Kuno Francke.

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

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If in thy loathsome carcass there still dwells
Some remnant of a man, I pray thee slay
Me, but speak not !
Str. Leper (uncertainly). Iseult!

[He falls on his knees opposite the steps,

hut at a distance from them; and leans

hack until his thighs rest upon his heels.l

Iseult. Speak not ! Be still,

And kill me now ! They Ve left me not so much

As one small pin with which to kill myself !

Vol. XX— 29


Behold ! I kneel to thee, and like some low

And humble maid, I beg thee, beast, to kill

Me, and I '11 bless thee !
Str. Leper. Oh, Iseult, dost thou

No longer love Lord Tristram who was once

Thy friend?
IsEULT {stares at him for a moment).

Thou speak 'st, thou speak 'st, thou beast, and

Yet God shall punish thee since, though I beg.

Thou would 'st not kill me now!
Str. Leper {crying out despairinly) . Iseult, awake!

Oh Golden One, 'tis Tristram calls !
Iseudt. Thou seekst

With scorn and biting w^ords to martyr me.

And kill me then ! Oh say that thou wilt kill

Me afterward — when thou hast railed enough !

— And thou wilt come no nearer than thou art f
Str. Leper. Iseult, awake! Awake, Iseult, and speak.

And tell me if thou lovest Tristram still!
Iseuijt. Ah, he was once my friend ! Why dost thou use

The dagger of his name to prick my heart I

I loved him once, and 'tis for that I stand

Here! — Kill me now!
Str, Leper {going to the foot of the steps).

God help me ! Hear me speak,

Iseult, for I'm —

{His voice breaks with a sigh.)

I'm Tristram's messenger!

Thine erstwhile friend — Him whom thou
loved 'st!
Iseult {angrily). Would 'st shame

Me in my shame? Thou beast!
Str. Leper. I wish to save

Thee now. Dost thou love Tristram still?


IsEULT {going down a few steps, slowly and carefully).

Thou art
A messenger of his ? — And dost thou come,
Perchance, to take me to him?
{Breaking out.)

Does thy Lord
Desire me, to give me as a gift
From some strange land, to his new bride ?
[The Strange Leper hides his face in his

Am I
To sit within a cage and watch him kiss
Her? Listen to him call his wife " Iseult? "
Was this his sweet design, or does Iseult
The Snowy Handed crave my golden hair
To make a pillow for voluptuous hours?
How strange that Tristram should so long

for me
That he sends forth his messengers ! And will
He lay us both within the self-same bed ?
Caress and kiss us both at once throughout
The night's long, hea\^ hours? In other days
More modest was thy Lord in his desires.

Now kill me, kill me, beast ! I've lived enough.
Ste. Leper. Iseult, dost thou not know me yet?
IsEULT. How should

I know thee, beast, or in what roadside ditch
Lord Tristram found thee as he fled away
This morning through the Morois from a man
Who called upon him in my name?
Str. Leper. * Oh, judge

Him not too quickly. Queen Iseult ! He stood
And waited for the man, who in thy name
Had called!



Ste. Leper.


IsEULT {in fierce anger).

He stood, say'st thou? Why then
He has not wed Iseult, white handed Queen?
I dreamed it all, and sobbed but in my dreams,
Perhaps 1 'Twas then di .\m-tears I wept at


Be merciful to Tristram, Qneen!
[IsEULT descends a feiv more steps; looks
at him searchingly, and speaks, in a way,
Wast thou his servant while he still was true.
And caught 'st the plague while on his wed-
ding trip ?
Then weep for him, thou poor diseased beast !
I know thee not. And if thy master stood
Here too, — Lord Tristram, whom I once did

And who returned my love in youthful years —
If he now stood before me here, I should
Not recognize his face behind the mask
Of cowardice which he has worn of late.
His faithlessness sticks to him like black slime !
Go tell him that! — I hate him in this mask!
He was so loving and so true when first
I knew and loved him ! God shall punish him !
Str. Leper. Iseult, great God has punished him enough;
His soul is writhing in its agony
Before thy feet !
Iseult. His soul is leprous, ay !

