Kuno Francke.

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

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Iseult of Ireland " — I signed my name
And w^rote it with my blood.

Mark. Denovalin

Most solemnly has pledged his head and soul
That he has seen my nephew Tristram, Lord
Of Lyonesse within my realm, and so.
If none stand forth to contradict, Iseult
Of Ireland shall die.

Biia AS {stands up). Denovalin

Has lied !

Maek. Dinas of Lidan !

Ganelun. Well said, good

Dinas !

DiNAS. I, too, did meet a man today

At early dawn whom I first held to be
Lord Tristram, nephew of King Mark.
Since from the east I rode and thou, my Lord
Denovalin, came through the Morois land
From thy good castle in the west, and since
Lubin stood as a central point between
Us both, Lord Tristram must have been two-
That in the east and in the west he crossed
My path, and at the self -same hour, the road




2d Baron.

3d Baron.
5th Baron



2d Baron.
3d Baron.


Of Lord Denovalin. This cannot be
And so one of the men was not the true
Lord Tristram ; one of us was therefore wrong.
And if 'twas one, then why not both
My Lord Denovalin and I?

Had I not known thee from thy youth I might
Have held thee guilty with Iseult! Has she
Ensnared thee too with perjured oaths and

And lying countenance, that thou dost seek
To die for her so eagerly? Thy hair
Is gray like mine. Thou dreamest, man,
Denovalin has pledged his word that he
Has seen Lord Tristram! Ponder well ere

Take up his downflung glove.

Yet Dinas may
Be right.

I think so too.

There cannot be
Two Tristrams in the Morois wood.
( sp ringing up ) . My Lords,

I've pledged my word! Take heed unto your

It seems but right to me that Queen Iseult
Should not be put to death until the true
Lord Tristram, quick or dead, be found.

Well said
Lord Ganelun!

So think we all. King Mark!
By God ! my Lords, it is enough ! ye sit
Discussing here in calm indifference
If I shall live or die, as though I were
An animal ! My race is nobly sprung ;
I will that ye bow down before my blood.
Since ye do not bow down to womanhood!


I will that ye permit me to return
To my apartments and that ye do not
Here keep me standing like a haltered beast !
King Mark may let me know your will when ye
Decide. And now I wish to go.
Mark {in swelling anger). Oh hear her,

My Lords, hoar her, does she not make one

Groaning, to cast oneself before her feet ;
To kiss her very shoes when she can find
Such noble sentiments and words ! Behold
Her there ! Is she not fuller than the whole
Wide world of smiles and tears. And when

she laughed
With that fair mouth, entrancing and all pale,
Or silvery bright that God's whole world did

And sing in God's own hand, 'twas not on me
She smiled. And when upon her lowered lids
There trembled tears like drops of pearly dew
Upon a flower's brim, 'twas not for me
She wept ! A phantom hovered over us
In all the sweet dark hours; 'twas for this

The phantom likeness of Lord Tristram's self.
She wept and smiled, true to her soul, though

The while her soulless body lay all cold
Within mine arms deceiving me with smiles
And tears ! She shall not die till Tristram can
Be found. Bethink you. Lords, the minutes

Ye grant that mouth to smile! The minutes


Ye grant those eyes to weep ! Whom will it not

Deceive, — her laughter and her tears! Both

Vol. XX— 2 S


And me, and God! But I will change her

To tears ; her weeping to the bitter laugh
Of hideousness, that we at last may rest,
And be secure from all her woman's wiles !
And since she shall not die, then I will give her
As a gift ! This surely is my kingly right.
For I am Mark, her lawful spouse and lord.
Today at noon, when in the sun her hair
Shall shine the brightest in the golden light
Unto the leprous beggars of Lubin
I'll give her as a gift!

DiNAS. Mark, art thou mad?

Paranis. The Queen ! Oh help !

IsEULT {recovering herself). 'Tis nought; I'm better now.

Ganelun. Thou speak 'st a thing, in sorrow and in wrath,
A thing so terrible one fears to think
Thereon !

1st Baron, Bethink thee, Mark !

2d Baron. Thou ravest. King.

4th Baron. Thou dost a most foul thing; — recall thy
words !

