Tristan returned to his quarters. Gathering all his men, he proceeded together with them as soon as he could to the harbor. He went on board the first ship he found there ready to sail bound, it happened, for Normandie, together with his followers. He spent but little time there, for he knew that what he needed was to find a life somewhere that could provide him with surcease and a measure of comfort in his sorrow. Now consider this turn of events: Tristan fled from toil and suffering into suffering and toil. He fled from death and from Marke only into mortal peril which would bring death to his heart by separation from Isolt. Did it help to flee that death only to fall prey to this one? Did it help to escape the torments of Curnewal only to struggle with the load of his own, night and day? He saved his life for a woman, a life with a fatal flaw because of that woman. The only living thing destroying his life and body was his one viable life, Isolt, which left him facing death and death. Thus the idea dawned on him that to make such a burden bearable anywhere on earth such that he might survive, it must be done by feats of arms. There was much news in the land that a great war had broken out in the land of Almanje. When Tristan learned of this, he made his way through Schampanje and thence to Almanje, his goal. He rendered service in that land to the crown and the scepter. 18450 Never had the Roman Empire known a man to bear its colors through such legendary feats of martial accomplishment. In this way he attained great success and fulfillment in manly endeavors, which I won't try to retell. So much has been written about his exploits and deeds, that to rehearse them all in detail would make too marvelous a story. The fables in those accounts I can toss to the winds and still have my hands full with telling nothing but the truth. Tristan's double life and death, his living death, blonde Isolt, had her own anxieties. Only the fact that he lived saved her heart from breaking on that day she had to watch Tristan sail away to sea. That he lived kept her alive. She had no choice of living or of dying apart from him. Death and life had infected her— she could neither die nor live. The radiance of her bright eyes denied itself in eclipse often and at many times. The tongue in her mouth repeatedly fell silent. There was for her no death, no life, and yet both were always there. But in the presence of such pain each had lost all its power, so that she could choose neither. When she saw the sails unfurled, her heart spoke to itself— "alas, alas, my own Sir Tristan, my heart clings firmly to you, my eyes try to follow after as you fly from me so quickly— why do you make such great haste? I know, oh, yes, well do I know that you leave behind your life when you escape from Isolt, for your life—that am I! Apart from me, not a day 18500 have you any chance to live, no more have I without you. Our beings and our lives are so woven together, so thoroughly knotted, that you take my life with you, leaving yours behind with me. Never yet were two lives so intermingled with each other. The two of us bear in common death and life for us both. Neither of us enjoys the right to die or to survive alone without consent of the other. Therefore, desolate Isolt is not alive nor truly dead. I can go neither way. Now, My Lord, Sir Tristan, since you are and remain one being and one life with me, it is you who must teach me how to preserve life and being, first for you, then for myself. Instruct me then! Why this silence? We have sore need of good counsel. Ah, Isolt, what foolish prattle— Tristan's tongue and my senses sail away together there. Isolt's life, Isolt's being have been entrusted to no more that thin sails and the wind. Now where shall I find myself? Where must I search? Where? Here I am , and I am there, and yet I'm neither there nor here. Who was ever more perplexed or torn apart, than am I? I see myself there on the water while I stand here on dry land. There I sail away with Tristan, sitting here the while with Marke. And may both death and life contest bitterly within me, on that field they strive in vain. Gladly would I die. And yet, it is he who prevents me, in whom my life is preserved. Nor do I, in this extremity, know how to live for him or me, since I must live without him. 18550 He leaves me here and off he goes, knowing well that without him I am dead within my heart. God knows, I needn't talk like that— my distress is shared, I don't bear it all alone. It is his as much as mine. Indeed, he has the greater share. His pain and misery are heavier than are mine. This farewell that he has taken weighs much on my mind, but still more heavily on his. If it pains me to the heart that I so miss him here, it must pain him more than me. I lament his absence—so does he mine, but he has less right to do so. I say I can award myself the right to sorrow and lament Tristan's departure from me, for my life depends on him, while his death depends on me. Therefore he has no complaint. I am glad to let him go, preserving his honor and being, for were he to remain with me, he could not survive for long. Therefore I must do without him. No matter that I'm deeply hurt— he shall not, for my sake, have to put himself in peril. Whatever pain his absence costs me, I must still prefer by far that he be safe without me, rather than to have him here, all the while in anxiety that he must surely suffer harm. For God knows, whoever tries to save himself by his friend's downfall bears that friend but little love. Whatever harm I suffer for him, I will be Tristan's lover without causing him harm. I can bear eternal sadness as long as his affairs prosper. Gladly will I compel myself in everything I undertake to give up myself and him that he may live for himself and me."
Next Episode Index of Episodes