The Romance of Tristan and Iseult

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  2. The Romance of Tristan
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  4. British Legends: The Tragic Romance of Tristan and Isolde - #FolkloreThursday

Jun 24, Lisa rated it it was ok. Listened to this on Librivox and it was beautifully narrated but very confusing because there were so many characters.


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This is one action packed story. It's supposed to be this great romance but Tristan and Iseult didn't fall in love, they had a spell cast on them so is that a romance? Mar 27, dead letter office rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. Cons - This early version of Tristan and Iseult is very jarring narrative-wise - The characterization is somewhat flat Pros - Episodic nature causes a disjointed narrative flow, but each episode has the potential to be hard-hitting - Tristan and Iseult is the quintessential tragic love. I read this long, long ago, at age 13, and want to re-read it, before assigning any stars.

I do remember loving it. Apr 07, Cynthia Prevedel rated it liked it. Fun to read. Discovering the exact origins of the tale become impossible as one tries to trace threads back through history, as basis can be bound in many of the legends told. Many references to King Arthur come up during this story, as time has worn on other have adopted this story and the expansion of King Arthur has grown.

Tristan is the Knight of All Knights , he is the best at everything. However, as well all know, no one can be perfect. His flaw comes in the form of a love potion that sends Yseut the Fairest and himself into a torrid love affair. Yseut is given to Tristan as a prize, which he declared to give to King Mark. In route to deliver this fair maiden the two come under the influence of a powerful love potion. The tale goes on to describe their continued efforts at keeping this secret and the deceit required to keep it hidden.

As any good story, we have a set of villains in hot pursuit to expose the lovers to the King. Of course this sounds good, but these men have other motives behind the exposure, not for the simple wish to set the King straight on his new bride. Tristan, the Knight of All Knights , has this uncanny ability to beat the odds and come out smelling of roses. By no means underestimate the power of Queen Yseut either, she is very wise and cunning with her words and is certainly not a damsel in distress and could likely sell you beach front property in the middle of the desert.

I found a great deal of humor in this read, most of it provided by the Queen herself. Some have felt this story falls short and lacks character development and some of the story line. For me, I think about the time period this was written in and how the story would actually have been told in the town commons by a muse.

I enjoyed reading this so much! Being medieval literature, there were occasional moments where the gender dynamics bothered me, but I let it slide for the most part because of the context of the time period it was written in.

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I had to keep in mind how the structure of society was different back then and how differently people were expected to act. It requested suspension of disbelief on that account [gender] in order to fully enjoy the tale. Which I did! It read like a fairy tale, and I really l I enjoyed reading this so much! It read like a fairy tale, and I really liked the humor and irony in this telling of the Tristan and Isolde legend.

It was amusing and it definitely was a story that was on True Love's side. Despite the depiction of the three "wicked" and "villainous" barons that continuously try to expose Tristan and Yseut, it made sense on practical, even moral, grounds for their multiple attempts. Even so, the narrator and the story really made a case to have sympathy for Tristan and Yseut, on the basis of their tragic love story, despite all the treachery, sneaking around, and deception.

X I really liked Yseut's character. I was a bit worried before I started reading that she would be a bland, interchangeable maiden-type character, but was pleasantly surprised to see her depicted as clever and cunning! Even if that kind of female character probably wasn't necessarily a favorable one, I was happy to have an Yseut with agency who did the best she could under her circumstances. And I also really liked Tristan's dog, Husdant, haha!

XD And Tristan himself was brave and knightly, as was to be expected. XD I was all sorts of excited with my first dive into Arthurian legend. I had a lot fun with this one. In my ongoing crusade to confute stories in which horrific, mind-bendingly irritating men and women are meant to be seen as heroes on the basis of the fact that i they're really hot ii they're a little bit damaged and iii they can't keep it in their pants, the story of Tristan is like the Platonic form of evil, if there was such a thing I am aware that the forms don't work like that.

Tristan, who is a bit of a scumbag, 'falls in love with' Yseut, who strongly resembles a 15 year old girl in he In my ongoing crusade to confute stories in which horrific, mind-bendingly irritating men and women are meant to be seen as heroes on the basis of the fact that i they're really hot ii they're a little bit damaged and iii they can't keep it in their pants, the story of Tristan is like the Platonic form of evil, if there was such a thing I am aware that the forms don't work like that.

Tristan, who is a bit of a scumbag, 'falls in love with' Yseut, who strongly resembles a 15 year old girl in her moral acuity, because of a love potion. When the potion wears off he realizes the error of his ways, and returns her to her husband Etc etc. All that said, because the author avoids all the modern-day desiderata of moral complexity and so on, this turns out to be a great read. Beroul doesn't even try to suggest that his heroes are anything other than what they are, so even though he's always telling you how wonderful Tristan and Yseut are, and how villainous everyone else is, you're much more free to make up your own mind than in those show-instead-of-tell stories that lack an objective narrator.

