Tristan and Iseult: The Forest of Morois

Here is the translation of the Roman de Tristan et Iseult of 1900 by Joseph Bedier. Here is the ninth part: The Forest of Morois.

The Morois Forest

The Morois Forest

Deep in the wild forest, at great ahan, like hunted animals, they wander, and rarely dare to return in the evening to the lodge of the day before. They only eat the flesh of wild animals and miss the taste of salt and bread. Their emaciated faces turn pale, their clothes fall in rags, torn by brambles. They love each other, they don't suffer.

One day, as they walked through these great woods that had never been felled, they arrived by chance at the hermitage of Brother Ogrin.

In the sun, under a light maple wood, near his chapel, the old man, leaning on his crutch, was walking slowly.

"Sir Tristan," he cried, "know what a great oath the men of Cornwall. The king has caused a ban to be shouted by all the parishes: Whoever seizes you will receive one hundred marcs of gold for his wages, and all the barons have sworn to deliver you up dead or alive. Repent, Tristan! God forgives the sinner who comes to repentance.

- Repent, Sire Ogrin? What crime? You who judge us, do you know what drink we drank on the sea? Yes, the good liquor intoxicates us, and I would rather beg all my life by the roads and live on herbs and roots with Iseut than, without it, to be king of a beautiful kingdom.

- Sir Tristan, God help you, because you have lost this world and the other. The traitor to his lord, he must be quartered by two horses, burned on a stake, and where his ashes fall, there is no more grass growing and plowing remains useless; the trees and the greenery are withering there. Tristan, return the queen to the one she married under the law of Rome!

- She is no longer his: he gave her to his lepers; it was on the lepers that I conquered it. Now she is mine; I cannot separate myself from her, nor she from me. "

Ogrin had sat down; at her feet, Iseult was weeping, her head on the knees of a man who suffers for God. The hermit repeated to him the holy words of the Book : but, all weeping, she shook her head and refused to believe it.

“Alas! said Ogrin, what comfort can we give to the dead? Repent, Tristan, for he who lives in sin without repentance is dead.

- No, I live and do not repent. We return to the forest, which protects and guards us. Come, Iseut, friend! "

Iseut rose to his feet; they took each other's hands. They entered the tall grass and the heather; the trees closed their branches over them; they disappeared behind the foliage.

Listen, lords, a great adventure. Tristan had fed a dog, a brachet, beautiful, lively, light on the run: neither count nor king has his equal when it comes to bow hunting. He was called Husdent. He had had to be locked up in the keep, hampered by a block hanging from his neck; since the day he had ceased to see his master, he refused all food, scratched the earth with his foot, wept with his eyes, howled. Many felt sorry for him.

“Husdent,” they said, “no animal has known how to love so well as you; yes, Solomon said wisely: "My true friend is my greyhound."

And King Mark, remembering the days gone by, thought in his heart: "This dog shows great sense in crying like this. lord: for is there no one in all of Cornwall that is worth Tristan? "

Three barons came to the king:

“Sire, release Husdent; we will know if he mourns such a thing out of regret for his master; if not, you will see him, barely detached, his mouth open, his tongue blowing in the wind, chasing, to bite them, people and animals. "

We untie him. He leaps out the door and runs to the room where he used to find Tristan. He growls, moans, seeks, finally discovers the trace of his lord. He walks step by step the road that Tristan had taken to the stake. Everyone follows him. He barks loudly and climbs towards the cliff. Here he is in the chapel, and leaping upon the altar; Suddenly he throws himself through the glass roof, falls at the foot of the rock, takes again the trail on the shore, stops for a moment in the flowery wood where Tristan had been lying in wait, then sets out again towards the forest. No one sees him without pitying him.

"Handsome king," said the knights then, let's stop following him; he could lead us to such and such a place from which the return would be difficult. "

They left him and came back. In the woods, the dog gave his voice and the forest echoed. From afar, Tristan, the queen and Gorvenal heard him: “It's Husdent! They are frightened: doubtless the king is pursuing them; thus he makes them revive like wild beasts by bloodhounds!… They sink under a thicket. At the edge, Tristan stands, his bow drawn. But when Husdent saw and recognized his lord, he leaped up to him, wagged his head and tail, bowed his spine, rolled in a circle. Who ever saw such joy? Then he ran to Iseut la Blonde, to Gorvenal, and also celebrated the horse. Tristan took great pity on him:

“Alas! by what misfortune has he found us! What can a harassed man do with this dog, who does not know how to keep quiet? Through the plains and through the woods, through all his land, the king hunts us down: Husdent will betray us with his barking. Ah! it is out of love and nobility of nature that he is come to seek death. We must be kept, however. What to do ? Advise me. "