And 'tis an awful thing when one's own soul
Is leprous grown! — I loathe and hate him
Str. Leper {leaping up).
Iseult !


IsEULT (wildly). Go call the \Tiltures, call them forth!

I want to dance in their white arms, and flee
From Tristram's leprous soul that has

And shamed me thus !
Str. Leper. May God in mercy help

Him, for he loves thee still, Iseult, in life
And death! [He starts toward the gate.~\

Voice of Lord Denovalin".

Let none go out ! Draw up the bridge,
And close the castle gates! I'll catch the
hound !
[Iseult staggers a few steps and collapses.']
Str. Leper. Denovalin, Iseult ! Our hated foe

Denovalin! Quick, hide thy nakedness
Within this cloak!

[He covers her with his cloak and bends
over her.]

Dear lady I will kill
This man and then myself !

(Denovalin enters.)
Denovalin. Thou, there ! Who art

Thou ? Speak, thou hound ! Who dares thus

To set at naught King Mark's decreed
commands ?
Str. Leper (who has sprung upon the curbing of the wall).
Denovalin, a second time thou shalt
Not flee from me! — Take heed, and guard
[He springs at Denovalin and overthrows
him. He then swings himself up on the
wall and stands there for a second; his
leper's garment is thrown bade and he
appears in a coat of silver mail, shining
in the sunlight.]
Denovalin. Tristram of Lyonesse!


Stb. Leper (pulling his cloth from his head).

Dost recognize
Him by the stroke * God help me now !
[He leaps down from the wall. The stage
remains for a time empty. The organ
sounds; the gates are opened and tivo
guards stand on either side of the steps.
The church is gradually emptied.]

Scene VI

A Soldier (in subdued tones). What? Dost

Thou weep, Forzin?
2d Soldier. I'm not ashamed! There's none

But weeps, save Mark alone ! The very stones

Must weep!
1st Soldier. It makes me shudder when I think

Of it.
2d Soldier. Come, come, let's all go home.

A Girl. Oh hark !

Methought I heard one moan!
2d Girl. Oh God! Behold!

Here lies the Queen!
3d Girl. They've murdered her!

1st Soldier (running to the spot). The Queen!

2d Soldier. My God !
1st Soldier. The King doth call !

A Man. She lives no more.

3d Girl. Here lies another!
1st Soldier (running up). Lord Denovalin!

Stone dead!
A Voice. Who? Where?

2d Soldier. He bleeds and does not move !

Paranis ( rushes up and throws himself down h eside Iseult ) .

Oh God! My queen!
1st Soldier (pulling him away). Stand back there, boy!

2d Soldier.


A Girl.

A Knight.

A Boy.

2d Boy.

A Man.


Paranis. Oh let

Me kneel beside the Queen! — I always did!
Oh, Queen Iseult, how pale thou art! — But,

She breathes!

The Queen still breathes!

She is not dead!
Go call it out within that all may come,
She is not dead !

Why shout ye so?

The lepers would not have Iseult!

It round about!

Be still, here comes the King!
Make room!

[Mark comes down the steps and stops on
the last one, motionless and staring.}
1st Soldier. King Mark, here lies the Queen Iseult.

She breathes, but shows no signs of life.
2d Soldier. And here

Lies Lord Denovalin. He's dead, King Mark.
[Mark leans against a column to support
himself and stares down upon the scene.
The croivd groups itself and throngs the
door of the church behind him.]
Gimella. What's this?

A Boy. The lepers would not have Iseult.

A Girl (to Gimella).

Here lies the Queen!
A Man. Untouched and pure!

A Woman. A great.

And wondrous thing ! — A judgment from the
Gimella. No one has touched her, see!
A Voice. Is she asleep?

A Man. See, one has wrapped her in a cloak !



Shepherd (calling aloud). The cloak

Shall hang within the church !
A GiRi,. Brangaene, come!

She's smiling through her tears.
Brangaene {bending over Iseult — softly).

