:

‘Ah! Dear master, of courtesy,

Tell me what stronghold tis I see,

There’s a castle fit for a king!’

‘Tintagel,’ said the master, slowing.

‘Tintagel? How fine a castle!

De te sau, fair Tintagel!

God save you, and all within!

‘Ah, well said, lad! And may you win

True blessing, and fare as well there,

As we have done in this affair!’


SO they came to the castle gate.

Tristan asked the huntsmen to wait.

‘Gentlemen,’ he addressed them all,

‘As a stranger, you will recall,

I know not your names, yet ride

Two by two, and close beside,

And make the shape of the hart!

So let the antlers play their part

And go ahead, and then the breast,

Ribs and forequarters, and the rest;

The hind-parts go behind the rack,

Quarry and fourchie at the back,

For they indeed bring up the rear.

So let true huntsman-ship appear!

And do not be in too great haste,

Ride in due order, each in place,

One pair thus behind another,

Keeping a true shape together.

My master here, and I as groom,

Will ride together, so make room,

If with my words you all agree.’

‘As you wish, then so do we,

They cried, ‘tis well indeed, dear boy!’

‘Then lend me a horn to employ,’

Said Tristan, ‘of a size to suit me,

And when I begin, list carefully,

And whate’er I blow, you must blow!’

Then the master answered him so:

‘Blow as you wish, my dear friend,

Blow as if all the world doth end,

And we shall follow you, as one,

Each and every companion,’

Cried the master, ‘I and my men.’

À bon eure!’ cried Tristan then,

‘Splendid! Let the thing be born.’

Then he was handed a little horn,

High-pitched, bright-toned, ere they were gone.

Allez avant!’ he called, ‘ride on!’

And so they rode in, two by two,

As was but right and proper too.

And when the men were all inside,

He took up the horn at his side,

And then he blew so brilliantly,

So sweetly, so entrancingly,

That all those who rode behind him,

Could scarcely do aught but join him,

From sheer delight, and all did so,

All took up their horns to blow,

And sounded them in unison,

Following his measure as one.

He led them, set the melody,

And they played well and skilfully,

Until indeed the castle did fill

With music to announce the kill.

Tristan is met by King Mark

WHEN the king and his folk all

Heard this brave new hunting call,

They were startled; never before

Had such been heard at their door,

A strange new music, at the court,

And all there were amazed, in short.

But now the troop made their entry

Into the palace, blowing loudly,

And all the courtiers were there,

Drawn to this sonorous affair;

And all most curious to know

Why the horns were sounded so.

King Mark too, the illustrious,

Had come to the entrance thus,

To discover the cause, and there

His courtiers gathered to stare.

Now when Tristan saw the king

Then he took an instant liking

To this man more than all the rest.

His heart their kinship did attest,

For King Mark was of his blood;

His eyes gazed at him where he stood,

For nature drew them. He prepared

To sound an exotic fanfare,

Blowing his horn so forcefully

That none could follow readily.

But all this soon came to an end,

His fine music he did suspend,

The high-born exile, bowing low,

All his sweet charm he did show,

Greeting the king most courteously.

Deus sal roi et sa mehnie:

May God above, in his goodness,

The king and all his household bless!’

Mark the noble-hearted, and all

The company on whom he did call,

Now thanked the lad most politely

As one they considered worthy.

‘Ah,’ they answered, one and all,

The great at court, and the small,

De duin duze aventure,

Si duze creature:

May God grant a sweet future

To so sweet a living creature!’

The king now gazed at him, intently,

And summoning his huntsman, swiftly,

Said: ‘Tell me now, who is this boy,

Who doth such eloquence employ?’

‘My lord, he comes from Parmenie,

And he displays such courtesy,

Is so accomplished, that no child

Has ever so my heart beguiled.

He says that he is named Tristan,

And that his father’s but a man

Of trade, a merchant, and yet I

Believe it not, for how, say I,

Could a merchant blessed with all

Of his affairs, have time, withal,

To devote to him the leisure

To make of him such a treasure?

And, Sire, he has many a skill

Look at this new art, if you will,

We bring on our return to court;

These hunting rites to us he taught.

See the clever order he sought

Us to keep, while thus we brought

The hart: our shape that of a hart.

Have you e’er seen such subtle art?

Regard, the head thus goes before,

The breast follows, then the four

Quarters, and so on, and so on,

Ne’er more elegantly twas done,

No finer show before our court.

Behold now, see what he has brought

Before you, this is the fourchie,

Such a thing did you e’er see?

Nor I, in all my hunting days.

Ere that, he showed us the ways

In which to “eviscerate” a hart.

And so well do I like this art,

That whene’er I do hunt again

Then indeed I’ll ne’er be fain

To simply hack a deer in four,

Hart or hind, as I did before.’

He now the whole tale did extend,

From its beginning to its end,

Of Tristan, and his mastery

Of all the art of venery,

And how the quarry he had set

Before the hounds; from how they met,

To how they came before the king.

Mark listened there to everything,

Then had the boy brought to him,

And sent the huntsmen from him

About their duties, every man,

While, master of the hunt, Tristan,

Returned the horn that he did sound,

And then alighted on the ground.

All the young pages, meanwhile,

Hasten to this wondrous child,

And lead him, ceremoniously,

Arm in arm, before royalty.

Tristan, his elegance doth prove,

His form as if tis shaped by Love;

His mouth as crimson as the rose,

Within a countenance that glows;

The eyes bright, the hair unfurls

In tawny locks, that end in curls.

