Tristram and Iseult: A Play in Five Acts

Print

Tristram and Iseult: A Play in Five Acts

by: Maurice Baring (Author)
from: Collected Poems of Maurice Baring, The (Pp. 89 - 176)  1911

To H. B.

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ
 
   KING MARK. (King of Cornwall.)
   TRISTRAM.  (His Nephew.)
   ANDRET.
   DENOALEN.
   DUKE HOEL.
   THE DUCHESS. (His Wife.)
   ISEULT.  (Their Daughter.)
   SIR KAY HEDIUS. (Her Brother.)
   A HERMIT.
   GRISELDA. (Iseult of Brittany’s Lady.)
   PERSIDES. (Tristram’s Page.)
   ISEULT THE FAIR.  (KING MARK’s Wife.)
   BRANGWAINE.  (Her Lady.)
 
 
ACT I.
 
SCENE I—Hall in the Castle of Tintagel

 
                       KING MARK
Tristram, my friend, thou who hast been to me
More than a son, say wherefore art thou sad?
 
                       TRISTRAM
King Mark, I am not sad.
 
                       KING MARK
                                       In olden days
Tintagel echoed with thy careless song.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Those days were long ago; I was a boy;
Since then so many crowded years have passed,
And I have wandered long and far away.
 
                       KING MARK
Tristram, it hurts my heart to see thee sad.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Let not the King heed Tristram; I deserve
No passing thought, for fortune has bestowed
Too many gifts on me.
 
                       KING MARK
                                          O heart of gold!
Tristram, my son, no gift would be too great
For thee.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                I pray thee speak not thus, O King.
 
                                                                [Horns sound.
 
                       KING MARK
Hark! the horn calls us; wilt thou to the hunt?
 
                        TRISTRAM
I come.
 
                       KING MARK
                     Then let us follow the glad horn. [Exeunt.
 
Enter ISEULT and BRANGWAINE
 
                              ISEULT
How mournful is the murmur of the sea!
How heavy is the curtain of the sky!
How dark the daylight and how cold the sun!
 
 
                      BRANGWAINE
I pray you, Queen, be governed.
 
                              ISEULT
                                                   Who can guess
The torment of my heart?
 
                       BRANGWAINE
                                                  Alas! too clear
Your fiery dream is written on your face.
 
                              ISEULT
You know the sorrow that I nurse, but they,
How should they know?
 
                      BRANGWAINE
                                        When Tristram is not here
Listless and ghostly are the words you speak;
Your soul is far away; but when he comes,
You rise to life like some pale drooping flower
Refreshed by timely rain.
 
                             ISEULT
                                                You fancy this.
 
                      BRANGWAINE
Not I alone: all see the self-same thing—
Blind must they be to whom it is not clear.
When you and Tristram meet, they can but see
Love, like a shadow following you; and love
Burns in your eyes and trembles in your speech.
 
                             ISEULT
What should I do?
 
                      BRANGWAINE
                                       Make of your face a mask,
And like a mummer strive to talk and smile
Before the Courtiers, and before the King.
 
                             ISEULT
I try, but I forget; and like a wave
The thought of Tristram sweeps me far away,
 
                      BRANGWAINE
Queen, be advised, before it is too late.
 
                             ISEULT
You know that it already is too late.
 
                      BRANGWAINE
Ay, truly vain it is to say "turn back" —
It is too late. There is no turning back.
 
                             ISEULT
I sought not Tristram's love; I strove to hate;
I hated him.
 
                      BRANGWAINE
                          How could you fight the fate
That lurk'd within the drink your mother brewed?
Blame me, for through my fault you drained the cup,
The curséd draught made for the King and you.
 
                             ISEULT
It was no fault of yours.
 
                      BRANGWAINE
                                      Ah! fate made sport,
Sad sport of us.
 
                             ISEULT
                             And never till the day
We die shall Fate release us from the spell.
 
 
SCENE II. — Same Hall in the Castle. KING MARK is seated on his throne.
                                                                                   
Enter ANDRET and DENOALEN
 
                           ANDRET
We claim an audience of the King.
 
                       KING MARK
                                                       Speak on.
 
                           ANDRET
Our words, most gracious Mark, cannot but stir
Great wrath in you; yet is our duty plain
To lay the unwelcome truth before your eyes.
Tristram, in whom you placed your heart and faith,
Would shame you; Tristram loves Iseult the Queen.
 
                       KING MARK
You lie! Knaves, envy hath made black your hearts.
'Tis true that Tristram holds my heart in pawn;
The day the stranger challenged you to fight
Tristram encountered him and laid him low,
And red blood flowed from many a gaping wound;
And that is why you hate him; that is why
I love him. What is it you feign to know?
 
                           ANDRET
We see but what is plain; what all men see;
We only pray you, sir, to use your eyes;
For haply even now 'tis not too late.
 
                       KING MARK
Leave me, sirs.
 
                     [Exeunt ANDRET and DENOALEN.
[To SQUIRE.]      Send Sir Tristram here to me.
 
                       Enter TRISTRAM
 
                       KING MARK
Tristram, make haste to leave these Castle walls,
Nor cross the moat again; for men accuse thee
Of treachery; ask me no question, friend,
I could not speak their hateful speech again
Without dishonour for us both; nor seek
For soothing words; I know they would be vain;
Yet I believed them not; if I believed
How could I look on thee and let thee live?
Go. Mark, that loves thee, bids thee go, my son.
 
                                                  [Exit TRISTRAM.
Some demon in my heart has sown a doubt.
 
 
SCENE III. — An Orchard. Night
 
              Enter TRISTRAM
 
                        TRISTRAM
Iseult, far off from you I cannot stay,
I cannot live. And I have come again,
Though death and shame may wait for you and me.
There is a bubbling spring that rises here
Beneath the shadow of this friendly pine;
It wanders through the trees a running stream,
Between these grassy banks where cowslips grow,
And reaches at the end the Castle yard.
I have cast shreads of bark upon the stream;
Through the green orchard they will wind their way
And speak a silent message to Iseult,
And she will see, and understand, and come.
                                                                 [Pause.
A gentle ghost is flitting through the trees,
She touches but she tramples not the flowers;
For she was made one with the springtime's blossom,
A sister to the bending daffodil.
It is Iseult.
 
                       Enter ISEULT
 
                             ISEULT
                          Upon the rippling stream
I saw the floating bark, And swift I came.
 
                        TRISTRAM
There never was so sure a messenger.
 
                             ISEULT
And though he whispers an unceasing tale,
He never tells the secret that he bears.
 
                        TRISTRAM
I breathed the secret to the spring; it wells
Beneath this tree and fills the marble cirque,
O’ergrown with moss, with a clear silver film.
Hark, is the murmur mournful? Is it glad?
 
                             ISEULT
Like all sweet things, it is both glad and sad.
The dancing wave, the laughing wind, the chime
Of bells, the shepherd’s reed, the woodland horn,
The words of love we speak; in all of these
There is a seed of sorrow.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                 It is true;
For every smile that like a sunbeam shines
Is followed by his shadow.
 
                             ISEULT
                                              Brightest things
Cast darkest shade. Such is our love, O friend.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Yet think not of the shadow, but the sun.
 
