Tristan and Iseult: The Leap of the Chapel

Here is the translation of the Roman de Tristan et Iseult of 1900 by Joseph Bedier. Here is the eighth part: The Leap of the Chapel.

The Leap of the Chapel

The Leap of the Chapel

Through the city, in the dark night, the news runs: Tristan and the queen have been seized; the king wants to kill them. Rich bourgeois and common people, all cry.

“Alas! We must cry! Tristan, bold baron, will you die then by such ugly treachery? And you, frank queen, honored queen, in what land will ever be born a king's daughter so beautiful, so dear? Is this then, hunchbacked dwarf, the work of your divinings? May he never see the face of God, he who, having found you, will not drive his stake into your body! Tristan, beautiful friend dear, when the Morholt, come to ravish our children, landed on this shore, none of our barons dared to arm themselves against him, and all were silent, like dumb people. But you, Tristan, you fought for all of us men of Cornwall, and you have slain the Morholt; and he will grieve you with a spear with which you almost died for us. Today, in remembrance of these things, should we consent to your death? »

The complaints, the cries, rise by the city; all run to the palace. But such is the king's wrath that there is not so strong and so proud a baron who dares to risk a single word to bend him.

The day is approaching, the night is going away. Before the sun has risen, Marc rides out of town, to the place where he used to hold his plaids and judge. He commands that a pit be dug in the earth and that there are gnarled and sharp branches and white and black thorns torn up with their roots.

At prime time, he shouts a ban by the country to immediately summon the men of Cornwall. They assemble with great noise: no one who cries, except the dwarf of Tintagel. Then the king spoke to them thus:

“Lords, I had this pyre of thorns erected for Tristan and for the queen, for they have forfeited. "

But they all cried out to him:

“Judgment, king! judgment first, evades it and pleads it! Killing them without judgment is shame and a crime. King, respite and thank you for them! "

Marc replied in his anger:

"No, no respite, no thank you, no plaid, no judgment!" By this Lord who created the world, if no one still dares to ask me for such a thing, he will be the first to burn on this brazier! "

He orders that the fire be lit and that we go and fetch the castle Tristan first.

The thorns blaze, all are silent, the king waits.

The valets have run to the bedroom where the lovers are closely guarded. They drag Tristan away by his hands tied with ropes. By God! it was villainous to hinder him thus! He weeps under the affront; but what are his tears for? They take him away shamefully; and the queen exclaims, almost mad with anguish:

“To be killed, friend, so that you could be saved, that would be great joy! "

The guards and Tristan descend outside the city, towards the stake. But, behind them, a horseman rushes forward, joins them, jumps down from the still running steed: it's Dinas, the good seneschal. At the sound of the adventure, he was coming from his castle in Lidan, and the foam, the sweat and the blood were streaming down the sides of his horse:

“Son, I hurry to the king's plaid. God will perhaps grant me to open such advice there which will help you both; already he allows me at least to serve you with a little courtesy. Friends, he said to the valets, I want you to lead him without these fetters, - and Dinas cut the shameful ropes; - if he tried to run away, wouldn't you hold your swords? "

He kisses Tristan on the lips, gets back in the saddle, and his horse wins.

Now listen how the Lord God is full of pity. He, who does not want the death of the sinner, he gratefully received the tears and the clamor of the poor people who begged him for the tortured lovers. Near the road where Tristan passed, at the top of a rock and facing the north wind, a chapel stood on the sea.

The wall of the bedside was placed flush with a cliff, high, stony, with sharp escarpments; in the apse, on the precipice, was a glass roof, the skillful work of a saint. Tristan said to those leading him:

“Lords, see this chapel; allow me to go in there. My death is imminent, I will pray to God that he will thank you for me, who offended him so much. Lords, the chapel has no other exit than this; each of you holds his sword; you know very well that I can only go through this door, and when I have prayed to God, I will have to put myself in your hands! "

One of the guards says:

“We may well allow it. "

They let him in. He runs through the chapel, crosses the choir, reaches the glass roof of the apse, grabs the window, opens it and rushes forward… Rather this fall than death at the stake, in front of such and such an assembly!

But know, lords, that God thanked him beautifully; the wind gets caught in his clothes, lifts him up, places him on a large stone at the foot of the rock. The people of Cornwall still call this stone the “Tristan Leap”.

And in front of the church the others were still waiting for him. But for nothing, because it is now God who has taken him into his care. He flees: loose sand crumbles under his feet. He falls, turns around, sees the pyre in the distance: the flame roars, the smoke rises. He flees.

The sword girdled, bridle down, Gorvenal had escaped from the city: the king would have had it burned in place of his lord. He joined Tristan on the moor, and Tristan cried out:

" Master ! God granted me His thanks. Ah! puny, what's the use? If I don't have Iseut, nothing is worth me. Why didn't I rather shattered in my fall! I escaped, Iseut, and they will kill you. They burn it for me; for her I will die too. "

Gorvenal said to him:

“Handsome sire, take comfort, do not listen to anger. See this thick bush, enclosed by a wide ditch; let's hide there: many people pass on this road; they will inform us, and, if we burn Iseut, son, I swear by God, the son of Mary, never to sleep under a roof until the day when we have avenged her.

- Handsome master, I don't have my sword.

- Here it is, I brought it to you.

- Good, master; I no longer fear anything, for God.

- Son, I still have something under my head that will make you happy: this strong and light hauberk, which can be of use to you.

- Give, handsome master. By this God in whom I believe, I will now deliver my friend.

- No, do not hurry, said Gorvenal. God doubtless reserves you some surer revenge. Remember that it is beyond your power to approach the stake; the citizens surround him and fear the king: such would like your deliverance, which will strike you first. Son, we say well: Madness is not prowess ... Wait ... "

However, when Tristan had rushed from the cliff, a poor man of the small class saw him get up and run away. He had run to Tintagel and slipped into Iseut's room:

“Queen, don't cry any more. Your friend escaped!

