Tristan and Iseult: Crazy Tristan

Here is the translation of the Roman de Tristan et Iseult of 1900 by Joseph Bédier. Here is the eighteenth part: Tristan Fou.

Tristan Fool

Tristan Fool

Tristan relives the Brittany, Carhaix, Duke Hoël and his wife Iseut aux Blanches Mains. Everyone welcomed him, but Iseult the Blonde had chased him away: nothing was more to him. For a long time he languished far from her; then one day he thought that he wanted to see her again, even if she still had him beaten vilely by his sergeants and servants. Far from her, he knew his sure and approaching death; Rather die suddenly than slowly, each day. He who lives in pain is like a dead man. Tristan desires death, he desires death: but let the queen at least learn that he perished for love of her; what find out, he will die more gently.

He left Carhaix without telling anyone, neither his parents, nor his friends, nor even Kaherdin, his dear companion. He left miserably dressed, on foot: for no one takes heed of the poor crooks who walk on the main roads. He walked as long as he reached the shore of the sea.

At the port, a great merchant ship was getting under way; already the sailors were towing the sail and weighing anchor to set sail for the high seas.

“God save you, lords, and may you sail happily! To what land will you go?

— Towards Tintagel.

"To Tintagel!" Ah! lords, take me away! »

He embarks. A favorable wind swells the sail, the nave runs on the waves. Five nights and five days she sailed straight for the Cornwall, and on the sixth day anchored in the harbor of Tintagel.

Beyond the harbor the castle stood on the sea, well closed on all sides: one could enter it only by a single iron door, and two prud'hommes guarded it day and night. How to get there?

Tristan descended from the nave and sat down on the shore. He learned from a passing man that Marc was at the chateau and had just held a large court there.

“But where is the queen? and Brangien, his beautiful servant?

“They are also at Tintagel, and I saw them recently: Queen Iseult looked sad, as usual. »

In the name of Iseult, Tristan sighed and thought that, neither by cunning nor by prowess, he would not succeed in seeing his friend again: for King Mark would kill him...

“But what does it matter that he kills me? Iseult, must I not die for love of you? And what do I do every day, if not die? But you, however, Iseult, if you knew me here, would you even condescend to speak to your friend? wouldn't you have me chased away by your sergeants? Yes I want attempt a ruse… I will disguise myself as a madman, and this madness will be great wisdom. Some will take me for associate who will be less wise than me, some will think me mad who will have crazier in his house. »

A fisherman was coming, dressed in a hairy homespun gonelle, with a large hood. Tristan sees him, gives him a sign, takes him aside:

“Friend, do you want to trade your sheets for mine? Give me your coat, which pleases me very much. »

The fisherman looked at Tristan's clothes, found them better than his own, took them immediately and left quickly, happy with the exchange.

Then Tristan shaved his beautiful blond hair, flush with the head, drawing a cross there. He coated his face with a liquor made from a magic herb brought from his country, and immediately his color and the appearance of his face changed so strangely that no man in the world could have recognized him. He tore from a hedge a shoot of chestnut, made a club out of it, and hung it round his neck; barefoot, he walked straight towards the castle.

The porter thought he was certainly mad, and said to him:

“Come near; where did you stay so long? »

Tristan counterfeited his voice and answered:

“At the wedding of the Abbé du Mont, who is one of my friends. He married an abbess, a fat veiled lady. From Besançon to the Mont, all the priests, abbots, monks and ordained clerics have been summoned to this nuptials: and all on the moor, carrying sticks and croziers, jump, play and dance in the shade of the tall trees. But I left them to come here: for today I must serve at the king's table. »

The porter said to him:

“Enter then, lord, son of Urgan the Hairy; you are tall and hairy like him, and you rather resemble your father. »

When he entered the town, playing his club, servants and squires gathered on his way, chasing him like a wolf:

“Behold the madman! huh! huh! and hey! »

They throw stones at him, attack him with their sticks; but he stands up to them while gambolling and lets himself be done: if they attack him on his left, he turns around and strikes on his right.

