Abducted



And then, at this time in his life, 
a new adventure came to pass. 	      		2150
Across the sea from Norwegen came 
a single trading ship, just one, 
to the country of Parmenie, 
and having made its landfall there 
came to port at Canoel,
before that very castle 
where the marshal stayed 
and saw to his business 
with the young lord Tristan.
No sooner had these foreign traders
laid their wares out for inspection 
than everyone at court was hearing 
all about what was for sale. 
One enticement there 
would be to Tristan's ill:
on sale were many falcons 
and other birds used in sport.
So much talk was heard of these 
that two other of the marshal's sons 
(for such things boys are always eager)
first agreed among themselves 
to make common cause with Tristan,
their foster brother, and go 
together to their father 
and ask him earnestly 
to send them to buy 
the falcons for Tristan.
The noble Rual did so,
nor could he have denied them 
anything they would have done
if it was to be for Tristan,
the boy he favored so 
and tried more to please 
than any other person, 
be it relative or landsman.
He was not more diligent 
even toward his own children.
In this he showed to all the world 
his unreserved faithfulness,
his inborn sense of honor and worth. 

At once he rose and made ready, 
taking Tristan by the hand 
like any true father,
and attended by his other sons 
and many of his retinue,
he went down to the boat.
Some went on business, some for fun,
and whatever anyone might fancy 
or happen to have a liking for, 
he would find it there for sale. 		2200
Jewelry, silk, elegant dress,
all was there in rich supply,
also the finest hunting birds, 
many a swift peregrine,
sparrow hawks and merlins,
goshawks fully fledged
and young as yet in rufous plumage—
several specimens of each 
were offered there in rich selection.
Servants were sent to buy for Tristan 
the merlins and the larger falcons.
Also for his foster brothers 
purchases were made, because 
he wished it so.  All three 
received what each desired. 

Now when each one had been given
the things that he had wanted
and the time had come to leave,
it came to pass, just by chance, 
that in the boat Tristan's eye
fell upon a chess set, 
well and ornately made, 
the squares precisely framed,
a fine piece of workmanship.
The nearby set of chessmen
were carved of pure ivory,
masterfully engraved.
Tristan the many-skilled 
regarded it long and carefully.
"Ah," he exclaimed, "noble merchants,
may God reward you, tell me now, 
do you know the game of chess?"
This he said in their own tongue.
They looked at the boy now 
with much closer attention
when he began to speak their language
which hardly another there could do.
And then they started to consider 
everything else about him too,
and when they did, it seemed that never 
had they seen so fine a youth
with such well-polished manners. 
"Oh, yes, my friend," said one of them,
"there are not a few of us
who can do it.  If you wish,
we can have a little game. 
Come on, young sir, I'll take you on!"
"Indeed, so be it," Tristan said.
And so the two sat down to play.
The marshal interrupted. "Tristan,		2250
I'm returning to the castle. 
Stay here, if you wish, and play. 
The other boys are going with me. 
I'll leave you here in the care 
of your tutor, who will stay." 

Thereupon the marshal left,
and all his people with him,
leaving Tristan alone 
with his schoolmaster,
of whom, as I can truly tell you, 
and the story lets us know,
that never was any squire 
better ennobled by courtliness 
or of nobler heart by nature.
Curvenal was his name.
He had mastered many a skill,
befitting him to be the teacher 
of him, who following his guidance 
learned also many a skillful thing. 
This young master of many skills,
Tristan, the model of education,
sat absorbed in his play,
and played so well and elegantly
that all the foreign traders 
again regarded him intently
and said to themselves 
that never had they seen a youth 
who did so many things so well.
But what he was doing at the moment 
while making his moves in the game 
seemed slight to them in comparison 
to how it was that a mere child 
knew so many languages—
they poured out of his mouth 
such as they never had heard 
in any place they had been. 
This courtliest of courtiers 
let fall now and then 
remarks of general courtly knowledge 
and foreign terminology--
so many and all pronounced correctly—
as a running ornament to his play. 
Also, he could sing—
chansons and melodies, 
refloites and estampies.
These arts of courtliness
he kept up in such profusion
that soon the merchants and the traders
were taking counsel privately.
If, without his noticing,			2300
they could manage to abduct him,
surely they could ransom him
for great profit and acclaim.
And so without delay
they commanded their rowers
to be ready at the oars,
and themselves quietly weighed anchor 
without attracting undue attention.
They pushed off and made way
so casually, that neither Tristan
nor Curvenal took any notice
until they had put a good mile
between themselves and their landing.
So intent had the two of them 
been upon their game
that they thought of nothing else 
but how it was going. 