Oh dear Iseult !
Beloved one !
GiMELLA. She bic;athes as feverishly

And deep as does a sick and suffering child
At midnight in its sleep!
1st Soldier. I'll to the gate

And ask the guards if they have seen some

Or token how this miracle occur 'd!
Mark {cries angrily).

I'll crucify the man who asks!

[All heads turn then in his direction and a
terrified expression comes over all coun-
tenances. Mark speaks harshly and

Of Lidan? Is he here?

Lord Dinas left
The castle gate today at dawn, my Lord.
Did Lord Denovalin receive his wound
In front, or from behind?

Here, at the throat.
The wound is small and deep, as though a

Of lightning struck him there between the

And gorget — sharp and swift.

Oh listen! See,
'Twas God that struck Denovalin, since he
Had falsely testified against the Queen!
Then let the executioner strip off
His arms, and hang them in my armory.

1st Guard.


1st Soldier.







So that the sun shall shine thereon. The

Shall he bind to a horse's tail, and drag
It o 'er the common land and let it rot !
Where lies the Queen!

Stand back there, for King Mark
Would see the Queen in her pale beauty!
[The crowd stands hack and a space is
cleared around Iseult. Mark looks down
upon her from above and speaks coldly
and slowly, controlling himself.']
Let Queen Iseult be carried on that cloak
Within the castle. Place her there upon
Soft pillows. Strew fresh flowers round about
Her bed, and moisten all her robes and clothes
With sweetest perfumes. Kneel ye down and

When she doth speak to you, for she must be
In some way sacred, since God loves her thus.

{Almost shouting.)
And if she should be found in Tristram's bed
I'll kill the man who tells me of it, ay,
And let his body rot upon the ground !
Now saddle me a horse that I may go
To seek Lord Dinas, my most loyal friend !


The High Vaulted Hall of the Castle. — In the middle of the hall on the
left opens a high, wooden staircase. In the background on the left,
bay-windows ; on the right, a broad, barred door. Through the grating
one sees the outer court. In the middle of the ivall on the right is a
wide fireplace on each side of which jut out low stone benches. In
front of the windows stands a table at which Dinas and Ganelun, the
First and Second Barons, are playing chess. In the foreground, a table
on which chess-boards stand prepared for play. The table by the
stone-bench stands on a dais which is shut off from behind by a



railing. On the dais and on the floor are carpets. Servants take wine-
flagons from a sidehoard which stands on the left beside the stairs, and
place them in front of the players. In front of the raised table Ugrin,
the King's Jester, is asleep. The oil-torches give only a dim light. For
a moment the players continue their game in silence.

ScEx'fE I

1st Baron.

Take heed unto thy queen, Lord Ganelun,
Unless thou willingly dost sacrifice
Her to my pawns, as Mark gave Queen Iseult
Unto his lepers!
Ganelun. Wait! for see, I move

My bishop back.
2d Baeon. Check ! Dinas, check and mate !

Thou mad'st it easy, friend. Thou never

Have sacrificed the knight, for thus my rook
Escaped, attacking thee.
DiNAS. Forgive ; my thoughts

Were troubled, ay, and wandered from the
[Two knights come in from the courtyard.]
1st Knight. I cannot make one ray of sense from all

These strange occurrences, my Lords ! I greet
Thee, Ganelun!

[Shakes hands with the Barons.]
2d Knight {shaking hands).

At chess ! At chess my Lords !
Your blood must run full slowly in your veins !

[Comes forward.]
Ganelun. King Mark has bid us play, and order 'd wine
For us to drink, since otherwise 'twould be
A dull and sombre evening here tonight
Within the castle hall, for Queen Iseult,
I ween, will stay in her retirement.
1st Knight. King Mark bade us come hither too.




2d Baron.
2d Knight

1st Baeon.



2d Knight

1st Baron
2d Baron.

2d Knight

''Oh God!
Men ! Men ! Bring lights and let me see the

Of human beings 'round about ! " So cried
My cousin Mark not half an hour agone,
As one on whom the mirth of loneliness
Falls all too heavily!

