Tristan and Iseult: The Death of the Lovers

Here is the translation of the Roman de Tristan et Iseult of 1900 by Joseph Bedier. Here is the nineteenth part: The Death of the Lovers.

Death of the Lovers

Death of the Lovers

Hardly had he returned to Little Britain, to Carhaix, it happened that Tristan, to bring help to his dear companion Kaherdin, went to war against a baron named Bedalis. He was ambushed by Bedalis and his brothers. Tristan killed the seven brothers. But he himself was wounded with a blow from a spear, and the spear was poisoned.

He returned with great difficulty to the castle of Carhaix and had his wounds fitted. Doctors came in force, but no one knew how to cure him of the venom, for they did not even find out. They didn't know how to do any plaster to draw the poison out; in vain do they beat and crush their roots, gather herbs, compose drinks: Tristan only gets worse, the venom spreads through his body, he turns pale and his bones begin to reveal themselves.

He felt that his life was being lost, he understood that he had to die. So he wanted to see Iseult the Blonde again. But how to get to her? He is so weak that the sea would kill him; and if he even managed to Cornwall, how to escape from his enemies? He laments, venom anguishes him, he awaits death.

He summoned Kaherdin in secret to find out his pain, for both loved each other with loyal love. He wanted no one to stay in his room except Kaherdin, and even no one to stand in the adjoining rooms. Iseut, his wife, marveled in his heart at this strange will. She was terrified and wanted to hear the interview. She came to lean outside the room, against the wall that touched in Tristan's bed. She listens ; one of her faithful, so that no one surprises her, watches outside.

Tristan gathers his strength, stands up, leans against the wall; Kaherdin sits next to him, and the two together weep tenderly. They mourn their good companionship in arms, so soon broken, their great friendship and their loves; and one laments the other.

“Beautiful, sweet friend,” said Tristan, “I am in a foreign land, where I have no relative or friend, except you alone; you alone, in this region, have given me joy and consolation. I am losing my life, I would like to see Iseut la Blonde again. But how, by what trick, make him know my need? Ah! if I knew a messenger who wanted to go to her, she would come, she loves me so much! Kaherdin, beautiful companion, by our friendship, by the nobility of your heart, by our companionship, I ask you: try this adventure for me, and if you take my message, I will become your liege man and will love you above all men. "

Kaherdin sees Tristan cry, be discomforted, complain; her heart softened with tenderness; he answers softly, out of love:

“Beautiful companion, do not cry any more; I will do whatever you want. Certainly, friend, for the love of you I would set out on an adventure of death. No distress, no anguish will prevent me from doing according to my power. Say what you want to tell the queen, and I do my preparations. "

Tristan replied:

"Friend, be thanked! Now listen to my prayer. Take this ring: it's a sign between her and me. And when you get to his land, pass yourself off at court as a merchant. Present her some silk fabrics, make her see this ring: immediately she will look for a trick to speak to you in secret. So tell her that my heart greets her; that, alone, she can bring me comfort; tell her that if she does not come I die; tell him he remember our past pleasures, and the great sorrows, and the great sorrows, and the joys, and the sweetnesses of our loyal and tender love; may he remember the drink we drank together on the sea; ah! it is our death that we have drunk there! May he remember the oath I made to him never to love her: I kept that promise! "

Behind the wall, Iseut aux Blanches Mains heard these words; she almost fainted.

"Hurry, companion, and come back to me soon: if you delay, you will never see me again." Take a forty-day term and bring Iseut la Blonde back. Hide your departure from your sister, or say you're going to get a doctor. You will take my beautiful nave; take with you two sails, one white, the other black. If you bring back Queen Iseut, raise the white veil on your return; and if you don't bring it back, tack with the black sail. Friend, I have nothing more to say to you: may God guides you and brings you back safe and sound! "

He sighs, cries and laments, and Kaherdin weeps alike, kisses Tristan and takes his leave.

At the first wind he set out to sea. The sailors hauled the anchors, set the sail, lashed with a light wind, and their prows cut through the high and deep waves. They took away rich merchandise: silk sheets dyed in rare colors, fine crockery from Tours, wines from Poitou, gyrfalcon from Spain, and by this trick Kaherdin thought to reach Iseut. Eight days and eight nights, they ripped through the waves and sailed at full sail towards Cornwall.

