Anna Alice Chapin.

Wonder tales from Wagner, told for young people online

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THE time drew near for Isolde to wed the King.
Marke, a gentle and generous man, was filled with
love for the beautiful woman who so soon would be
his bride, and treated her with all the honor which
he could have accorded her had she been already
Queen of Cornwall and he her vassal. She was al-
lotted the grandest apartments of the castle, her
own room opening out into a beautiful garden which
bordered on a dense, shadowy forest. So she dwelt
in peace and luxury with Brangane and her attend-
ants ; the days passed, and the wedding -tide was

King Marke's knights were delighted with the
Irish Princess. One and all had been much touched
by her weakness on the day of her arrival, for every
one attributed it to a hard voyage. All Cornwall

In Isolde s Garden 121

prepared to serve the pale and lovely lady most
faithfully when she should be Queen.

Only one knight felt aught save honor and homage
in his heart, and that was Sir Melot, a man of hot and
wayward impulses, sometimes generous, sometimes
treacherous, always ambitious. Tristan had long
counted him his truest and best friend, and Marke,
too, had depended greatly upon him during Tristan's
absence, and trusted him absolutely. Two motives
now worked havoc in Melot's heart. A desire to be
first in Marke's love and confidence had long been
growing within him, and by degrees a wish to see
Tristan expelled from favor had taken definite form.
Now, moreover, the beautiful face of the Princess
Isolde had awakened love in his heart, and he grew
sullen and gloomy, knowing the hopelessness of as-
piring to her hand. On the ship his sharp eyes had
seen her pallor had seen, too, how dazed and un-
natural Tristan had seemed. He drew swift con-
clusions, and decided that the Princess had given
the King's nephew and messenger her love. This
thought became clearer as the days passed, and his
jealousy of Tristan grew to hatred, and he found
himself creeping stealthily about, like one seeking
to pass unnoticed. His mind gave itself up to plot-
ting, and several times Brangane found him in dim
corners, listening. Much disgusted, she formed her
own opinion of his deceitful appearance, and dis-

122 Tristan and Isolde

trusted and detested him with all her heart. So one
day, when she heard that King Marke and his court
were going on a hunt that night, she decided to be
particularly watchful.

Isolde waited impatiently for dusk and the de-
parture of the hunting-party. At a signal from her,
Tristan was to meet her in the garden and they were
to have a long talk together. The glamour of the
magic love - potion was still about them, and they
had scarcely thought of the outside world since that
last day on the ship. Isolde forgot that she was
going to be married to King Marke, and Tristan
thought no more of either self-sacrifice or fealty to
his uncle.

The love-potion, while it had not influenced their
love, which had been too deep before to be increased,
had shut out the memory of everything external, so
that now they thought only of each other.

Twilight came, and deepened into night. The
hunting-party started and rode off through the
woods, with a loud sound of horns and the general
excitement attendant upon the chase. Brangane
hastened out onto the stone steps which led from
her mistress's chamber into the garden, and stood
listening to the retreating horns.

The shadows lay dim on the grass ; the wind
stirred the leaves of the forest trees. In the garden
was a high bank covered with flowers, which gave a

In Isolde s Garden 123

fresh, sweet fragrance to the night breezes. Far and
farther away sounded the horns, blending musically
with the whisper of the trees, the soft sigh of the
wind, and the light ripple of a fountain hidden in
the dusky shrubbery.

" Can you still hear the horns ?" asked Isolde,
coming eagerly to the door. She had flung a soft
white veil over her head, and stood, a tall, queenly
figure in trailing snowy robes, outlined against the
darkness of her unlighted room. Just at the door-
way a torch was fastened in a niche, and the bright-
ness fell softly upon the two women, and dimly
showed a long flight of steps near them, which led
up, on the outside of the castle, to a watch-tower
above Isolde's apartments.

There was a pause after the Princess had spoken.
Softly, like an echo, came the far-off horn-calls to
Brangane's attentive ears. She nodded her head
and answered in a low voice, " I still hear them
quite plainly."

Isolde came to her side and listened for a moment.
" You are too anxious," she said ; "you are deluded
by the leaves that softly murmur, answering the
laughing wind !"

