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

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Brangaene. I seek the ring ;

The ring that Queen Iseult let fall last night.
Str. Jester. The ring is mine; I picked it up!
Brangaene {angrily). Iseult

Desires the ring!
Str. Jester. I will not give it up !

Brangaene. The Queen will have thee hung unless thou
give
The ring to her. She wants the ring !



488 THE GERMAN CLASSICS

Stk. Jester. Iseult

Received the ring; she cast my gift away,
As she threw me aw^ay. I'll keep it now.
But if she wishes it so earnestly
Let her then come and beg the ring of me.

Brangaene. Audacious knave! How vauntest thou
thyself !
Give me the ring, and then begone, thou fool,
Ere Mark awake!

Str. Jester. To Queen Iseult herself

I'll give the ring, and to none else. She shall
Not let me die in misery as she
Desires God may help her in her grief !

Brangaene {going up the stairs).

Thou fool, may God's damnation strike thee

dead.
Thou and Lord Tristram for the night that's

passed!
I'll bring thy words into the Queen that she
May have thee slain in secret by Gwain!

Scene II

Brangaenk disappears above; the Strange Jester cowers motionless, his
head buried in his hands. After a moment Iseult, in a white night robe,
comes down the stairs with Brangaene. She steps close in front of the
■Jester, who does not move. Brangaene remains on the loivest step,
leaning against the post of the bannister.

Iseult. Thou gruesome fool, art thou some bird of

prey.
Some wolf that comes to feed upon my soul?
Wilt thou not go? Why liest thou in wait
For me here in the dawning light like some
Wild beast that waits its quarry?

Ste. Jester (looking up heavily). Queen Iseult!

Oh dearest, fairest, sweetest one !



TRISTRAM THE JESTER



489



IsEULT. How dar'st

Thou call me by such names! My boiling

blood
Turns cold and shudders ! Go !

Str. Jester (groaning softly). Where, lady, can

I find a sea whose endless depths are deep
Enough to drown my bitter misery?
Where? Tell me where, and I will go.

IsEULT. Go where

Thou wilt, so it be far away — so far
That the whole world shall sever thee and me,
And shall divide me from thy woe ! My soul
Bleeds like an unheal 'd wound when thou art

near.
As though thou wert its murderer, and lo,
'Twill bleed to death from thy propinquity,
Thou fool! Hence, go, but give me first the

ring
Thou stol'st last night and which in wanton

jest
Thou torest from the hand of yon dead Knight.
It is Lord Tristram's ring.

Ay, Queen Iseult,
The ring is his — above all other things
He values it!

Give me the ring, else shalt
Thou die! I'll have thee slain, I swear, as

sure
As I have suffered all this night such pangs
As suffered Mary at the cross of Christ.

Str. Jester {standing up).

The ring is mine! I gave it yonder man
To cherish like his life. — He's died for thee
And me ; — I gave him too my soul to guard
That by this ring he might compel and bring
Thee to me in the wood tonight. Oh, 'twas
An evil hour for us both, Iseult,



Str. Jester.



Iseult.



490



THE GERMAN CLASSICS



Stk. Jestee.



ISEULT.



That Lord Denovalin rode through the wood
Today. Now, answer me, Iseult, wilt thou
Still keep the oath thou sware to Tristram

once?
Iseult {fixedly).

I'll break no oath that I have sworn, for God
Has sanctioned all my vows.

Then call I thee,

Iseult the Goldenhaired, in Tristram's name.

And by this ring. [He hands her the ring.]

Knowst thou that oath as well.

Thou ghost!

(Solemnly.)
Oh God, here in this hand, grown pale
And hot from resting on my heart all night,
I hold the ring of gold and emerald stone
By which I sw^are to Tristram to obey
His will, and come to him when one should

call
Upon me by this ring and in his name !
Lo, thou hast called upon me ; I obey !
What wishest thou of me, thou evil ghost
With hollow sunken eyes ? What wouldst thou

have.
Thou spectre of the twilight gloom?

I call
On thee, Iseult, my love, in my distress !
Oh know^ me now, who was thy lover once!
Thou suck'st my blood!

Thy blood was mine! Thy blood
Was once mine own! It was a crimson trust
Eeposing in my knightly hands to keep
Irrevocablv until Death. And where
Thou goest there go I ; and where thou stayst
There stay I too. So spoke thy blood — I come
To claim but what is mine.



Str. Jester.



