Kuno Francke.

The German classics : masterpieces of German literature translated into English (Volume 20) online

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Had stood, when I accused thee to King Mark,
And when I see him standing next to thee,
My eyes grow dim and all the world seems red
With blood. 'TwashimIsaw,notthee,Iseult,
Else had I died of sorrow and of shame.
What, thou? Thou grieve! Thou die of

shame? The stones
Shall soften and shall melt ere thou, my lord,
Hast learned what pity means !

Thou dost misjudge
Me, Queen Iseult, for when thy foot first

The Cornish strand as thou stepped 'st from

thy ship
And came to be the bride of Mark, I saw
Thee then, and by the Lord, a solemn oath
Of loyalty upon thy golden hair
To thee I swore ! Oh thou wast wondrous fair I
And I, my Lord, what evil did I thee?
Thou loved 'st Tristram.

What ? Denovalin,
When, by a miracle of God, I have
Escaped the fiery death which thou pre-
pared 'st ;
When, with these tender hands of mine, I bore
Before my judges, and mthout a burn
The glowing iron, and with sacred oath
Have sworn, thou darest doubt Almighty God's









Decree, and dar'st accuse me still, and say
I love Lord Tristram with a guilty love?
This nephew of my wedded spouse ! Of this
I'll make complaint unto my sponsors, Lord!
Denovalin (calmly).

Almighty God thou hast, perhaps, deceived,
But we, at least, Iseult, we must be frank,
Though enemies, and deal straightforwardly
With one another.

Go, thou were-wolf ! — Go !
There was a time when I, too, heard the song
Of birds in spring-time; but the fragrant

Thy golden hair exhales, — that hair which I
Have seen flow rippling through Lord Tris-
tram's hands —
Has made me hard and rough — a very beast !
I live pent up within my castle walls
As some old wolf ! I sleep all day and ride
At night ! Ay, ride until my steed comes home
With gasping nostril and with bloody flank,
And lies as dead when morning comes ! My

Fall dead along the road ! And yet, may be,
That long before the earliest cock has crowed
I cry aloud upon thy name each day
Like one who swelters in his own life 's blood !
Remember this, for hadst thou once, Iseult,
Beside me ridden ere the night grew dark,
Perchance this hatred of all living things
Had never got such hold upon my soul.
Remember this, throughout the many things
Which shall, ere evening, come to pass.
And evening comes to thee, Iseult, — to me,
To all ! And so 'tis best thou understand
The secret of the past fairly to judge.
This is the peace I fain would have with thee.
Iseult. I am afraid — afraid — of thee!


Denovalin. Thou shouldst

Not fear, Iseult, these words so seemingly
Devoid of sense !

{Changing the subject.)

At dawn today I rode
Along the Morois.

IsEULT. Ay, since that's the road

That leads the straightest from thy lofty hall
To St. Lubin. —

Denovalin. I met a quarry there !

A quarry wondrous strange ! Shall I, Iseult,
Go bring it bound to thee?

Iseult {in great anxiety). I wish no fur,

Or pelts slain by thy hand, Denovalin —

Denovalin. That I believe, Iseult, yet it might please
King Mark.

{Breaking out passionately.)

It might be that once more
Thou felt'st the burning touch of death, all hot
And red. And if no safe retreat there were
For thee in Cornwall, save my castle walls.
And not a man in Cornwall stood to shield
Thy golden tresses from the hangman's hand
Except myself! If such the case what wouldst
Thou do if I said * ' come ! ' '

Iseult {wild ivith terror and despair). If such the case,
Oh God of Bethlehem ! If such the case
I'd fling my arms about the neck of Death,
And, clinging close to him, I'd spit at thee,
Denovalin! Those wrinkles, cold and hard.
About thy mouth on either side disgust
Me ! Go, Denovalin ! I loath thee ! Go !