One downside: prose translations of poetry are always very odd, unless the poetry is on the facing page. That is not the case here. Beroul's poem dates from the 12th century, and is the earliest known account of the Tristan legend. It is incomplete, the surviving manuscript opening after the lovers have returned to Cornwall and the deceit of Mark has begun; but the translator provides the missing episodes - Tristan's birth, his arrival at King Mark's court, his journey to Ireland, the slaying of the dragon, the meeting with Yseut, the drinking of the love potion - from other Tristan sources, thereby telling the entire story.

I was expecting a translation from poem form to poem form, but instead the legend is told in prose. While this lessened the book's value to me in one way no line numbers, so difficult to use it as a reference , the result is a brilliant narrative which in some unclear way emphasises the medieval origin, rather than diluting it. Tristan and Yseut is above all a terrific story; what Peter Jackson has been doing, messing about with Tolkein when he could have been turning his mind to this, is beyond me.

He wouldn't even have needed to shell out on a score - Wagner has done it all for him. Dec 14, Deborah Stack rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: anyone. Shelves: favorites. I adore this story, and I know that the beautiful writing of Joseph Bedier is largely to thank- but I must give credit to the specific reader at librivox who helped me to fall in love with the tale. Joy Chan's soothing voice drew me entirely into the ancient story, and as she adopted a slight affect for each character, rendering each distinct, I adore this story, and I know that the beautiful writing of Joseph Bedier is largely to thank- but I must give credit to the specific reader at librivox who helped me to fall in love with the tale.

Joy Chan's soothing voice drew me entirely into the ancient story, and as she adopted a slight affect for each character, rendering each distinct, her lilting accent provided the perfect backdrop for the tragic love story, adding a dimension of description which immersed me even further into the book. I find myself turning on this recording every once in a while when I want to relax, and flipping through my physical copy of the book in search of comfort from the now-familiar prose.

This absolutely ranks as one of my favorite books of all time, and I would recommend it to anyone. Just a note- the movie did NOT do it justice! Searched and read the e-book. Tristan and Isolde was one of the most influential romances in the medieval period. Although this story line has been used endlessly later, in many classic romance stories like the Arthurian romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, this is a very good read and the original.

This one, Bedier's translation which was then translated by Hilaire Belloc is the living piece of mythology. He tells Tristan and Isolde the same way you've probably heard it a thousand times. I b Searched and read the e-book. I believe, how this tale was meant to be told. This is more close to Beroul's poem. This has everything: dragons, magic, love philtres, cunning dwarves, unethical opponents, lepers and hermits, castles, forests, sea, revenge, murder, deciet, love and loyalty.

If you are at all interested in mythology, especially that of Arthurian theme or Medieval literature, Bedier's translation of "Tristan and Iseult" is the one for you. You won't be disappointed. Sep 09, Jess rated it liked it. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I see a relation to our common An interesting tale, but I did not care for the love chemistry involved. Jan 24, Paloma Meir rated it it was amazing.

Most of my reading life has been spent searching for a story that will make me feel as I felt when first reading Wuthering Heights. The Romance of Tristan and Iseult didn't succeed and nothing else has either , but I loved it anyway. I've read so many retellings of this story, but never the source.

Happy to have finally read it. This is not a recommendation though, a few of my friends really didn't like that book. I was only very mildly interested in this book throughout. It is written and translated from such old language and verbage that makes it uncomfortable to read and to connect with. It also cannot make up its mind if it is a romance or a tragedy - the correct formula for a tragic romance is lost within the first couple of chapters.

It is also, at best, very, very fanciful and highly unbelievable. Kept my attention. Long before Hobbits and Harry Potters there was this. Picture yourself in a hall, with log fire and torch-light, with some fairly evil smells coming from a rush covered floor - the story teller begins Mar 27, Kirstin Dobson rated it liked it. Actually 3. Take then this pitcher and remember well my words. Hide it so that no eye shall see nor no lip go near it: but when the wedding night has come and that moment in which the wedded are left alone, pour this essenced wine into a cup and offer it to King Mark and to Iseult his queen.

Take all care, my child, that they alone shall taste this brew. For this is its power: they who drink of it together love each other with their every single sense and with their every thought, forever, in life and in death. On the bark that bore her to Tintagel Iseult the Fair was weeping as she remembered her own land, and mourning swelled her heart, and she said, "Who am I that I should leave you to follow unknown men, my mother and my land?