Hands and arms shapely, white,

His form perfection in its height,

His feet and legs serving to show

His beauty, and deservedly so,

Evoking such praise as one man

May well grant to another man;

His garments too, as I have said,

Fashioned nobly; from toe to head

So fine in manner and in bearing,

Twas e’er a joy to behold him.

Mark gazed at Tristan, and began:

‘Friend,’ he said, ‘is your name Tristan?

‘Yes, sire, Tristan indeed, deu sal!

Deu sal, beas vassal,

God save you, and grant you blessing,

Fair vassal,’ thus declared the king.

Merci, my thanks, gentil rois. All

Praise to the high King of Cornwall,

You and your house,’ cried their guest,

May you all, forever, be blessed

Among God’s children, and thus be

Favoured for all eternity!’

All thanked him, again and again,

Amazed, and chanted this refrain:

Tristan, Tristan li Parmenois

Cum est beas et cum courtois:

Tristan, Tristan of Parmenie,

How fair and courteous is he!’

Mark spoke to Tristan once more.

‘Tristan, this you must do,’ he swore,

‘Grant me what must not be denied.’

‘Whate’er you wish,’ the lad replied.

‘Of my hunt you shall be Master!’

A burst of laughter followed after

From those around. ‘Sire,’ said Tristan,

‘Dispose of me; I am your man;

What you command, that I shall be,

To the best of my ability,

Your huntsman then, both good and true,

Your huntsman, and your servant too.’

‘Tis well, my friend,’ King Mark replied,

‘Tis done; by this all shall abide!’

Tristan the king’s master of the hunt

NOW, Tristan had unwittingly

Come home, thus runs the story,

Though he thought himself still lost,

Abducted yet and tempest-tossed.

His father, all unknowingly,

Was noble Mark now, legally.

He acted well for the lad’s good,

As there was need that he should.

Telling his house to be gracious,

To the child and prove generous,

Honour him with their company,

Ever treat him respectfully,

Grace him with their conversation;

And all of them, of every station

Were more than happy to comply.

So was Tristan, the good, say I,

Now a royal man, a treasure,

One the king beheld with pleasure,

Liking to sit with him apart,

Being drawn to him in his heart.

He loved to have him in his sight,

And often did so, to his delight.

Wherever Mark was, wherever

He went, Tristan made another.

King Mark took this in good part,

For he held Tristan near his heart,

And it pleased the king to see him.

Before a week had passed, the king

Chose to set himself to the chase,

With Tristan in some wooded place,

And with him many of the court;

To study Tristan’s skill he sought,

In all the noble art of hunting.

Mark ordered the squires to bring

His own mount to give Tristan.

Tristan ne’er better e’er began

A chase, for it was strong and sleek,

As handsome as a man might seek.

A hunting-horn both sweet and clear,

Its tone melodious to the ear,

Mark found, and set it in his hand.

‘Remember now,’ he said, ‘Tristan,

You are my huntsman good and true,

For hunting-lore we look to you.

Take your hounds and ride away,

And then post them at each relay,

Where’er you think that they should be.’

‘No, sire,’ said Tristan, ‘courteously,

For that is not the way tis done,

But tell the huntsmen to be gone

And man the relays thus, and then

They may unleash the hounds again,

For they do know the country best,

And I know less than all the rest,

As to where now the stag may be,

And which way it may choose to flee.

They know all the best stations,

As for me I have ne’er ridden

Hereabouts and am a stranger;

I know not the hounds moreover.

‘God knows,’ Tristan, ‘but you are right!

You’d ne’er be shown in a fair light;

The huntsmen themselves must go,

And order things as they best know.’

So the huntsmen then rode away;

Coupled their hounds; set each relay

In the places that they thought best,

And roused a stag, being so blessed,

A hart, of ten points, a creature

Fine and true in every feature,

And hunted the beast hard all day,

Till the hounds, at eve, brought it to bay.

At that very moment arrived

Mark and Tristan, who had contrived

Along with many a courtier,

All set for the kill, to thus appear.

The horns were sounded at pleasure,

In many a varying measure,

And were blown so sonorously

Amongst that goodly company,

That it did Mark good to hear it,

And many another man near it.

Now when they had killed the hart,

They called on their master’s art,

On Tristan, now a familiar guest,

To show, there, as he knew best,

‘Dressing the stag’, from end to end.

Tristan said: ‘Be it so, my friends!’

And then he made himself ready,

And I’m of the opinion, truly,

That there is little need for me

To repeat the same old story,

For just as he had done before,

He showed the huntsmen, once more,

All of the cutting, and the fourchie,

The preparation of the quarry,

Such that they declared as one,

That no man could better it, none;

This was the best practise they

Could e’er devise in many a day.

The king told them to truss the hart,

And then he turned round, to depart,

Taking with him this Tristan,

Who was now his own huntsman,

And so together, with all his train

Of courtiers, rode home again,

The horns preceding the fourchie.

From this time, a courtier was he,

For Tristan was beloved, you see.

The king kept company with him,

As did his household, and he them,

And he was generous and more

To all alike, both rich and poor,

And if it had been in his power

To oblige them at every hour,

Then he would gladly so have done,

And given pleasure to everyone;

God granted him, you understand,

To live but for his fellow man.

Whether laughing, singing, dancing,

Riding, running hard, or prancing,

With restraint, or yet without,

He was in there, at the shout.

He lived as all the others would

Him do, and as a young man should.

Whatever pleasure was begun,

Then of that company he made one.

End of Part II of Gottfried’s Tristan