Mark {crouches on the steps of the throne with his back to
the barons).
At mid-day shall the lepers of Lubin
Collect, and wait within the court.

DiNAS. Farewell,

King Mark, I'll stay with thee no more!

Ganelun. I go

With thee.

1st Baron. And I.

2d Baron. We leave thee, one and all !

Mark {turns his head, almost smiling).
Will no one stay with me?

Dbnovalin {stepping forward). I will, King Mark.




Mark {springing up).

Oh, drive this man outside the walls, and bid
Him ride with speed ! I feel a great
Desire to dip my hands in his foul blood
After this awful marriage feast ! And if
A second time the Lord siiall testify
'Gainst thee, Denovalin, then shalt thou die!
I swear it ! Thou shalt die !

DENov.\L,ijsr (calmly). My castle walls

Are high and strong, oh Mark!

What loathsome brutes,
What wretched beasts lust makes of men!

Thyself, Oh Mark, thou that art wise and kind ;
How deep consumed by lust ! Thou wilt not let
Me live, but dost thv best to shame. That

Thou lovest most, thou castest forth to be
A prey to vultures, and thou think 'st the while
Thou hatest me ! Oh Mark, how thou dost err
In thinking that thou hatest me ! Behold,
I pity thee ! And shall I now beseech.
And wring my hands, humbling myself to thee ?
I do not know how women nobly born
Can live on through the loathsome leper test.
And w^ill not think thereon, for 'tis enough
To make a woman die, yet, once again,
Before you all ; before my God I swear.
And will repeat my solemn oath, and then.
When I have sworn it, He will send His help
Or let my flesh be torn betw^een the dogs
And leprous human vultures of Lubin.
I swear that I have never thrilled with love
But for that man who elapsed me in his arms,
A maiden still, as clean and pure as snow
New-fallen on a winter's morn. This man,
And this man only, have I loved with all


The faith and passion of my womanhood.

I gave myself to him with all my soul ;

My heart was full of dancing and of song;

My love was wreathed in smiles as some May-

Laughs softly on the mountain tops. This man

I loved ; no other have I loved, though he

May grieve, and shame me, and deceive! —
King Mark !
Mark {almost screaming) .

Oh shield me, he that loves me, from her oaths !
Defovalin (turns calmly to Iseult).

Lead back the Queen into her chamber, page !


The Inner Courtyard of the Castle. — In the foreground at the left is the
Castle gate. In the background on the right, at the top of a broad flight
of steps, under an arcade of columns, stands the door of the chapel.
At the left of the gate entering the courtyard are some buildings^ behind
which may be seen the high castle walls surmounted by trees. The road
from the Castle to the church is laid with carpets. In the middle of the
stage, on the right, stands a stone well. In the background is a crowd
of people held back by three armed guards. At the foot of the steps,
one on each side, stand two men-at-arms.


1st Guard. Back, crowd not there ! Stand back !

2d Guard. The children may

Stand in the front, but hold them. There
crawls one !

1st Guard (pushing the child back into the crowd).

My little friend, get back ! Now see, I'll make
A line upon the ground, and if thy toes.
But by a hair's breadth, cross that line again,
I'll drop my spear on them and they shall be
As flat as any barley cake. [Laughter.']

1st Girl. Ha, Ha!



2d Gikl. Hast thou become a baker, oh Gilain!

1st Guard {lifting his mailed hand).

Ay, wench, would 'st see me knead my dough?


A Boy. Be still

I hear the crier's voice from down below!

A Girl. He's wandered up and down the streets since

And called until my blood runs cold!

The Boy. Hush.

The Girl. Hark!

Voice of the Crier {distant and ringing).

Today at noon, because King Mark has found
Her faithless and untrue, shall Queen Iseult
Be given to the lepers of Lubin, —
A gift to take or leave. And, furthermore.
Lord Tristram, who was once her paramour.
Transgressed King Mark's decree by entering
His realm. Whoever catches him and brings
Him quick or dead unto the King shall have
One hundred marks of gold for his reward.
'Tis good King Mark's decree that every one
Should hear and know these things that I have

A Child. Oh, I'm afraid ! Will he come here, that man?