Brangane declared that indeed she heard the
horns, and besought her mistress to beware of him
who planned the night- hunt, for she suspected
treachery. Isolde replied that Sir Melot, Tristan's

124 Tristan and Isolde

friend, had planned it, and she resolutely refused to
listen to Brangane's earnest warnings against the
knight. She commanded the maid to put out the
torch, for that was the signal which would bring
Tristan to her. Almost frantic with apprehension,
Brangane entreated her not to have the torch ex-


tinguished that night, and sorrowfully bewailed her
folly in mixing so fatal a draught. But Isolde was
too impatient to heed her words, and directed her
to mount the steps, keep a keen lookout from the
watch-tower, and let them know if spies or enemies
drew near.

Reluctant, but always obedient, Brangane ascended
the stairs and stationed herself in the tower, whence
she could watch the forest -path and all other ap-
proaches to the castle.

Isolde had removed the torch from the niche, and
now threw it to the ground, where the flame died
out. Then she hastened to the staircase, and mount-
ed a few steps that she might see farther. At last
she perceived a dark figure approaching swiftly, and
she tore off her veil, waving it eagerly. Then fling-
ing it from her, she sprang forward to meet Tristan.

After their first glad words of greeting they be-
gan to talk of the past, when they had first known
and loved each other. Isolde accused Tristan gently
of forgetting her for a time, but he explained to her
that his heart had been filled with the glory of her


In Isolde s Garden 125

beauty and her nobility when he seemed most indif-
ferent, and that he had felt only too deeply the
misery of fate when he was obliged to woo her for
another. And Isolde told him the reasons for all
her bitterness and scorn her love and wounded
pride, which made her seem harsh and mocking even
while her heart was breaking. So they continued to
talk, satisfying themselves and each other with as-
surances and proofs of their love and fidelity.

Then, with the magic of the night about them a
spell gentler though scarcely less strong than the
potent love-draught they seated themselves upon
the bank of flowers, and spoke in whispers, address-
ing the quiet, sheltering night, which gave them rest
and contentment, and for their happiness studded
the deep sky with softly gleaming stars. For they
fancifully pretended that all night's beauties had
been made for them, and were revealed to them
alone, for those few hours. Perhaps they uncon-
sciously felt that the end of the dream was near, and
that they must catch the glamour ere it passed into
the light of day.

Suddenly they heard Brangane, in the watch-
tower above them, singing a watch-song, warningly,
fearfully :

" Lonely watch I through the night,
You, in fancies of love-light,
This my call, oh ! heed aright !

126 Tristan and Isolde

All your joy must swiftly cease,
Grief will startle soon your peace.

Heed and hark !

Heed and hark !

Soon will pass the dark !"

" Listen," said Isolde. " The day will come, and
we must part."

"The day has not yet come," returned Tristan,
dreamily. And again they began to talk, more sor-
rowfully now, for the sense of foreboding was heavy
upon both, and when Tristan said, gently, that it
would be w r ell if they could pass out of earthly life
together, Isolde silently assented, and bowed her
head, overcome with emotion. Once more came
the warning voice from the watch-tower:

' Heed and hark !
Heed and hark !
Day soon speeds the dark !"

Rising from the bank of flowers, they tried to
forget the boding sorrow of the call in eager, pas-
sionate words of love and hope. Suddenly a wild
shriek sounded from the watch-tower, and Brangane
hurried down the turret stairs to her mistress's side.
Kurvenal hastened from the wood, begging Tristan
to save himself. Isolde sank down upon the bank
as King Marke and his knights, led by Melot, en-
tered the garden.

Iii Isolde s Garden 127

The King stood as though overpowered with
amazement and pain. Tristan met the curious and
wondering eyes of all as though in a dream.

The day dawned. Long red beams of light
shone between the dark trunks of the forest trees,
and the garden and all within it were illumined by
the radiance.

" Now was I not right, my King ?" demanded
Melot, harshly, leaning on his sword. " Did I not

tell you that Tristan had forgotten to be true to

you r

Old King Marke was bowed with grief. He
looked at his nephew in wondering pain while he
spoke in low, broken tones of the sorrow which this
shock caused him, of the tenderness in his heart in-
spired by the sweet Irish princess, and the unques-
tioning trust which he had always felt for Tristan.
Gently, though with inexpressible sadness, he asked
the young knight to explain everything to him to
tell him the whole story frankly.

Tristan, who had seemed in a trance, was half
aroused by the sorrow in the King's voice, and
raised his eyes pitifully to his. But he answered,
vaguely, "Ah, King, I cannot tell you nothing
can be answered."

Then he turned to Isolde, and told her gently
that he was going upon a long journey into a
strange, shadowy land, and asked her if she wished

128 Tristan and Isolde

to follow him. She answered, gravely and softly,
that wherever he went she would follow, for she
loved him and would remain true to him forever.