Accursed be the sea that bears me, for rather would I lie dead on the earth where I was born than live out there, beyond. One day when the wind had fallen and the sails hung slack Tristan dropped anchor by an Island and the hundred knights of Cornwall and the sailors, weary of the sea, landed all. Iseult alone remained aboard and a little serving maid, when Tristan came near the Queen to calm her sorrow. The sun was hot above them and they were athirst and, as they called, the little maid looked about for drink for them and found that pitcher which the mother of Iseult had given into Brangien's keeping.

And when she came on it, the child cried, "I have found you wine! The Queen drank deep of that draught and gave it to Tristan and he drank also long and emptied it all. Brangien came in upon them; she saw them gazing at each other in silence as though ravished and apart; she saw before them the pitcher standing there; she snatched it up and cast it into the shuddering sea and cried aloud: "Cursed be the day I was born and cursed the day that first I trod this deck.

Iseult, my friend, and Tristan, you, you have drunk death together. But it seemed to Tristan as though an ardent briar, sharp-thorned but with flower most sweet smelling, drave roots into his blood and laced the lovely body of Iseult all round about it and bound it to his own and to his every thought and desire. And he thought, "Felons, that charged me with coveting King Mark's land, I have come lower by far, for it is not his land I covet.

Fair uncle, who loved me orphaned ere ever you knew in me the blood of your sister Blanchefleur, you that wept as you bore me to that boat alone, why did you not drive out the boy that was to betray you? What thought was that! Iseult is yours and I am but your vassal; Iseult is yours and I am your son; Iseult is yours and may not love me. She could not hate, for a tenderness more sharp than hatred tore her. And Brangien watched them in anguish, suffering more cruelly because she alone knew the depth of evil done.

Two days she watched them, seeing them refuse all food or comfort and seeking each other as blind men seek, wretched apart and together more wretched still, for then they trembled each for the first avowal. On the third day, as Tristan neared the tent on deck where Iseult sat, she saw him coming and she said to him, very humbly, "Come in, my lord. Am I not your liege and vassal, to revere and serve and cherish you as my lady and Queen? Ah, why did I not sharpen those wounds of the wounded singer, or let die that dragon-slayer in the grasses of the marsh? But then I did not know what now I know!

Whereat he put his lips to hers. But as they thus tasted their first joy, Brangien, that watched them, stretched her arms and cried at their feet in tears: "Stay and return if still you can But oh! For already Love and his strength drag you on and now henceforth forever never shall you know joy without pain again. The wine possesses you, the draught your mother gave me, the draught the King alone should have drunk with you: but that old Enemy has tricked us, all us three; friend Tristan, Iseult my friend, for that bad ward I kept take here my body and my life, for through me and in that cup you have drunk not love alone, but love and death together.

He led her in great pomp to his castle of Tintagel, and as she came in hall amid the vassals her beauty shone so that the walls were lit as they are lit at dawn. Then King Mark blessed those swallows which, by happy courtesy, had brought the Hair of Gold, and Tristan also he blessed, and the hundred knights who, on that adventurous bark, had gone to find him joy of heart and of eyes; yet to him also that ship was to bring sting, torment and mourning.

And on the eighteenth day, having called his Barony together he took Iseult to wife. But on the wedding night, to save her friend, Brangien took her place in the darkness, for her remorse demanded even this from her; nor was the trick discovered. Then Iseult lived as a queen, but lived in sadness. She had King Mark's tenderness and the barons' honour; the people also loved her; she passed her days amid the frescoes on the walls and floors all strewn with flowers; good jewels had she and purple cloth and tapestry of Hungary and Thessaly too, and songs of harpers, and curtains upon which were worked leopards and eagles and popinjays and all the beasts of sea and field.

And her love too she had, love high and splendid, for as is the custom among great lords, Tristan could ever be near her. At his leisure and his dalliance, night and day: for he slept in the King's chamber as great lords do, among the lieges and the councillors. Yet still she feared; for though her love were secret and Tristan unsuspected for who suspects a son? Brangien knew. And Brangien seemed in the Queen's mind like a witness spying; for Brangien alone knew what manner of life she led, and held her at mercy so. And the Queen thought Ah, if some day she should weary of serving as a slave the bed where once she passed for Queen If Tristan should die from her betrayal!

So fear maddened the Queen, but not in truth the fear of Brangien who was loyal; her own heart bred the fear. Not Brangien who was faithful, not Brangien, but themselves had these lovers to fear, for hearts so stricken will lose their vigilance. Love pressed them hard, as thirst presses the dying stag to the stream; love dropped upon them from high heaven, as a hawk slipped after long hunger falls right upon the bird.