The Girl. I know it all by heart, and still he cries !

A Man. Ay, let him cry!

Another Man. Lord Tristram, he's a fox;

To catch him they must have a good deep pit
Or else he '11 scratch them so that all their lives
They'll think thereon.

A Girl. Tristram's a noble lord,

I'd shield him an I could.

A Second Girl. I want to see

The Queen close by.

A Third Girl. Ay, so do I!



A FouETH GiEL. I'll strew

Some flowers in her path as she goes past.

1st Girl. My father made her once a pair of shoes

Of fine white satin, bound witli golden clasps
And crimson 'broidery. He says her feet
Are delicate and small ; as white and slim
As are the Virgin Mary's in the shrine
That stands within Tintagel's lofty church
Above the great high altar.

4th Girl. Poor, poor soul !

Old Woman. Ay, let her see where those white feet of hers
Have carried her !

3d Guard {to a hoy who has climbed upon the wall).

Hey, thou ! Come down ! The wall
And rocks are full an hundred fathoms high,
So, if thou fall, thy howling will not help.

The Boy. I want to sit here when the lepers come !

Another Boy.

A good place that ! I'll climb up too.

A Fourth Boy. I too !

1st Guard. Now none of you may stay within the court
To stare when Queen Iseult is given o'er
Unto the lepers. Mark has granted this
Unto the Queen since 'twas her only wish.
Ye all must go into the church.

A Man. May none

Then stay without and watch the lepers ?

Another Man. 's wounds!

Why then I came for nothing, all this way !

A Woman (indignantly) .

Oh shame, thou beast, would 'st gloat and make

a show
Of that which one scarce dares to think of?

For such foul thoughts thou shouldst be thrown
To Husdent to devour !

2d Guard. Stop wrangling, there !


A Girl. Poor Queen ! I pity her !

A Second Girl. King Mark's too harsh!

A Man. She's made a cuckold of him, Girl!

Old Woman. And now

He 's tossing her with those new horns of his !
Young Shepherd.

Is then the Queen Iseult so wondrous fair

As she is said to be?
A Girl. Hast thou not seen

The Queen?
Shepherd. No, never yet!

A Girl. He's never seen

The Queen?
A Boy. Behold, here's one who never saw

Our Queen!
A Voice. Who is he?

1st Guard. Speak, where wast thou, friend.

When Queen Iseult stood bound here to the
A Girl. All naked in her wondrous beauty —

Another Girl. All

For her great love.
The Boy. We all did see her then.

Shepherd. I've come since then from Toste in the hills.
A Woman. Here, let this fellow stand in front, that he

May see the Queen's fair face before this

Of vultures has devoured it.
1st Guard. Come here;

If thou hast never seen the Queen thou may'st

Stand here beside the steps.
Shepherd. I thank thee.

A Soldier (draiving him beside l%im). Here!

A Voice. Here come the soldiers!
A Child. Lift me, father.

A Voice. Hsh — !


Scene II
Soldiers march past and enter the church. The church door stays open.
A Girl. I pray thee, Gilain, who will lead the Queen?

1st Guard. The hangman and King Mark.
The Girl. Poor soul!

Old Woman. Why weep'st

Thou, girl?
Old Man {as a crucifix is carried past).

Friends, cross yourselves. The crucifix!
Shepherd (leans forivard so that he can see across the
courtyard into the castle).
Behold, she comes ! My God, how beautiful — !
An angel — !
The Soldier {as Gimella passes).

That, my friend, is but her maid
2d Guard. Back ! Stand back ! Thou shalt not push !

Shepherd. Oh there ! Behold, she is a fairy ! Yea,
And she is fairer than Gimella far !
I'll fall upon my knees when she goes past.
She's wondrous fair, ay, fairer than a flower,
A lily— See — !
The Soldier ((^5 Brangaene ^oes &?/).

Stand up, thou knave, for that's
Brangaene. She's our lady's faithful maid.
Shepherd. She too was fair ! Can one imagine then,
There's any one more beautiful than she?
What wondrous women Mark has at his court !
Such ladies have I never seen — There dwell
None such in Toste! See — ! This one — !