Woman's anger is dreadful, and everyone beware of it! Where a woman will have loved the most, there too she will avenge herself most cruelly. The love of women comes quickly, and quickly comes their hatred; and their enmity, once it arises, lasts longer than friendship. They know how to temper love, but not hate. Standing against the wall, Iseut aux Blanches Mains had heard every word. She had loved Tristan so much!… She finally knew her love for another. She retained the things she had heard; if she can one day, how she will take revenge on what she loves most in the world! However, she made no pretense of it, and as soon as the doors were opened, she entered Tristan's room, and, hiding her anger, continued to serve him and to make him dear, as befits him. A mistress. She spoke to him softly, kissed him on the lips, and asked him if Kaherdin would come back soon with the doctor who was to cure him… But still she sought her revenge.

Kaherdin never stopped sailing, as long as he anchored in the port of Tintagel. He took a large round in his fist, he took a sheet of rare color, a well-chiseled cup: he presented it to King Mark and courteously asked him for his protection and his peace, so that he could trade. in his land, without fear of any damage from chamberlain or viscount. And the king granted it to him before all the men of his palace.

So Kaherdin offered the queen a fine goldwork clasp:

"Queen," he said, "gold is good for it," and taking Tristan's ring from his finger, he placed it next to the jewel: "See, queen; the gold of this fermail is richer and yet the gold of this ring has its price. "

When Iseut recognized the ring of green jasper, her heart quivered and its color shifted, and, dreading what she was about to hear, she drew Kaherdin aside, near a window, as if to better see and haggle over it. ring. Kaherdin quickly told him:

"Lady, Tristan is wounded with a poisoned sword and is going to die. He tells you that, alone, you can bring him comfort. It reminds you of the great sorrows and pains you endured together. Keep this ring, he gives it to you. "

Iseut replied, faltering:

“Friend, I will follow you. Tomorrow, in the morning, let your ship be ready for departure. "

The next morning, the queen said she wanted to hunt with a falcon and had her dogs and birds prepared. But the Duke Andret, who was always watching her, accompanied her. When they were in the fields, not far from the sea shore, a pheasant came up. Andret let go of a hawk to take it, but the weather was clear and beautiful, the hawk sprang up and disappeared.

“See, sire Andret,” said the queen, “the falcon is perched over there, in the port, on the mast of a nave that I did not know. Who is she?

"Lady," said Andret, "it's the nave of this merchant of Brittany who yesterday made you a present of a gold clasp. Let's get our falcon back. »

Kaherdin had thrown a plank, like a culvert, from its nave to the shore. He came to meet the queen:

"Lady, if you please, you would enter my nave, and I would show you my rich wares."

"Willingly, sire," said the queen.

She dismounts from her horse, goes straight to the plank, crosses it, enters the nave. Andret wants to follow her, and takes the plank: but Kaherdin, standing on the gunwale, hits him with his oar; Andret stumbles and falls into the sea. He wants to recover; Kaherdin strikes him again with his oars and throws him back under the water, and shouts:

“Die, traitor! Here is your salary for all the harm you caused Tristan and Queen Iseult to suffer! "

So God avenged the lovers of the felons who had hated them so much! All four are dead: Guenelon, Gondoïne, Denoalen, Andret.

The anchor was raised, the mast raised, the sail stretched. The cool morning wind rustled in the shrouds and swelled the canvases. Outside the port, towards the high sea all white and luminous in the distance under the rays of the sun, the nave sprang up.

In Carhaix, Tristan languishes. He covets the coming of Iseut. Nothing comforts him more, and if he is still alive, it is because he is waiting for him. Every day he sent to the shore to watch if the nave returned, and the color of his sail; no other desire was close to his heart. Soon he had himself carried to the cliff of Penmarch, and, so long that the sun stood on the horizon, he gazed at the sea in the distance.

Hear, lords, a painful, pitiful adventure to all who love. Iseut was already approaching; already the cliff of Penmarch loomed in the distance, and the nave leaned more joyously. A stormy wind suddenly grows, strikes straight against the sail and makes the nave turn on itself. The mariners run to the luff, and against their will, veer downwind. The wind rages, the deep waves stir, the air thickens into darkness, the sea darkens, the rain falls in gusts. Guylines and bowlines break, the sailors lower the sail and tack with the wave and the wind; they had, to their misfortune, forgotten to hoist on board the boat moored at the stern and which followed the wake of the nave. A wave breaks it and carries it away.