Denovalin. I go, Iseult, for thou hast made thy choice ;
Forget it not. Forget not, too, the pact
Of peace my soul has made with thine. Fare-
I'll go and bid Lord Dinas come to play


At chess with thee. Play quickly, Queen Iseult,
Thy time is short, and short shall be thy game !

[He goes.]

Scene VI

Iseult. Oh God, how bitter are his words ! They cut

Like sharpen 'd swords and burn like hissing

flames !
What is his will? His speech, though wit-
less, ay.
And senseless too, insults and threatens me. —
It warns me too — of what ? — Oh God, I quake !
If but Brangaene came, or Dinas came !
They come not and this creeping fear — how

It grips my soul! — More Gaelic barons

come — !
How often have I stood concealed here
And seen him come proud riding through the

My friend that comes no more! How grand

he was!
His lofty stature did o'ertop them all!
How nobly trod his steed! — Dear Tristram,

Does thy new Isot's heart beat quick as mine
At but the thought of thy dear step ?
(Kneels down in front of the little shrine.)

And thou,
Oh little brachet, thinks thy lord of me.
As I of him! — '' For they who drink thereof
Together so shall love with every sense
Alive, yet senseless — with their every thought
Yet thoughtless too, in life, in death, for aye — .
Yet he, who once has known the wond'rous bliss
Of that intoxicating cup of love,
Spits out the draught disloyally, shall be



Din AS.








A homeless and a friendless worm — a weed
That grows beside the road." Oh Tristram,

DiNAS enters. Iseult rushes toward him.
Dinas of Lidan! Dearest friend, most true!
With what has this man threatened me? Of

Then, warned ? — friend, speak, for round me

whirls the world;
My brain is dizzy with each thought !

My Lord
Denovalin has bid me come to thee
To play at chess. He said thou wast in haste.
And has he, as Mark ordered him, made peace
With thee?

Made peace with me! I told
Thee, Dinas, that he has stirred up the past
With gloomy words and threatened me. He

Forebodingly of coming days — ; I fear
His words and know not what is brewing o'er
My head!

Denovalin has threatened thee!
That bodes no good !

Wliat think 'st thou, Dinas I Speak !
It makes me almost fear that I was not
Deceived this morn as through the mist I rode.
Oh Dinas !

For I saw a man who rode
As secretly, and stole along the way
Concealed in the murky mists of dawn.
I —

Dinas !

Tristram's in the land, Iseult!
Oh Dinas, speak! (Softly.) My friend. Lord
Tristram came

Vol. XX— 27



At dawn today — ? The man who loved me so !
My dearest Lord — ! Oh Dinas, Dinas, didst

{recovering herself)
Thou speak to him?

Dinas {sternly). Twice called I him. He fled.

IsEULT. Oh, why didst thou not call him in my name 1

He would have stood thee answer then, for that
He swore to me he 'd do, by day or night
At any place. . . .

Dinas. I called him in thy name,

And yet he fled away.

IsEULT. He fled from thee?

It was not Tristram then! How dar'st thou

Such slander 'gainst my Lord!

Dinas. I swore that I

Would be thy friend, and for thy sake, Iseult,
His friend. But now I say Lord Tristram

The oath he swore to thee, and on this day
Hath wronged thee grievously, Iseult.

IsEULT {heavily and brokenly). The spouse

Of Isot of the Fair White Hands appeared
To thee, say 'st thou, and broke his parting oath.
The last he swore to Iseult Goldenhaired?

Pakanis {enters in ill-suppressed excitement) .

Lord Dinas, from King Mark I come. He bids
Thee come to him straightway with all de-
For in the name of justice calls he thee.

Iseult. Oh Dinas, Dinas, Tristram broke his oath — !

Lord Tristram broke his oath — !

Dinas. And dost thou know,

My queen, that we must now attempt to ward
The consequences of King Mark's decree
And its fulfilment from thy head?