Oh, God!
Oh, God! The sun has fall'n— ! Its blind-
ing rays — ! [Falls on his knees.]
The Soldier (softly).

That was the Queen!

[IsEULT walks past hetiveen Mark and the


Karl IIaideb


hangman. She is draped in a purple
cloak; her feet are bare. Paranis follows
her. Part of the crowd kneels down.']
Shepherd (5^amz<7). Oh, Queen Iseult ! Iseult

The Goldenhaired !
A Girl. Oh fairest, dearest one !

Another Girl. Oh Queen, smile down upon us once again !
\^A rattling sound is heard. The Strange
Leper steps from behind one of the col-
umns. His bearded face is hidden by the
hood of his cloak. The crotvd draws aivay
shuddering , the procession halts. The
leper kneels before Iseult and bows so
low that his forehead almost touches her
A Voice. A leper, see !

A Girl. Oh Virgin Mary, help!

A 2d Girl. Whence came he here!

A 3d Girl. He had concealed himself !

Mark (slowly).

— Thou cam'st too soon my friend!

[The leper disappears sidetvise under the
steps. The procession goes into the
church, from which an organ begins to
sound. The soldiers and the crowd fol-
low after.]
A Girl {covering her face with her hands).

Oh, our poor Queen !
A 2d Girl. She was like alabaster, cold and white !
A 3d Girl. Not once along the awful way she raised

Her eyes !
A 4th Girl. She did not wish to see!

The 1st Girl. Oh fie,

That Mark should shame her so!
The 2d Guard. Make haste, ye must

Go in!
1st Guard {to the kneeling shepherd).

Wake up! Thou too must go within


The church. Now come!
Shepheed. The sun fell down!

It grazed my eyes !
A GiEL. I'll pray with all my heart

For our poor Queen !
A 2d Girl. We all will pray — and curse

The King!
3d Guaed. Thou slut, be still, and hold thy tongue !

Make haste into the church — go in !
1st Guard. I hear

The lepers coming! hark!
3d Guard. Here, girl, thou'st dropped

Thy kerchief! [He picks it up.l

The Girl. Thanks!

1st Guarp {taking the old man by the arm).

Take hold of me, old man.
Make haste.

[The doors of the church close: the stage
remains empty for a few seconds. The
music of the organ swells, and a hymn is
heard. Then, by snatches, first distantly,
then nearer, the rythmical rattling of the
lepers resounds.']

Scene III

The lepers enter the courtyard. They are a wild pack dressed m gaudy
rags, and rumpled, armless cloaks with hoods; carrying long staves and
crutches; with colored cloths bound about their sinister foreheads. Their
faces are sunburnt, their hair is snow-white and streams in the wind.
Some have their heads shaved. Their arms and feet are bare. Al-
together they present a motley appearance, though the hardships of their
life, as a band forced to live together, give them the aspect of weather-
beaten and dried chaff driven hither and thither by the wind. They stand
shyly and rock unsteadily on their dried and shrunken legs — silent and
restless. Like ghosts of the noonday, they try to hush their voices
throughout the scene.

IwEiN {is the first to enter; the others file past him).

Come quick! They've all gone in!
A Leper. Right here


The cat shall catch the bird!
A Young Leper (wearing a wreath, made of three or four
large red flowers, in his dark hair).

Heisa ! Heisa !

IwEiN. Speak softly, there, lest ye disturb the mass.

An Old Leper (feeble, and supporting himself on a crutch,

in the tone of the town crier, almost singing).

Today shall Queen Iseult, our good King's

Be given to us, the lepers of Lubin —
So cried the herald ! —
Young Leper. Brother, brother, dance

With me, for I'm the bridegroom — Ah! —
Old Leper (in the same tone). Today

Shall Queen Iseult —

\_Every time that the old leper begins to
speak he is silenced by the others.']
Young Leper (striking him). Thou fool!

(To a fourth leper.)

Come dance!
4th Leper. Be still!

At noon to eat raw turnips, then at night
To have the Queen to sleep with in the straw !
Ha, ha ! It makes me laugh !
A Redh AIRED Leper. King Mark shall give

Us wine to celebrate our wedding feast !
Young Leper (dancing).