                             ISEULT
For us there is no sun. Like happy men
We cannot taste the laughing light of day;
For us the day is cruel. Only here,
Beneath the branches of this silent tree.
We can be safe and still.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                           Then let us think
The world beyond the orchard is a dream.
 
                             ISEULT
The moon has touched the slumber-scented trees;
How dim, how frail the apple-blossom shines.
 
                        TRISTRAM
The birds are sleeping, and the noisy chough
Is far away.
 
                             ISEULT
                          This morning, in the trees
I heard the cuckoo's cry; but now he sleeps.
 
                        TRISTRAM
All happy creatures sleep, but you and I
Watch.
 
                             ISEULT
                  In the wakeful darkness there is peace,
And silent sadness greater than all joy.
How still and strange the blue deeps of the trees!
The silver air! I feel a dreamy spell,
As though a wizard’s wand, dipped in cool dew,
Has touched and changed us into ghostly leaves.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Or drowned our souls beneath the bubbling spring.
 
                             ISEULT
Ay, it were sweet beneath the rippling water,
Captive in those cool liquid deeps, to dream.
Ah! sad would be the music of the brook
If it were laden with our sighs.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                 And they
Who heard it would weep tears of blessed joy.
 
                             ISEULT
So still it is; listen, the very stream
Seems drowsily to mutter in his sleep.
Haply the world beyond the orchard trees
Is but a lying dream, and this is true.
 
                        TRISTRAM
I touch your hand and wake from the world's trance,
And only this is true. I come to life
When I am here beneath the silent tree,
With you; but when I go, I fade away,
To wander like a phantom in the night;
For all the world where you are not is dim,
And all the dwellers in the world are ghosts.
 
                             ISEULT
Tristram, without you, empty is the world,
And blind I wander in the light of day.
 
                        TRISTRAM
That is the lying dream: the truth is here
In every whispered word and silent kiss.
 
                             ISEULT
Tristram, my friend.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                  Iseult, Iseult, my life.
 
                             ISEULT
Hold me and kiss me till the world shall end.
 
                        TRISTRAM
The world is dead — but we shall never die.
 
                             ISEULT
Or haply we have died, and the world lives
As far away, as silent as the moon;
But thou art still my friend.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                            Iseult, my death!
 
                             ISEULT
Say not the sea-folk that Tintagel’s towers
Are spellbound, and by magic melt away
Twice in the year? That breathless hour has come;
Tintagel's walls have vanished, and these trees,
This orchard is the orchard of the song.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Whisper the story softly in my ear;
Thy voice is sweeter than all song to me.
 
                             ISEULT
It tells of a strange orchard, walled around
With wizard air and starred with shining flowers;
There the frail blossom falls not from the tree,
And there the warrior wanders with his love.
Nought can molest their dream, no enemy
Can break the wall of air.
                                [Dawn breaks. Trumpets sound.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                             The wizard wall
Is shattered; no, that orchard is not here;
Nor shall we find its like upon the earth;
But one day, I shall bear you, O my friend,
To the pale gardens where the minstrels sing,
Where flutes and harps for ever sigh and sound;
Never the sun shines, but the dwellers there
Ask for no sunshine.
 
                             ISEULT
                                           Take me thither, friend.
                                             [Trumpet sounds again.
 
                        TRISTRAM
The trumpet calls us to the cruel day.
 
                             ISEULT
Farewell, my friend.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                    Iseult, Iseult, farewell.
 
                             ISEULT
God guard you! O God guard and keep us both.

 
SCENE IV. — An orchard. Night
 
Enter KING MARK and ANDRET
 
                         ANDRET
Hide yourself, sir, behind this pine-tree trunk;
Soon will they come, and you shall slay me, sir,
If the Queen meets not Tristram on this spot.
 
Enter TRISTRAM
 
                        TRISTRAM
The moon is full, and like a silver thread
The stream winds glittering through the tangled grass.
                          [He throws shreads of wood on to the stream
How swift the little ships float down the stream;
They meet, they drift apart, they meet again,
They rise, they sink, like lives of men on earth;
And at the end they reach tranquillity,
Where the bright fountain plashes on the stone.
                                  [He sees the KING’S shadow
What is this phantom flitting through the trees?
 
Enter ISEULT, who also sees the KING’S shadow
 
                             ISEULT (Aside)
God grant that I may be the first to speak.
 
                             ISEULT
Tristram! What, have you dared, in such a place
At such an hour to wait for me? Ah! oft
You bade me come to heed your prayer, you said.
What is this prayer? What do you want of me?
For I have come at last.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                           Yes, often, Queen,
I sent for you; but always sent in vain;
For since I have been banished by the King,
You have not deigned to heed my mournful call.
Have pity! for the King now hateth me.
I know not why— haply you know the cause.
And who could calm his rage so well as you,
Gentle Iseult?
 
                             ISEULT
                         Oh! know you not, the King
Suspects us of a shameful infamy?
Must I, O shame! reveal this news to you?
He thinks that we are bound by guilty love.
God knows — and let him kill me if I lie —
That I have only loved one man.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                    I pray
That you may plead for me, O gentle Queen.
 
                             ISEULT
He'd kill me if he knew that I was here.
 
                        TRISTRAM
How came he to such thoughts?
 
                             ISEULT
                                                 It was not he,
But traitors led him to believe this lie.
"They love,” they said. 'Tis true you love me, sir.
Have I not saved you twice from death, and I
Have loved you in return, for are not you
My kinsman?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                          Beg the King to pity me.
 
                             ISEULT
Tristram, you must not ask this thing of me.
The world's my foe, and should I say one word
I risk a shameful death. Ah! mav God help you.
So often have I whispered to this stream
My sorrow, and told my trouble to the leaves.
Ah! it is sad, now all the world is joyous,
That I alone should hide a heavy heart.
Because my Lord suspects me of great wrong.
 
                        TRISTRAM
And I, when twilight steals upon the world,
Have often sat beside this mossy stone,
Where the spring rises. I have told my tale
To the clear water, and methinks its song
Has sighed a sadder burden since that day;
And I have prayed the water-sprites to bear
The story or my sorrow to the King,
For it is clear and truthful as the stream.
 
                             ISEULT
God help you, for the King has been deceived;
I pray that he may pardon you. I go,
For I am fearful. I have stayed too long.
Farewell, O gentle sir.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                  Farewell, O Queen.
[Exeunt TRISTRAM and ISEULT
 
                       KING MARK
Oh! blessed be this hour! Praise be to God!
Tristram, my son, why did I doubt of you?
 

SCENE V. — ISEULT'S Chamber. Night
 
                             ISEULT
I know not why, but I am cold with fear.
             
Enter TRISTRAM
 
                             ISEULT
Tristram! Make haste to go! Ah! You are mad
To seek me in the chamber of the King!
 
                        TRISTRAM
The King has left the Castle these three hours.
He bade me start before to-morrow’s dawn,
To take a written scroll to Carduel’s King.
 
                             ISEULT
It is deceit! A tratorous stratagem.
Go! quickly go, before they find you here.
 
                        TRISTRAM
How could I go, Iseult, nor say farewell?
 
                             ISEULT
I, too, had grieved had you in silence gone.
But we have said farewell. Make haste to go,
I fear the traitors.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                   What is fear to us?
Surely fear died upon that summer morn
We drank by chance from the same silver cup.
 