Amidst laughter and boos, dragging the riotous crowd after him, he reached the threshold of the door where, under the canopy, beside the queen, King Mark was seated. He approached the door, hung the club around his neck, and entered. The king saw him, and said:

“Here is a fine companion; bring him closer. »

They bring him, the club around his neck:

“Friend, welcome! »

Tristan answered, in his strangely counterfeit voice:

“Sire, good and noble among all kings, I knew that at the sight of you my heart would melt with tenderness. God protect you, handsome sir!

"Friend, what have you come here to seek?"

— Iseult, whom I loved so much. I have a sister whom I bring to you, the very beautiful Brunehaut. The queen bores you, try this one: let's make the exchange, I'll give you my sister, give me Isolde; I will take it and serve you out of love. »

The king laughs and says to the fool:

“If I give you the queen, what would you do with her? Where will you take her?

— Up there, between the sky and the clouds, in my beautiful glass house. The sun crosses it with its rays, the winds cannot shake it; I will take the queen there to a crystal chamber, all blooming with roses, all luminous in the morning when the sun strikes her. »

The king and his barons said to one another:

“Here is a good madman, clever in words! »

He had sat down on a rug and was gazing tenderly at Iseult.

"Friend," said Marc to him, "where does your hope come from that my lady will take care of a hideous madman like you?"

“Sire, I have a right to it; I accomplished for her a lot of work, and it is through her that I have become mad.

"So who are you?"

— I am Tristan, the one who loved the queen so much, and who will love her until death. »

At this name, Iseult sighed, changed color, and angrily said to him:

" Go away ! Who brought you in here? Go away, you bad fool! »

The madman noticed his anger and said:

“Queen Iseult, do you not remember the day when, heartbroken by the poisoned sword of Morholt, carrying my harp out to sea, I was driven towards your shores? You healed me. Don't you remember, queen? »

Iseut replied:

"Get out of here, fool, I don't like your games or you." »

Immediately the madman turned towards the barons, chased them towards the door, shouting:

“Crazy people, get out of here! Leave me alone to consult with Iseult; because I came here to love him. »

The king laughs, Iseult blushes:

“Sire, hunt this madman! »

But the madman resumed in his strange voice:

“Queen Iseult, do you not remember the great dragon that I slew in your land? I hid his tongue in my shoe, and, all burned by his venom, I fell near the swamp. I was then a marvelous knight!... and I was waiting for death, when you rescued me. »

Iseult responds:

“Shut up, you are insulting the knights, because you are only a madman from birth. Cursed be the sailors who brought you here, instead of throwing you into the sea! »

The madman burst out laughing and continued:

“Queen Iseult, do you not remember the bath where you wanted to kill me with my sword? and the tale of the Golden Hair which soothed you? and how did I defend you against the cowardly seneschal?

- Shut up, bad storyteller! Why do you come here to spout your musings? You were drunk last night, no doubt, and the drunkenness gave you these dreams.

- It's true. I am drunk, and of such drink that this intoxication will never dissipate. Queen Iseult, don't you remember that day so beautiful, so warm, on the high seas? You were thirsty, don't you remember, daughter of a king? We both drank from the same goblet. Since then, I have always been drunk and badly drunk…”

When Iseult heard these words, which only she could understand, she hid her head in her coat, got up and wanted to leave. But the king held her back by her ermine cope and made her sit down again by his side:

“Wait a bit, Iseult friend, until we hear this madness to the end. Crazy, what job do you know how to do?

'I have served kings and earls.

"Really, do you know how to hunt dogs?" to birds ?

“Certainly, when it pleases me to hunt in the forest, I know how to catch, with my greyhounds, the cranes which fly in the clouds; with my bloodhounds, the swans, the kissed geese or white, wild pigeons; with my bow, the divers and the bitterns! »

They all laughed heartily, and the king asked:

“And what do you take, brother, when you hunt river game?