And love will not be hidden. Brangien indeed by her prudence saved them well, nor ever were the Queen and her lover unguarded. But in every hour and place every man could see Love terrible, that rode them, and could see in these lovers their every sense overflowing like new wine working in the vat. The four felons at court who had hated Tristan of old for his prowess, watched the Queen; they had guessed that great love, and they burnt with envy and hatred and now a kind of evil joy.

They planned to give news of their watching to the King, to see his tenderness turned to fury, Tristan thrust out or slain, and the Queen in torment; for though they feared Tristan their hatred mastered their fear; and, on a day, the four barons called King Mark to parley, and Andret said: "Fair King, your heart will be troubled and we four also mourn; yet are we bound to tell you what we know. You have placed your trust in Tristan and Tristan would shame you.

In vain we warned you. For the love of one man you have mocked ties of blood and all your Barony. Learn then that Tristan loves the Queen; it is truth proved and many a word is passing on it now. What thought was that? Indeed I have placed my trust in Tristan. And rightly, for on the day when the Morholt offered combat to you all, you hung your heads and were dumb, and you trembled before him; but Tristan dared him for the honour of this land, and took mortal wounds.

Therefore do you hate him, and therefore do I cherish him beyond thee, Andret, and beyond any other; but what then have you seen or heard or known? Look you and listen, Sire, if there is yet time. Then King Mark watched the Queen and Tristan; but Brangien noting it warned them both and the King watched in vain, so that, soon wearying of an ignoble task, but knowing alas! Felons have charged you with an awful treason, but ask me nothing; I could not speak their words without shame to us both, and for your part seek you no word to appease.

I have not believed them But their evil words have troubled all my soul and only by your absence can my disquiet be soothed. Go, doubtless I will soon recall you. Go, my son, you are still dear to me.

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The Romance of Tristan

When the felons heard the news they said among themselves, "He is gone, the wizard; he is driven out. Surely he will cross the sea on far adventures to carry his traitor service to some distant King. He stayed in Tintagel town and lodged with Gorvenal in a burgess' house, and languished oh! In the close towers Iseult the Fair drooped also, but more wretched still.

For it was hers all day long to feign laughter and all night long to conquer fever and despair. And all night as she lay by King Mark's side, fever still kept her waking, and she stared at darkness. She longed to fly to Tristan and she dreamt dreams of running to the gates and of finding there sharp scythes, traps of the felons, that cut her tender knees; and she dreamt of weakness and falling, and that her wounds had left her blood upon the ground.

Now these lovers would have died, but Brangien succoured them. At peril of her life she found the house where Tristan lay. There Gorvenal opened to her very gladly, knowing what salvation she could bring.


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So she found Tristan, and to save the lovers she taught him a device, nor was ever known a more subtle ruse of love. Behind the castle of Tintagel was an orchard fenced around and wide and all closed in with stout and pointed stakes and numberless trees were there and fruit on them, birds and clusters of sweet grapes. And furthest from the castle, by the stakes of the pallisade, was a tall pine-tree, straight and with heavy branches spreading from its trunk.

At its root a living spring welled calm into a marble round, then ran between two borders winding, throughout the orchard and so, on, till it flowed at last within the castle and through the women's rooms. And every evening, by Brangien's counsel, Tristan cut him twigs and bark, leapt the sharp stakes and, having come beneath the pine, threw them into the clear spring; they floated light as foam down the stream to the women's rooms; and Iseult watched for their coming, and on those evenings she would wander out into the orchard and find her friend.

Lithe and in fear would she come, watching at every step for what might lurk in the trees observing, foes or the felons whom she knew, till she spied Tristan; and the night and the branches of the pine protected them. And so she said one night: "Oh, Tristan, I have heard that the castle is faery and that twice a year it vanishes away.

So is it vanished now and this is that enchanted orchard of which the harpers sing. Iseult had refound her joy. Mark's thought of ill-ease grew faint; but the felons felt or knew which way lay truth, and they guessed that Tristan had met the Queen.


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  • Till at last Duke Andret whom God shame said to his peers: "My lords, let us take counsel of Frocin the Dwarf; for he knows the seven arts, and magic and every kind of charm. He will teach us if he will the wiles of Iseult the Fair. Hid in the branches the King saw his nephew leap the pallisades and throw his bark and twigs into the stream. But Tristan had bent over the round well to throw them and so doing had seen the image of the King. He could not stop the branches as they floated away, and there, yonder, in the women's rooms, Iseult was watching and would come. She came, and Tristan watched her motionless.