                             ISEULT
The sail was flapping idly in the air.
 
                        TRISTRAM
There was no land in sight.
 
                             ISEULT
                                            And in the sky
No cloud.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                  The drowsy mariners all slept.
 
                             ISEULT
Only a seagull circled in the air
And cried a strange cold cry; it made me shiver.
I thought the golden sea, the burning sky,
Must have turned grey; but no, they had not changed.
 
                        TRISTRAM
The sea was like a glittering coat of mail.
 
                             ISEULT
And pitiless and cruel was the sun!
I thought of the cool streams of my green home.
 
                        TRISTRAM
You bade me fetch you water.
 
                             ISEULT
                                               It was wine
You brought.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                       Ah! no, Ah! no, it was not wine;
But bitter bliss, and anguish without end,
Love, Death.
 
                             ISEULT
                      I drank, and gave the cup to you.
 
                        TRISTRAM
And then began the torment in my heart.
 
                             ISEULT
For ma[n]y days I strove to hate you still;
I strove; the ecstasy within my heart
Was bitterer than all anger then to me.
 
                        TRISTRAM
And for three days we spoke no word; but I
Was tortured and my heart was full of shame;
During those days I dared not show my face.
 
                             ISEULT
On the last day you sought me in my tent
You said to me, "What is it troubles you,
Iseult-- -- --?”
 
                        TRISTRAM
                         And wildly then you cried to me;
"This sky, this sea, my body and my life!”
And your eyes filled with tears; you laid your hand
Upon my arm.
 
                             ISEULT
                              And once again you said
Softly: "Iseult, what is it troubles you?”
 
                        TRISTRAM
You looked at me; and whispered "Love of you.”
 
                             ISEULT
And you made silent answer.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                   With a kiss.
 
                             ISEULT
Brangwaine then came and cried, “You drank of death.”
While love and life leapt in our veins like fire;
You cried, “If this be death then let us die.”
 
                        TRISTRAM
A breeze came with the sunset. I can hear
The lapping of the surge about the ship.
 
                             ISEULT
And Brangwaine weeping in the silent night.
 
                        TRISTRAM
I can still see the hot midsummer sky.
 
                             ISEULT
The million stars that watched upon our love.
 
                        TRISTRAM
That white Star in the East, so still, so clear.
 
                             ISEULT
The morning-star! We thought it Hesperus.
 
                        TRISTRAM
So swiftly had the hours of darkness flown,
We thought that twilight lingered in the sky.
It was the dawn.
 
                             ISEULT
                               Tristram, it is the dawn!
And all the night has in a moment passed.
 
Enter KING MARK, ANDRET
 
                       KING MARK
Tristram, to-morrow you shall die: no prayer,
No vow, no word of protest will avail.
You and Iseult shall suffer the same death.
 
 
ACT II.

[SCENE I] -- A Forest. Summer

 
 
                           HERMIT
Tristram, a price is set upon your head.
The Barons swore to capture you alive
Or dead. Tristram, repent, for God forgives
The sinner who repents.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                         But of what crime?
 
                           HERMIT
Your lawless love.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                     Ah! little do you now
The truch, who judge us. Know you of the wine
We drank together on the fatal ship?
 
                           HERMIT
God help you! for the traitor’s end is death!
You have betrayed your King. Tristram, give back
The Queen unto her lawful Lord.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                     No more
Is he her Lord. She was condemned to death.
And we would both have perished at the stake.
Had I not broken loose and set her free.
 
                           HERMIT
You cannot change the truth with subtle speech.
Repent: for he who lives in sin is dead.
 
                        TRISTRAM
I live and I repent not. This great wood
Shall keep us safe. Come, come to me, Iseult!
                                                          [Exit HERMIT
Enter ISEULT
 
                        TRISTRAM
The Hermit bids me take you to the King.
 
                             ISEULT
The world has lost us; we have lost the world;
How say you, Tristram!
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                               Friend, so long as you
Are with me, what is there that I can wish?
If all the stars and worlds were ours, I’d see
You only.
 
                             ISEULT
                          I would think in days gone by
That peaceful happiness was not for us.
Yet in this forest we can taste of joy.
 
                        TRISTRAM
And every hour unveils another bliss.
Hark to the tinkle of the running stream!
 
                             ISEULT
Hark to the rustle of the line trees’ leaves!
It is a haunted tree, within whose heart
Some spirit dwells and whispers to the wind.
 
                             ISEULT
And far away I hear a shepherd’s flute.
The tune is like a sunbeam to my heart.
 
                        TRISTRAM
The notes have died away upon the breeze.
And all is still.
 
                             ISEULT
                                 Save where the woodpecker
Taps on the bole of some sequestered tree.
 
                        TRISTRAM
This forest is our court. Its branches spread
A royal canopy above our heads.
 
                             ISEULT
Our courtiers are the purple butterflies.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Our squires and henchmen are the wild brown bees.
 
                             ISEULT
Our gems are drops of dew; our gold the broom.
Lest we should miss the shimmer of bright robes
The darting kingfisher delights our eyes.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Our morning herald is the lark, the thrush
Our ballad-monger, and the whistling blackbird
Our flute-player.
 
                             ISEULT
                            The squirrel is our fool.
Our chapel lies in the dark forest aisle.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Where the stream tells its rippling rosary.
 
                             ISEULT
At Vespers incense rises from the pool.
 
                        TRISTRAM
And fireflies are the tapers of the shrine.
 
                             ISEULT
The nightingales the Ave Mary sing.
 
                        TRISTRAM
The noon is heavy: let us seek our cave. [should we say “moon”?]
 

SCENE II. — The Forest. Autumn
 
                           HERMIT
How long, O Tristram, will this madness last?
Have courage, take Iseult back to the King.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Ask me not this: for it can never be.
 
                           HERMIT
Have you no thought for her? What piteous plight
Is hers through you? She, born to be a Queen,
Is now no better than a hunted beast.
What is her lot? Instead of silken robes
And glittering courts, you give her this wild wood,
A cave, and roots to eat, the frost, the cold;
All this for you she bears without a word.
Shame, shame upon you, Tristram! Is not she
His bride, true wedded by the rite of Rome?
                                                   [Exit HERMIT
Enter ISEULT
 
                        TRISTRAM
Your cheek is pale and wistful is your smile.
Iseult, tell, tell me, if your heart be sad.
 
                             ISEULT
Tristram, you know full well I am not sad.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Are you not wearied of this life, Iseult,
Of these rough days?
 
                             ISEULT
                                       My friend is with me still:
I know not if the days be rough or fair.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Nay, you are sad.
 
                             ISEULT
                                       To see the swallows fly.
To see the faded leaves fall one by one;
And sad because I know that what is fled
Shall never be again.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                           Already sown
Are golden seeds of blissful hours to be.
 
                             ISEULT
But this long dream can never be again:
The first free wanderings in the leafy wood:
Those hours are dead. Tristram, methinks that you
Have sadder thoughts than I.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                  Iseult, my joy.
How can the sun give darkness?
 
                             ISEULT
                                                     You are sad.
 
