Tristan and Iseult: The childhoods of Tristan

Here is the translation of the Roman de Tristan et Iseult of 1900 by Joseph Bedier. Here is the first part: The childhoods of Tristan.

The childhoods of Tristan

The childhoods of Tristan

Lords, do you like to hear a beautiful tale of love and death? It is from Tristan and Iseult the queen. Hear how with great joy, in great mourning, they loved each other, then died of it one day, he through her, she through him.

In ancient times, King Mark reigned in Cornwall. Having learned that his enemies were at war with him, Rivalen, king of Loonnois, crossed the sea to help him. He served him with the sword and with counsel, as a vassal would have done, so faithfully that Mark gave him as a reward the beautiful Blancheflower, his sister, whom King Rivalen loved with a marvelous love.

He took her from a wife to Tintagel's mound. But hardly had he married her, the news reached him that his old enemy, Duke Morgan, having fallen on the Loonnois, was ruining his towns, his fields, his towns. Rivalen hastily fitted out his naves, and carried Blanchefleur, who was fat, to his distant land. He landed in front of his castle in Kanoël, entrusted the queen to the protection of her marshal Rohalt, Rohalt whom everyone, for his loyalty, called by a beautiful name, Rohalt the Faith-Tenant; then, having assembled his barons, Rivalen set out to support his war.

Blanchefleur waited a long time for him. Alas! he was not to come back. One day she learned that Duke Morgan had killed her in treason. She did not weep for him: neither cries nor lamentations, but her limbs became weak and vain; his soul wanted, with a strong desire, to tear itself away from his body. Rohalt tried to console her:

“Reine,” he said, “nothing can be gained by mourning after mourning; must not all who are born die? May God receive the dead and preserve the living!… ”

But she didn't want to listen to him. Three days she waited to join her dear lord. On the fourth day, she gave birth to a son, and taking him in her arms:

“Son,” she said to him, “I have wanted to see you for a long time; and I see the most beautiful creature that a woman has ever carried. Sad I give birth, sad is the first party I give you, because of you I am sad to die. And as thus you came to earth out of sadness, your name will be Tristan. "

When she had said these words, she kissed him, and as soon as she kissed him, she died.

Rohalt le Foi-Tenant took in the orphan. Already the men of Duke Morgan enveloped Kanoël castle: how long could Rohalt have sustained the war? We rightly say: "Excess is not prowess"; he had to surrender to Duke Morgan's mercy. But, lest Morgan slaughter Rivalen's son, the marshal passed him off as his own child and raised him among his sons.

After seven years, when the time had come to take it back from the women, Rohalt entrusted Tristan to a wise master, the good squire Gorvenal. Gorvenal taught him in a few years the arts suitable for barons. He taught him to handle the lance, the sword, the shield and the bow, to throw stone discs, to leap over the widest ditches; he taught him to detest all lies and all felony, to help the weak, to keep the faith given; he taught him the various ways of singing, the playing of the harp and the art of the huntsman; and, when the child rode among the young squires, one would have said that his horse, his weapons and he were one bodies and would never have been separated. To see him so noble and so proud, broad of the shoulders, slender flanks, strong, faithful and brave, all praised Rohalt because he had such a son. But Rohalt, thinking of Rivalen and Blanchefleur, from whom they relived youth and grace, cherished Tristan as his son, and secretly revered him as his lord.

Now it happened that all his joy was taken from him, on the day when the merchants of Norway, having drawn Tristan to their nave, carried him away like a beautiful prey. As they lashed towards unknown lands, Tristan struggled, as did a trapped young wolf. But it is proven truth, and all mariners know it: the sea reluctantly carries felony ships, and does not help kidnappings or treacheries. She rose up in a fury, enveloped the nave in darkness, and drove it away eight days and eight nights at random. Finally, the sailors saw through the mist a coast bristling with cliffs and reefs, where she wanted to break their hull. They repented: knowing that the wrath of the sea came from this child who was ravished at the wrong hour, they made a vow to deliver him and parried a boat to deposit him on the shore. The winds and the waves immediately fell, the sky shone, and, while the Norwegians' nave disappeared in the distance, the calm and laughing waves carried Tristan's boat to the sand of a shore.

With great effort he climbed the cliff and saw that beyond a hilly and deserted moor, a forest stretched out endlessly. He was lamenting, regretting Gorvenal, his father Rohalt, and the land of Loonnois, when the distant sound of a horn and shout hunt rejoices his heart. At the edge of the forest, a beautiful deer emerged. The pack and the huntsmen descended on his trail with a loud noise of voices and trunks. But, as the bloodhounds were already hanging in clusters from the leather of its withers, the beast, a few no Tristan, flexed on the hocks and barked back. A huntsman served her with the spear. While the hunters, ranged in a circle, were hitting their heads, Tristan, astonished, saw the master huntsman cut wide, as if to slice it, into the throat of the stag. He yelled :

"What are you doing, lord? Is it befitting to cut up such a noble beast like a slaughtered pig? So is this the custom of this country?

"Brother-in-law," replied the huntsman, "what am I doing here that might surprise you?" Yes, I will first untie the head of this stag, then I will cut its body into four quarters that we will carry, hanging from the pommels of our saddles, to King Mark, our lord. So do we; thus, from the time of the oldest hunters, the men of Cornwall have always done. If, however, you know of any more laudable custom, show it to us; take this knife, brother-in-law; we will gladly learn it. "

Tristan knelt down and skinned the deer before defeating it; then he dismembered the head, leaving the corbin bone quite blunt, as it should be; then he raised the small rights, the muzzle, the tongue, the daintiers and the vein of the heart.

And huntsmen and sleuths, leaning over him, looked at him, charmed.

“Friend,” said the master hunter, “these customs are beautiful; in what land did you learn them? Tell us your country and your name.