Iseut flattered Husdent with his hand and said:

“Sire, spare him! I heard of a forester Welsh who had accustomed his dog to following, without barking, the blood trail of injured stags. Friend Tristan, what joy if we succeeded, by putting our effort into it, in training Husdent in this way! »

He thought about it for a moment, as the dog licked Iseut's hands. Tristan took pity and said:

" I want to try ; it is too hard for me to kill him. "

Soon Tristan sets out on the hunt, dislodges a fallow deer, wounds it with an arrow. The brachet wants to set off on the path of the fallow deer, and cries so loud that the wood echoes. Tristan silences him by hitting him; Husdent lifts his head towards his master, is astonished, no longer dares to cry out, abandons the trail; Tristan puts it under him, then beats his boot with his chestnut stick, as huntsmen do to excite dogs; at this signal, Husdent wants to scream again, and Tristan corrects him. By teaching it thus, at the end of barely a month, he had trained him to hunt mute: when his arrow had wounded a roe deer or a fallow deer, Husdent, without ever giving a voice, followed the track on snow, ice or grass; if he reached the beast in the woods, he knew how to mark the place by carrying branches; if he caught her on the moor, he gathered herbs on the fallen body and returned, without a bark, to seek his master.

Summer is going, winter has come. The lovers lived hidden in the hollow of a rock: and on the ground hardened by the cold, the icicles bristled their bed of dead leaves. By the power of their love, neither of them felt their misery.

But when the weather was clear, they erected their hut of green branches under the tall trees. Tristan knew from childhood the art of counterfeiting the song of the birds of the woods; at will, he imitated the the oriole, the titmouse, the nightingale and all the winged birds; and sometimes, on the branches of the hut, coming at his call, numerous birds, swollen necks, sang their leaves in the light.

The lovers no longer fled through the forest, ceaselessly wandering; for none of the barons dared to pursue them, knowing that Tristan had hanged them from the branches of the trees. One day, however, one of the four traitors, Guenelon, may God curse! carried away by the ardor of the hunt, dared to venture around the Morois. That morning, on the edge of the forest, in the hollow of a ravine, Gorvenal, having removed the saddle from his steed, let him graze the new grass; over there, in the lodge of foliage, on the flower-strewn strewn, Tristan held the queen tightly embraced, and they both slept.

Suddenly, Gorvenal heard the sound of a pack: at high speed the dogs launched a deer, which threw itself into the ravine. In the distance, on the moor, appeared a huntsman; Gorvenal recognized him: it was Guenelon, the man his lord hated above all. Alone, without a squire, the spurs on the bleeding sides of his steed and slashing his neck, he came running. Ambushed behind a tree, Gorvenal watches for him: he comes quickly, he will be slower to turn around.

He passes. Gorvenal leaps from the ambush, seizes the brake, and, seeing again at that moment all the evil that the man had done, cuts him down, dismounts everything, and goes away, carrying his severed head.

Over there, in the leafy lodge, on the flowered strewn, Tristan and the queen slept tightly embraced. Gorvenal came silently there, dead man's head in his hand.

When the hunters found the headless trunk under the tree, distraught, as if Tristan was already chasing them, they fled, fearing death. Since then, no one came to hunt in this wood much.

To rejoice the heart of his lord on awakening, Gorvenal tied the head to the fork of the hut: the thick oar swarmed him.

Tristan awoke and saw, half hidden behind the leaves, the head looking at him. He recognizes Guenelon; he stands up on his feet, frightened. But his master shouts at him:

"Don't worry, he's dead. I killed him with that sword. Son, he was your enemy! "

And Tristan rejoices; the one he hated, Guenelon, is slain.

Henceforth, no one dared to enter the wild forest: fear guards the entrance and the lovers are masters there. It was then that Tristan fashioned the Qui-ne-Faut bow, which always reached the goal, man or beast, at the intended location.

Lords, it was a summer day, at the time of the harvest, a little after Pentecost, and the birds in the dew were singing the coming dawn. Tristan came out of the hut, put on his sword, prepared the Qui-ne-Faut bow and, alone, went off to hunt through the woods. Before the evening comes down, a great pain will happen to him. No, never did lovers love each other so much and experience it so harshly.

When Tristan returned from hunting, overwhelmed by the heavy heat, he took the queen in his arms.

"Friend, where have you been?

