Gottfried von Strassburg
Tristan: Part XV - Brangwen’s Revenge
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved
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Last Modified 6th January 2020
- Brangwen reproaches Queen Iseult.
- Brangwen and Iseult quarrel.
- Brangwen seeks audience with the king.
- Brangwen tells the king that Cariado is the queen’s lover.
- Kaedin departs, Tristan remains in England.
- Tristan disguises himself as a leper so as to approach Iseult.
- Brangwen thwarts Tristan’s intent.
- Iseult brings about their reconciliation with Brangwen.
- Tristan departs for Brittany, Iseult the Fair grieves.
- Tristan and Kaedin again visit their loves in England.
- The two companions escape to Brittany.
Brangwen reproaches Queen Iseult
BRANGWEN was full of grief and anger,
Insulted, she stayed no longer,
But to Iseult the queen, she ran,
Whose thoughts were full of her Tristan.
‘Lady,’ cried Brangwen, ‘I am dead!
Ill the day when our lives were wed,
Ill met you, and your friend Tristan!
For you I renounced my own land,
And now thanks to your foolish heart,
I have lost my maidenhead; your art
It was to make me love you so;
You promised me great honour though,
You and that perjurer Tristan,
May God grant him in this ill land
Ill luck, and for ever and a day!
Twas he who first shamed me, I say.
Recall how you sent me to the wood,
Those men had killed me where I stood;
Twas not of your generosity
That those villains showed me mercy;
My enemies there did me more good,
Than your friendship ever could.
A foolish wretch and wrong was I
To trust you thereafter; why did I
Ever do so, when you told me, oh
So readily, you sought my death?
Why did I not seek your last breath,
Seeing you sought mine, casually?
And yet I forgave you, lovingly,
But now the wrong’s again revived,
By this deception you contrived,
Regarding Kaedin, cursed be
You and all your nobility,
If such is my reward! You honour
Thus my love and my endeavour?
Kaedin sought aid and company
To work his sad debauchery.
Iseult led him on so to do,
To draw me into folly too.
You, my lady, wrought my shame
To carry on your evil game,
You have brought on me dishonour,
Ruined our friendship forever.
Lord, how you sought to praise him,
Merely so that I might love him!
There never was a man of his like,
Noble, distinguished and warlike!
The knight you made him out to be!
The best in all the world, was he,
Now he is the greatest coward
That ever bore a shield or sword.
May he be shamed and ruined so,
For having run from Cariado!
None there is from here to Rome
So cowardly; gone scurrying home.
So tell me now Iseult, my queen,
Since when were you a go-between?
Where did you learn the bawd’s trade,
Praising a man before a maid,
And thus betraying a luckless girl?
The biggest coward in all the world
And you have helped him shame me,
I who have been wooed by many,
And kept myself safe from them all.
Thus, to a coward, I must fall!
Twas you enticed me so to do.
I shall have my revenge on you.
And on your fond lover Tristan.
For I’ll defy you, and that man.
And I shall seek your ill the same,
For all the vileness of my shame.’
Iseult, on hearing such enmity,
This fine display of disloyalty
From one whom she had trusted most,
Who ought of her honour to boast,
(So great seemed Brangwen’s pleasure
In speaking in that vile measure)
Felt such anguish in her heart,
At her anger, it tore her apart.
She in turn was gripped by ire,
A dual torment it did inspire,
She knew not how she should reply,
Nor how to defend herself thereby.
She sighed and said: ‘Ah, woe is me!
Now I have lived too long, I see.
Naught but ill of this foreign land
Have I had, oh, accursed Tristan!
Tis through you that I suffer so!
You brought me to this place of woe,
Where I remain in torment ever,
And may ease my suffering never.
Through you it seems I am at war
With my lord, and all on this shore,
Whether publicly or privately.
And yet what matters that to me?
I have endured, and should endure,
If Brangwen angered me no more,
For she would oppose me; her hate
Confounds me, it waxes so great.
She used to sustain me in joy.
Tristan she would your name employ
To shame me. Ill that day did prove
When I came to enjoy your love,
Such hatred and anger now I find!