                        TRISTRAM
I grieve to see you beaten by the wind,
To see you sleep upon the rugged ground.
Iseult, when winter comes, what shall befall?-
 
                             ISEULT
When winter comes we in the hermit's cave,
Beside the blazing boughs, shall little heed
The storms; the snow shall be our coverlet.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Yet my heart aches for you. I fear you hide
Your grief.
 
                             ISEULT
                       One thing alone can sadden me:
To see that you are mournful, O my friend.
Great is my happiness if you are glad.
Only I fear lest you be wearied now
Of loneliness and of this savage wood.
 
                        TRISTRAM
There where my daylight is, my life, my joy.
There is no loneliness. One thought is dark:
To think the happiness must have an end.
 
                             ISEULT
It shall not end.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                               I know the end mus come;
Wenever shall be free from our dark fate,
Free on the earth like other happy men.
 
                             ISEULT
Thin not of what has been, nor what shall be,
But say you are not changed.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                   Iseult, my life!
 
                             ISEULT
Enough. Tristram, my friend, it is enough.
 
Enter HERMIT
 
                        TRISTRAM
It is the holy hermit. Speak with him.
                                             [Exit TRISTRAM.
 
                             HERMIT
Iseult, God bids thee seek thy lawful lord.
 
                             ISEULT
Forsaking Tristram? No, it cannot be.
 
                              HERMIT
It shall be, if your love is great enough.
Should Tristram live an outcast in the woods?
Tristram, the brave, the great adventurous Knight.
Tristram, who in the Castle of a King
Should live surrounded by a hundred squires.
He who should visit the great fields of war,
And run at tilt in tourneys with the brave.
For you he leaves the world; for you he roams,
An outlaw wandering homeless in a wood.
 
                             ISEULT
O hermit, leave me, for you tear my heart.
 
 
SCENE III. — Another part of the Forest. Autumn.
On one side of the Stage is the HERMIT’S Cave where ISEULT is lying asleep
 
Enter KING MARK
 
                       KING MARK
They told me that within a leafy cave
A shining fairy slumbered in a trance.
               [He walks to the cave and sees ISEULT
Iseult! Oh! canst thou live and be so fair?
Thy face and features wear the blessed peace,
The radiant smile that lights the happy dead;
And yet thou art alive, for wert thou dead,
Thy cheek would not be tinged like a soft rose;
Inscrutable and wondrous is thy smile;
Oh! would to God thy heart were innocent!
 
Enter HERMIT
 
I found Iseult the Queen in this thy cave;
Now tell me where is Tristram's hiding-place?
 
                            HERMIT (Aside)
Praise God! I will fulfil the work of peace.
[To King] O King, Sir Tristram dwells not in this cave,
But far away in the deep forest's heart;
And only when Iseult has fallen asleep
He ventures here and feeds his gaze awhile
Upon her sleeping form, and when she stirs
He flies into the thickets of the woods.
And oft times, when the sun beats on her face,
He shields her from its rays with shady leaves.
And, as he gazes, tears bedim his eyes;
But never comes he here at other times.
Lest he should do dishonour to his King.
Has he not sworn his innocence to thee,
O King? thou didst not deign to heed his word.
 
                       KING MARK
Speak you the truth? Dark, dark has been my fault.
Great-hearted Tristram, must my meaner heart
For ever doubt of you and be deceived?
But I am ready to set right the wrong.
See, I will signify my will: I take
This ring from Iseult's finger, in its stead
I place my own, the ring she gave to me.
And when she wakes my message will be clear.
                                                               [Exit KING MARK
 
                              HERMIT
God, forgive the lie upon my lips,
I spoke the falsehood in the cause of peace.
                                                              [ISEULT awakes
 
Enter TRISTRAM
 
                             ISEULT
I dreamt that one was watching while I slept,
And, while he watched, he wept, then he bent down,
And took away my ring, and in its place
He put his own. Look you upon my finger,
The ring is changed, Hermit.  It is the ring
I gave King Mark upon our bridal day.
Who hath done this?
 
                               HERMIT
                                      The King himself was here
And wept for pity as he gazed on you.
His heart is full of sorrow, he believes
The oath of innocence that Tristram swore,
He minds how he condemned you both unheard,
And now his only wish it to forgive.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Forgive! Ah! who could pardon such a fault
Without ignobleness? No, Hermit, no;
But he remembers how, a little child,
I, at his feet, played on a golden harp;
He minds how oft my blood has flowed for him;
The oath I swore, the judgment that I claimed;
He cannot guess the riddle our our lives;
He doubts, he hopes; now he will let me prove
My words in combat;--I must then give back
Iseult. O wherefore did he come? Before
I could feel hate for him, but by his deed
He stirs the old compassion in my heart.
 
                             HERMIT
Tristram, be brave and bring the Queen to him;
Tristram, the time has come to take the Queen
From this wild forest and this savage life.
 
                        TRISTRAM
What thinkest thou, Iseult?
 
                             ISEULT
What passeth speech;
Yet if you will it so, so let it be.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Then holy hermit, heed; I will obey;
Help me to make agreement with the King.
Go hack, Iseult, and I will leave this land,
I will to Brittany, and if one day
The King should call me, I will come once more«
 
                             ISEULT
It is so willed, it must be, and although
I do not now repent me that I loved
Tristram, and that I love him; still from now
Our lives must be divided, though my heart
Shall never leave his heart.
 
                                HERMIT
                                                 O praised be God!
The King is hunting in the wood to-day;
I will to him and bring him here to you.
                                                               [Exit HERMIT
 
                        TRISTRAM
Iseult, Iseult, dark is this hour of grief!
It is the bitter end of the sweet cup.
 
                             ISEULT
Nay, not the ned. And was not the first drop
Bitter and sweet as is the last? For us
There is no end, but we, until we die,
Shall drift together like two floating leaves
Upon a running stream; never for long
Together, never parted utterly.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Like the small shreads of bark I used to cast
Upon the orchard stream in days gone by;
Yet now our parting must be long.
 
                             ISEULT
                                                              A night,
Lingering and dark perchance, but dawn will come.
 
                        TRISTRAM
There may be glimpses at the dawn and dusk
For us; but we shall never more be free
To wander throughout all the careless day.
 
                             ISEULT
Till Death; then, in the night or in the day,
Together, unmolested, we shall roam.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Not yet, Iseult: that hour has not yet come;
And oh! the bitter grief to lose you now!
 
                             ISEULT
Take this green ring and wear it for my sake;
And should you ever send this ring to me.
No walls, no chains, no bars, nor stem command
Shall keep me from fulfilling my friend's wish.
 
                        TRISTRAM
God bless the ring and her that gave it me.
How shall I live without her?
 
                             ISEULT
                                                     Fate has bound
Our lives together and I dare not think
How I shall live; but this alone I know.
My heart will follow you o'er all the world.
 
                        TRISTRAM
O friend, I go. I know not to what land;
But should I ever send you the green ring,
Will you fulfil the wish that it shall bear?
 
                             ISEULT
Thou knowest well no walls, no chains, no bars
Shall keep me from fulfilling thy heart’s wish,
Be it wisdom or mad folly.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                   God be good
To you!
 
                             ISEULT
                 God guard you always, O my friend.
 