“I take everything I find: with my goshawks, timber wolves and big bears; with my gyrfalcons, the boars; with my falcons, the roe deer and the fallow deer; the foxes, with my hawks; the hares, with my swivels. And when I return to my house, I know how to play the club well, to share the embers among the squires, to tune my harp and sing to music, and to love queens, and to throw well-cut shavings into the streams. Truly, am I not a good minstrel? Today, you have seen how well I know how to fight with a stick. »

And he strikes with his club around him.

"Get out of here!" he cried, "Cornish lords!" Why stay again? Haven't you already eaten? Are you not satisfied? »

The king, having amused himself with the madman, asked for his steed and his falcons, and led off in pursuit of knights and squires.

“Sire,” said Iseult to him, “I feel weary and sorrowful. Allow me to go and rest in my room; I can no longer listen to these follies. »

She retired pensively to her room, sat down on her bed and went into deep mourning:

“Chickly! why was i born My heart is heavy and sad. Brangien, dear sister, my life is so bitter and so hard that it would be better for me to die! There is a madman, shaved like a cross, who has come here at a bad hour: this madman, this juggler, is a singer or a soothsayer, for he knows my being and my life point by point; he knows things that no one knows except you, me and Tristan; he knows them, the crook, by magic and spell. »

Brangien replied:

"Couldn't that be Tristan himself?"

“No, for Tristan is handsome and the best of knights; but this man is hideous and counterfeit. Cursed be it from God! cursed be the hour when he was born, and cursed be the ship that brought him, instead of drowning him out there, under the deep waves!

"Calm down, lady," said Brangien. You know too well today how to curse and excommunicate. Where did you learn such a trade? But could this man be Tristan's messenger?

'I don't think so, I didn't recognize him. But go find him, beautiful friend, talk to him, see if you will recognize him. »

Brangien went towards the room where the madman, seated on a bench, had remained alone. Tristan recognized her, dropped his club and said to her:

“Brangien, frank Brangien, I conjure you by God, have pity on me!

"Naughty madman, what the devil taught you my name?"

- Beautiful, long ago I learned! By my boss, who was once blond, if the reason fled from this head, it is you, beautiful, who are the cause. Wasn't it you who had to keep the potion I drank on the high seas? I drank some in the great heat, in a silver goblet, and handed it to Iseult. You alone knew it, beautiful; don't you remember?

- No ! answered Brangien, and, completely disturbed, she threw herself back towards Iseult's room; but the madman rushed after her, crying, “Have mercy! »

He enters, he sees Iseult, rushes towards her, arms outstretched, wants to hug her to his chest ; but, ashamed, wet with a sweat of anguish, she throws herself back, dodges it, and seeing that she avoids his approach, Tristan trembles with shame and anger, steps back towards the wall, near the door. ; and in his always counterfeit voice:

"Certainly," he said, "I have lived too long, since I have seen the day when Iseult rejects me, does not deign to love me, considers me vile!" Ah! Iseult, who loves, late forgets! Iseult is a beautiful and precious thing than an abundant spring which pours out and runs in broad and clear waves: the day when it dries up, it is no longer worth anything: like a love that dries up. »

Iseut replied:

“Brother, I look at you, I doubt, I tremble, I don't know, I don't recognize Tristan.

“Queen Iseult, I am Tristan, the one who loved you so much. Do you not remember the dwarf who sowed the flour between our beds? and the leap I made and the blood that flowed from my wound? and of the present that I addressed to you, the dog Petit-Crû with the magic bell? Don't you remember the well-hewn pieces of wood I threw into the stream? »

Iseult looks at him, sighs, doesn't know what to say and what to believe, sees clearly that he knows everything, but it would be folly to admit that he is Tristan; and Tristan said to him:

“Lady queen, I know well that you have withdrawn from me and I accuse you of treason. I have known, however, beautiful, days when you loved me with love. It was in the deep forest, under the lodge of foliage. Do you still remember the day when I gave you my good dog Husdent? Ah! that one has always loved me, and for me he would leave Iseult la Blonde. Where is he ? What have you done with it? At least he would recognize me.