You have taken me from my kind,
My kith and kin, robbed me anew
Of all esteem in this country too.
Twill seem to you a small thing then,
To steal from me my own Brangwen,
And all of the comfort that I knew;
For there was never a girl so true.
Between yourself and Kaedin,
You by cunning her heart did win.
You will take her to your own lands,
To serve Iseult of the White Hands;
For knowing her loyalty you sought
Her for Iseult; twas in your thought.
You acted disloyally, you must see,
When you stole her who nurtures me.
Brangwen, remember my father,
And the request from my mother;
What shall I do if, in the end,
You too leave me without a friend
In this strange land. How shall I live?
For Brangwen, unless you forgive
None will comfort me. Why need you
Hate me so, you need no excuse,
I you should wish to desert me now
And go dwell elsewhere, for I avow
Leave to go I’ll grant, willingly,
If with Kaedin you would be.
Tis Tristan would have you do so,
God confound him; tis he, I know!’
Brangwen and Iseult quarrel
BRANGWEN listened to what she said,
And uttered all that was in her head.
‘You have a wicked heart,’ she cried,
To say such things in anger and pride,
Things I have never even thought.
Blame not Tristan, tis you who ought
To bear the shame who so use the man,
Whene’er you choose, such is your plan.
If you, my lady, wished me no ill,
You would not be using him still.
You would make him answerable too,
For the act of sin that’s dear to you.
I know if there was no Tristan,
You’d seek love from a lesser man.
Of his love for you I’ll not complain,
But, my lady, it gives me pain,
That you have made use of me thus,
And your weight of shame load on us.
Shame indeed, if I should allow it!
Guard yourself, if you feel the hit,
For my revenge I mean to wreak.
If tis my marriage you would seek
Why not give me to some brave knight,
And not a coward who will not fight,
As you by your trickery have done?
‘Have mercy, friend!’ the other one
Cried, ‘I have never done you ill.
Not through malice, or evil will,
Was all this affair brought about,
My loyalty to you ne’er doubt.
There’s no betrayal of you here,
God save me, my conscience is clear.
For Kaedin is a noble knight,
A rich duke, worthy in a fight.
Think not that he fled from fear
On finding Cariado was near.
That is but said from envy now,
For he fled him not, I do avow.
If you hear a lie some fool begat,
Then hate not Kaedin for that,
Nor my lover Tristan, nor me.
Brangwen I swear this, faithfully,
Whate’er comes of this affair,
Whate’er the burden I must bear,
The whole court would love, I know,
To learn that you and I quarrel so.
If you bear hatred towards me,
Who then will ever honour me?
How may I ever be honoured,
If by you I am dishonoured?
One can ne’er be worse betrayed
Than by those near, whom one has weighed.
When one who’s close knows all one’s mind,
They may betray us, if hate they find.
Thus you, who know my all, Brangwen,
Can shame me, if tis your intent;
Yet twould be a reproach to you,
Who counsel me, if you so do,
Revealing my secrets to the king.
Moreover twas for you this thing;
There should be no ill between us.
Our anger here amounts to naught,
To shame you I have never sought.
Twas done for your good and honour.
Forgive, and forget your rancour.
How will it raise your standing,
If I’m dishonoured with the king?
My dishonour will certainly
Not further yours, it seems to me.
If I am shamed by you, confess
You’ll be loved and prized the less.
For some will praise you, it is true,
But simply to cast blame on you.
For you will be the more despised,
By noble folk and, be advised,
You will have lost my love, and then
My lord’s favour, and then again,
Whate’er in me he might deplore,
Don’t think he’ll not hate you the more.
His love for me is still so great
None could change his love to hate.
None could come between us so
That he from me would ever go.
He may hold my deeds against me,
But in no manner could he hate me;
Of my folly he may disapprove
But he will ne’er forgo his love;
May loathe my actions in his heart,
But that will ne’er drive us apart.
None who have ever wished me ill
Have won themselves the king’s goodwill;
Rather he bears ill will to those
Who tell him what he hates the most.