Enter KING MARK, ANDRET, HERMIT and BARONS
 
                        TRISTRAM
O King, I give you back Iseult the Fair;
And I stand here to prove to all the world
In combat that I never loved the Queen
With guilty love, that had offended you.
Deceived by traitors you had had us burnt
Untried, unheard, had God not pitied us;
No hearing was I given. Let me now
Be judged, and let me justify myself
In battle. And if vanquished, kill me, sir,
If victor, let me serve you as before.
 
                           ANDRET (Aside to the KING)
Sir, heed my counsel. Wrongly evil tongues
Spake slander of the Queen, yet if Sir Tristram
Returns to Court, those tongues will speak once more.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Who will accept my challenge?
                                                                 [Silence
                                                       There is none
Who dares. O King, you speak no word to me.
Take back the Queen. And I will leave you. Sir,
And seek a far-off country; Brittany
Or Wales.
 
                       KING MARK
                            My son, O whither will you go
Thus ragged, thus unbannered? Here is gold.
 
                        TRISTRAM
King, I will take no single piece of silver.
But, as I am, I shall in distant lands
Offer my service to some alien King.
                                                   [Exit TRISTRAM
 
 
 
ACT III.
 
SCENE I.--ISEULT’S Room in Tintagel

 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Brangwaine, I know not why, but these last days
There have been moments when my heart seemed light,
As though my pain had melted quite away.
 
                      BRANGWAINE
Time heals the bitter wounds of fate.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
                                                      Ah, no!
A million centuries might o’er me roll
And undiminished would my sorrow be.
 
                      BRANGWAINE
And yet you say your heart seems light at times.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
It is since Tristram sent me the small bell,
The silver bell that hangs about my neck,
I wear it now; strange when I hear it tinkle,
A sudden ray of sunshine warms my heart,
And I am sad no more.
 
                      BRANGWAINE
                                               It is his gift.
The thought of Tristram makes fife sweet to you.
Whene'er you listen to that little bell.
                                        [ISEULT takes off the bell
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Hark to its silver sound! Ah! I could cry
For joy! I feel a gladness in my heart.
 
                      BRANGWAINE
It is the thought of Tristram.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
                                                 Nay, that thought
Would rather bring me pain.
 
                      BRANGWAINE
                                           They say the bell
Was brought by Merlin from Avilion's Isle.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
The bell is faëry! He has sent it me
That I might lose my sorrow and forget.
I will not taste of comfort while my friend
Suffers. He might have kept the magic solace.
He kept the sorrow and he gave the joy.
It shall not be. For Tristram, I will suffer
As well as you, so long as you are sad.
I cast you, cursed bell, into the sea!
                                      [Goes to the window
Brangwaine, 'tis true: a curtain veils the sun:
And in my heart the ancient sorrow aches.
 
 
SCENE II. — Hall in the Castle of Carhaix, Brittany
Iseult with the white hands, and DUCHESS HOEL

 
                          DUCHESS
Thy bridal robe is almost ready, child.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
When will the feast be? for the days pass by
But Tristram never speaks of it to me.
 
                         DUCHESS
Methinks he loves you well, and that his days
Pass wondrous sweetly, like a dream of bliss.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Haply he loves me: dreamy is his mood:
It is as though his mind were far away.
 
                          DUCHESS
And yet he loves you.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
 
                                          He is kind to me.
And when the Minstrels sing of me in song,
His face lights up with a strange wistful smile.
 
                          DUCHESS
He loves the Minstrelsy?
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                             He loves the song
"Iseult" the Minstrels made upon my name.
 
                          DUCHESS
He is a warrior. It is sweet for him
To rest and bask in a soft dream of love:
He fears to break the spell.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                              Yet sometimes, Mother,
It seems as though I were a ghost to him.
He gazes through me on the vacant air.
 
                          DUCHESS
That is love-sickness.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                       Sometimes, too, methinks,
He seems to listen to a hidden voice;
To gaze upon a shape I cannot see.
 
                          DUCHESS
That is but love that rises up to you,
Like a great cloud on incense, from his heart.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Is it for me?
 
                          DUCHESS
                         For whom else could it rise?
Why has he lingered if he loved you not
After he drove away the enemy?
And when your father offered him your hand,
He could have answered “No” and left our land,
But it was plain he loved you from the first.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
I thought he looked on me with loving eyes.
 
                          DUCHESS
I mind the day your brother brought him here,
Into our chamber, as we worked and sang.
"This is Iseult," your brother said, and Tristram
Smiled a strange smile, and softly said “Iseult!"
 
Enter TRISTRAM
 
He comes. I leave you, child, alone with him.
                                                       [Exit DUCHESS
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Good-morrow, Tristram.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                              Hail! little Iseult.
What is the robe you work with your fair hands?
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
It is my bridal veil.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                    Our wedding? Strange!
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Why strange, my Lord?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                            Nay, nay, it is not strange.
Yet it is strange that I, in Brittany,
Should wed: so far away from Cornwall's shores
Where I have lived.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                         Why left you Cornwall's shores?
 
                        TRISTRAM
To seek adventure, for I always loved
To wander.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                               O’er the plains and in the woods.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Long, long ago I wandered in a wood:
For days which seemed like months, for months like years.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Were you alone?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                       I had a faithful friend.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Where is he now?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                    Gone, gone, I know not where
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
When is our marriage day?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                 Whene'er the Duke
Decrees. I shall be ready; but these days
Are soft and pleasant as a summer dream.
I would not break the spell of the still hours.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Think you the clarions of the wedding feast
Will break the spell?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                            Perchance they'll bring to us
Another dream, more sweet, a longer dream.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
You love to dream.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                   In slumberous forest lands
They rocked me to the sound of a sad sea.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Is it as fair a land as Brittany?
 
                        TRISTRAM
Just such a land. Another Brittany;
The woods are darker and the billow's song
Is sadder.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                      Ah! the sadness of that sea
Is in your eyes. You must have tasted grief.
Once, long ago.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                   So long ago, that now
It seems as though it had not ever been.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Tell me your tale of grief.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                There is no tale,
Some birds there are who twitter merrily,
Others who sing a plaintive song; of such
Was I; for I was born in grief.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                                             But now
You feel no grief?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                          My grief was long ago,
Now I am lapped in stillness and content.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
And love?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                      Oh! yes, and love, gentle Iseult.
 
Enter the DUKE
 
                        THE DUKE
The marriage feast shall be to-morrow's mom.
If such your pleasure.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                           I am ready, sir.
To wed your child Iseult before the priest.
                                        [Exeunt DUKE and ISEULT
 
Enter PERSIDES
 
                         PERSIDES
To-morrow the wedding feast shall be held.
 
                        TRISTRAM
So they have told me.
 
                          PERSIDES
                                            Are you ready, Sir?
 
                        TRISTRAM
Ready for what?
 
                         PERSIDES
                                  To wed Duke Hoel's child.
Oh! little did we dream in days gone by
That you would wed Iseult of Brittany.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Devious and strange is the dark path of Fate.
 
                         PERSIDES
Mind you the orchard by Tintagel’s tower?
 
                        TRISTRAM
It seems as though I had been dead since then,
And all those years are like the shadowy ghosts
That roam beyond the dark forgetful stream.
 