    Above him in the tree he heard the click of the arrow when it fits the string. She came, but with more prudence than her wont, thinking, "What has passed, that Tristan does not come to meet me? He has seen some foe. She showed the wit of women well, she did not lift her eyes. Often have you called me --to beseech, you said. And Queen though I am, I know you won me that title--and I have come. What would you? Take pity; the King hates me and I know not why. Perhaps you know the cause and can charm his anger. For whom can he trust if not you, chaste Queen and courteous, Iseult?

    And I, to add to my shame, must acquaint you of it. And would you have me, at such a time, implore your pardon of the King? Why, did he know of my passage here to-night he would cast my ashes to the wind. My body trembles and I am afraid. I go, for I have waited too long. And as Iseult fled: "Queen," said Tristan, "in the Lord's name help me, for charity.

    The King wrongs you but the Lord God will be by you in whatever land you go. Tristan returned to the castle as of old. Tristan slept in the King's chamber with his peers. He could come or go, the King thought no more of it. Mark had pardoned the felons, and as the seneschal, Dinas of Lidan, found the dwarf wandering in a forest abandoned, he brought him home, and the King had pity and pardoned even him.

    But his goodness did but feed the ire of the barons, who swore this oath: If the King kept Tristan in the land they would withdraw to their strongholds as for war, and they called the King to parley. He loves the Queen as all who choose can see, but as for us we will bear it no longer. Parley you, and take counsel. As for us if you will not exile this man, your nephew, and drive him forth out of your land forever, we will withdraw within our Bailiwicks and take our neighbours also from your court: for we cannot endure his presence longer in this place. Such is your balance: choose.

    But you are my lieges and I would not lose the service of my men. Counsel me therefore, I charge you, you that owe me counsel. You know me for a man neither proud nor overstepping. You mistrust him for that orchard night. Still, was it not he that read in the stars of the Queen's coming there and to the very pine-tree too? He is very wise, take counsel of him.

    Sire, he sleeps with the peers in your chamber; go you out when the first sleep falls on men, and if he love Iseult so madly, why, then I swear by God and by the laws of Rome, he will try to speak with her before he rides. But if he do so unknown to you or to me, then slay me. As for the trap, let me lay it, but do you say nothing of his ride to him until the time for sleep. He bought of a baker four farthings' worth of flour, and hid it in the turn of his coat.

    That night, when the King had supped and the men-at-arms lay down to sleep in hall, Tristan came to the King as custom was, and the King said: "Fair nephew, do my will: ride to-morrow night to King Arthur at Carduel, and give him this brief, with my greeting, that he may open it: and stay you with him but one day.

    And there was a spear length in the darkness between them. Now the dwarf slept with the rest in the King's chamber, and when he thought that all slept he rose and scattered the flour silently in the spear length that lay between Tristan and the Queen; but Tristan watched and saw him, and said to himself: "It is to mark my footsteps, but there shall be no marks to show.

    Then Tristan rose in the darkness and judged the spear length and leapt the space between, for his farewell. But that day in the hunt a boar had wounded him in the leg, and in this effort the wound bled. He did not feel it or see it in the darkness, but the blood dripped upon the couches and the flour strewn between; and outside in the moonlight the dwarf read the heavens and knew what had been done and he cried: "Enter, my King, and if you do not hold them, hang me high.

    And the King looked in silence at the blood where it lay upon the bed and the boards and trampled into the flour. And the four barons held Tristan down upon his bed and mocked the Queen also, promising her full justice; and they bared and showed the wound whence the blood flowed. Then the King said: "Tristan, now nothing longer holds. To-morrow you shall die. But, lord, remember the Queen! Sire, in the name of God the Lord, have mercy on her. But had Tristan known that trial by combat was to be denied him, certainly he would not have suffered it. For he trusted in God and knew no man dared draw sword against him in the lists.

    And truly he did well to trust in God, for though the felons mocked him when he said he had loved loyally, yet I call you to witness, my lords who read this, and who know of the philtre drunk upon the high seas, and who, understand whether his love were disloyalty indeed. For men see this and that outward thing, but God alone the heart, and in the heart alone is crime and the sole final judge is God. Therefore did He lay down the law that a man accused might uphold his cause by battle, and God himself fights for the innocent in such a combat. Therefore did Tristan claim justice and the right of battle and therefore was he careful to fail in nothing of the homage he owed King Mark, his lord.

    But had he known what was coming, he would have killed the felons. And the murmurs and the cries ran through the city, but such was the King's anger in his castle above that not the strongest nor the proudest baron dared move him. Night ended and the day drew near. Mark, before dawn, rode out to the place where he held pleas and judgment. He ordered a ditch to be dug in the earth and knotty vine-shoots and thorns to be laid therein. At the hour of Prime he had a ban cried through his land to gather the men of Cornwall; they came with a great noise and the King spoke them thus: "My lords, I have made here a faggot of thorns for Tristan and the Queen; for they have fallen.