How do you serve the king if you
Speak ill of me? In what way too
Do you achieve revenge for him
By shaming me and harming him?
Why should you wish to betray me?
What would you tell him about me?
That Tristan came and spoke to me?
What harm then did the king receive?
What good will you have done the king
By angering him with such a thing?
I know not what he’s lost by it.’
Brangwen answered: ‘He forbade it,
Speech with Tristan, and love also;
You gave your word, a year ago.
You have but ignored your oath,
That and his prohibition both.
As soon as it was in your power,
You became a perjurer that hour,
You broke your oath and your word,
Wretched Iseult, and ne’er demurred.
So accustomed to sin are you,
You cannot abjure it, but must do
Whate’er you will, yet had you not
Done so since childhood, you’d not
Act so; if you found no delight
In sin, you’d not clasp it so tight.
What a filly learns on being broken
Stays with her, more than a token;
And what a girl learns when young
Will stay with her, if she’s not stung
By timely rebuke; forever, I’d say,
If she’s allowed to have her way.
When young you made it your intent,
Thus to it your mind is ever bent.
Had the desire not proved so strong
You’d not have practised it so long.
If the king had chastised you for it,
You would not have so indulged it.
But since he let you have your way
You’ve pursued it to this very day.
Yet he has indulged you the more,
Because he was never quite sure;
Now I shall tell him all that’s true,
And let him do as he will with you!
You have pursued this love so far
Your honour you’ve forgot, and are
So deep in folly that, though a wife,
You’ll ne’er forsake it in this life.
As soon as ever the king knew,
He should by rights have punished you.
He has suffered this for so long
All folk think him shamed and wrong.
He should punish you in some way
That marks you forever and a day.
Great joy would it give your enemies.
You should be blamed eternally,
For betraying your lineage,
Your friends, your lord; at your age
If you’d loved honour in the least
Your wickedness must have ceased.
I know on what you were relying,
The indulgent nature of the king.
Who lets you do just as you wish,
Because he loves, you’ll not desist
From shaming him; he will suffer
For love of you, the loss of honour.
If he loved you a great deal less
He would bring you such distress!
I’ll not cease, Iseult, from saying
You do ill, dishonour you bring
Upon yourself; the king loves you
But you treat him as one would do
Who loved him not, but rather
Worked always to his dishonour.’
Iseult, on being so abused,
Speaking in anger, thus accused
Brangwen: ‘You judge me too harshly.
Cursed be your opinion of me!
You rail like an ill-bred hussy
With your claims of disloyalty.
If I am perjured, if I am shamed,
If I have done aught you named,
Broken my word, done aught ill,
You gave me such counsel still.
We would ne’er have been intent
On folly without your consent,
But with your consent, tis true,
You taught me what I ought to do.
The great deceptions, and great woes,
The doubts, the fears and the sorrows,
And the love that we maintained,
Whate’er we did, you are to blame.
Frist you deceived me, then Tristan,
Then the king, twas all your plan,
For the king had known long ago
Of all this matter, was that not so.
Through the lies that you have told
You have penned us in folly’s fold.
By your plans, and your deception,
You hid from him all our passion.
So you are more to blame than I,
Since I was here beneath your eye
And yet you bring disgrace on me.
So you would tell the king of me,
For the wrongs I did in your care!
But fire and flame consume me there,
Should I bear witness, if my distress
At your deceit, I failed to confess.
And if the king his vengeance take
Let you go the first to the stake!
For you’ve deserved to suffer so.
And yet I cry you mercy though,
Let not our secret be concealed,
Forgive the anger I’ve revealed.’
Brangwen cried: ‘And I shall not!
Let his swift justice be your lot.
I shall go straight to see the king,
And tell his majesty everything.
We shall hear who is right or wrong,
And all shall be as it must, ere long!
Brangwen seeks audience with the king
FILLED with fury, in her anger,
Brangwen went to speak her pleasure
To the king: ‘Sire, list to me,
All I say is true as true can be.’