Iseut exclaims:

“Alas! puny! God does not want me to live long enough to see Tristan, my friend, once again, only once; he wants me to be drowned in this sea. Tristan, if I had spoken to you once again, I wouldn't care if I died afterwards. Friend, if I do not come to you, it is because God does not want it, and it is my worst pain. My death is nothing to me: since God wills it, I accept it; but, friend, when you find out, you will die, I know it well. Our love is such that you cannot die without me, nor I without you. I see your death in front of me at the same time as mine. Alas! friend, I failed in my desire: it was to die in your arms, to be buried in your coffin; but we failed. I'm going to die alone, and without disappearing into the sea. Perhaps you will not know of my death, you will still live, still waiting for me to come. God willing, you will even heal… ah! perhaps after me you will love another woman, you will love Iseut aux Blanches Mains! I do not know what will be of you: for me, friend, if I knew you were dead, I would hardly live afterwards. May God grant us, friend, or that I heal you, or that we both die of the same anguish! "

So moaned the queen, as long as the turmoil lasted. But after five days, the storm subsided. At the top of the mast Kaherdin happily hoisted the white sail, so that Tristan could recognize its color from afar. Kaherdin already sees Brittany… Alas! Almost immediately calm followed the storm, the sea became smooth and flat, the wind ceased to inflate the sail, and the mariners tacked in vain upstream and downstream, forward and backward. In the distance they could see the coast, but the storm had carried away their boat so that they could not land. On the third night, Iseut remembered that she was holding in her lap the head of a great boar who hated her robe of blood, and thus knew that she would not see her friend alive again.

Tristan was now too weak to keep watch over the cliff of Penmarch, and for many days, locked away from the shore, he wept for Iseut who did not come. Dolent and weary, he complains, sighs, gets agitated; he is far from dying of his desire.

Finally, the wind freshened and the white sail appeared. So Iseut aux Blanches Mains took revenge.

She comes to Tristan's bed and says:

“Friend, Kaherdin is coming. I have seen her nave at sea: she is advancing with difficulty; yet I recognized her; may he bring that which must heal you! "

Tristan flinches:

"Beautiful friend, are you sure it's her nave?" Now tell me how the sail is.

- I saw it well, they opened it and raised it very high, because they have little wind. Know that it is all black. "

Tristan turned to the wall and said:

“I can't hold back my life any longer. "He said three times:" Iseut, friend! At the fourth, he gave up the ghost.

Then, through the house, cried the knights, the companions of Tristan. They lifted him from his bed, spread him out on a rich rug, and covered his body with a shroud.

On the sea, the wind had picked up and was hitting the sail right in the middle. He pushed the nave to the ground. Iseut la Blonde arrived. She heard great complaints through the streets, and the bells ringing in the chapels and in the chapels. She asked the locals why the knell, why the crying.

An old man said to him:

“Lady, we are in great pain. Tristan, the frank, the valiant, is dead. He was generous to the needy, helpful to the suffering. It is the worst disaster that has ever befallen this country. "

Iseult hears her, she cannot say a word. She goes up to the palace. She follows the street, her wimple untied. THE Bretons marveled at looking at her; they had never seen such a beautiful woman. Who is she ? where is she from ?

Near Tristan, Iseut aux Blanches Mains, distraught by the harm she had caused, cried out loudly at the corpse. The other Iseut entered and said to him:

“Lady, get up and let me approach. I have more rights to mourn him than you, believe me. I liked it more. "

She turned to the east and prayed to God. Then she uncovered the body a little, stretched out beside him, all the length of her friend, kissed his mouth and face, and hugged him tightly: body against body, mouth against mouth, she thus gives back her soul, she died beside him for the pain of his friend.

When King Mark learned of the lovers' deaths, he crossed the sea and, having come to Brittany, had two coffins made, one of chalcedony for Iseult, the other of beryl for Tristan. He carried their beloved bodies onto his nave towards Tintagel. Near a chapel, to the left and to the right of the apse, he buried them in two tombs. But, during the night, from the tomb of Tristan sprang a green and leafy bramble, with strong branches, with fragrant flowers, which, rising above the chapel, sank into the tomb of Iseut. The people of the country cut the bramble: the next day it is reborn, as green, as flowery, as perennial, and still plunges into the bed of Iseut the Blonde. Three times they wanted to destroy it; in vain. Finally, they reported the wonder to King Mark: the King forbade cutting the bramble henceforth.

Lords, the good finders of yesteryear, Béroul, and Thomas, and Monsignor Eilhart and Master Gottfried, have told this tale for all those who love, not for others. They send you their salvation through me. They greet those who are pensive and those who are happy, the discontented and the eager, those who are happy and those who are troubled, all lovers. May they find consolation here against inconstancy, against injustice, against spite, against pain, against all the evils of love!