- After a deer that got bored of me. See, sweat is flowing from my limbs, I would like to lie down and sleep. "

Under the lodge of green branches, strewn with fresh herbs, Iseut was the first to stretch out. Tristan lay down beside her and put his drawn sword between their bodies. To their happiness, they had kept their clothes. The queen had on her finger the gold ring with the beautiful emeralds that Mark had given her on the day of the wedding; her fingers had grown so thin that the ring barely held there. They slept thus, one of Tristan's arms passed under his friend's neck, the other thrown over her beautiful body, closely embraced; corn their lips did not touch. Not a breath of breeze, not a leaf that trembles. Through the roof of foliage, a ray of sunlight descended on Iseut's face, which shone like an icicle.

Now a forester found a place in the wood where the grass was trodden; the day before, the lovers had laid down there; but he did not recognize the imprint of their bodies, followed the trail and reached their lodge. He saw them sleeping, recognized them and fled, fearing the terrible awakening of Tristan. He fled as far as Tintagel, two leagues away, ascended the steps of the hall, and found the king holding his plaids in the midst of his assembled vassals.

"Friend, what are you looking for here, out of breath as I see you?" He looks like a sleuth of bloodhounds who has been chasing dogs for a long time. Do you also want to ask us the reason for some wrong? Who chased you out of my forest? "

The forester took him aside and whispered to him:

“I saw the queen and Tristan. They were sleeping, I got scared.

- Where?

- In a Morois hut. They sleep in each other's arms. Come early, if you want to take your revenge.

- Go and wait for me at the entrance to the woods, at the foot of the Red Cross. Tell no man what you have seen; I will give you gold and silver, as long as you want to take. "

The forester goes there and sits under the Red Cross. Cursed be the spy! But he will die shamefully, as this story will tell you later.

The king saddled his horse, girded his sword, and, without any company, escaped from the city. While riding, alone, he remembered the night he had seized his nephew: what tenderness had then shown for Tristan Iseut the Beauty, with the clear face! If he surprises them, he will punish these great sins; he will take revenge on those who hated him ...

At the Red Cross he found the forester:

“Go ahead; lead me fast and straight. "

The black shadow of the tall trees envelops them. The king follows the spy. He relies on his sword, which once struck fine blows. Ah! if Tristan wakes up, one of the two, God knows which! will remain dead in the square. Finally the forester said quietly:

“King, we are approaching. "

He held her stirrup and tied the horse's reins to the branches of a green apple tree. They approached again, and suddenly, in a sunny clearing, saw the flowered hut.

The king unlaces his cloak with its fine gold ties, rejects it, and his beautiful body appears. He pulls his sword out of the sheath, and tells his heart again that he wants to die if he doesn't kill them. The forester followed him; he signals her to return.

He enters, alone, under the hut, sword drawn, and brandishes it ... Ah! what mourning if he strikes this blow! But he noticed that their mouths did not touch and that a drawn sword separated their bodies:

" God ! he said to himself, what do I see here? Should we kill them? For so long that they live in this wood, if they loved each other with mad love, would they have placed this sword between them? And doesn't everyone know that a bare blade, which separates two bodies, is the guarantor and guardian of chastity? If they loved each other with mad love, would they rest so purely? No, I will not kill them; it would be a great sin to strike them; and if I awoke this sleeper and one of us was killed, we would talk about it for a long time, and to our shame. But I will make sure that when they wake up they know that I found them asleep, that I did not want them dead, and that God took pity on them. "

The sun, passing through the hut, scorched Iseut's white face. The king took his ermine gloves: "It was she, he thought, who had recently brought them to me from Ireland! ..." He placed them in the leaves to close the hole through which the ray descended; then he gently withdrew the ring with emerald stones which he had given to the queen; previously it had been necessary to force a little to put it on his finger; now its The fingers were so slender that the ring came out effortlessly: instead, the king put on the ring which Iseut had once made him a present. Then he took off the sword that separated the lovers, the very one - he recognized it - that had chipped in Morholt's skull, put his own in its place, got out of the box, jumped into the saddle, and said to the forestry:

"Run away now, and save your body, if you can!" "

Now Iseut had a vision in her sleep: she was in a rich tent, in the middle of a large wood. Two lions rushed at her and fought for her… She uttered a cry and woke up: the gloves adorned with white ermine fell on her breast. At the cry, Tristan rose to his feet, wanted to pick up his sword and recognized, in his golden guard, that of the king. And the queen saw Mark's ring on her finger. She exclaimed:

“Sire, woe to us! The king surprised us!

- Yes, said Tristan, he took my sword; he was alone, he got scared, he went seek reinforcement; he will come back and burn us before all the people. Let’s run away!… ”

And, in broad daylight, accompanied by Gorvenal, they fled to the land of Wales, to the confines of the Morois forest. What tortures of love will have caused them!