In private she spoke thus to the king,
For she had planned for everything:
She said: ‘But list a little to me,
I owe you my faith and loyalty;
All my trust and fond affection,
Is granted your honour and person;
So what I know I must not hide
As concerns what doth betide
Your honour; and had I known
Of it before, you too had known.
Of Iseult I say that she is more
Sinful than e’er she was before,
She is less now than she has been,
And if you do not guard your queen
She will be careless of her body.
As yet she has not stooped to folly,
Though she only awaits the chance.
If your past suspicions, perchance,
Were vain, yet I suffer at heart
From doubt and dread while, for her part,
There’s naught she will not do, my sire,
If she can but win to her desire;
Which is why I must counsel you,
To keep her acts better in view.
For have you never heard it said:
“Folly comes of an empty bed,”
Or “Opportunity makes the thief,”
Or “An empty house leads to grief”?
And you have been long in error,
While I myself have doubted ever;
Night and day, the truth I’ve sought
But all my watching went for naught.
For both of us have been deceived,
When error or doubt we conceived,
She has tricked us more than twice
Without throwing she shook the dice.
Let us trick her when she doth throw,
And performs what she has in mind,
Such that she shall not have her way,
As long as she seeks to betray.
For if she is restrained the while
I believe she’ll be reconciled
To the fact; Mark, tis only right,
Dishonour’s upon you, day and night,
If you allow her every wish,
And let her lover seek his bliss.
I know full well, in saying this,
Many folk would think me foolish,
Forever you’ll bear me ill-will.
Yet I must tell you the truth still,
Whate’er the face you put on it,
I know why you retreat from it.
You have not the courage to show
To my lady, how much you know.
Your Majesty, I have said enough;
The rest you’ve thought often enough.’
The king listened to what she said,
Wondered greatly at where it led,
Amazed at how she spoke of doubt
And honour, yet he’d heard her out,
As she’d known he would, while he
Was yet dissembling, as she could see.
Then was he anxious for the truth,
Imagining, though lacking, in truth,
Evidence, that Tristan sought anew
The royal haunts, as he used to do.
Then he swore to her faithfully
That he’d say naught of it openly.
Brangwen tells the king that Cariado is the queen’s lover
THEN Brangwen said, with cunning:
‘In speaking truth, as I am doing,
Sire, I’ll hide not the love affair
And intrigues of Iseult the Fair,
We have both been much deceived
By the error that we’ve conceived,
In thinking that she loved Tristan
She has the love of another man
Count Cariado is ever about her,
Working at your own dishonour.
He has wooed with such persistence,
She must yield to his insistence;
He doth serve her so, and flatter,
She will take him as her lover.
But I’ll say this, in truth, that he
Goes no further with her, than me.
I dare say if he were at leisure
He might gain all his pleasure,
For he is handsome, a cunning knight,
And with her morning, noon, and night,
Serves her, flatters, begs for mercy,
No wonder if she wrought a folly,
And with so well-endowed a man.
Sire, tis as if it were your plan
To let her meet with him so oft,
And thus to raise him so aloft;
All concerned still about Tristan,
While she prefers this other man.
Tristan too was cheated by her;
In England, to seek your favour,
And your pardon, he came here,
And yet, as soon as he did appear,
Iseult had an ambush set for him,
Intent, it seems, on slaying him.
She sent Cariado and, indeed,
He chased after him, full speed.
And who knows what else he did?
For Iseult, then, these men lay hid,
And surely she’d not have proved
So fierce against a man she loved?
If Tristan, in truth, lies dead
A man so brave and so well-bred,
It is a sin; and your nephew too!
Where will you find such friends anew?’
On hearing of this news, the king
Felt his troubled heart quake within,
For he saw naught that he could do;
Most unwilling to converse anew,
Since it was naught he might amend.
He answered Brangwen so: ‘Dear friend,
Make this your concern, hereafter,
For I’ll not dabble in the matter,
Though Cariado shall keep from here.
Queen Iseult must be yours, I fear.
Let her take counsel with no lord,
Unless your presence they’ll afford.
I now entrust her to your care,
The burden of it you must bear.’
