Tristan and Iseult: The Philtre

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

The potion

The potion

When the time approached to deliver Iseult to the knights of Cornwall, his mother picked herbs, flowers and roots, mixed them in wine, and brewed a strong potion. Having finished it by science and magic, she poured it into a couret and said secretly to Brangien:

“Daughter, you must follow Iseut to the land of King Mark, and you love him with faithful love. So take this bottle of wine and remember my words. Hide it so that no eye can see it and no lips come near it. But when the wedding night comes and the moment when they leave the spouses, you will pour this herbaceous wine into a cup and you will present it, so that they can empty it together, to King Mark and Queen Iseut. Take care, my daughter, that only they can taste this drink. Because such is its virtue: those who drink it together will love each other their sense and all their thought, forever, in life and in death. "

Brangien promised the queen that she would do as she pleased.

The nave, cutting through the deep waves, carried Iseut. But the farther she got from the land of Ireland, the more sadly the young girl lamented. Sitting in the tent where she had shut herself up with Brangien, her servant, she wept at the memory of her country. Where were these foreigners taking him? To whom? Towards what destiny? When Tristan approached her and wanted to appease him with sweet words, she would get irritated, push him away, and hatred swelled. his heart.

He had come, he the kidnapper, he the murderer of Morholt; he had snatched her from her mother and her country by his wiles; he had not deigned to keep it for himself, and here he was carrying it, like his prey, on the waves, towards the enemy's land! “Poor! she said, cursed be the sea that carries me! Would I rather die on the land where I was born than live there! ... "

One day the winds died down, and the sails hung deflated along the mast. Tristan landed on an island, and, weary of the sea, the hundred knights of Cornwall and the sailors came down to the shore. Only Iseut had remained on the nave, and a small servant. Tristan came to the queen and tried to calm his heart. As the sun was scorching and they were thirsty, they asked for a drink. The child looked for some drink, while she discovered the coutret entrusted to Brangien by Iseut's mother.

“I found some wine! She shouted at them. No, it was not wine: it was passion, it was bitter joy and endless anguish, and death. The child filled a hanap and presented it to his mistress. She took a long drink, then handed it to Tristan, who drained it.

At that moment, Brangien entered and saw them looking at each other in silence, as if bewildered and delighted. She saw in front of them the almost empty vase and the hanap. She took the vase, ran to the stern, threw it into the waves and moaned:

“Unhappy! Cursed be the day I was born and cursed the day I climbed this nave! Iseut, friend, and you, Tristan, it is your death that you have drunk! "

Again the nave slashed towards Tintagel. It seemed to Tristan that a perennial bramble, with sharp thorns, with fragrant flowers, grew its roots in the blood of his heart and by strong bonds entwined with the beautiful body of Iseut his body and all his thought, and all his desire. . He was thinking: "Andret, Denoalen, Guenelon and Gondoïne, felons who accused me of coveting the king's land." Marc, ah! I am even more vile, and it is not his land that I covet!

Beautiful uncle, who loved me orphan before even recognizing the blood of your sister Blanchefleur, you who wept tenderly for me, while your arms carried me to the boat without oars or veil, beautiful uncle, you, from the first day, chased away the stray child who came to betray you? Ah! what did I think? Iseut is your wife, and I your vassal. Iseut is your wife, and I your son. Iseut is your wife, and cannot love me. "

Iseut loved him. She wanted to hate him, however: had he not vilely despised her? She wanted to hate him, and could not, irritated in her heart by this tenderness more painful than hatred.

Brangien watched them in anguish, more cruelly tormented still, for only she knew what harm she had caused. For two days she watched them, saw them rejecting all food, drink and comfort, looking for each other like blind who grope towards each other, unhappy when they languished apart, even more unhappy when, reunited, they trembled before the horror of the first confession.

On the third day, as Tristan came towards the tent, erected on the bridge of the nave, where Iseut was seated, Iseut saw him approach and humbly said to him:

“Come in, lord.

- Queen, said Tristan, why did you call me lord? Am I not your liege, on the contrary, and your vassal, to revere you, serve you and love you as my queen and my lady? "

Iseut replied:

"No, you know that you are my lord and my master!" You know that your strength dominates me and that I am your servant! Ah! why have I not recently brightened up the wounds of the wounded juggler? Why didn't I let the monster slayer perish in the swamp grasses? What did I strike on him, when he was lying in the bath, the blow of the sword already brandished? Alas! I did not know then what I know today!

- Iseut, what do you know today? What is it that torments you?

- Ah! everything I know torments me, and everything I see. This sky torments me, and this sea, and my body, and my life! "

She put her arm on Tristan's shoulder; tears quenched the beams of her eyes, her lips quivered. He repeated:

"Friend, what is it that torments you? "

She replied:

"Love you."

So he put his lips to hers.

But, as for the first time both tasted a joy of love, Brangien, who was watching them, uttered a cry, and arms outstretched, his face soaked in tears, threw himself at their feet:

“Unhappy! stop, and turn around, if you still can! But no, the way is without return, already the strength to love carries you along and you will never again have joy without pain. It is the herbaceous wine that possesses you, the drink of love that your mother, Iseut, had entrusted to me. Alone, King Mark was to drink it with you; but the Enemy played with the three of us, and it was you who emptied the hanap. Friend Tristan, Iseut friend, in punishment of the male guard which I made, I abandon you my body, my life; for by my crime you have drunk love and death from the accursed cup! "

The lovers embraced; desire and life quivered in their beautiful bodies. Tristan says.

"So come on death!" "

And, when evening fell, on the nave which bounded faster towards the land of King Mark, bound for ever, they abandoned themselves to love.