Tristan and Iseult: The Judgment by the Red Iron

Here is the translation of the Roman de Tristan et Iseult of 1900 by Joseph Bedier. Here is the twelfth part: The Judgment by the Red Iron.

The Judgment by the Red Iron

The Judgment by the Red Iron

Soon Denoalen, Andret and Gondoïne believed themselves to be safe: doubtless, Tristan was dragging his life beyond the sea, in a country too far away to reach them. So, one day of hunting, as the king, listening to the barks of his pack, held his horse in the middle of a field, all three rode towards him:

“King, hear our word. You had condemned the queen without judgment, and it was forfeit; today you abandon it without judgment: is it not still forfeit? She never justified herself, and the barons of your country blame you both. Advise her instead to claim the judgment of God. What will it cost her, innocent, to swear on the bones of the saints that she has never failed? innocent, to grab a red hot iron? So is the custom, and by this easy test the old suspicions will be dispelled forever. "

Mark, irritated, replied:

« Que Dieu vous détruise, seigneurs cornouaillais, vous qui sans répit cherchez ma honte ! Pour vous j’ai chassé mon neveu ; qu’exigez-vous encore ? que je chasse la reine en Ireland ? Quels sont vos griefs nouveaux ? Contre les anciens griefs, Tristan ne s’est-il pas offert à la défendre ? Pour la justifier, il vous a présenté la bataille et vous l’entendiez tous : que n’avez-vous pris contre lui vos écus et vos lances ? Seigneurs, vous m’avez requis outre le droit ; craignez donc que l’homme pour vous chassé, je le rappelle ici ! »

Then the cowards trembled; they thought they saw Tristan come back, their bodies bleeding white.

“Sire, we gave you loyal advice, for your honor, as befits your faults; but we will be silent from now on. Forget your wrath, give us your peace! "

But Marc stood up on his pommels:

“Out of my land, let's felons! You will no longer have my peace. For you I chased away Tristan; in your turn, out of my land!

- Very well, handsome sire! our castles are strong, well closed with stakes, on rocks that are hard to climb! "

And, without greeting him, they turned around.

Without waiting for sleuths or huntsmen, Marc pushed his horse towards Tintagel, climbed the steps of the hall, and the queen heard her hurried footsteps echoing on the flagstones.

She rose, came to meet him, took his sword, as she was wont, and bowed down to his feet. Mark held her by the hands and lifted her up, when Iseut, raising his gaze towards him, saw her noble features tormented by anger: such as he was to him. once appeared, frenzied, in front of the stake.

“Ah! she thought, my friend is discovered, the king has taken him! "

Her heart grew cold in her bosom, and without a word, she fell at the feet of the king. He took her in his arms and kissed her gently; little by little, she came back to life:

"Friend, friend, what is your torment?

- Sire, I'm afraid: I saw you so angry!

- Yes, I came back irritated from this hunt.

- Ah! Lord, if your huntsmen have married you, does it suit you to take hunting annoyances to heart? "

Marc smiles at this:

“No, friend, my huntsmen did not irritate me; but three felons, who have hated us for a long time; you know them, Andret, Denoalen and Gondoïne: I have driven them from my land.

- Sire, what harm have they dared to say about me?

- What do you care? I chased them away.

- Sire, everyone has the right to speak their mind. But I also have the right to know the blame thrown on me. And who would I learn it from if not from you? Alone in this foreign land, I have no one except you, sire, to defend me.

- That is. They therefore claimed that it is appropriate for you to justify yourself by the oath and by the test of the hot iron. “Shouldn't the queen herself seek this judgment?” They said. These trials are light for those who know they are innocent. What would it cost him?… God is true judge; he would forever dispel old grievances… ”That's what they claimed. But let's leave those things. I chased them away, I tell you. "

Iseut shuddered; she looked at the king:

“Sire, ask them to come back to your court. I will justify myself by oath.

- When ?

- On the tenth day.

- This term is very close, friend.

- It's only too far away. But I request that by then you instruct King Artur to ride with Monsignor Gauvain, with Girflet, Ké the Seneschal and a hundred of his knights to the march from your land, to Blanche-Lande, on the bank of the river which separates your kingdoms. It is there, in front of them, that I want to take the oath, and not in front of your only barons: for, hardly would I have sworn, your barons would still require you to impose me new test, and our torments would never end. But they will not dare any more, if Artur and his knights are the guarantors of the judgment. "

While the heralds, messengers of Mark to King Artur, hastened towards Carduel, Iseut secretly sent his servant, Perinis the Blond, the Faithful, to Tristan.