Kaedin departs, Tristan remains in England
NOW Iseult was in Brangwen’s power,
And subject to her, hour by hour;
She did and said naught privately,
Unless dear Brangwen made three.
Tristan took measures to depart,
With Kaedin; both sad at heart.
Iseult remained in much distress,
And Brangwen too was grieved no less;
While King Mark’s error, on his part,
Ne’er ceased to trouble him at heart.
Cariado, suffering from his love,
Of Iseult a sorry lover did prove,
Unable to think of a single thing
To make her yield him anything.
Nor to the king might he complain;
Though Tristan now had thought again,
Deciding it was base to flee,
Knowing not how the queen might be,
Or what Brangwen might be doing.
Commending Kaedin to God’s keeping,
He turned, rode back the entire way,
Swearing he’d not be happy a day
Unless he knew how matters stood
For ill, if not, perchance, for good.
Tristan disguises himself as a leper so as to approach Iseult
TRISTAN was much troubled by love.
His own fine clothes he did remove,
And dressed himself in sorry habit,
In wretched rags, a leper’s outfit,
So that neither woman nor man
Might perceive that he was Tristan.
Herbs he distilled for his deceit,
So the disguise might be complete,
The potion made his face to swell,
So that a leper’s it seemed, as well,
And so contorted his hands and feet
That anyone he chanced to meet
Would think him a leper indeed,
A man diseased, poor and in need.
He took a mazer, a cup of wood,
That the queen, be it understood,
Had given him the very first year
That he loved her; he’d kept it near;
And in it he placed a boxwood ball
And so made a rattle there withal,
Such as lepers bear, and the door
Of the royal court he came before,
Longing to know how things went there.
He flourished his rattle in the air,
Begged ceaselessly, but for his part
Heard naught there to delight his heart.
One day the king kept festival,
As the story doth here recall,
And went with many another
To high service in the minster.
He went forth from the palace door,
With the queen, whom Tristan saw,
And cried out as if alms he sought;
Though that twas he she knew not.
He shook his rattle, played the leper,
Calling out, full loudly, to her;
Begging Iseult, by God’s great love,
That she in pity might alms approve.
The sergeants made jest of the man,
And, as she went by, thrust Tristan
To and fro, then out of the way,
Making sure that he could not stray;
One threatened, another struck hard;
Yet he pursued them, yard by yard,
Begging for alms as he went along,
All undeterred, amidst the throng;
Proving an annoyance, indeed,
Though they knew naught of his need,
He followed them into the chapel;
Calling aloud, waving his rattle.
Brangwen thwarts Tristan’s intent
ISEULT, quite irritated by him,
As if in anger, stared at him
In wonder, and sought to know
Why the man did follow her so,
And gazing saw the bowl of wood
That held his rattle, and understood:
She realised that here stood Tristan,
Beneath the leper, knew the man,
Knew his form, and his features,
Those of the noblest of creatures.
Iseult blushed, her colour rising,
She went in great fear of the king,
Drew from her finger her gold ring,
But knew not how to hand it him,
Sought to throw it into his bowl,
Yet, ere she could achieve her goal,
Brangwen perceived it in her hand,
And looking closely knew Tristan.
Aware of his cunning, she cried
That none but a fool had e’er tried
To trouble nobles in this manner;
Called those fools too, about her,
Who had let him among the sound,
Where no leper should e’er be found.
Iseult she called a hypocrite:
‘Whence comes now this saintly fit,
Giving your gold ring to the poor?
You would give a leper your ring?
Lady, you shall do no such thing!
Be ne’er so ready to give away
That which you’ll regret next day.
If you grant him it, there’s no doubt,
You’ll be sorry ere this day’s out.’
Then she told the sergeants there
To put an end to the whole affair,
And so they thrust him out the door,
And Tristan dared beg there no more.
Iseult brings about their reconciliation with Brangwen
NOW Tristan was convinced Brangwen
Was filled with hatred for both of them,
And he knew not what he should do.
He felt anguish, through and through.
For Brangwen had brought him to shame.