Melot rushed forward with drawn sword, crying
to Tristan, " You are a traitor !" Tristan turned
quickly towards him, looking at him with a scorn
which made the knight flinch.

" This was my friend," said Tristan, contempt-
uously. " He assured me of his affection and faith-
fulness. He upheld my fame, he flattered me, and
betrayed me ! On guard, Melot !" and he drew
his sword.

Melot sprang forward. As he struck at Tristan
the latter lowered his blade, allowing himself to be
wounded. King Marke dragged Melot back and
forcibly withheld him from moving. Kurvenal
caught his master in his arms, and Isolde rushed to
his side in agonized horror.

Upon the old King's face was now a deep sor-
row, before which even Melot was silent.


Motif of King Marke

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The Melody of the Shepherd's Pipe


KURVENAL carried Tristan to the shore, and set
sail at once for Kareol, where Rivalin's ancestral
castle stood. There he nursed his young master
tenderly, trusting at first that time, care, and rest
might restore his health. Then, as the knight grew
no stronger, the faithful old servitor, after long
thought, despatched Tristan's ship to Cornwall with
an appeal to the Lady Isolde to come to Brittany,
that her tenderness and well-known skill might cure
his master of his wound.

On the day when he hoped for the ship's return
he carried Tristan into the castle court-yard, and
laid him upon a couch which he had prepared under
a spreading lime-tree. He seated himself to watch
and wait beside the knight, who lay in an unbroken
stupor. Only his faint breathing told Kurvenal that
he still lived, and the old man sat looking sadly and
tenderly on the white, wasted face of his beloved

130 Tristan and Isolde

The court-yard had been neglected for many
years, and it was overgrown by low green weeds
and vines, and strewn with broken rocks. The cas-
tle originally had been a magnificent one, with a
watch-tower, battlements, a large gate, and all the
ancient means of defence. Now the tower was
dilapidated, the battlements broken in places, and
the gate accessible to friend or foe. A lonely and
dreary spot was Tristan's home in Kareol ; but
Kurvenal, as he turned his eyes from the knight's
face to the wide, far-stretching sea, did not think
of the desolate outlook, but only wondered, in an
agony of doubt and fear, if Isolde would come that
day to bring Tristan back to life. Kurvenal had
posted a shepherd on the rocks below the castle,
bidding him play a sad melody on his pipe while
he saw no ship upon the sea, and a merry one when
a sail became visible. The monotonous music of
the pipe came drearily to Kurvenal's anxious ears,
signifying the empty sea.

Finally the shepherd ceased to play, and climbing
the rocks to the battlements, looked over and cried,
in a hushed voice, " Kurvenal ! Does our lord still
sleep ?"

" If he wakes," returned Kurvenal, mournfully, " I
fear it will be for the last time, unless the lady
comes. Is there no ship in sight ?"

The shepherd shook his head as he turned away.

Kareol 1 3 1

" I should play another tune if there were." He
shaded his eyes with his hand, looking off towards
the ocean. " Blank and desolate is the sea," he
said, and slowly clambered down the rocks.

In a moment the melody of his pipe sounded
again. Tristan, stirring weakly, heard it, and recog-
nizing the notes which had often penetrated his stu-
por, muttered, faintly, " The old tune ! Why does
it wake me?"

" Ah ! It is his voice !" exclaimed Kurvenal, bend-
ing over him. " Tristan ! Master ! My lord !"

The knight's voice came again, very feebly : " Who
speaks to me ? Kurvenal, you ? Where am I ?"

"At home, in Kareol," answered Kurvenal, de-
lightedly, " where you will rest and grow strong
again !"

Raising himself with difficulty, Tristan tried to
tell the strange dreams and shadows which had
haunted him during his illness, the marvellous lands
which he had seen, the darkness, the mist ; and as
he spoke he drifted off once more to half-conscious
delirium, and spoke of the light which seemed to
surrouad Isolde, and finally, his voice growing faint-
er, of the torch, for the extinguishing of which he
fancied that he was waiting. He sank into a stupor
once more, but Kurvenal endeavored eagerly to
arouse him by speaking of Isolde, and assuring the
knight that she was even then on her way to him.