- Handsome lord, they call me Tristan; and I learned these customs in my country of Loonnois.

- Tristan, said the huntsman, may God reward the father who raised you so nobly! No doubt he is a rich and powerful baron? "

But Tristan, who knew how to speak well and be silent, replied cunningly:

“No, lord, my father is a merchant. I secretly left his house on a nave that left to traffic in the distance, because I wanted to learn how to include men from foreign lands. But, if you accept me among your hunters, I will gladly follow you, and make known to you, handsome lord, other deductions of venery.

- Beau Tristan, I am astonished that there is a land where the sons of the merchants know what the sons of the knights do not know elsewhere. But come with us, since you wish, and be welcome. We will bring you to King Mark our lord. "

Tristan finished undoing the stag. He gave the dogs the heart, the slaughter and the entrails, and taught the hunters how to make the quarry and the forhu. Then he planted the well-divided pieces on forks and gave them to the different huntsmen: to one the head, to the other the crest and the large fillets, to these the shoulders, to these the legs, to this other the bulk of the nombles. He taught them how they should line up two by two to ride in good order, according to the nobility of the pieces of venison erected on the forks.

So they set out to talk, until they finally discovered a rich castle. It was surrounded by meadows, orchards, flowing waters, fisheries and plowed land. Numerous naves entered the port. The castle stood on the sea, strong and beautiful, well equipped against any assault and any machinery of war; and its mistress tower, once erected by the giants, was built of blocks of stone, large and well cut, arranged like a chessboard of vert and azure.

Tristan asked for the name of this castle.

“Handsome valet, we call him Tintagel.

- Tintagel, cried Tristan, blessed are you of God, and blessed are your hosts! "

Lords, it is there that long ago, to great joy, his father Rivalen had married Blanchefleur. But unfortunately ! Tristan ignored him.

When they reached the foot of the keep, the bands of the huntsmen drew the barons and King Mark himself to the gates.

After the master hunter had told him the adventure, Marc admired the beautiful arroi of this ride, the deer well butchered, and the great sense of the customs of venery. But above all he admired the beautiful foreign child, and his eyes could not be taken away from him. Where did this first affection come from? The king questioned his heart and could not understand it. Lords, it was his blood that stirred and spoke within him, and the love he had once borne for his sister Blanchefleur.

In the evening, when the tables were up, a juggler Welsh, master in his art, advanced among the assembled barons, and sang harp lays. Tristan was seated at the king's feet, and as the harper preluded to a new melody, Tristan spoke to him thus:

“Master, this lay is beautiful among all: once the ancients Bretons did it to celebrate the loves of Graelent. The air is sweet, and the words sweet. Master, your voice is skillful, harp it well! »

The Welshman sang, then answered:

“Child, what do you know about the art of instruments? If the merchants of the land of Loonnois also teach their sons the playing of harps, burles and hurdy-gurdies, get up, take this harp, and show your skill. "

Tristan took the harp and sang so beautifully that the barons were moved to hear him. And Marc admired the harper who had come from the land of Loonnois where Rivalen had once taken Blanchefleur.

When the lay was over, the king was silent for a long time.

“Son,” he said at last, “blessed be the master who taught you, and blessed are you of God! God loves good singers. Their voice and the voice of their harp penetrate the hearts of men, awaken their cherished memories and make them forget many mourning and many misdeeds. You have come for our joy in this abode. Stay a long time near me, friend!

- Willingly I will serve you, sire, replied Tristan, like your harper, your huntsman, and your liege man. "

He did so, and for three years a mutual tenderness grew in their hearts. During the day, Tristan followed Mark to plaids or hunting, and at night, as he slept in the royal chamber among the private and the faithful, if the king was sad, he harped to appease his discomfort. The barons cherished him, and above all others, as history will teach you, Seneschal Dinas of Lidan. But more tenderly than the barons and Dinas de Lidan, the king loved him. Despite their tenderness, Tristan did not console himself for having lost his father Rohalt, and his master Gorvenal, and the land of Loonnois.

Lords, it befits the storyteller who wants to please to avoid too long tales. The material of this tale is so beautiful and so diverse: what would be the point of lengthening it? I will therefore say briefly how, after wandering for a long time through seas and countries, Rohalt the Faith-Tenant landed in Cornwall, found Tristan again, and, showing the king the carbuncle formerly given by him to Blanchefleur as a dear wedding present, said to him:

“King Marc, this is Tristan de Loonnois, your nephew, son of your sister Blanchefleur and of King Rivalen. Duke Morgan holds his land very wrongly; it is time for her to return to inheritance rights. "

And I will say briefly how Tristan, having received from his uncle the arms of a knight, crossed the sea on the ships of Cornwall, made himself recognized of the former vassals of his father, challenged the murderer of Rivalen, occit and recovered his land.

Then he thought that King Mark could no longer live happily without him, and, as the nobility of his heart always revealed to him the wisest course, he summoned his counts and his barons, and spoke to them thus:

“Lords of Loonnois, I reconquered this country and I avenged King Rivalen by the help of God and by your help. So I gave my father back his right. But two men, Rohalt, and King Mark of Cornwall, supported the orphan and the wandering child, and I must also call them fathers; to them, likewise, must I not restore their right? Now, a great man has two things of his: his earth and his body. So, in Rohalt here, I will give up my land: father, you will hold it, and your son will hold it after you. To King Mark, I will give up my body: I will leave this country, although it is dear to me, and I will go and serve my lord Mark in Cornwall. This is my thought; but you are my fairies, lords of Loonnois, and owe me advice; So if any of you want to teach me another resolution, get up and talk! "

But all the barons praised him with tears, and Tristan, taking with him the only Gorvenal, sailed for the land of King Mark.