IsEULT {angrily). How can

An alien woman's spouse affect my life?
DiNAS. I go to stem with all the strength I have

This current of perdition. Fare thee well.
\^As DiNAs goes out, three armed guards
step into the room and stand on either
side of the door.']
IsEULT. And fare thee well, thou truest of the true !

{To the guards.)
And ye, what seek ye here?
GuAED. King Mark has bid

Us guard thy door; thou may'st not go abroad
Till Mark has bid thee come.
Pakanis {falls on his knees). Gawain lies bound;

Brangaene's cast into a prison cell.
And something awful 's taking place within
The castle walls ! — I know not w^hat it is !
IsEULT. Paranis, child, be still.


The High Hall of St. Luhin Castle. — Bay loindows. On the right, in the
background is a wide double-door. On the left, in the background, and
diagonally to it stands a long table surrounded by high-back chairs.
The chairs at either end of the table are higher than the others and are
decorated with the royal arms. Against the wall on the left stands a

Four Gaelic barons stand, or sit about the table. Lord Ganelujt enters.

Scene I
A Baron. And canst thou tell us now. Lord Ganelun,

What's taking place that we are summoned

In council while our legs are scarcely dry
From our long ride?
2d Baron. A welcome such as this

I like not, Lords !



4th Baron.
5th Bakon.

Ganelun. I know no more than ye,

My lords, who are but lately come.

3d Baron. And where

Is Mark, the King?

2d Baron. Instead of greeting us

He sends a low born knave, and bids us wait
Within these dry and barren walls.

1st Baron {stands up). By God,

I feel a wish to mount my horse and ride

5th Baron {entering).

Do ye, my Lords, know why King Mark
Lets Tristram's savage hound, old Husdent

It needed but a little that it caused
My death !

Just now?

As I rode by its cage
It leap 'd against the bars, and made them shake
With such a noise that my affrighted horse
Uprear'd, and headlong sprang across the

The hound is wolflike ; none can go within
His cage. Three keepers has he torn to death.
A wild and dang 'rous beast ! I would not keep
The brute within my castle walls.

3d Baron {walks irritatedly to the ivindow). How this

Long waiting irks my soul, good friends !

So cold
A welcome have I never yet received,

And new the custom is !

Have patience, sirs.
It seems King Mark and Lord Denovalin
Discuss in secret weighty things —

— And wish

To teach us how to wait !
Ganelun. Nay, here 's King Mark I


5th Baron.

1st Baron.


3d Baron.




Scene II

Mark and Denovalin enter; behind them comes a m,an-at-arms who closes
the door and stands against the wall beside it. Mark holds a parchment
in his hand, and, without noticing the barons, walks agitatedly to the
front of the stage. Denovalin goes behind the table and places himself
between it and the throne. The barons rise.

1st Bakon. Does Mark no longer know us that he greets
Us not?

2d Baron. And clost thou know, mv Lord — ?

Mark {turning angrily upon the baron). Am I

A weak old man because my hair is gray,
Because my hands are wrinkled, ay, and hard,
Because at times my armor chafes my back?
Am I an old and sapless log? A man
Used up who shall forever keep his peace ?

{Controlling himself.)
I crave your pardon, Lords, pray take your

DiNAS. Thou badst me come to thee.

Mark. Yes, Dinas, yes,

So take thy place.

{He controls his emotion with great difficulty
and speaks heavily.)

And ye, my noble friends,
Give ear. A great and careful reckoning shall
Take place 'twixt you and me. Your sanction-
ing word
I wish, for what I am about to do,
For yonder man has, with an evil lance.
Attacked me and he has so lifted me
Out of my saddle that my head doth swim,
And trembles from the shock, and so I pray
You to forgive the churlish greeting ye
Received; 'twas accident, not scorn. I bid
You welcome, one and all, most heartily.

3d Baron. We greet thee, Mark.

Ganelun. But tell us now what thing

So overclouds thy mind ; thy welfare dwells
Close intertwined with ours.



1st Baron.

3d Baeon.
4th Barox.
5th Baron.