"Would he recognize you?" You say madness; for, since Tristan left, he remains there, lying in his niche, and rushes against any man who approaches him. Brangien, bring him to me. »

Brangien brings him.

'Come here, Husdent,' said Tristan; you were mine, I take you back. »

When Husdent hears his voice, he steals his leash from Brangien's hands, runs to his master, rolls at his feet, licks his hands, barks with joy.

“Husdent,” cries the madman, “blessed be, Husdent, the pains I have taken to feed you! You gave me a better welcome than the one I loved so much. She don't want me recognize: will she even recognize this ring that she gave me long ago, with tears and kisses, on the day of parting? This little jasper ring has never left me: I have often asked it for advice in my torments, often I have wet this green jasper with my hot tears. »

Iseult saw the ring. She opens her arms wide:

" Here I am ! Take me, Tristan! »

Then Tristan stopped counterfeiting his voice:

“Friend, how could you have misunderstood me for so long, longer than this dog? What does this ring matter? Don't you feel that it would have been sweeter for me to be recognized by the mere reminder of our past loves? What does the sound of my voice matter? it is the sound of my heart that you should have heard.

'Friend,' said Iseult, 'perhaps I heard it sooner than you think; but we are enveloped in tricks: Should I like this dog follow my desire, at the risk of having you caught and killed before my eyes? I was guarding myself and I was guarding you. Neither the reminder of your past life, nor the sound of your voice, nor even this ring proves anything to me, for they may be the wicked games of an enchanter. I surrender, however, at the sight of the ring: did I not swear that, as soon as I see it again, even if I lose myself, I will always do what you tell me, whether it be wisdom or folly? Wisdom or folly, here I am; take me, Tristan! »

She fell swooning on her friend's chest. When she came to, Tristan held her in his embrace and kissed her eyes and her face. He enters with her under the curtain. In his arms he holds the queen.

To amuse themselves with the madman, the valets lodged him under the steps of the hall, like a dog in a kennel. He gently endured their taunts and blows, for sometimes, resuming his form and beauty, he went from his hovel to the queen's chamber.

But, after a few days had elapsed, two chambermaids suspected the fraud; they informed Andret, who stationed three well-armed spies in front of the women's rooms. When Tristan wanted to cross the door:

"Go back, madman," they cried, "go back to bed on your bale of straw!"

"Well, fine lords," said the madman, "shouldn't I go and kiss the queen this evening?" Don't you know that she loves me and is waiting for me? »

Tristan brandishes his club; they were afraid and let him in. He took Iseult in his arms:

“Friend, I must flee already, because soon I will be discovered. I must flee and probably never will return. My death is near: far from you, I will die of my desire.

— Friend, close your arms and embrace me so tightly that, in this embrace, our two hearts are broken and our souls go away! Take me to the fortunate land of which you once spoke: to the land from which no one returns, where distinguished musicians sing songs without end. Take me !

“Yes, I'll take you to the fortunate land of the Living. The time draws near; have we not already drunk up all misery and all joy? The time draws near; when it is all accomplished, if I call you, Iseult, will you come?

"Friend, call me!" you know that I will come!

- Friend ! may God reward you! »

When he crossed the threshold, the spies threw themselves against him. But the madman burst out laughing, spun her club, and said:

“You drive me away, fair lords; what's the point ? I have nothing more to do here, since my lady is sending me away to prepare the bright house I promised her, the crystal house, blooming with roses, luminous in the morning when the sun shines!

- Go away then, madman, at the wrong time! »

The valets moved aside, and the fool, without hurrying, went away dancing.