Tristan and Iseult: The Voice of the Nightingale

Here is the translation of the Roman de Tristan et Iseult of 1900 by Joseph Bedier. Here is the thirteenth part: The Voice of the Nightingale.

The Voice of the Nightingale

The Voice of the Nightingale

When Tristan, having returned to the hut of the forester Orri, had thrown away his staff and stripped off his pilgrim's cope, he knew clearly in his heart that the day had come to hold sworn faith in King Mark and to depart from the land of Cornwall.

What was still late? The queen had justified herself, the king cherished her, he honored her. Artur would take her as a safeguard if necessary, and henceforth no felony would prevail against her. Why wander around Tintagel any longer? He risked his life in vain, and the life of the forest, and the rest of Iseut. Of course, he had to leave, and it was for the last time, under his pilgrim's robe, at Blanche-Lande, that he had felt Iseut's beautiful body quiver in his arms.

Three more days he delayed, not being able to detach himself from the country where the queen lived. But when the fourth day came, he took leave of the forester who had lodged him and said to Gorvenal:

“Handsome master, here is the hour of the long departure: we will go to the land of Wales. "

They set out on the track, sadly, in the night. But their road skirted the orchard enclosed by stakes where Tristan, once, awaited his friend. The night shone crystal clear. At the bend in the path, not far from the fence, he saw the sturdy trunk of the great pine stand up in the light of the sky.

“Handsome master, wait under the next wood; soon I will be back.

- Where are you going ? Crazy, do you want to seek death without respite? "

But already, with a confident leap, Tristan had crossed the fence of stakes. He came under the large pine tree, near the light marble staircase. What would be the use now of throwing well-cut shavings into the fountain? Iseut would not come any more! With flexible and careful steps, by the path which the queen once followed, he dared to approach the castle.

In his room, between the arms of sleeping Marc, Iseut kept watch. Suddenly, through the half-open window where the rays of the moon were playing, entered the voice of a nightingale.

Iseut listened to the sonorous voice which came to enchant the night; she rose up plaintively and such that there is no cruel heart, no murderous heart that she would not have touched. The queen thought: "Where does this melody come from? ..." Suddenly she understood: "Ah! it's Tristan! So in the Morois forest he imitated songbirds to charm me. He leaves, and here is his last farewell. How he complains! Like the nightingale when he takes his leave at the end of summer, with great sadness. Friend, I will never hear your voice again! "

The melody vibrated more fiery.

“Ah! what do you demand I come ! No, remember Ogrin the hermit, and the sworn oaths. Shut up, death is watching us… What does death matter! you call me, you want me, I'm coming! "

She untied herself from the king's arms, and threw a gray-lined cloak over her almost naked body. He had to cross the adjoining room, where every night ten knights took turns watching; while five were asleep, the five others, in arms, standing in front of the windows and window frames, watched outside. But, by chance, they had all fallen asleep, five on beds, five on the flagstones. Iseut crossed their scattered bodies, raised the bar of the door: the ring rang, but without awakening any of the watchers. She crossed the threshold, and the singer fell silent.

Under the trees, without a word, he pressed it to his chest; their arms were tied tightly around their bodies, and until dawn, as if sewn by lakes, they did not let go of the embrace. Despite the king and the watchers, the lovers lead their joy and their loves.

This night panicked the lovers: and the days that followed, as the king had left Tintagel to hold his plaids in Saint-Lubin, Tristan, returned to Orri, dared every morning, in the moonlight, to slip through the orchard to the women's rooms.

A serf surprised him and went to find Andret, Denoalen and Gondoïne:

“Lords, the beast you think has been dislodged has returned to the lair.

- Who ?

- Tristan.

- When did you see him?

- This morning, and I recognized it. And you will be able in the same way tomorrow, at dawn, to see him coming, the sword girded, a bow in one hand, two arrows in the other.

- Where will we see him?

- Through such and such a window that I know. But, if I show it to you, how much will you give me?

- A silver marc, and you will be a rich peasant.