Long did he weep then, and complain
Of all those thoughts that did approve
His following the path of love,
Where he had found but pain and woe,
Danger and fear, exile also,
Such that he could do naught but weep.
Now, in the courtyard stood a keep,
A ruined part of the old fort there,
And Tristan hid below the stair,
He bewailed his effort, and care,
And his sad life so hard to bear.
He was weakened by weariness,
By much fasting and wakefulness.
Overcome by travails, and despair,
Thus he languished beneath the stair.
His life he hated, he longed for death,
He scarce could recover his breath.
And Iseult too was sad of thought,
In a wretched snare she was caught;
Seeing what she loved most depart,
In such a state and grieved at heart.
Neither did she know what to do.
Often she wept, sighed, cursed too:
Evil the day, and evil the hour,
Lingering yet in a world so dour.
After the service in the minster,
All to the palace then did gather,
To feast, and to find amusement,
Spending the day in enjoyment,
But there Iseult found no delight.
Now it chanced that, ere the night,
The porter in his lodge felt cold,
Seated there, being somewhat old.
He asked his wife to fetch some wood,
For the fire and, saying she would
Yet not wishing to bear it far,
To where, below the stair, a spar
Of kindling, and dry timber lay,
She did quickly make her way.
As into the darkness she crept,
She came on Tristan as he slept.
She felt his hairy leper’s coat,
A stifled cry leapt to her throat,
Knowing not what this might be,
Thinking a devil had made entry.
Then, her heart all full of dread,
Off to tell her husband she sped.
He went off to the ruined keep
With a lighted candle, there asleep
He found Tristan, and coming near
Still wondering what it was, in fear,
Saw twas human, on looking twice,
And finding he was colder than ice,
Asked who he was, what he did there,
And why he slept beneath the stair.
Tristan granted him the essence,
The true reason for his presence,
For this old porter he did treasure,
And he loved him in equal measure.
No matter the risk, nor his labour,
He led him to the lodge, and after
Made him a bed to lie upon,
And then for food and drink was gone.
Next to Iseult a message he bore,
Gave it Brangwen as once before;
Yet in naught it said could Tristan
Reconcile Brangwen to the man.
Wagners Tristan and Isolde - Richard le Gallienne, Edward Zeigler and George Alfred Williams (p90, 1909)
Internet Archive Book Images
Yet Iseult called Brangwen to her,
‘Fair lady, have mercy on a lover!
Go, I beg you, speak with Tristan,
And ease his sorrow, as you can,
For he is dying of pain and woe,
And then you used to love him so.
Noble friend, go comfort him now!
For he wants none but you, I vow,
Tell him at least why you, of late,
Like him not; love turned to hate.’
‘You speak idly’, was her reply,
‘He’ll not be eased by such as I.
I, rather than health, in a breath,
Would wish the man not health but death.
None shall shame me ever again
For aiding you in your foolish game.
I should not have hid your sin,
Nor shall I now, again begin.
It has been said of us, vilely,
That you have won all this through me,
And that I, at various times,
By clever tricks concealed your crimes.
Tis said of all who serve a traitor
Tis labour lost, sooner or later.
For I served you as best I could,
And now must suffer ill for good.
If you had regard for nobility,
Service you’d have rendered me
And granted me a better reward
Than to betray me with that lord!’
‘Enough, cried Iseult, now let be!
You should not so reproach me,
With all the words I did utter;
Sorry am I, I spoke in anger,
I beg that you will pardon me,
And then go to Tristan, for he,
Will ne’er be happy till he’s had,
Speech with you to make him glad.’
Iseult cried mercy, her did implore,
Promised much, and flattered more,
Till Brangwen went to find Tristan,
And in his lodgings found the man,
Ill, and weak, in grievous case,
Feeble in body, pale of face,
Gaunt in look, and sallow of hue.
Brangwen of his pain soon knew,
She heard each sad and tender sigh,
As he begged her to tell him why,
By God’s love, she hated him so,
For, in truth, it might ease his woe.
He soon gave her his assurance,
Her view of Kaedin was nonsense,
For Kaedin would come to court,
And set Cariado’s lies at naught.