                         PERSIDES
And are you happy, Sir?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                               I know not, boy.
I am not sad, and tranquil is my heart.
Yet all is strange to me; this life, this Castle,
Iseult of Brittany. Is this a dream?
And have I died and found another world?
 
                         PERSIDES
It is no dream.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                I feel that I am borne
Gently upon a river to the sea,
To a wide ocean of content and calm.
 
                          PERSIDES
Perchance a storm awaits you on that sea.
 
                        TRISTRAM
I know not; but I know that it is sweet
To drift upon the flood and to forget.
 
                          PERSIDES
Have you forgotten?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                        All is strange and dim;
I am secure in the strong hand of Fate;
I feel as though, from a long fever freed,
I looked with dreamy eyes on a new world.
 
                          PERSIDES
Know you this song? It is a lullaby.
                                               Sings
An orchard grows beyond the sea,
        Encircled by a wall of air;
The blossom falls not from the tree.
        The earth smells sweetly there.
Two lovers dream within that wall^
        The night it lasts forever there i
For in the dawn no bugle-call
        Can break that wall of air.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Haply I heard it in the days gone by.
 
 
SCENE III.-- ISEULT OF BRITTANY’S Room. Wedding Procession,
with Torches, passes across the stage.

 
Enter TRISTRAM and ISEULT OF BRITTANY
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
It is a wondrous night, the sea is singing
A lullaby of love; was ever night
As soft and warm as this on Cornwall’s shores?
 
                        TRISTRAM
Yes, often there the nights were soft and warm.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
And there you used to wander in the woods?
 
                        TRISTRAM
Ah, yes!
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                     To seek adventure, to set free
Captives, and to deliver lovely Queens?
 
                        TRISTRAM
I never met but with one lovely Queen.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
What was her name?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                        The self-same name as thine,
"Iseult."
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                      Did you deliver this Iseult?
From whom? and how?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                             A King had sentenced her
To death: he thought that she was false to him.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Had she been false?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                             Nay, she was never false.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
You set her free, and then?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                             And then she fled.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Alone?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                   A faithful slave had followed her.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
And what became of her?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                     The King forgave,
And she returned and dwelt with him in peace.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
And did she give you no reward, no gift?
 
                        TRISTRAM
I asked for no reward. What should she give?
Nay, it is true, bidding farewell, one gift
She gave.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
What gift?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                           A ring; I had forgot.
But see, it is upon my finger still —
This little jasper hoop that glitters green.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Give me that ring!
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                   You have the ring I gave
Before the priest. ‘Twould not be meet to change.
           [TRISTRAM goes to the window and gazes out on to the sea
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Tristram, my Lord, what is it ails you? Speak —
Come to me: seal our marriage with a kiss.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Iseult, I pray you be not wrath with me;
But long ago I made a solemn vow —
I was in dreadful peril in a battle.
When, mindful of the Blessed Virgin's name,
I vowed, that if She saved me from the peril,
I would, when wedded, let a whole year pass
Before I gave and took the wedding kiss.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
So be it! Oh, my Lord: fulfil thy vow!
 
 
ACT IV.

[SCENE I]--Hall in Tintagel. KING MARK and ISEULT are seated on two
Thrones surrounded by Courtiers

 

Enter TRISTRAM disguised as a Madman
 
                        COURTIER
A crazy madman, Sir, has come to Court.
 
                       KING MARK
Let the mad fool approach.
                                     [They lead him to the KING
                                              Welcome, Sir friend.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Hail! best and noblest of all Kings; I knew
My heart would melt if I should see thy face.
 
                       KING MARK
What seek you here, Sir fool?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                       I seek Iseult;
Iseult the Fiar, I loved in days gone by.
I bring you, sir, my sister; let us change:
For the Queen wearies you, give her to me.
 
                       KING MARK
And whither would you take Iseult, the Queen?
 
                        TRISTRAM
Beyond the clouds and far above the sun;
To where my castle with the filmy walls
Hangs like an opal in the morning air.
 
                       COURTIERS
The madman speaketh well.
 
                       KING MARK
                                                 What made thee hope
The Queen would heed a crazy fool like thee?
 
                        TRISTRAM
I have the right to hope. I for her sake
Have suffered many things, and lost my wits.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Who art thou, Madman?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                   I no longer know;
But in the days gone by I was a Minstrel;
I loved the moon, and all night long I sang
Louder and sweeter than the nightingale.
Song made me mad at last.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
                                             What be thy name?
                        TRISTRAM
“Wanderer,” for I have wandered o’er the world,
And seen the dark dominions of the dead;
There on the sable throne a pallid Queen
Sits crowned with flowers that grew by streams of dusk;
Her eyes are sadder than the withered flowers,
And sad and listless is her silent smile.
 
                       KING MARK
Spake you with her?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                I sang her a soft song,
Of a strange orchard walled about with air,
Where yellow daffodils upon the grass
Are sprinkled thick like stars; and when I sang
She wept, for she remembered flowers like those.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Sing us the song.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                I have forgotten it;
And there is not more song within my heart.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Know you the ballad of the jasper ring?
 
                        TRISTRAM
A thousand ballads echo in my brain;
I cannot sing; the lute within my heart
Is broken, and its strings can only wail;
Yet, long ago, I loved the silver moon;
She came to earth and kissed me while I slept.
It was a foolish thing to love the moon.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Then it was love that made you mad!
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                                Not love
Alone; I was enchanted by a spell.
I sailed upon the broomstick of a witch
Who willed that wheresoever I should go
Her name should haunt me like a jingling bell;
I could not rid me of the silver sound
That tinkled in my heart: it made me mad.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
What was the witch's name?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                      It was Iseult.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL (To KING)
Was ever there so mad a loon?
                                 [To TRISTRAM] They say
There was a wizard in Avilion's Isle,
Who bore around his neck a faëry bell;
He gave it to his lady-love, and she
Forgot him.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
                           Thow dost lie!
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                           Know you the knight?
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
How should I know him, crazy fool? and yet
Thou shalt not blame a woman here.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                                   Iseult,
O give me back my wits you stole away,
When in the guise of the bright moon you lived.
Give me the wits you stole a second time,
When you bewitched me with a haunting name.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
King, bid this fool begone; he wearies me.
 
                        TRISTRAM
O! see you not the Queen is smit with love?
Mark you how pale she is, how bright the flame
That glistens in her eyes. She is a witch!
O, burn her at the stake, King Mark, for she
Would shame you for the love of a mad fool.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
O cursed madman, you are crazed with wine.
 
                        TRISTRAM
‘Tis true that I am crazed; but with a wine
Whose bitter fumes will never die away.
O Queen, can you recall that summer noon?
The sail was flapping idly in the air;
There was no land in sight, the sailors slept.
The sea was gold; the sky was hot like fire,
And you were thirsty; have you quite forgot?
We drank together of the self-same cup.
Since then I have been maddened with that wine.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Sir, drive this man away. I will not hear him.
 
                       KING MARK
Wait: let us hear his madness to the end.
Say, fool, what canst thou do?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                         I play the harp,
And in the forest like a thrush I sing,
And in the orchard like a nightingale.
I can slay dragons, kill false-hearted Knights,
Throw shreads of bark upon the running stream;
Love Queens, and live on berries in a wood.
Am I now, Sir, a goodly minstrel?  See!
     [He belabours the COURTIERS with his stick
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Sir, I am weary; let me seek my room.
I can no longer hear this noisy fool.
 