- So listen, said the serf. One can see in the queen's room through a narrow window which dominates it, because it is pierced very high in the wall. But a large curtain stretched across the bedroom hides the opening. May one of you three enter the orchard tomorrow; he will cut off a long branch of thorn and sharpen it at the end; let him then hoist himself up to the high window and prick the branch, like a spit, in the fabric of the curtain; he will be able to push it aside slightly and you will set my body on fire, lords, if behind the curtain you do not see what I have said to you. "

Andret, Gondoïne and Denoalen debated which of them would be the first to enjoy this spectacle, and finally agreed to grant it first to Gondoïne. They parted: the next day, at dawn, they would meet again; tomorrow at dawn, handsome lords, beware of Tristan!

The next day, in the still dark night, Tristan, leaving the hut of Orri the forester, crawled towards the castle under the thick thickets of thorns. As he was emerging from a thicket, he looked out the clearing and saw Gondoine coming from his mansion. Tristan threw himself into the thorns and lurked in ambush:

“Ah! God ! make that whoever walks over there does not perceive me until the favorable moment! "

Sword in hand, he waited for her; but, by chance, Gondoïne took another route and went away. Tristan came out of the thicket, disappointed, bent his bow, aimed; alas! the man was already out of reach.

At this moment, here come in the distance, slowly descending the path, at the amble of a small black steward, Denoalen, followed by two large greyhounds. Tristan watched him, hidden behind an apple tree. He saw him urging his dogs to raise a wild boar in a thicket. But before the greyhounds have dislodged him from his dungeon, their master will have received such a wound that no doctor will be able to heal him. When Denoalen was near him, Tristan threw back his cope, jumped up, stood up before his enemy. The traitor wanted to flee; in vain: he had no time to shout: "You hurt me!" He fell from his horse, Tristan cut off his head, cut off the braids that hung around his face and put them in his shoes: he wanted to show them to Iseut to rejoice the heart of his friend. “Alas! he thought, what has become of Gondoïne? He escaped: why couldn't I pay him the same salary! "

He wiped his sword, put it back in its sheath, dragged a tree trunk over the corpse, and leaving the body bleeding, he left, the chaperone in mind, towards his friend.

At the castle of Tintagel Gondoïne had preceded him: already, climbed on the high window, he had pricked his thorn wand in the curtain, slightly pushed aside two sections of the fabric, and was looking through the well-strewn room. First there was no one there except Perinis; then it was Brangien who still held the comb with which she had combed the queen with the golden hair.

But Iseut entered, then Tristan. He carried his sapwood bow and two arrows in one hand; in the other he held two long man's braids.

He dropped his cope, and his beautiful body appeared. Iseut the Blonde bowed to greet him, and as she stood up, raising her head towards him, she saw, projected on the curtain, the shadow of Gondoïne's head. Tristan was telling him.

"Do you see those beautiful braids? They are those of Denoalen. I avenged you on him. Never again will he buy or sell shields or spears!

- It is well, lord; but stretch this bow, I beg you; I would like to see if it is convenient to bandage. "

Tristan held it out, astonished, half understanding. Iseut took one of the two arrows, notched it, looked to see if the string was good, and said in a low and rapid voice:

“I see something that displeases me. Aim well, Tristan! "

He struck a pose, raised his head and saw the shadow of Gondoïne's head at the top of the curtain. "May God direct this arrow!" He says, turns to the wall, pulls. The long arrow whistles in the air, swivel or swallow does not fly so fast, punctures the traitor's eye, crosses his brain like the flesh of an apple, and stops, vibrating, against the skull. Without a cry, Gondoine fell down and fell on a stake.

So Iseut said to Tristan:

"Run away now, friend!" You see, the felons know your refuge! Andret survives, he will teach it to the king; there is no longer any security for you in the forester's hut! Flee, friend, Perinis the Faithful will hide this body in the forest, so that the king will never know anything about it. But you, flee from this country, for your salvation, for mine! "

Tristan says:

"How could I live?

- Yes, friend Tristan, our lives are entwined and woven together. And me, how could I live? My body stays here, you have my heart.

- Iseut, friend, I am leaving, I do not know for which country. But, if you ever see the green jasper ring again, will you do what I tell you through it?

- Yes, you know it: if I see the green jasper ring again, neither tower, nor fort castle, nor royal defense will prevent me from doing my friend's will, whether it be madness or wisdom!

- Friend, may the God born in Bethlehem be grateful to you!

- Friend, God save you! "