    By God that made the world, if any dare petition me, he shall burn first!

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    The flames rose, and all were silent before the flames, and the King waited. The servants ran to the room where watch was kept on the two lovers; and they dragged Tristan out by his hands though he wept for his honour; but as they dragged him off in such a shame, the Queen still called to him: "Friend, if I die that you may live, that will be great joy. For as Tristan and his guards went down from the town to where the faggot burned, near the road upon a rock was a chantry, it stood at a cliff's edge steep and sheer, and it turned to the sea-breeze; in the apse of it were windows glazed.

    Then Tristan said to those with him: "My lords, let me enter this chantry, to pray for a moment the mercy of God whom I have offended; my death is near. There is but one door to the place, my lords, and each of you has his sword drawn. So, you may well see that, when my prayer to God is done, I must come past you again: when I have prayed God, my lords, for the last time. And one of the guards said: "Why, let him go in. But he, once in, dashed through and leapt the altar rail and the altar too and forced a window of the apse, and leapt again over the cliff's edge.

    So might he die, but not of that shameful death before the people. Now learn, my lords, how generous was God to him that day. The wind took Tristan's cloak and he fell upon a smooth rock at the cliff's foot, which to this day the men of Cornwall call "Tristan's leap. And he ran, and the fine sand crunched under his feet, and far off he saw the faggot burning, and the smoke and the crackling flames; and fled. Sword girt and bridle loose, Gorvenal had fled the city, lest the King burn him in his master's place: and he found Tristan on the shore.

    For without Iseult I may not and I will not live, and I rather had died of my fall. They will burn her for me, then I too will die for her. See here this thicket with a ditch dug round about it. Let us hide therein where the track passes near, and comers by it will tell us news; and, boy, if they burn Iseult, I swear by God, the Son of Mary, never to sleep under a roof again until she be avenged.

    Your friend has fled safely. They dragged her from the room, and she came before the crowd, held by her delicate hands, from which blood dropped, and the crowd called: "Have pity on her--the loyal Queen and honoured! Surely they that gave her up brought mourning on us all--our curses on them! She stood up before the flame, and the crowd cried its anger, and cursed the traitors and the King.

    None could see her without pity, unless he had a felon's heart: she was so tightly bound. The tears ran down her face and fell upon her grey gown where ran a little thread of gold, and a thread of gold was twined into her hair. Just then there had come up a hundred lepers of the King's, deformed and broken, white horribly, and limping on their crutches. And they drew near the flame, and being evil, loved the sight. And their chief Ivan, the ugliest of them all, cried to the King in a quavering voice: "O King, you would burn this woman in that flame, and it is sound justice, but too swift, for very soon the fire will fall, and her ashes will very soon be scattered by the high wind and her agony be done.

    Throw her rather to your lepers where she may drag out a life for ever asking death. I can love those that gave me such a thought. Never shall lady have known a worse end. And look," they said, "at our rags and our abominations. She has had pleasure in rich stuffs and furs, jewels and walls of marble, honour, good wines and joy, but when she sees your lepers always, King, and only them for ever, their couches and their huts, then indeed she will know the wrong she has done, and bitterly desire even that great flame of thorns.

    But Ivan had an evil gladness, and as he went he dragged her out of the borough bounds, with his hideous company. Now they took that road where Tristan lay in hiding, and Gorvenal said to him: "Son, here is your friend. Will you do naught? Now leave her if you would live. Crutches in the air--for a fight is on! There are singers who sing that Tristan killed Ivan, but it is a lie. Too much a knight was he to kill such things.

    Gorvenal indeed, snatching up an oak sapling, crashed it on Ivan's head till his blood ran down to his misshapen feet. Then Tristan took the Queen. Henceforth near him she felt no further evil. He cut the cords that bound her arms so straightly, and he left the plain so that they plunged into the wood of Morois; and there in the thick wood Tristan was as sure as in a castle keep. And as the sun fell they halted all three at the foot of a little hill: fear had wearied the Queen, and she leant her head upon his body and slept.

    But in the morning, Gorvenal stole from a wood man his bow and two good arrows plumed and barbed, and gave them to Tristan, the great archer, and he shot him a fawn and killed it. Then Gorvenal gathered dry twigs, struck flint, and lit a great fire to cook the venison. And Tristan cut him branches and made a hut and garnished it with leaves. And Iseult slept upon the thick leaves there. So, in the depths of the wild wood began for the lovers that savage life which yet they loved very soon. They ate but the flesh of wild animals.