                       KING MARK
‘Tis we will leave you.  Follow us, mad fool,
And show your skill in sport and song.
        [Exeunt KING MARK, TRISTRAM, and COURTIERS
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
                                                                 Brangwaine!
Brangwaine: My heart is sick with hope and fear;
A fool, a madman, has been here, and he
Must be a wizard, for he knows my life.
The secret things none know but you and I;
Unless
 
                      BRANGWAINE
                Unless 'tis Tristram!
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
                                                        Oh, the hope!
The fear! If it be he, how dares he come
And risk a shameful death?
 
                      BRANGWAINE
                                                      Queen, calm thyself:
Haply this man is Tristram's messenger.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Go, bring him hither; I will to my chamber;
Fetch me, if haply what you think be true.
 
[Exit ISEULT. Exit BRANGWAINE and returns with TRISTRAM
 
                        TRISTRAM
Brangwaine, Brangwaine, have pity upon me!
 
                      BRANGWAINE
Madman, what demon taught my name to you?
 
                        TRISTRAM
Ah! long ago, Brangwaine, I learnt your name,
And if my wits have left me it is you
Who are the cause; for should you not have guarded
The poison that I drank upon the sea?
Out of a silver cup, in the great heat
I drank, and gave the goblet to Iseult;
Brangwaine, can you recall that breathless hour?
 
                      BRANGWAINE
No!
 
                        TRISTRAM
           Pity, pity on me!
 
Enter ISEULT OF CORNWALL
                                         Pity, Queen!
       [He opens his arms to embrace QUEEN; she shrinks, shuddering, from him
                                                              [Exit BRANGWAINE
 
                        TRISTRAM
Ah! truly I have lived a day too long,
For I have been rejected by Iseult.
She spurns and shrinks from me. Iseult! Iseult!
Show to forget is he who loveth well.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
I doubt! I am afraid! I do not know!
 
                        TRISTRAM
Iseult, I am that Tristram whom you loved.
Who loved you for so long. Have you forgot
The shreads of bark I cast upon the stream?
The friendly shadow of the tall pine tree?
The orchard like the orchard of the song?
Have you forgot the forest where we dwelt?
Our Courtiers that were purple butterflies,
Our gems the dewdrops, and our gold the broom.
The blackbird was our minstrel all day long;
At dusk, in the dark aisle by fireflies lit,
The nightingales our "Ave Mary” sang. . . .
She speaks no word. Ah! will she know this ring?
The little jasper ring she gave to me.
No walls, she said, no bars, no stem command
Will keep me from fulfilling my friend's wish.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
O! Tristram, take me: I am here for thee.
 
                        TRISTRAM
But why were you so long to know me, friend?
What is the ring? It had been sweeter far
If you, but by the memories of our love,
Had known me.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
                               Sooner than you spoke I knew.
Think you I did not know your sad, sad eyes?
I knew; but, Tristram, I was sick with fear;
For enemies surround me on all sides.
I thought that haply an enchanter's spell
Deceived me, that some foe was mocking me.
I knew, yet dared not know, that it was you;
I trembled lest my heart should lend them sight.
I feared; I waited for the jasper ring.
And, now I see the ring, I yield to you;
I swore to do what you should wish, O friend,
If I should see that ring, and here am I:
Wisdom be it or folly, take me now.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Know you, Iseult, why I have sought you here.
Disguised in this wild garb? I came, Iseult,
Because I know the hour of Death is nigh:
I know that I shall perish far away
From you, and banished from my heart's desire.
I know the hour of Death is almost come.
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Hold me and kiss me, so that our two hearts
May break, and that our souls may fly away.
Oh! take me to the far-off land of bliss
Of which you used to tell me long ago:
To the green orchard walled with wizard air.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Yes, I will take you to the land of bliss.
The hour is nigh. Have we not drained the dregs
Of bitter misery and bitter joy?
The whole of happiness, the whole of grief?
The hour is nigh when all shall be fulfilled;
If I should call you, will you come to me i
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Call me, my friend; you know that I will come.
 
                        TRISTRAM
God bless you, friend, for this, your loving thought.
 
Enter HERALDS, COURTIERS, KING MARK, &c.
 
HERALDS blow their trumpets
 
                       KING MARK (To ISEULT OF CORNWALL)
Fair Queen, the King of Carduel, with his Knights
Is here; come, let us go to welcome him.
[He takes ISEULT by the hand and leads her to the door, followed by the BARONS and the COURTIERS
 
                          A SQUIRE (To TRISTRAM)
Fool, heard you not that Carduel's King had come?
Your place is with the beggars and the dogs;
Get hence.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                       'Tis fruitless toil to banish me,
For here my task is finished to the end.
 

ACT V.
 
SCENE I. — Castle of Carhaix

 
                     DUCHESS HOEL
My child, what ails you? Listless, sad, and pale
You seem to me.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                       Have I not cause for care,
Since to-day Tristram leaves me for the fight?
 
                          DUCHESS
What is the fight to him? He all his life
Has fought; and on the earth he has no peer.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Yet it is sad for me to say farewell.
Last night I dreamed that Tristram came to me.
Back from the battle, crowned with leaves of fire;
And from his forehead, darker than a ruby.
The red blood dropped, and he was pale as death,
I cried, but oh! he paid no heed to me!
 
                          DUCHESS
My child, this is but folly,
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                                  It is true;
But I am foolish, for my love is great.
 
                          DUCHESS
See, it is he: he comes to say farewell.
                                                [Exit DUCHESS
Enter TRISTRAM
 
                        TRISTRAM
The hour has come to say farewell, Iseult.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
But when wilt thou return?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                                    Soon, soon, Iseult,
Unless I fall in battle.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                     God forfend.
 
                        TRISTRAM
It were a goodly death.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                             O, speak not thus.
 
                        TRISTRAM
It were a goodly death to fall in battle;
Yet have no fear, for I shall soon return.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Tristram, my Lord, I am a foolish child.
In everything I would fulfil thy wish;
But one thing I desire: I pray you stay,
And go not to this fight.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                               I gave my word.
Iseult, I swear thy fears are foolishness.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
This is the only boon that I have craved,
The only gift I need. If in your heart
There be a little love, I beg you stay.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Iseult, my little lily-handed child,
I swore to meet this foe; my word is pledged,
I swear to you there is no cause for fear.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Then be it as you will. Farewell, farewell,
 
                        TRISTRAM
Farewell, gentle Iseult, few days shall pass
Before I come again.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                             Farewell, farewell.
                                                       [Exit TRISTRAM
Griselda!
Enter GRISELDA
 
                             He is gone! Tristram is gone!
 
                          GRISELDA
What troubles you? We knew that he should go.
Before three days are past he will return.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
I prayed him not to go. Last night I dreamed
That he was dead.
 
                          GRISELDA
                                      Lady, dreams are deceit.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
‘Tis not my dream that saddens me; but now
I suffer with great sadness, for I know
That Tristram loves me not, and never now
Will Tristram love me.
 