Iseult.
Str. Jester



TRISTRAM THE JESTER



491



IsEULT (in great passion). What have I done

To thee that thou recountest my past life
As 'twere a mocking song? Who art thou,

fool?
Who art thou? Speak? I'm knocking at thy

soul
As knocks a dead man's soul outside the gates
Of Paradise! Who art thou, fool? Art thou
Magician? Art thou ghost? Art thou some

soul
Forever wandering for some evil deed?
Art thou some faithless lover barred from

Heav'n
And Hell eternally, whose punishment
It is to wander restless through the world
Forever begging love from women's hearts?
Did God permit that thou shouldst know what

none,
Save only Tristram and myself have known?
That thou shouldst taste of bitter torment still
By thinking thou art Tristram and shouldst
thus

Make greater expiation for thy sins ?
Str. Jestee. I am a faithless lover who has loved
Most faithfully, Iseult, beloved one!
Why criest thou my name unceasingly,
As scream enhungered owls, thou pallid fool?
Why starest thou at me with eyes that tears
And pain have rendered pitiless ? I know
Naught of thy grief and am no leech to cure
Thy fool 's disease !

Iseult !

IsEULT {in growing agitation). Shall I shave off

My hair as thou hast done? Shall I too wear
A jester's parti-colored garb? Shall I
Go through the land, and howling in the

streets



Iseult.



Str. Jester.



492 THE GERMAN CLASSICS

Bawl out Lord Tristram's name to make the

throng
Of greasy knaves laugh ? Speak? Is this the

cure
Thou needest for thy grief? Does Tristram

mock
Me through thy ribald wit? Does he revenge
Himself upon me thus because I loved
Him long before he saw Iseult, the Fair
A^riiitehanded Queen, and gave my soul and

blood
To him? In scornful and in bitter words
Has he revealed our secret love to thee?
Has he betrayed me to his wife? Art thou
In league with her? Has her black spirit sent
Thee here to torture me by raising up
The phantom images of that past life
Which once I knew, but which is dead?

Confess !
And ! I will load thee down with precious gifts,
And daily pray for thee ! I'll line thy way
With servants and I '11 honor thee as though
Thou wert of royal blood where e 'er thou art !

[She falls on her knees.']
Release my soul, thou fool, before I turn
A fool from very horror and from dread !
Str. Jester {raising her).

Kneel not to me, Beloved One! Arise I
Iseult (remains a moment in his arms and then draws

aivay shuddering).
When Tristram called, the Heavens echoed

back
A golden peal, as echoes through the land
The music of a golden bell; the world rejoiced
And from its depths sprang up sweet sounds

of joy.



TRISTRAM THE JESTER 493

And with them danced my heart exultingly!
When Tristram stood beside me, all the air
Was wont to quiver with a secret bliss
That made the beasts move 'round uneasily.
The birds sang in the dead of night and so
Betrayed us ! Say, who broke the bond that

knit
Our kindred souls in one?

Str. Jester. Lord Tristram broke

The bond and, faithless, took another wife !
Oh see, Iseult, how great the wrong he did
Us both!

Iseult {looking at him fixedly).

I hear a raven's croak; I feel
The icy breath of some strange body when
Thou standest burning by my side, thou fool !
Thou pallid ghost !

Str. Jester. Yet hast thou oft embraced

These limbs upon the journey o'er the mde
And purple sea along the starry way
Of our great happiness — just thou and I,
Alone in blissful loneliness! And thou
Hast often listened to this voice when it.
In the deep forest, called the nightingales.
Alluring them to sing above thy head.
And like them whispered in thine ears
Soft words that made a wave of passion flow,
Sweet and voluptuous, through thy burning

veins !
Iseult, shall I repeat those words ? Wilt thou
Again go wandering through the world
With singing blood that makes our hearts beat

high
In perfect unison of love, with souls that

dream
In silent happiness?



494



THE GERMAN CLASSICS



ISEULT.



Ste. Jester.



ISEULT.



Str. Jester.



ISEULT.



Lord Tristram's steps
Beside me made my blood soar heavenward
And bore me up until the earth bowed down,
And bent beneath our feet like surging waves,
And carried us like lofty ships that sail
To victory !

Ay, Ay, Iseult, 'Twas so we walked!
Iseult, art thou still mindful of the day
Wlien, hawk on fist, we galloped o'er the

downs,
For Mark was with Lord Dinas on that day?
Dost thou remember how I lifted thee
From thy good steed and placed thee on mine

own,
And held thee close embraced, while thou

didst cling
To me like some fond child.

And Tristram, bold
In the intoxication of his love,
Let go the reins, and gave his horse the spurs,
Till, like an arrow in full flight, it clove
The golden air and bore us heavenward!
How often have I dreamed of that wild ride.
And now^ with Isot of the Fair White Hands
He rides, as formerly with me — !

And shall
I sing to thee, Iseult the Goldenhaired,
The lay of that A¥hite-handed mfe who sits
And grieves by day and night? It is the sad
And sombre song of my great guilt. Her eyes
Are red from weeping — !