What think ye, Lords,
Of this most wondrous thing?

And do ye know
That Kaad, King Mark's old stable groom,

St. George leap from the battlement where

And rock drop off an hundred fathom sheer?
[The Barons stand up and crowd about him.~]
St. George!

What's that thou say'st?

Dost thou know more?
, I know but what old Kaad himself recounts;
That, as he led Mark's charger down to drink.
There suddenly appeared before his eyes
The lofty shape of good St. George, erect,
Upon the wall !
{crossing himself). God save my soul!

And then?
What happened then?

Kaad thought at first
He was some mortal man and cried to him
To heed; but in that selfsame moment leapt
The holy knight, and cleared the wall, and fell
The hundred fathoms. But when Kaad ran up,
With all the speed he might unto the spot,
St. George had vanished and had left no trace.

1st Baron.
2d Baron.
Din AS.

No trace?

'Tis strange!

A wondrous thing !



2d Knight.

1st Knight


Ganelun. But say,

By what did Kaad first recognize the saint 1
2d Knight. I know not, but he says 'twas he ; and all
The peop^*^, are rejoicing at this new
And wondrous miracle of good St. George.
1st Knight. What says King Mark about this miracle,
This saving of the Queen by God Himself?
Hast seen him, Dinas?
DiNAS {returning to the table). Ay, his heart and mind

Are heavy and his soul distressed.

And Queen

What said the King of her?

The King
Refused to see her, or to speak with her.
Since neither dares to speak of this foul deed
Which has occurred; its memory still throbs.
And tingling flows throughout their blood.

And yet
He sent the Queen, and without message too.
The head that pledged a perjured oath today,
Upon a silver shield. And well he did.
My Lord Denovalin a victim fell
Unto a saintly and a holy hand.
But died ingloriously !

As he deserved
So died he. Sir.

[The Barons and Knights sit down again
at the table. King Mark, unnoticed by
the others, comes slowly down the steps,
and walks about. He is oppressed and
agitated. At length he stops, and, lean-
ing against the end post of the bannister,
listens to the conversation of the others.']
1st Knight. A leper has been stoned

Because he cried throughout Lubin that 'twas
The devil who had done the thing.

2d Baron.

2d Knight.






2d Baron

1st Baron

2d Baron.

1st Baron


Mark (his

Such le^ps
By God or devil can alone be done.
'Tis true, my Lords, no mortal man can spring
An hundred fathoms.

[Mark steps uy to the table and lays his
arm about Dinas' neck.]
Scene II

True, Lord Ganelun!
(springing up).
The King!

The King here! Pardon, sire!

I thank
You all, my Lords, that ye were not enraged
And angered at a weak old man, and came
Again to me. I would not willingly
Have spent this night alone.

Most cheerfully
We came. The Queen's miraculous escape
O'er joys us all.

There lack but three to make
The tale complete ; those three, my Lords, who

As sponsors of the bond.

They're coursing through
The gloomy forest paths and seek to catch
That which, since God hath spoken, cannot be
Therein. I've sent my riders to recall
Them here to me.

Give me thy hand. King Mark,
For I am glad that thou didst err !
voice is bitter and despairing) . I, too,

Am glad, for if this morning I appeared
A w reckless youth, a foolish boy who dared
In arrogant presumption to assert
Himself and to rebel against your word,
Forgive me. Passion is the heritage
Of man; his deeds the natural consequence



Of passion. Think ye not the same ? And see,
How God, now for the second time, has

And sternly proved the truth! Is it, per-
His will that I should learn unseeingly,
Unquestioningly to revere His stars
On which our actions here on earth depend?
What think ye, sirs ? for so it seems to me ;
And therefore hath He hid from me that which
Most eagerly I wish to know, so that
Before this veiled uncertainty, my blood
Ean riot in my veins. But Trom this day
I'll change my mode of life; I will regard
My blindness and His unavoidable
Decree ; for wisdom lies in piety.
As says an ancient proverb ; hence I will,
From this day on, learn piety that I
Become a very sage for wisdom.

