When the ships approached Curnewal within so close a distance that the coast was clearly seen, all on board rejoiced greatly— all, that is, with exception of Tristan and Isolt. It brought them only anxiety, and had they been able to choose, they never would have made landfall. Their fears about their own honor began to weigh on their hearts. They could devise no plan at all for what they should do or how the problem of Isolt's maidenhood should be concealed from the king. Yet however inexperienced childlike lovers may be in the childhood of their love, a solution did dawn on the child. imple children, too, may play at love, in their childish way. And then indeed they may display wit and cunning to find their way. et me come right to the point. Isolt in her youthfulness hit upon a subtle trick, the best she could on short notice. All they had to do, she said, was to persuade Brangaene that she should spend the bridal night alongside Marke, their lord, to give him her companionship, but being careful to keep silent. Hardly could he be better cheated, since she was lovely and intact. So it is that passion teaches otherwise honorable minds how to practice deception, which on their own ought not know 12450 what's required for stratagems so false as this one. The lovers went into action. They prevailed upon Brangaene after much and long persuasion, bringing her to the point at last of promising faithfully to go through with it as they wished, although most unwillingly. More than once she blushed hotly or paled at such an obligation, which indeed tried her severely, so strange a subterfuge did it seem. "Sweet lady," said Brangaene, "your mother, my mistress, our own blessed queen, commended you into my care. I myself should have kept you from this trouble on our way and on this accursed voyage. Now you have sorrow and dishonor because of my negligence. I have little right to complain if I must bear this scandal with you— it would indeed be only just for me to bear it alone, if you might thus escape it. Merciful Lord in heaven, how hast Thou so forgotten me!" Isolt, puzzled, asked her, "proud cousin, tell me, what is it that so troubles you? What are you so upset about?" "Lady, several days ago I threw a bottle off this ship—" —"Well, what's so dreadful about that?" "Ah," she cried, "that was the glass— it had that drink in it— that's the death of you both!" "How so, cousin?" said Isolt, "what on earth—?" —"All right, I'll tell you," and Brangaene told them everything, starting from the beginning. "God save us," Tristan exclaimed, "whether it be life or death, that was a most soothing drink. I know not how that death may be— this one surely is a pleasure. If my death is to be always Isolt, my delight, 12500 gladly will I look forward to dying in eternity." eave all the talk aside. If we with love abide, we cannot leave aside how sorrow must abide. oothing indeed love may be, but still, with all its pleasures, we must not forget honor. whoever stubbornly pursues only delights of the flesh may say farewell to good repute. Well as the life Tristan lived may have pleased him at the time, his sense of honor still restrained him. Loyalty overrode all else— to adhere to its requirements, he must bring Marke a wife. Two laws, faith and honor, afflicted him sorely in heart and in mind. Those laws, having already lost the fight to Passion, when he chose love over them, came back from their defeat, driving Passion from the field.
Tristan sent out two launches, carrying messengers to the harbor to bring Marke the news of how they had succeeded with the beauty of Irlant. Marke spread the word at once, sending whomever he could find, a thousand messengers everywhere, to summon the nation's knighthood. A powerful host was there to welcome both returnees and new guests. In receiving these two parties, the finest and most fateful with whom he would spend his life, he gave them such a welcome as might be expected of a man getting what he valued most. Marke at once instructed the returning council of barons to present themselves again at court within the next eighteen days all prepared suitably to attend his marriage. Complying with these commands, 12550 they appeared in all their finery, as did a splendid company of knights and highborn ladies all eager to be delighted at the sight of brilliant Isolt. Indeed they were compelled to stare at her and marvel, and from all was heard one cry: "Isot, Isot la blunde marveil de tu le munde— Isolt, the one and only, a marvel, the whole world over! Everything that people say about this blessed girl is true. She pours delight upon the world just as does the shining sun. Never did any realm possess a maid so beautiful." She was formally betrothed and her rights ratified, that both Curnewal and Engelant were given into her hand, but that Tristan should succeed if she bore no heir. Thereupon she was acclaimed.
For that night, when she would go to sleep with her lord Marke, she, Brangaene, and Tristan had made every effort well in advance to plan the time and occasion as carefully as possible for every eventuality. Now, just the four of them were present in Marke's chamber, the three along with the king. Marke retired to his bed. Brangaene quickly dressed in the queen's raiment, she and Isolt having assumed each other's usual costume. Tristan led Brangaene to an anxious martyrdom, while Lady Isolt put out the lamp.
Marke clasped Brangaene to him. How she liked the first part of this encounter, I don't know. She submitted so compliantly that there was no sound at all. Whatever bid her partner made, 12600 she followed suit and repaid all that he demanded of her both with brass and with gold, in full value as he required. I am sure of this, at least, that rarely since this transaction has brass of such quality been used to pay a bride-price that was due in gold. I would bet my life on this, that since the days of Adam so fine a fake has not been coined nor so valuable a counterfeit put to bed with any man.
As long as king and maid lay indulging in their bed games, Isolt suffered all the while the greatest anxiety. She kept thinking to herself, "dear God, now preserve me, all I ask is that my cousin be true to me in there— if she keeps up the bed-play too long and too thoroughly, I fear she may so enjoy it that daylight will catch them, and then every one of us will be common laughingstock." But no, she played her role fairly and with thoughtfulness. Once she had done for Isolt all that she should have, she got up and left the room, having paid the price demanded. Isolt at once took her place, sitting down beside the bed, as though the same person. The king called for the wine, following the usual custom that was practiced at that time and generally observed— when a man lay with a maiden and had taken her maidenhood, a celebrant would bring wine and have both drink of it as though the two were one. They performed this custom there. Tristan, the nephew, brought at once both the wine and a lamp. The king drank, then the queen. 12650
There are, of course, many tales that say this was the draught that cast Tristan and Isolt into their hearts' agony. No, no, that drink was gone— Brangaene threw it overboard. They had conformed to the rite, both having drunk, as was the custom, and now young Queen Isolt lay down apprehensively, with many an unspoken pang in both mind and heart beside the king, her lord. He at once resumed his pleasures. He pressed her close to his body— to him a woman was a woman, and very soon he found this one to be very well favored. They were all alike to him. In any of them he found both gold and brass. She too paid him his price, just then and just there, and he never knew the difference.
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