As they finished now, 
and Tristan found himself the winner,
suddenly he looked around
and realized what was happening.
You've never seen a mother's son
so upset as he was then.
He sprang up and confronted them. 
"Ah," he cried, "noble merchants,
what, in God's name, are you doing? 
Where, I ask, are you taking me?"
"See here, my friend," said one of them,
"there's no help for it now, 
I think you'll have to go with us.
Just behave, and take it easy."
Then poor Tristan started to weep, 
raising such an anxious clamor 
that his companion Curvenal
also began to cry 
and make such commotion
that the ship's entire crew,
because of the two of them,
was much disturbed and quite unhappy. 
So they took Curvenal 
and put him in a small skiff
along with minimum provisions, 
an oar and a few crusts of bread
to stave off hunger on his voyage,
and told him to lay a course 
for any port he pleased,
but Tristan would have to stay with them.
With this farewell they sailed away 
and left him there adrift
alone with his own troubles.	    		2350
Curvenal drifted on the sea. 
Many regrets filled his mind: 
regret for the affliction of distress 
that he had watched poor Tristan suffer;
regret of his own real peril,
the threat of approaching death,
for he couldn't sail or row,
skills he hadn't learned;
and he said to himself in deep depression,
"God in heaven, what shall I do?
Never was I in such trouble.
Here I am, all alone--
sail or row? I donít know how!
Dear God, I pray, preserve me now,
be always with me on my way!
I throw myself upon your mercy, 
as I have failed to do before—
guide me out of this!"
With this he laid to at the oar,
and calling God to help, he paddled. 
 
It didn't take him long 
(for God had so provided) 
to get back home and tell the tale 
of how it all had happened. 
The marshal with his excellent wife
were struck to the very core of their beings
with such extreme distress
that had their foster son lain dead, 
the pain they would have felt 
could have gone no deeper.
The two went together 
in common suffering 
with all their followers
to weep at the ocean shore 
for the child that they had lost.
Many a tongue prayed faithfully 
for God to help him then. 
Many a cry of grief was heard,
some for this, some for that—
and as darkness began to fall,
so that soon they must depart,
the sound of their subdued laments 
swelled into a single voice,
and that with but a single theme:
here they called, there they cried,
never varying the supplication: 
"beas Tristant, curtois Tristant,
tun cors, ta vie a de commant! 
Thy handsome body and living soul 
commend we into God's control!"             2400
In the meantime, far at sea, 
the Norwaegan traders sailed on,
thinking to themselves the while 
how successful they had been 
and looking forward to their profits.
But he made vain their plans 
who regulates all things,
correcting the irregular,
before whom forces of wind and sea 
tremble in obedience.	
By his will and his commandment
there arose so dangerous
and powerful a storm at sea
that by no efforts of the crew
could they make headway against it,
and were forced to let the ship be driven
wherever the vicious winds would take it,
and they themselves gave up all hope 
of coming through it with their lives—
they had surrendered, one and all,
to that capricious directing might:
chance, the engine of adventure.
They left it up to destiny 
as to whether they survived or not,
for now they could do nothing more 
than ride the wildness of the sea,
first rising up to heaven, 
then sinking down again 
as though into the abyss.
The raging torrent bore them
one moment up, the next down,
in one direction, and then the other.
Not a man on board 
was able to stand upright 
even for a moment.

Their lives continued in this state 
for perhaps eight days and eight nights,
until their strength was entirely gone 
and they were left nearly senseless. 
One of them at last spoke up:
"Fellows, shipmates, so help me God,
I think it must be God's command 
that we now fear for our lives—
we're scarcely able to keep afloat 
in the midst of these raging waves,
and that's because of our sins 
and because of our treachery 
in kidnapping this boy Tristan 
and taking him from his friends."
"You"re right," they all agreed,	      2450
"that must be the cause of it."
And so together they formed a plan.
If the weather moderated 
and the sea and winds subsided 
enough for them to land, 
they would gladly release him 
and let him go wherever he wished.
No sooner had they thought of this 
and all of them were in agreement
than the stress and labors of their voyage 
at once were greatly lessened.
The winds and high seas
began to slacken and abate,
the heavy swells became more gentle, 
the sun came out, as bright as ever. 
Seeing this, they lost no time;
within those eight days of storm 
the winds and sea had driven them
far to the land of Curnewal,
where now they found themselves
already so close to shore 
that it was plainly visible,
and so they headed for the beach.
At once they laid hold of Tristan
and put him off the boat, on shore,
giving him a little bread 
and a few other things to eat.
"God save and keep you, friend," they said,
"We leave your life now in his hands."
Having thus given him their blessing,
they lost no time in sailing away.

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