Perinis ran under the woods, avoiding the cleared paths, as long as he reached the hut of Orri the forester, where, for long days, Tristan had been waiting for him. Perinis reported to him the things that had happened, the new felony, the end of the judgment, the hour and the place marked:

"Sire, my lady will let you know that on the appointed day, in a pilgrim's robe, so skillfully disguised that no one can recognize you, without arms, you are at Blanche-Lande: he needs, to reach instead of judgment , cross the river in a boat; on the opposite bank, where the knights of King Artur will be, you will wait for him. No doubt then you will be able to help him. My lady dreads the day of judgment: yet she trusts in the courtesy of God, who already knew how to tear her from the hands of lepers.

- Go back to the queen, beautiful sweet friend Perinis: tell her that I will do her will. "

Now, lords, when Perinis returned to Tintagel, it happened that he saw in a thicket the same forester who, not long ago, having surprised the sleeping lovers, had denounced them to the king. One day when he was drunk, he boasted of his treachery. The man, having dug a deep hole in the earth, skilfully covered it with branches, to catch wolves and boars. He saw the queen's servant rush at him and tried to flee. But Perinis pulled him back to the edge of the trap:

"Spy who sold the queen, why are you running away?" Stay there, near your grave, which you yourself took care of digging! "

His staff whirled in the air, buzzing. The staff and the skull shattered at the same time, and Perinis the Blond, the Faithful, kicked the body into the grave covered with branches.

Au jour marqué pour le jugement, le roi Marc, Iseut et les barons de Cornwall, having ridden as far as Blanche-Lande, arrived in a beautiful arroi in front of the river, and, massed along the other bank, the Knights of Artur saluted them with their shining banners.

In front of them, seated on the bank, a miserable pilgrim, wrapped in his cope, from which hung shells, held out his wooden bowl and begged alms in a shrill and sad voice.

By dint of oars, the Cornish boats were approaching. When they were close to landing, Iseut asked the knights around him:

"Lords, how can I reach the mainland without soiling my long clothes in this mire?" A smuggler would have to come and help me. "

One of the knights hailed the pilgrim:

“Friend, roll up your cope, go down into the water and carry the queen, if you don't fear, broken as I see you, to bend halfway. "

The man took the queen in his arms. She whispered to him: “Friend! »Then, whispered again:« Let yourself fall on the sand. "

When he reached the shore, he stumbled and fell, holding the queen in his arms. Squires and mariners, seizing the oars and the gaffs, chased the poor fellow.

"Leave him," said the queen; no doubt a long pilgrimage had weakened him. "

And untangling a fine gold clasp, she threw it to the pilgrim.

In front of the pavilion of Artur, a rich cloth of Nicene silk was stretched out on the green grass, and the relics of the saints, withdrawn from the cases and the reliquaries, were already arranged there. Monsignor Gauvain, Girflet and Ke the Seneschal guarded them.

The queen, having entreated God, withdrew the jewels from her neck and from her hands and gave them to the poor beggars; she untied her purple cloak and her fine wimple, and gave them; she gave her chain and her bliaut and her jeweled shoes. She only kept a sleeveless tunic on her body, and, with bare arms and feet, advanced before the two kings. All around, the barons gazed at her in silence, and wept. Near the relics burned an inferno. Trembling, she stretched out her right hand towards the bones of the saints, and said:

"King of Logres and King of Cornwall, Sire Gauvain, Sire Ké, Sire Girflet, and all of you who will be my guarantors, through these holy bodies and through all the holy bodies that are in this world, I swear that never a man born of a woman has held me in his arms, except King Mark, my lord, and the poor pilgrim who, a while ago, let himself fall before your eyes . King Mark, does this oath fit?

- Yes, queen, and may God manifest his true judgment!

- Amen! Said Iseut.

She approached the blaze, pale and tottering. All were silent; the iron was red. Then she plunged her bare arms into the embers, seized the iron bar, walked nine paces, carrying it, then having rejected it, stretched out her arms outstretched, palms open. And each saw that his flesh was healthier than plum plum.

Then from all the breasts a great cry of praise rose to God.