So Brangwen took him at his word,
And, reconciled, they both conferred
With the queen in a marble chamber,
Where they comforted one another,
In sweet accord, revealed their love,
And did their true friendship prove.
Tristan of Iseult had his delight;
When the greater part of the night
Had passed, he made leave to depart.
At dawn, for his own land did start,
Boarded ship, and set out from shore
With the breeze, to return once more,
To fair Iseult of Brittany,
Who mourned his presence, for she
Held a love for him true and deep,
Yet woe from that love she did reap,
Much sorrow, and much unhappiness,
His absence caused her such distress.
That he loved the other Iseult so
Was yet the reason for all her woe.
Tristan departs for Brittany, Iseult the Fair grieves
TRISTAN was gone, Iseult remained,
While of his absence she complained,
Who had left her in great distress.
How he did fare she could but guess.
Because of the great ills he’d suffered,
By her in private speech discovered,
Because of the pain he’d endured,
Through their love and sweet accord,
Because of the anguish and the care,
Now in this penance she would share.
For having seen him languishing,
Now she would share his sorrowing;
And just as she’d shared with Tristan
The love, now with the grieving man
She wished to share the weight of woe.
Much she did, for his sake, I know,
That ill accorded with her beauty,
And left her at longing’s mercy.
She who was now a faithful friend
Of those sad thoughts that sighs portend,
Now quenched many a sweet desire,
Many a flame from love’s fierce fire,
(A truer lady ne’er was seen)
With harsh leather, worn unseen,
Night and day, against her bare flesh,
And in that hard armour did dress,
Except when she lay beside her sire,
So none were aware of her attire.
And a solemn oath she did swear:
Till she knew how Tristan did fare
She would never remove the thing.
And she dealt herself much suffering
Through all that she did for their love;
Many the torments she did prove,
For this Tristan did undergo,
Much pain, and wretchedness and woe.
She found a fiddle-player to use,
And sent him to Tristan with news
Of all the manner of her existence,
And Tristan was, at her insistence,
To tell her all that was in his heart,
By such means, while they were apart.
Tristan and Kaedin again visit their loves in England
WHEN Tristan heard about the queen
Whom he loved deeply, he was seen
To grow quite sad and melancholy.
Indeed, he could not now be happy,
Till he had seen what she did wear
Against her naked flesh, set there,
Till he returned to her country.
With Kaedin he spoke, and he
And his companion made their way
To England once more, on a day,
To venture and seek fortune there,
At the jousts, and such like affairs.
They went disguised as penitents,
Their faces stained, hid their intent,
Dressing so none might know them,
And reached the king’s court again,
Where they had private intercourse
With their true loves, in due course.
A great crowd attended the court
That King Mark held, where they sought
To amuse themselves after the feast,
With fencing, wrestling, and at these,
Tristan truly proved the master;
And exercised themselves thereafter,
In sports such as the Welsh Leap,
And one they called the Waveleis;
And jousted, and hurled the spear,
Reeds and javelins, once more here
Tristan was thought to be the best,
While Kaedin was above the rest,
Outshining the others by his skill.
The two companions escape to Brittany
NOW Tristan was recognised still,
By one of his friends who lent them
A pair of fine horses, and none finer,
For this fellow feared their capture,
Ere day was done; and in danger
Indeed they were, and thereafter,
They slew two lords upon that field,
And one, who had refused to yield,
Was Cariado, whom Kaedin
Killed because he’d slandered him,
In claiming Kaedin had fled,
When they’d but left, Kaedin said,
After their last visit, unseen.
He fulfilled the pledge that had been
Given when Tristan had again
Been reconciled with fair Brangwen.
After this, Tristan and Kaedin
Did take to flight to save their skins.
The two companions spurred away
Towards the shore, with scant delay,
With Cornishmen in close pursuit;
Yet they escaped the men, en route.
Together, Tristan and Kaedin,
Reached the forest, and plunged in,
Found a trail, and wandered the waste,
Until their foes gave up the chase.
They then went straight to Brittany,
Well-avenged, and pleased so to be.
End of Part XV of Tristan