[Goes away.]

Ugbin (calling to Mark). Ay, cousin, make thyself a monk !

Mark {turning back).

And I will learn to laugh at God that He
Should give Himself such trouble for a man
Like me — poor fool! Enough! Forgive my

In friendly wise, as I will overlook
Your sins with all my heart. But, if a man
Grown lately wise may counsel you, sin not;
Your work is the beginning, God's the end.

Ugrin (calling out to him).

Mark. I've broken in upon your game

My friends, and chattered on. Forgive it me ;

A Knight.


Resume your play and cups ; drink on, I pray.

[He goes over to Ugrin.]
Thy jokes are empty of all wit today,

Ugrin. My wit has fallen off, say'st thou?

Decay of time, believe me Mark; for wdt
Is wine, and wine is poured into a cup
Of sparkling gold, and not into a crack 'd
Old jug, and thou, illustrious cousin, art
Become a broken pot since noon today!

[Hands him his jester's sceptre.']
Here, hit thyself! Behold the ring is gone!
My wit's too precious for a ringless cup.
At Easter tide I'll seek me out as lord
Some jovial soul who loves his wine; who

Wild pranks, and gives his wife away when he
Is tired of her!

Mark (sitting down on the stone bench).

Friend Ugrin, I warn
Thee, heed thy tongue!

Ugrin. Ay, cousin! Ay, 'twere best

Since thou'st forsworn all quarreling!

Mark. I wish

That I might put thee on the rack and have
Thee whipped before I go to rest ! Instead
I'll give thee two broad marks of gold if thou
Can'st move Iseult to laughter; and I'll give
Besides the gold a brand-new cloak to wear
In winter time !

Ugrin. Well lined?

Mark {takes him hy both ears). I've set my heart

Upon it that Iseult shall laugh, so do
Thy best, my friend !

Ugrin {stands up). With some well-chosen words,

Perhaps, I briefly might describe to her
The leper 's throng ! A¥liat say 'st thou, cousin ?



Mark. Fool !

Ugrin. Or I might ask her what it's like when one's

Own husband, from unfeeling jealousy,
Ordains one to be burnt ; or yet again
I might, with due solemnity, implore
Her to be kind — to love thee once again,
Good cousin ! Surely she must laugh at that !

Mark. Peace, fool! Thou weariest me.

Ugrin. If thou intend

To grow thy beard in this new way I'll turn
Thy barber ! I shall serve thee better then
Than now as fool 1 What say'st to this?

Mark. Oh fool.

If only thou wast not a fool!

Ugrin {noticing Iseult at the head of the stairs). No fool
So great as thou thyself ! Behold her now,
The woman whom thou gav 'st away I Oh fie !
Fool cousin, art thou not ashamed?

{Sinks to his knees and calls out.)

The Queen
Approaches ! Queen Iseult !

Scene III

The Knights and Barons rise; Mark springs up and steps back a pace.
ISEUi/r remains standing on the bottom step. Brangaene, GimeJjLA and
Paranis are behind her.



I beg of you.
My Lords, consider what is past as 'twere
A dream, since otherwise we could not find
Fit words or proper sentiments to stand
Before each other with unblushing cheek,
For very shame and horror at this deed.

[She steps down into the hall.]
My Lords, I bid you welcome, one and all !
I kiss thy mantle 's hem, oh Queen !


1st Baron. So do

We all who stand before thee now. We feel
That thou art holy, Queen Iseult!
IsEULT. Ye do

Me wrong in praising me too much, good

I did but swear the truth and keep what I
Had sworn. Continue now your play. I

Not hinder you!

[She turns to Mark; both stare at each
other for a moment and then Iseult
speaks timidly, almost childishly.']

I wish to play at chess
— With Mark and Dinas — that true, loyal
friend —
Mark {after a short pause, quietly and kindly).

Play thou with Dinas first, since I, this morn,
Did interrupt thy game. I promised him
That he should jjlay with thee.