    Their faces sank and grew white, their clothes ragged; for the briars tore them. They loved each other and they did not know that they suffered. One day, as they were wandering in these high woods that had never yet been felled or ordered, they came upon the hermitage of Ogrin. The old man limped in the sunlight under a light growth of maples near his chapel: he leant upon his crutch, and cried: "Lord Tristan, hear the great oath which the Cornish men have sworn.

    The King has published a ban in every parish: Whosoever may seize you shall receive a hundred marks of gold for his guerdon, and all the barons have sworn to give you up alive or dead. Do penance, Tristan! God pardons the sinner who turns to repentance. Or of what crime? You that sit in judgment upon us here, do you know what cup it was we drank upon the high sea? That good, great draught inebriates us both. I would rather beg my life long and live of roots and herbs with Iseult than, lacking her, be king of a wide kingdom.

    A man that is traitor to his lord is worthy to be torn by horses and burnt upon the faggot, and wherever his ashes fall no grass shall grow and all tillage is waste, and the trees and the green things die. Lord Tristan, give back the Queen to the man who espoused her lawfully according to the laws of Rome. From these lepers I myself conquered her with my own hand; and henceforth she is altogether mine.

    She cannot pass from me nor I from her. The hermit told her and re-told her the words of his holy book, but still while she wept she shook her head, and refused the faith he offered.

    Do penance, Tristan, for a man who lives in sin without repenting is a man quite dead. We will go back into the high wood which comforts and wards us all round about. Come with me, Iseult, my friend. They passed into the high grass and the underwood: the trees hid them with their branches. They disappeared beyond the leaves. The summer passed and the winter came: the two lovers lived, all hidden in the hollow of a rock, and on the frozen earth the cold crisped their couch with dead leaves.

    In the strength of their love neither one nor the other felt these mortal things. But when the open skies had come back with the springtime, they built a hut of green branches under the great trees. Tristan had known, ever since his childhood, that art by which a man may sing the song of birds in the woods, and at his fancy, he would call as call the thrush, the blackbird and the nightingale, and all winged things; and sometimes in reply very many birds would come on to the branches of his hut and sing their song full-throated in the new light.

    The lovers had ceased to wander through the forest, for none of the barons ran the risk of their pursuit knowing well that Tristan would have hanged them to the branches of a tree. One day, however, one of the four traitors, Guenelon, whom God blast! And that morning, on the forest edge in a ravine, Gorvenal, having unsaddled his horse, had let him graze on the new grass, while far off in their hut Tristan held the Queen, and they slept. Then suddenly Gorvenal heard the cry of the pack; the hounds pursued a deer, which fell into that ravine.

    And far on the heath the hunter showed -- and Gorvenal knew him for the man whom his master hated above all. Alone, with bloody spurs, and striking his horse's mane, he galloped on; but Gorvenal watched him from ambush: he came fast, he would return more slowly. He passed and Gorvenal leapt from his ambush and seized the rein and, suddenly, remembering all the wrong that man had done, hewed him to death and carried off his head in his hands.

    And when the hunters found the body, as they followed, they thought Tristan came after and they fled in fear of death, and thereafter no man hunted in that wood. And far off, in the hut upon their couch of leaves, slept Tristan and the Queen. There came Gorvenal, noiseless, the dead man's head in his hands that he might lift his master's heart at his awakening.

    He hung it by its hair outside the hut, and the leaves garlanded it about. Tristan woke and saw it, half hidden in the leaves, and staring at him as he gazed, and he became afraid. But Gorvenal said: "Fear not, he is dead. I killed him with this sword. My lords, upon a summer day, when mowing is, a little after Whitsuntide, as the birds sang dawn Tristan left his hut and girt his sword on him, and took his bow "Failnaught" and went off to hunt in the wood; but before evening, great evil was to fall on him, for no lovers ever loved so much or paid their love so dear.

    When Tristan came back, broken by the heat, the Queen said "Friend, where have you been? I would lie down and sleep.

    British Legends: The Tragic Romance of Tristan and Isolde - #FolkloreThursday

    And no wind blew, and no leaves stirred, but through a crevice in the branches a sunbeam fell upon the face of Iseult and it shone white like ice. Now a woodman found in the wood a place where the leaves were crushed, where the lovers had halted and slept, and he followed their track and found the hut, and saw them sleeping and fled off, fearing the terrible awakening of that lord. He fled to Tintagel, and going up the stairs of the palace, found the King as he held his pleas in hall amid the vassals assembled.