Denovalin {unfolding the parchment ) . And now, my Lords,
Are any of the witnesses not here
Who signed the contract and decree which Mark
Drew up with Tristram and with Queen Iseult !
'Tis then of this decree that thou wouldst

I signed.

And I.

And I.

Three witnesses
There were, and ye are three. 'Tis good, my

That we are all assembled here.

[He speaks brokenly and with all the
marks of mental suffering and suppressed

Ye know
How long I lived alone within these walls
With my good nephew Tristram and not once
Did any woman cross my threshold o'er.
And 'twas through us that things were

changed; we cried
Upon thee for a son and heir.


Then came from Ireland to be thy Queen.
Denovalin {coldly, firmly, and in a loud voice).

Nobly escorted, in Lord Tristram's care!
Mark {softly).

I wooed Iseult, and much it pleased me then
To call this sweet and noble lady mine,
And so to honor her. But see, it was
But for a single day, then came this man

{Points to Denovalin.)
And spake to me and said : * ' Thy wife Iseult
And Tristram whisper in the dark! " And

The speaking of that evil word, this world

5th Baron.

2d Baron.



Has turned to hell, and through my veins my

Has run like seething fire for her sake,
Who was my wife, and cried for her as though
She were not mine!

3d Bakon. But thou didst not believe

These evil words?

Maek. No, never in my life

Did I fight off a foeman from myself
More fiercely than these words.

Denovalin (sternly). But soon this man

Came back and said: '' The hands of Queen

And Tristram's hands are locked when it is
dark. ' '

Mark. And then I slunk about them like a wretch,

My lords ; I spied upon their lips, their hands.
Their eyes ! I watched them like a murderer ;
I listened underneath their window-sills
At night to catch their dreaming words, until
I scorned myself for this wild wretchedness!
Nothing, nothing I found, and yet Iseult
From that time on was dearer than my God
And his Salvation!

Ganelun. Yet thou ever held'st

Iseult in honor and esteem !

Mark. Ay, that I did,

Friend Ganelun, but soon that man there came
And whispered in mine ear : ' ' Art thou stone

Thy nephew Tristram and thy Queen Iseult
Are sleeping in each other 's arms by day
And night ! " Oh God ! Oh God ! My Lords,
I set




To work — and thought I'd caught the pair ! —
Poor fool !

{He hides his face.)

DiNAS. 'Tis so ; and thou badst build a mighty pyre

Of seasoned wood and well dried peat. But God
Almighty blew the fire out. They fled,
The twain together, to the Morois land.
And then one night I stole upon them both.
(Lord Dinas knew of this alone, my Lords.)
Iseult was sleeping, and Lord Tristram slept
An arm's length scarce before me in the moss
All pale and wan, and breathed so heavily,
So wearily, like some hard hunted beasts.

Oh God, how easy was it then! — See what
Befell ! There, 'twixt their bodies lay a sword,
All naked, ay, and sharp —
'Twas Morholl's sword!
— Then silently I took it, and I left
Mine own, and, like a fool, I wept at their
Great purity !

Was Tristram so much moved
By this exchange of swords that he gave back
Thy wife Iseult?

Mar^ {violently) . And, God! I took her! See

His cunning counsel circumvented then
The red hot steel and made her innocence
Seem more apparent, and her hands shone

Unburned, and all unscarred like ivory
After the test ! My nephew Tristram fled,
Exiled, and the decree that ye all know
Was sealed. So harken now, ye witnesses
Of the decree: if Tristram were to break
The bond and secretly, and in disguise
Return to Cornwall —

2d BAron.



3d Baeon.
4th Baron.

5th Baron.

1st Baron.
2d Baron.
3d Baron.

5th Baron.
4th Baron.

3d Baron.


God forbid!

Yet if
Lord Tristram should do this and break the

And thus endanger both his life and Queen
Iseult's —

If such the case they lied to thee,
King Mark, and unto God!