132 Tristan and Isolde

At first the words could not pierce the dim shadows
and fancies of the sick man's brain, but at last he
understood, and embraced his old servant in wild

Delirium seized him once more. He raised him-
self upon his knee on the couch, and fancying that
he saw the ship that bore Isolde, hailed it in a voice
to which fever had given an unnatural power. Even
as he gazed, panting, upon the blank, blue sea, the
melancholy music of the shepherd's pipe sounded
from the rocks below, and Kurvenal explained sadly
that the ship was not yet to be seen.

" Is that its meaning ?" questioned Tristan, wearily,
as he sank back. " Is that the meaning of that old,
hopeless melody's mournful notes?" He lapsed into
unconsciousness. A few minutes passed, during
which Kurvenal listened anxiously for his heart-
beats ; at last the knight whispered, " The ship do
you see it yet?"

" The ship?" repeated Kurvenal, with forced cheer-
fulness. " It must soon be here."

Tristan slowly lifted his head and supported him-
self on his arm, while a dreamy light came into his
eyes. Wistfully, tenderly he spoke :

" On board is Isolde, smiling as she bears the
drink of truce. Do you not see her? Lifted on
waves of loveliest flowers she lightly floats to land.
Her smile gives me trust and rest, her touch brings

Kareol 133

healing and comfort. Ah, Isolde, how beautiful you
are !" Then, growing suddenly excited, he raised
himself higher, for a vision was revealed to him.
" Kurvenal, go and watch ! I see so clearly, you
also must see it ! Hasten ! Hasten !" He trembled
with frantic agitation, pointing wildly " The ship !
The ship ! Do you not see it ?"

At the same moment a merry tune was heard
coming from the rocks below. Faster and fast-
er played the shepherd, telling that the sail was
in sight. Kurvenal rushed up into the watch-

There, indeed, was the ship, speeding to the shore.
As she came nearer, he called joyfully down to Tris-
tan, describing the approach, the coming into har-
bor, the scarf which he could see being waved from
the deck, the arrival at the strand, the eager spring
with which Isolde came on shore.

"Away !" cried Tristan. " Help her help my dear

Bidding him be calm and patient, Kurvenal hast-
ened away to meet Isolde.

The suspense and sudden relief had been too
great for Tristan's weakness. His delirium returned
and he sprang up in mad excitement. Unconscious
of his own acts, he tore the bandages from his
wound and staggered from the couch to the centre
of the court-yard.

134 Tristan and Isolde

"She is near!" he cried, wildly. "She who will
help me and ease my pain !"

From without came Isolde's voice, full of love and
hope, calling, " Tristan !"

His mind was wandering ; he fancied himself once
more in the dark woods waiting for her signal that
he might hasten to her. He gazed, unseeing, in the
direction of the voice.

"What is it the light?" he muttered, gasping
for breath. " The torchlight ! Ah ! the torch is out !
I come ! I come !"

The great gate swung open and Isolde hastened
into the court-yard. She caught him in her arms
as with unsteady steps he tried to meet her, sup-
porting him, as he sank to the stone floor without
strength to do aught save lift his hand feebly towards

" Tristan !" whispered Isolde, staring wonderingly
and fearfully at his face.

"Isolde!" answered Tristan, softly, and then was
silent. And in that moment, indeed, the torch died

Isolde bent over him, trying to arouse him by
tender words, but at last her strength left her and
she sank down unconscious beside him. Kurvenal
had followed her and now stood motionless, gazing
upon his master's face.

From the harbor came the sound of voices and the

Karcol 1 3 5

clang of armor. The shepherd and the steersman
of the ship which had brought Isolde hastened into
the court-yard, crying that another vessel had come
fast behind Tristan's, and that even now armed men
were landing in great numbers. Kurvenal, who had
seemed petrified, roused himself and gazed off over
the ramparts to the shore. When he saw King
Marke and his warriors he commenced, with the aid
of the two men, to bar the broken gate. Then cry-
ing that he would die before allowing any one to en-
ter, he grasped his sword firmly, and took his stand
inside the gateway with mingled determination,
fierceness, and exaltation in his face.

Brangane's voice was heard calling wildly, " Isolde,
mistress !"

" What do you seek here?" demanded Kurvenal.

" Unbar the gate, Kurvenal !" cried Brangane.
"Where is Isolde?"

" You are false to her," returned Kurvenal, loud-
ly ; " you come with foes !"

At this point Melot appeared at the gateway
with a force of warriors. "Away, you fool!" he
exclaimed. " Do not try to resist !"

Kurvenal laughed bitterly.