    Have you some wrong to right, or has any man driven you? Come swiftly and take your vengeance. You shall have gold and silver at your will. Then the woodman said: "King, we are near. Then the King cast his cloak with its fine buckle of gold and drew his sword from its sheath and said again in his heart that they or he should die. And he signed to the woodman to be gone. He came alone into the hut, sword bare, and watched them as they lay: but he saw that they were apart, and he wondered because between them was the naked blade.

    Then he said to himself: "My God, I may not kill them. For all the time they have lived together in this wood, these two lovers, yet is the sword here between them, and throughout Christendom men know that sign. Therefore I will not slay, for that would be treason and wrong, but I will do so that when they wake they may know that I found them here, asleep, and spared them and that God had pity on them both. Then in her sleep a vision came to Iseult. She seemed to be in a great wood and two lions near her fought for her, and she gave a cry and woke, and the gloves fell upon her breast; and at the cry Tristan woke, and made to seize his sword, and saw by the golden hilt that it was the King's.

    And the Queen saw on her finger the King's ring, and she cried: "O, my lord, the King has found us here! Let us fly. O, my father, my father, I know you now. There was pardon in your heart, and tenderness and pity It was not pardon it was understanding; the faggot and the chantry leap and the leper ambush have shown him God upon our side. Also I think he remembered the boy who long ago harped at his feet, and my land of Lyonesse which I left for him; the Morholt's spear and blood shed in his honour. He remembered how I made no avowal, but claimed a trial at arms, and the high nature of his heart has made him understand what men around him cannot; never can he know of the spell, yet he doubts and hopes and knows I have told no lie, and would have me prove my cause.

    O, but to win at arms by God's aid for him, and to enter his peace and to put on mail for him again For till now I was hunted and I could hate and forget; he had thrown Iseult to the lepers, she was no more his, but mine; and now by his compassion he has wakened my heart and regained the Queen. For Queen she was at his side, but in this wood she lives a slave, and I waste her youth; and for rooms all hung with silk she has this savage place, and a hut for her splendid walls, and I am the cause that she treads this ugly road. So now I cry to God the Lord, who is King of the world, and beg Him to give me strength to yield back Iseult to King Mark; for she is indeed his wife, wed according to the laws of Rome before all the Barony of his land.

    Within the hollow of thorns that was their resting-place Iseult the Fair awaited Tristan's return. The golden ring that King Mark had slipped there glistened on her finger in the moonlight, and she thought: "He that put on this ring is not the man who threw me to his lepers in his wrath; he is rather that compassionate lord who, from the day I touched his shore, received me and protected. And he loved Tristan once, but I came, and see what I have done!

    He should have lived in the King's palace; he should have ridden through King's and baron's fees, finding adventure; but through me he has forgotten his knighthood, and is hunted and exiled from the court, leading a random life. They have no choice in the matter due to a love potion they both mistakenly drink even as he is returning with her to be the wife of his uncle. Subsequently they must deceive King Mark and, after being caught, must live as lovers separated, which brings them both to the brink of madness for love, jealousy and worry. A second Iseult steps in, she of the White Hands, but Tristan cannot love another.

    She succeeds in interrupting the last meeting of the lovers when Tristan, having been poisoned by a spear, calls for his beloved. Iseult of the White Hands tells him that black sails fly rather than white on the ship bound for him, the signal that Iseult the Fair is not aboard. Tristan sees no reason to stave off the poison any longer. The heyday for this particular couple was in the 12 th and 13 th centuries, when several authors crafted popular representations of a Cornish knight who falls in love with an Irish princess as he is supposed to be escorting her to wed his own lord and adoptive father sometimes uncle.

    In his own words,. To steer clear of disparities, anachronisms, and embellishments and, through the exercise of historical understanding and critical discipline, to avoid intrusion of our modern concepts into older forms of thinking and feeling, has been my aim, my effort, and no doubt, alas, my delusion. It is a beautiful text, with a strongly medieval feel.

    The book creates a wonderful impression of having been composed as an original legend by a sensitive and creative poet of the Age of Chivalry. The most readily available English edition is translated by Hilaire Belloc, a classic bilingual author and poet in his own right, so an excellent choice, though perhaps unexpected for the subject matter. A note on the lovers' names. Indeed, the Prologue of the present version as many others has Blanchefleur, his mother and the sister of King Mark of Cornwall, naming her son, born just four days after learning that her husband, his father King Rivalen of Lyonesse, has died in battle: " It seemed to Tristan as though an ardent briar, sharp-thorned but with flower most sweet smelling drave roots into his blood and laced the lovely body of Iseult all round about it and bound it to his own and to his every thought and desire.

    But Iseult loved him, though she would have hated. Had he not basely disdained her?