They lied! They lied!
Ay, man, they lied to me and unto God !
And now I need no longer feel my way
Nor tap about me in the dark, nor bump
My soul against my blindness ! Ay, they lied !
My bed was foul ; my life a jest for knaves.
For they had lied. But then, behold, that man
There came, — Denovalin I hate thee! — came
And said Lord Tristram broke the bond —

[The harons spring up.'\
How so?
What knows he?

Speak, Denovalin!

Thou say'st
Lord Tristram broke the bond that holds his

I '11 not believe it !

Tristram wed, ye know,
The daughter of King Kark of Arundland.
Denovalin must bring us proofs !

My Lords. Before the high tribunal shall
He speak. Go, call the Queen.

[The man-at-arms goes.l^
King Mark,
Wliy dost thou hasten to believe this tale?
Remember, 'tis Denovalin who speaks.



'Tis not a matter of belief, my friend,
I wish to know if for her sake he came ;
To see her once again — no more. The rest
I know, and I know, too, the end of this ;
This game that's played about my life, my

Mine honor!

Scene III

The guardsman announces the queen who enters the hall followed by
Paranis. She remains in the background. The barons rise as she

GuAKDSMAN. Place ! Iseult the queen comes ! Place !

IsEULT {quietly and gently).

Ye called me, sirs ; now speak, for I am here.
Mark (takes an angry step toward her, checks himself, and
stares at her a moment. He speaks slowly
and ivithout moving).

Lord Dinas, bid Iseult of Ireland draw near!
[Iseult, ivithout waiting for Dinas, steps
to the middle of the hall. Mark does not
move and speaks louder.^
Lord Dinas, bid Iseult of Ireland draw near !
And sit there by the board — there at the head
And facing me.
Iseult. And may I ask thee now

What this extraordinary custom is.
That twice thou dost repeat it, Mark! In mine
Own land of Ireland I never saw
A man thus treat his wife. So, if it suits
Thy will,— I'll stand!

[Neither Mark nor the barons move.
Anxiously. ~\

Will no one speak to me ?
Mark. My Lords, sit down.

[He walks in front of the table. Paranis
kneels beside Iseult, ivho lays her hand
upon his head as on the head of a dog.]



IsEULT. Thou call'dst me, Mark, and bad'st

Me come in terms full stern and harsh — I

For 'tis my heartfelt duty to obey.
Since thou art good to me and kind. Thou

This hall, these men, that stand around, awake
Full many a painful memory in my heart,
And so I crave a swift reply. What will
Ye of me here?

Makk {roughly). Why was Gawain sent forth

In secret to Tintagel from Lubin?

IsEULT. He went not secretly, but openly.

My Lord, and that because some merchant-men
Came to Tintagel from across the seas
With merchandise. I wished to bid them come
To me that I might choose me from their stock

the wares
That pleased me and the many things I need.

Mark ( sco rnfully ) .

The purchase must be made at once, I trow!
Since here, more than elsewhere, thou need'st

such things.
'Tis true that fifteen beasts of burden stayed
Behind, all laden with thy things alone,
Unnoticed by a well beside the road,
Iseult, I recollect me now !

IsEULT. Nay, Lord,

Yet St. Lubin brings me full many a sad
And weary hour. I, therefore, thought to gain
Some slight diversion and amusement too
To soothe my woe. Thou know 'st the joy I have
Of mingled masses of bright colored things
Both strange and rare!

The rustling silks ; the gold — ;
Th' embroidery of robes; the jewel's flash; —





Furs, chains and golden girdles, needles,

clasps !
To see, and in my hands to hold such things

'erjoys me much ! — A childish whim, perhaps,
But thou thyself this pleasure oft procured 'st
And sent the merchants to my bower. What
Wonder is it then that I myself should think
Of this same thing?