" Hail to the day when I greet you !" he shouted,
savagely, and darted towards the knight, striking
at him with his sword. As Melot fell, mortally
wounded, he saw the motionless figures of Tristan

136 Tristan and Isolde

and Isolde within the court -yard, and moaning,
"Alas, Tristan!" he died.

" Kurvenal, you are mistaken. Hold!" cried Bran-
gane, despairingly. For all answer, Kurvenal, who
was now beside himself with excitement and fury,
sprang forward, battling fiercely with the men-at-
arms. Marke's voice, commanding him to cease,
only caused him to rush upon the King himself.
Meanwhile Brangane had succeeded in climbing up
the rocks and over the battlements, and now hast-
ened to Isolde's side, wailing, " Mistress 1 Ah,
Isolde, are you living?"

Kurvenal, driven back and fatally wounded, made
his way to where Tristan lay, and sank lifeless at
his feet. Marke, following quickly, gazed down
in profound grief at his dearly loved knight and
nephew, and at the woman who might have been
his own wife.

Brangane, sobbing, attempted to revive the Prin-
cess. The maid's heart was almost broken, for, in
the hope of setting all right at last, she had con-
fessed the story of the love -potion to the good
King. He had instantly set sail to assure Tristan
and Isolde of his belief in them and his comprehen-
sion of all that they had suffered, and, moreover, to
unite them forever in token of his love. And now
it was too late.

Tenderly raising Isolde's head on her arm, Bran-


Kareol 137


gane told the King that her mistress still lived, and
then besought her to listen to their explanations.
But Isolde seemed neither to see nor to hear.

In deep and tender sorrow King Marke spoke to
her, attempting to recall her to life and sense. But
she remained lying with her head upon Brangane's
knee, alive, but as though in a strange trance.

''Hear you not?" questioned Brangane, gently.
" Isolde, dearest ! Can you not believe the truth ?"

Isolde rose slowly from the maid's supporting
arms and gazed down upon her knight in deep,
quiet happiness. She felt that she was surrounded
by winds of marvellous music, by clear tones of
gladness, by waves of radiance growing, swelling,
surging about her, until from her lips came softly
her heart's speech in words. Describing the glo-
rious things which she heard and saw, her happiness
rose to an exaltation unearthly in its height. Swift
and more swiftly whirled the light about her, great
winds seemed to bear her soul on their might, music
unspeakably sublime enveloped her spirit, and at
last, whispering, " The highest happiness!" she sank
lifeless upon the knight's body.

Pure and bright in the west was the sunset glory,
shining softly across the sea into the stone court-
yard at Kareol.

The King, as he raised his hands in a tender
blessing over Tristan and Isolde, seemed to hear


Tristan and Isolde

around him music which rose in ethereal ascension
and was lost in the high clouds music that seemed
to celebrate some union in the far, strange land to
which they had wished to go music that rose in
marvellous, impalpable harmonies, voicing the high-
est happiness.

Motif of the Death of Tristan and Isolde


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(Die Meister singer)

The Motifs of the Mastersingers


IN the middle of the sixteenth century the sleepy
old town of Nuremberg was considered by its in-
habitants an art centre of no small importance.
The good burghers had formed a guild devoted to
the cultivation and exposition of the Art of Song,
and the members of this guild were called Master-
singers. Every man who wished to enter it was
obliged to compose a song according to the rules
of the guild, and to sing it in correct time and
tune. If the masters approved his performance, he
was installed as one of the Mastersingers of Nurem-

The guild at the time of the beginning of this
story was composed of twelve members, all good
singers and excellent townsmen : Hans Sachs, the
generous cobbler, who had been a widower for

142 The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

many years, but was none the less genial for that,
and who might have boasted, had he wished, of the
greatest skill in singing and in shoemaking of any
man in Nuremberg; Veit Pogner, the goldsmith, a
widower, too, and though neither so kindly nor so
genial as his friend and neighbor Sachs, yet an up-
right, justly honored man, whose beautiful daughter
was the pet and pride of the townspeople ; Kunz
Vogelgesang, the furrier ; Conrad Nachtigall, the
buckle - maker ; Sixtus Beckmesser, the town -clerk,
a withered, solemn little man, small in mind and
spiteful at heart; Balthazar Zorn, the pewterer;
Fritz Kothner, the baker ; Ulric Eisslinger, the
grocer; Augustin Moser, the tailor; Hermann Or-
tell, the soap-boiler; Hans Schwartz, the stocking-

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Online LibraryAnna Alice ChapinWonder tales from Wagner, told for young people → online text (page 7 of 10)