[He goes to the chest.]
{Breaking out.)

I'll choose Ugrin
As my opponent ! Come, Sir Fool, and play
With me! [Sits down on the chest.]

Iseult. So be it, Mark. Friend Dinas, come;

And thou Gimella play with Ganelun.

{To Brangaene.)
Stand thou beside me here and help me worst
Mine adversary. Come.

[She seats herself with Dinas at the raised
table. Brangaene stands beside the table
and leans over the bannister. Paranis
seats himself at Iseult 's feet. Gimella
takes her place at the other table. The
Strange Jester slinks across the court

Vol. XX— 30



and presses his pale, beardless face,
drawn with suffering, against the bars
of the grating. His head is shaved and
his clothes are torn and ragged.]
Ugrin. Laugh at me, Queen.

IsEULT. Tell me, Ugrin, why should I laugh at thee ?

Ugkin. I beg thee laugh; most fondly I implore

Thee laugh at me, Iseult. My cousin here
Hath promised me much gold if I can make
Thee laugh :it me but once — I want that gold
So much ! — Come, laugh at me, Iseult !
Iseult. First earn

Thy gold, good fool. Be off and let us play.
Ugrin" {kneels down by Maek beside the chest).

Thy wife's not in her sweetest mood today,
Good cousin. Know'st thou why perhaps?
Mark. A truce

To thy dull jokes ! Come, play the game. Sir
Knave !
Iseult. I'll take thy castle, Dinas! Heed thy game.

Ugrin (humming).

Oh once there was a mighty King,

Who had a lady fair.
This King did love his beauteous dame
As though his wife she were —
Iseult. Thy castle falls —


I hardly see the squares!
They sway and rock like billows on the sea.
Dinas. Why weepest thou?

Iseult. I am not happy, friend.

Paranis (softly).

Oh God ! — There, see ! Through yonder win-
dow 's bars
There peers a man.
Dinas. Where, boy?


Paeanis. There ! There !

Str. Jester {calling through the grating). Holla!

King Mark! Holla!
DiNAS. What's that!

Mark (rising). Who storms outside

My door? Such noises in the night I will

Not brook ! Who 's there ?

[Ugrin runs to the grating.}
Str. Jester. A jester, King; a poor

And witless fool. Let me come in ! I'll crack

New jokes to make thee laugh! — Let me
come in.
Ugrin. a fool !

GiMELLA. How came he here?

Brangaene. He startled me!

Iseult. Indeed we weary of Ugrin's stale jests.

Str. Jester. I'm a poor jester that would come to thee,

So let me in. King Mark.
Mark (going to the grating). The fools, it seems,

Smell out my door as carrion-vultures smell

A corpse.
Ugrin. Cousin; let him be driven out!

I beg thee, have him whipped.
1st Guard (from without). I've caught thee, rogue!

Mark. How came this strange fool past the gates,


Wast thou asleep?
1st Guard. King Mark, this man has slunk

About the gate since it grew dark. He says

He wants to see thee. Many times have we

Already driven him away, but still

He sticks like pitch about the gate.
Str. Jester. I am

A jester from a foreign land — I wish

To come to thee. King Mark!
1st Guard. Behold the fool!

He cries like that unceasingly.


Mark. Speak, fool,

What need hast thoii. of me ?
Str. Jester. Mark, let me in!

I'll make such jests that thou, and all thy lords

And ladies die from laughing at my wit.
GiMELLA (laughing).

The merry jests!
IsEULT. This wandering knave intrudes

Too boldly!
Ugrin. Rogue! Oh shameless one. I'll give

Thee such a drubbing as thou ne'er hast felt.
Mark. Know'st thou, in tnith, new jests.

Str. Jester. Ay, Mark, new jests

To make thee laugh or weep. Ay, merry jests !

Scene IV

Mark opens the grating and lets the Strange Jester in. The Jester ad-
vances a few feet on the right, and stops to stare at Iseult. Ugrin
walks about him, examining him.

Mark. Then come, thou jail-bird. Hark, Gilain, let

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