'Tis so, I wronged thy thoughts,
For I myself have often brought such men
To thee. These peddlers and these mounte-
Are famous friends ! I see it now ! They come
From far and wide ; they travel much ; they are
Both wise and cunning — apt, indeed, to serve
As messengers !

Ay, Mark, thou didst me wrong.
But greater to Brangaene and Gawain.

1 pray thee set them free ; they but obeyed
My will.

Mark (angrily). Bring forth the pair, and set them free

These go-betweens Brangaene and Gawain!

[The soldier goes.']
Tell now, my Lord Denovalin, thy tale,
And speak thy words distinctly, ay, and loud !
And ye, my Lords, I pray you, listen well ;
A pretty tale !

[He crouches on the steps of the throne, and
stares at Iseult. Denovalin steps for-
ward from behind the table.]

I rode today at dawn,
And, coming through the Morois, saw, while

The mist was hanging in the trees, around
A curving of the road, a man who rode.
Full proud and straight he sat upon his steed,
But yet he seemed to wish that none should see



Him there, for carefully did he avoid
The clearer spots, and peering round about,
He listened and he keenly watched, then turned
Into a thicket when afar he heard
The hoof -beats of my horse. I followed him,
And soon I was as near as a man's voice
Will carry. Loud and haughtily I called
To him, but then he drove the spurs so deep
Into his steed that, like a wounded stag.
It sprang into the air and dashed away.
I followed close behind, and bade the man
In knightly and in manly honor stand.
He heeded not my words and fled away.
And then I cried aloud that he should stand,
And called him by Iseult the Goldenhaired.

IsEULT {passionately and firmly).

And at my name Lord Tristram stood.

(Anxiously.) Did he

Not stand and waif?


Oh, say that at that call
Lord Tristram stood!


And I will bless thy lips.

Mark {cries out in a muffled voice).
Iseult !

Iseult. I'll kiss thy hand, my Lord, and I —

Denovalin. Who says, proud Queen Iseult, the man I saw
Was Tristram, noble Lord of Lyonesse?

Iseult {her voice becomes proud and cold).

My Lord Denovalin, I'll kiss thy hands
If thou wilt say my husband's nephew stood
And bided you, for sorely would it vex
My heart if such a knight should flee from such
A man as thou ! 'Twould shame me much, for

My Lord Denovalin, I scorn and hate
Thee as a cur !



Denovalin {suppressing his emotion).

If Tristram stood or fled
From me, I do not say.
IsEULT. That vexes me

Indeed, for now, my Lords, I turn to you
With deeper and more serious complaints
Against Lord Tristram that so rashly he
Has broken Mark's decree, thus forcing me
To share a guilt of which my soul is clean !
Mark {crouches on the steps of the throne groaning).

Oh see how well her Irish tongue can twist
Her words to suit her will! Her words are

smooth ;
So smooth that when one grasps them they

The hand like shining, slippery, squirming

snakes !
And she has subtle words, caressing words,
And words that set the mind on fire ; hot words
That burn, and haughty ones that swell and

Like stallions' nostrils, and toss high their

heads !
Oh she has words, and words, and many words
With which to frame her lies !
{He takes a step toward Iseult. Angrily.)

And see her eyes !
Those wondrous eyes ! Eyes for deceit ! She

Deceived me with those eyes and lips of hers

since first
She set her foot upon the Cornish shore !
IsEULT {trembling with shame and anger).

Thy words are like the shame of women, Mark !
Like filthy hands ! Irish I am, but there,
In word and deed, polite restraint prevails
And courteous measuredness ; there fiery




Becomes ne'er master of the man! And so
I was not taught in early youth to guard
Myself from drunkenness of wrath !

Mark. hark!

That was a sample of her haughty words !
Iseult the Goldenhaired of Ireland
Didst thou with thine own hand and blood sign

IsEULT. Ay, Mark, I signed the bond. /

(With closed eyes quoting.)

' ' And if from this
Day on Lord Tristram dares to show himself
Within my realm, he dies, and with him dies

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