                          GRISELDA
                                          Nay, you are distraught!
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
I know; I know. For were there in his heart
One ray of love, he would have seen the thought
That lies within the darkness of my heart,
And he could not have gone.
 
                          GRISELDA
                                                     These words are folly,
Begot of groundless fear.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                                He loves me not.
Ah! long ago I feared he loved me not;
But foolishly I thought that love would come;
But now there is another whom he loves.
 
                          GRISELDA
Lady, 'tis madness!
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                        No, it is the truth,
I know not whom he loves, but there is one;
He could not gaze and gaze across the sea
With such sad, wistful eyes, did he not love,
I know not who she is; I only know
He loves her, and that she is far away.
 
 
SCENE II. — Castle of Carhaix. TRISTRAM lying on a Bed
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
How fares it, Tristram?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                           It is well, the wound
Aches not so sorely; soon will it be healed.
Iseult, bring me thy brother. I have words
That I must speak to him.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                               He comes, my Lord.
 
Enter SIR KAY HEDIUS
 
                        TRISTRAM
And I would speak with him awhile alone.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
 'Tis well. I go.
 
   ISEULT goes, but hides behind the arras of the door
 
                        TRISTRAM
                               My friend, my wound is sore.
The sword of Bedalis I slew, from whom
I got this wound, was poisoned, and I know
That it will never heal, and I shall die.
 
                 
                  SIR KAY HEDIUS
Nay, speak not thus.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                              Already I can hear
The muffled step of Death upon the stair;
There is no doubting of that sound: I die.
But O true friend, who knowest all my story.
Who, understanding all, hast pardoned me;
Before I die I fain would see Iseult,
Iseult the Fair, Iseult whom I loved well;
And, had I but a messenger to send,
I know that swiftly she would come to me.
 
                  SIR KAY HEDIUS
I will to Cornwall. I will bring her here:
Tristram, for you I would risk many deaths.
And nought shall hinder me in this attempt!
Give me your message and I will set out.
 
                        TRISTRAM
I thank you. Take this jasper ring to her;
If she but see it she will find a way
To hear you. Tell her I am dying now;
That only she can bring me help and life.
Bid her be mindful of our happy days.
Of all our joy, of all our misery;
Our love, the cup we drained upon the sea;
The oath I swore to love but her alone.
I kept the oath. The oath she swore to me
To come if she should see my jasper ring.
 
                  SIR KAY HEDIUS
'Tis well.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                       But to thy sister say no word.
Tell her you go to seek a leech for me.
Two sails take with you; one black and one white;
And if you bring Iseult with you, then hoist
The white sail; if without her you return.
Let it be black. I have no more to say.
Farewell, and may God bring you safely home.
 
                  SIR KAY HEDIUS
I go. I will bring back Iseult the Fair.
                                         [Exit SIR KAY HEDIUS
 
Enter ISEULT OF BRITTANY
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Where is my brother?
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                          He has gone, Iseult,
Far off to fetch a sage, who, skilled in herbs,
Alone can heal my aching wound.
 
                             ISEULT
                                                           ‘Tis well:
I for his swift and safe return will pray.
 
 
SCENE III. — Hall in Castle at Carhaix
 
                          GRISELDA
My Lord still sleeps.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                       Oh! It fares ill with him.
He has not bid us bear him to the beach,
Whence all day long he gazed upon the sea.
 
                          GRISELDA
He is too weary.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                Weary, too, am I.
My heart, too, has been poisoned with a wound.
 
                          GRISELDA
What wound?
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                               My heart is full of bitter hate.
And with a great desire to be revenged,
 
                          GRISELDA
On whom?
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                        Griselda, dark is my despair!
'Twas bitter when I feared he loved me not,
But oh! the greater bitterness I taste
Now, that I know my utmost fear was true!
I loved him so. And who is there on earth
Who could have given him greater love than I?
I hoped, I dreamed that he could love me too.
And cold is the awakening from that dream!
 
                          GRISELDA
Thy grief has made thee wild.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                                Hush, hush, he wakes!
 
                        TRISTRAM
See you the white sail?
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                            On the wide grey sea
There is no sail.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                                My wound, my wound is sore.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Sleep, Tristram, sleep; soon will the ship be here.
 
                        TRISTRAM
I have just slept. I dreamed a wondrous dream
Of a cool orchard walled about with air,
And watered by a rippling silver stream.
See you no sail?
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                  Upon the wide grey sea
There is no sail.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                             I dreamed that on the grass
I lay, and listened to a summer song.
Softer than any song the Minstrel sings.
See you no ship?
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                The sea is calm and still
As far as the sky-line there is no sail.
 
                        TRISTRAM
All day, all night, strange visions visit me;
I dreamed that I was sailing in a ship,
On a hot summer noon, and called for water,
And in a silver cup they brought me wine;
It seemed so cool, but ah! it was not cool,
But hot and bitter, I can taste it still.
Oh! will the fiery fumes not melt away?
Will nothing cool the fever in my brain?
Will nothing stay the aching in my heart?
Alas! Alas! it was a poisoned wound.
Look! Haply now across the sea there comes
The ship that bears the herb to heal my wound.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Out of the west a little breeze has sprung.
 
                        TRISTRAM
Hark! I can hear the tinkling of a bell!
O faëry chime, I recognise thy voice;
It is the music of Avilion's isle,
The wizard bell I gave unto my friend;
Glad is the heart of him who hears that bell.
A shining light has filled the lampless world!
Feel you the fragrance of the breeze? The ship!
The ship! I hear the motion of the sail;
I hear the bubbling of the flying foam.
The ship has come with sunlight and with song
To bring me life.
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
                                  'Tis true: around the cliff
A ship is coming and is running swift
Upon the beach.
 
                        TRISTRAM
                              Oh, look! look at the sail!
Is the sail white? Can you not see the sail?
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
I see the sail, for they have hauled it high.
Tristram, the sail is black.
 
                        TRISTRAM (Turning to the wall)
                                             Now I can live
No more. Iseult my life! Iseult my death!
Iseult!
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
              What have I done? Speak, Tristram! Speak!
What have I done? Griselda! come to me.
Tristram is dead!
 
Enter GRISELDA and KNIGHTS
 
                          GRISELDA
                               Woe! Woe! Tristram is dead!
Let the bells toll. Tristram the brave, the true;
Tristram is dead! The peerless Knight! Woe! Woe!
 
Enter DUKE and DUCHESS
 
               ISEULT OF BRITTANY
Oh! come not near me: leave me to my grief!
 
[KNIGHTS carry the body of TRISTRAM and lay it on a bier.
They spread a rich cloth over it, and lay his sword on it.
ISEULT OF BRITTANY kneels down by the bier
 
                               DUKE
O faithful Tristram! No one in the world
Has ever served his King as you served me.
                                                        [Bells toll
Enter ISEULT OF CORNWALL
 
               ISEULT OF CORNWALL
Tristram, where is he?
                [She walks up to TRISTRAM’S body
[To ISEULT OF BRITTANY] Lady, go you hence
And let me come. I have the greater right
To weep upon his body, for I loved him
More than you loved him.
                                        [Turning to the East
                                            God receive my soul.
Tristram, out of the cup you gave to me
I drank my death, but with the death was love.
The love that lives for ever. O my friend.