- God, she said, be thanked! Now, whether they bind me or untie me, let them spare me or they kill me, I don't care anymore! "

However, the felons had so cruelly tightened the cords of his wrists that blood spurted out. But smiling, she said:

"If I wept for this suffering, when in his goodness God has just snatched my friend from these felons, of course, I would hardly be worth! "

When news reached the king that Tristan had escaped through the glass roof, he turned white with anger and commanded his men to bring Iseut to him.

We train him; outside the room, on the threshold, she appears; she holds out her delicate hands, from which blood flows. A clamor rises through the street: “O God, have mercy on her! Frank queen, honored queen, what mourning has thrown on this earth those who have delivered you! Curse on them! "

The queen is dragged to the pyre of thorns, which blazes. Then Dinas, lord of Lidan, let himself fall at the feet of the king:

“Sire, listen to me; I served you for a long time, without villainy, in loyalty, without deriving any profit from it: for he is not a poor man, nor an orphan, nor an old woman, who would give me a denarius from your seneschal, which I have held all my life . As a reward, grant me that you will receive the queen mercifully. You want to burn it without judgment: it is forfeit, since it does not recognize the crime of which you accuse it. Think about it, by the way. If you burn his body, there will be no more security on your land: Tristan has escaped; he is well acquainted with the plains, the woods, the fords, the passages, and he is daring. Certainly, you are his uncle, and he will not attack you; but all the barons, your vassals, whom he can surprise, he will kill them. "

And the four felons turn pale to hear it: they can already see Tristan lying in wait, watching them.

“King,” said the seneschal, “if it is true that I have served you well all my life, deliver Iseut to me; I will answer for her as her guard and her guarantor. "

But the king took Dinas by the hand and swore by the name of the saints that he would do immediate justice.

Then Dinas got up:

“King, I return to Lidan and renounce your service. "

Iseut smiled sadly at him. He climbs on his steed and goes away, grim and gloomy, his forehead lowered.

Iseut is standing before the flame. The crowd around them cries out, curses the king, curses the traitors. Tears run down her face. She is dressed in a narrow gray bliaut, through which runs a fine thread of gold; a thread of gold is braided in her hair, which falls to her feet. Who could see her so beautiful without taking pity on her would have the heart of a felon. God ! how closely linked are his arms!

Now, a hundred lepers, deformed, their flesh gnawed and all whitish, ran up on their crutches to the clacking of rattles, pressed themselves before the stake, and, under their swollen eyelids their bloody eyes enjoyed the spectacle.

Yvain, the most hideous of the sick, cried out to the king in a shrill voice;

“Sire, you want to throw your wife into this blaze; it is good justice, but too brief. This great fire will have quickly burned it, this great wind will quickly have dispersed its ashes. And, when that flame falls shortly, his pain will be over. Do you want me to teach you worse punishment, so that she lives, but with great disgrace, and always wishing for death? King, do you want it? "

The king replied:

"Yes, life for her, but to great dishonor and worse than death ... Who will teach me such a torment, I will love him better.

- Sire, I will briefly say my thoughts. See, I have a hundred companions there. Give us Iseut, and may it be common to us! Evil stirs up our desires. Give it to your lepers, no lady will have ended worse. See, our rags are stuck to our wounds, oozing. She who, near you, delighted in rich fabrics stuffed with vair, in jewels, in halls adorned with marble, she who enjoyed good wines, honor, joy, when she sees the court of your lepers, when it will be necessary for him to enter under our low slums and to sleep with us, then Iseut the Beauty, the Blonde, will recognize his sin and will regret this beautiful fire of thorns! "

The king hears it, gets up, and remains motionless for a long time. Finally, he runs to the queen and grabs her by the hand. She shouts:

"Please, sire, burn me instead, burn me!" "

The king the book. Yvain takes her and the hundred patients crowd around her. To hear them cry and yelp, all hearts melt with pity; but Yvain is happy; Iseult leaves, Yvain takes her away. Out of the city descends the hideous procession.

They took the road where Tristan was ambushed. Gorvenal shouts:

"Son, what will you do? Here is your friend! "

Tristan pushes his horse out of the thicket:

“Yvain, you have kept him company long enough; leave her now, if you want to live! "

But Yvain unhooks his coat.

“Bold, companions! To your sticks! On your crutches! Now is the time to show off your prowess! "

So it was nice to see the lepers throw back their clevises, stand on their sick feet, breathe, cry, brandish their crutches: one threatens and the other grumbles. But Tristan was loath to beat them; the storytellers claim that Tristan killed Yvain: that is to say villainy; no, he was too brave to kill such a breed. But Gorvenal having pulled up a strong oak shoot, hit it on the skull of Ivan; black blood gushed out and flowed to his misshapen feet.

Tristan resumed the queen: from now on, she no longer feels any pain. He cut the ropes of his arms, and leaving the plain, they plunged into the forest of Morois. There, in the great woods, Tristan feels safe as behind the wall of a fortified castle.

When the sun set, they all three stopped at the foot of a mountain; fear had wearied the queen; she rested her head on Tristan's body and fell asleep.

In the morning, Gorvenal stole from a forester his bow and two well-fletched and barbed arrows and gave them to Tristan, the good archer, who surprised a deer and killed it. Gorvenal made a heap of dry branches, beat the gun, let out the spark and lit a large fire to cook the venison; Tristan cut branches, built a hut and covered it with leaves; Iseut strewn it with thick grass.

Then, deep in the wild forest, began for the fugitives the harsh life, yet loved.