Marie of France: Honeysuckle

Here is the poem (the lays) of Marie de France concerning the myth Arthurian. Here is the storytelling version in modern French. The eleventh lace is: Honeysuckle.



I would have a lot of fun telling the Honeysuckle Lai, but first I want to tell you why it was made. You will therefore know that I have heard it recited several times and that I have even found it in writing. I will speak of Tristan, of his sweetheart Yseult the blonde, of their extreme love which caused them so much pain, and of their death which took place the same day.

King Mark, very irritated with his nephew, drove him from his kingdom because he loved the queen, by whom he was dearly loved. Tristan returned to his homeland Southwales, where he would remain for a year. The estrangement of his beauty, the boredom of his absence, drove him imperceptibly to the tomb. Do not be surprised at the state of the knight, all those who love loyally feel the same pains when they experience such ailments.

To dissipate his grief, Tristan leaves his homeland and travels to the Cornwall, province where the beautiful Yseult lived. Wanting to hide from all eyes, he lived in a forest, from which he only came out at night; and when night fell, he went to ask hospitality of the peasants, then inquired near them of the news of the city and of the court, and of what the king was doing. These replied that they had heard that the barons banished from the court had taken refuge at Tintagel; that the king, at the feasts of Pentecost, would hold in this city an extremely beautiful plenary court(i), where much amusement was to be enjoyed, finally that the queen was to attend it.

Tristan was all the more delighted when he learned that the queen had to cross the forest infallibly to get to Tintagel. Indeed, the king and his retinue passed the next day. Yseult was not to be long in coming; but how can she tell her that her lover is so close to her? Tristan cuts a branch of an elm tree, cuts it squarely and splits it in half, on each side of the thickness he writes his name with a knife, then puts the two branches on the path, a short distance from one of the other. If the queen sees the name of her friend, as it had already happened to her, there is no doubt that she will stop.

She would immediately guess that he had waited a long time to see her. Besides, she cannot ignore that Tristan cannot live without Iseult, just as Iseult cannot live without Tristan. He remembers you, he said to himself, the tree at the foot of which honeysuckle is planted. This shrub climbs, attaches itself and surrounds the branches. Both seem to have to live a long time, and nothing seems to be able to disunite them. If the tree dies, the honeysuckle immediately suffers the same fate. So, beautiful friend, is it from us. I cannot live without you as you without me, and your absence will destroy me.

"Beautiful friend, so it is with us:
Neither you without me, nor I without you! "

The queen, mounted on a palfrey, arrives at last; the staff on which his friend's name was written strikes his eyes; she sees the name of Tristan which cannot be removed. But how to escape this suite of knights who accompany him? She stops the procession on the pretext of enjoying the beauty of the place and resting. She forbids to follow her, her orders are carried out and soon she is far from his retinue. Her friend Brangien, the confidante of her loves, is the only one who follows her. Barely entered the woods, Yseult saw in front of her the one whom she loved more than life.

God! What happiness, and what things to say to each other after such a long absence! She makes him hope for a speedy return, and to obtain his pardon from the king, her husband. How I suffered from your exile! But, dear friend, it is time to leave us and I cannot do so without shedding tears. Farewell, I live only in the hope of seeing you again soon. Yseult went to rejoin his retinue, and Tristan returned to the Wales, where he remained until his recall.

Of the joy he had felt on seeing his friend, and of the means he had invented for this purpose, of the promise she had made to him, of all that she had said to him, the harp turned it into a new Lai. From this Lai that I have told here I will give the name. The English call it Goatleaf and the François the Chevrefeuille. Here is the truth of the adventure that you have just heard and that I have put in verse.