Oh, brother, come and dance with me !
A Sixth Leper. I want

To look at her and then get drunk !
Young Leper. Come, then,

And dance with me, my little brother, dance !
IwEiN (coming from the gate).

Be still, and stand in order by the steps.
That we may see her when the hangman brings
Her forth.
1st Leper (sits down on the ground).

I will not stand.



IwEiN. Then crawl, thou toad !

7th Lepek. Iseult the Goldenhaired ! — The lepers' bride,

And Queen!

{He laughs.)
Redhaiked Lepek. Well spoken, friend ! We '11 call her that I
Old Leper. Today shall Queen Iseult —
8th Lepee. She shall be mine

I' the morning of all holidays!
1st Leper. And I

Will have her late at night.
Redhaired Leper. I'll take her first!

6th Leper. Not so; Iwein shall have her first for he's

Our King !
Young Leper {to redhaired leper).

Wlio? Thou?
9th Leper. Thou have her first? Who art

Thou, then, thou redhaired knave?
10th Leper {calling out loudly). Here's one who says

He'll tame the Queen!
1st Leper. Oh, break his jaw !

Young Leper. I want

Her now, my friends ; my loins burn and itch

For her!
Redhaired Leper. I'll beat you, cripples, and I'll make

You all more cripple than ye are,

Unless ye give her me to kiss and hug

For one full week at least!
IwEiN. What crowest thou,

Redheaded rooster! — Ye shall all draw lots

For who shall have her after me !
11th Leper. Ay, let's

Draw lots.
Redhaired Leper. Plague on you all !

4Tfi Leper. It's on us now!

Come, let's draw lots!
6th Leper. Draw lots !
Old Leper. But first of all

I'll make her mend my clothes.


4th Leper {tearing up a cloth). I'll tear the lots !

1st Leper. Here, put them in my cloak! Now come, and

draw !
12th Leper. Look yonder! There's another one.
Redhaired Leper. Where! Where?

\_As they crowd around, the Strange Leper
steps from behind the column.']
6th Leper. There, yonder, see — I
10th Leper. Who is he?

9th Leper. Look!

Young Leper {goes to the steps). Who art

IwEiN. Speak! Art thou a leper too, as we!

Old Leper {to the stranger).

Today shall Queen Iseult, our good King's
spouse —
Redhaired Leper.

Be still, old fool !
Iwein. Wilt thou not answer me?

I am Iwein, the Lepers' King; what wouldst

Thou here ?

l^The Strange Leper throws money among
1st Leper {leaping, with the rest, to seise the money).

10th Leper. He 's throAving money ! See !

Str. Leper. I am a leper from Karesh and wish

To dwell among you here at St. Lubin.
4th Leper. Thou 'st smelt the bird from far, good friend !
Redhaired Leper. We will

Admit no new companion to our band!
9th Leper. Go home, we '11 none of thee !
11th Leper. Hast thou more gold?

Str. Leper {holding up a purse).

Iwein shall have it and distribute it

Among you, if ye '11 take me in.
12th Leper. Ha! 's death!

Thou art a rich young varlet !



1st Lepek.
4th Leper


7th Lepee.

Young Lepee
Ste. Lepee.


Let him stay!
I care not if there be one more or less !
Come down to us. What is thy name?

[The Strange Leper comes down from the

How tall
Thou art ! If Godwin dares to threaten me
Thou 'It punish him.

And what 's thy name ?

AVhy, call
Me then the Sad One, for that is my name.
Then come, thou Sad One, take thy place.

They'll keep
Us not much longer waiting for our spouse.
6th Lepee (to the stranger).

King Mark 's a kind and gen 'rous King to think
Of giving us a wife !
Old Lepee (to the stranger). The herald cried

That Queen Iseult of Ireland, King Mark's
Own spouse today should be —
IwEiN. Fool, hold thy tongue !

Let's all together make a noise, and shake
Our clappers as a sign.

[They shake their rattles.']
12th Leper. The door ! The door !

Young Leper. Be still ! Be still ! She 's coming now !
IwEiN. Be still.