Ay, and mine are red
From weeping too! Fool, Fool, why mock'st

thou mef
But since thou knowst so much of Tristram,

tell
Me this ; why did Lord Tristram marry her — ,
This Isot of the Fair White Hands?



TRISTRAM THE JESTER 495

Stb. Jester {sloicly and painfully). There plays

About her mouth a silver smile; this smile
Enchanted him one lonely night. But, when,
At cold gray dawn, he heard her called Iseult
He nigh went mad with sorrow and with joy
From thinking of the real Iseult — of her,
The Goldenhaired — the beautiful, about
Whose mouth there plays a golden smile.

Then, sick
At heart, and weary of this life, he wished
To die, until his sorrow drove him here,
To Cornw^all, once again to see his love
Before he died and, face to face stand once
Again with her ! — The rest thou knowest well.

Iseult {angrily).

Ay, fool, I know the rest, and I know too
That for these black and loathsome lies of

thine
There's one reward! — And that is death!

I'll put
An end to my great suffering! If thou
Art Tristram thou shalt live, and, in mine

arms,
That yearn for Tristram, thou shalt find a hot
And passionate forgetfulness of cool
And silver smiles thou fiedest from! If thou
Hast lied no longer shalt thou dream at night
Of golden and of silver smiles!
{To Brangaene.)

Go fetch
The key, Brangaene, of the upper cell!

Brangaene ( horrified ) .

Iseult, what wouldst thou do?

Iseult. Obey me, girl !

Now listen, spectre, to my words. There lives
Within these walls a hound who has become
A wild and raging beast from his great love



496 THE GERMAN CLASSICS

For Tristram, once his master. Fool, this dog
Is full as savage as a fierce white wolf
That lusts for human flesh ; his food is thrust
Into his cage on sticks. Since Tristram left,
The beast has slain three keepers. Fool, what

think 'st
Thou of this hound? Would he attack and

tear
Lord Tristram like a wolf should Tristram

chance
To step within his cage?
Str. Jester {rising, tall, determined, and noble).

Oh Queen Iseult — !
Oh Queen Iseult — ! Old Husdent ever was
My faithful hound — . Let me go to him now.
Iseult {starting hack).

Thou knowst his name — !
Str. Jester. Brangaene, lead the fool.

Obey thy mistress's command. Thou needst
Not lead me to the cage ! I know the way.
Give me the key!

[He snatches the hey from Brangaene 's
hand and disappears with long strides
behind the stairs. He is erect and proud.
The tivo women stand looking at each
other amazed and motionless.']

Scene III

Brangaene. Poor fool, I pity him!

Iseult {breaking out passionately).

He must not go ! My God, he must not ! Call
Him back, Brangaene, call him back!

The Voice of the Jester {joyfully). Husdent!

Brangaene. Oh, hark!

Iseult {in increasing fear).

His cry! His dying cry, perhaps!
Brangaene, dearest sister, what thinkst thou
Of this Strange Jester Tramtris?



TRISTRAM THE JESTER 497

[The ivomen stare at each other without

speaking.']

Wilt thou go

And look between the bars?

[Beangaene goes after the Strange Jester.]

Oh Thou who hast

Created this great world, why didst Thou then

Create me, tool

Brangaene {reentering in great excitement) .

Iseult! Oh God, Iseult!

Old Husdent's cage is empty, and the fool

With Husdent leapt the wall and they are

gone ! [She hastens to the window.]

Iseult. Has he then slain the dog and fled away?

Beangaene. Behold! There goes the fool, and Husdent

jumps

And dances round him as he walks and, mad

With joy, leaps howling up and licks his face

And hands!

Iseult (jumps 07i to the bench before the window and

ivaves her hand joyously).

Oh Tristram, Tristram, thou dear fool !

My dear beloved friend ! — He does not turn !

— Oh call! Oh call him back! — Run! Run!

Make haste

To follow him and bring him back ! He does

Not hear my voice!

Beangaene {shaking the bars of the gate).

The gate! my God, the gate!

The guards are still asleep!

Iseult. Oh God! I die!

Oh Tristram! Tristram! Tristram! See, he

turns

Not back ! God is unkind. He loves me not.

I'll bathe thy feet with tears and dry them then

With burning kisses! Tristram! Tramtris,

come !
Vol. XX— 32



498 THE GERMAN CLASSICS

Beloved fool, turn back ! He goes ! He 's gone !
See how the sun bhines on his jester's garb,
And makes his red cloak gleam ! How grand,

how tall
He is ! See ! Tristram goes back to the world
Forever now !

[She raises herself to her full height —
fixedly.]

My friend, Brangaene, my
Beloved friend was here!

[She sinks back into Bkangaene's arms.]




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