Scene IV

The door of the church is partially opened. The hangman leads Iseult
out. The Strange Leper falls on his knees and hows deep to the ground.

Young Leper. Let's fall upon our knees, Iwein!

[A few lepers kneel. The hangman takes
Iseult 's crown and cloak away. She
stands there, draped only in her golden
hair. Her eyes are closed and she re-
mains motionless.]


The Hangman {kissing 1s^vi.t's foot). Forgive

Me, Queen Iseult, for God's sweet sake!
[He goes back into the church. The door
closes and the organ sounds louder in the
IwEiN. We are

The lepers of Lubin, and thou, by Mark's
Decree, art now our bride. Come down that
we —
\_The Strange Leper, with a violent effort,
springs to his feet, and turns upon the
Stk. Leper. Who spoke? Which one of you? Tell me,
who spoke?
Scabs! Vultures! Curs, away! Be off! If one
Of you but speaks again I'll trample you
Beneath my feet and grind you in the dirt.
What wish ye here? Here's gold! Be off,
ye curs!
[Only a few stoop to gather the gold he
throws among them.]
Young Leper {rushes at him; Iwein holds him hack).

Thou! Thou!
IwEiN. Who art thou that insults us thus?

10th Leper. Thou ! Hold thy tongue, else will Iwein give
So sound a drubbing that thou shalt fall dead
Upon the ground!
8th Leper. Iwein is strong! — He was

A mighty Lord !
Str. Leper. Will ye not go?

1st Leper. Hark, thou,

This woman here is ours.
Redhaibed Leper {thrusting a stick into Iwein 's hand).

Go, knock him down !


7th Leper. Come on!

[The Strange Leper snatches the club from
the feeble leper so that he falls, knocks
IwEiN to the ground, and leaps into the
crowd dealing fierce blotvs right and left.
In his left hand he holds a sword which
he does not use. In the following scene,
also, the lepers' voices are hushr^ from
fear and surprise.']
Str. Lepee. There lies Iwein ! Be off, ye clogs !

Old Leper. Ai ! oh !
10th Leper. He's killed Iwein!

4th Leper. Lay hold of him!

7th Leper. Thou, Red One, seize him by the throat — I'll
Upon him from behind !

\The Strange Leper knocks the Redhaired
Leper down.]
Redhaired. Leper. Help ! Help !

Str. Leper. There lies

Your Red One !
4th Leper. Fly ! He has a sword !

11th Leper {receiving a blow). Oh help!

Old Leper. Come, brothers, let us run.
6th Leper (struck). Oh, oh!

Str. Leper. Away

With you! Be off !
7th Leper (struck). Ai! Ai!

[Some of the lepers try to carry away the
wounded as they run.]
Young Leper. Let's carry off

Iwein! Come, pick him up.
1st Leper. And Godwin too !

Make haste !
11th Leper (struck). Oh help!


Str. Leper {driving the whole troup to the gate).

Back, curs, back to your holes !

Crawl back into your noisome dens !
7th Leper (struck). Oh! 'tis

Beelzebub himself!
10th Leper. The devil !

9th Leper. Hold!

12th Leper. We go ! We go !

6th Leper. King Mark shall punish thee !

Str. Leper (throtving the club after them).

Here, take your crutch and flee, ye curs !
Voices of the Lepers (outside). Oh, oh! —

He wounded me ! — Fly ! — Fly ! —

Scene V

The Strange Leper, whose hood Jias fallen hack during the conflict, goes
quickly to the foot of the steps. His forehead is hound with a narrow
band. Iseult stands motionless with closed eyes.

Str. Leper. Iseult!

(Anxiously, wonderingly and imploringly.)

Iseult !
Iseult (throws hack her head, shuddering. She keeps her
eyes closed. Slowly and heavily.)
Thou beast! Thou dog!
Str. Leper. Iseult ! 'Tis I who call !

Iseult (hastily, as though to cover herself with the ivords).
I beg thee, beast, thou evil beast, speak not !

Online LibraryKuno FranckeThe German classics : masterpieces of German literature translated into English (Volume 20) → online text (page 31 of 34)