Now when Tristan's uncle Marke and his countrymen had heard that he was returning in new health, the king and all his people everywhere in the realm rejoiced with heartfelt gratitude. The king, much devoted to him, asked to hear of his adventures. Tristan related the whole story from beginning to end as accurately as he could. All who heard it marvelled, but soon exchanged their wonder for much laughter and mirth. They remarked with fond amusement how he had voyaged to Irlant where she who was his enemy had cared for him so tenderly, and at how he had flourished there among their foes. Never before had they heard of something so extraordinary. When his tale was finished and they had had their merriment about his voyage and healing, 8250 they began to quiz him seriously about the maiden Isolt.
"Isolt," he started, "she's a girl— what all the world takes as beauty pales to nothing, compared with her. The bright Isolt—now there's a child in manners and in bodily charm such that no girl nor child of woman so pleasing or so elegant has ever yet or will be born. Isolt, pure and brilliant, shines brighter than Arabian gold. All the things I imagined when I read in books written only to praise Aurora's daughter and her child, the far-famed Tyndarean, how in that woman alone the beauty of all women was brought together in that one flower— by that I am deceived no longer. Isolt has cured me of that error, and never again shall I suppose that the sun rises from Mycenae. Perfect beauty dawned not in Greece— it is here that it shines. Now all thoughts and all men have but to look toward Irlant. There let their eyes find delight— let them see the new sun following the rosy dawn, Isolt the maid, Isolt her mother, shining into every heart from Develin's horizon! A light so delightful it enlightens every realm! All those who say in praise of women whatever they say, and think it's praise, compared to this, are saying nothing. Whoever sees Isolt in person finds his heart purified just as the fire refines the gold. It refreshes life and body. Nor does she eclipse the beauty of every other woman, as many a tale would have it. Her own beauty beautifies— it coronates and decorates woman and the name of woman, of which no woman need feel ashamed." 8300
When Tristan had finished describing from his own personal experience his lady the maiden princess, the wondrous delight of Irlant, whoever had been present and heard, and read the words with his heart, found the story sweetened his mind as does the dew of May the blood. All who had heard were inspired. Tristan began his life again, now with a different outlook. A second life had been granted him— he was a man as though reborn. Things began to move again, and he was filled with eagerness. King and court, all together, seemed to be on his side, until an insidious agitation, whose accursed name is envy (which rarely long lies dormant) began to do its work among them.
For many a lord it darkened his disposition and behavior, and some began to begrudge Tristan's high station and honor with which the court and the people now generally regarded him. Soon they were talking maliciously about all his accomplishments and circulating rumors that he was a sorcerer. Concerning the current tales of his victory over Morolt and his escapades while in Irlant, they soon agreed among themselves that such things were done by enchantment. "Now look," they said, "consider this, and tell us, how could he ever have overcome the giant Morolt? And how deceive Isolt, the all-knowing queen, his mortal enemy, no less, into caring for him tenderly until she had in fact cured him? What a marvel, listen here! How this clever operator can cloud the sight of those who see and thus attain whatever he may intend to do!" Now those admitted to Marke's counsel 8350 formed a plan among themselves to advise Marke strongly and always with persistence as though from great concern that he ought to take a wife by whom to get an heir, be it a daughter or a son. But Marke said, "God himself has provided us a successor— please God, long may he live! For so long as that may be, and know ye well that this is final, never shall there be a queen or a royal lady at this court."
This only raised their enmity and their jealousy of Tristan to such a high degree that soon it reached a point where it could not be contained. Being no longer able to conceal their feelings about him, they both spoke and acted on ever more occasions. He began to be alarmed, and now had to fear constantly that somehow and in some way the royal council would conspire— would go so far as to murder him. He requested his uncle Marke in God's name to consider his danger and anxiety and do whatever it was these envious barons were demanding— he could not know, at any moment whether the next might be his last. His uncle, the discerning king, replied, "My nephew Tristan, say no more. I will not. I want no other heir than you. And put an end to your fears about your life and your person. You shall have my protection. All their jealously and anger— what harm, by God, can that do you? enmity and jealousy— the worthy simply have to bear them. A man increases in true worth all the while he is envied. Worth and envy go together as do a mother and her child. 8400 Worthiness always breeds and has to bear jealousy. who more excites animosity than the man of high fortune? It is a feeble luck indeed that fails to gather enmity. Spend your life striving to be one day at last free of hate, and never will you succeed at that— you'll always have enemies. But if you want to court the favor of wicked folk, then sing their tune and be a rascal just as bad— they'll envy you no longer. Let these men do what they may. You must remain always aware that you are made of finer stuff. Never fail to look ahead to your own honor and advantage. And give up trying to talk me into doing something against your interests. I'll pay no attention to such nonsense from you or from anyone else."
"Then give me, Sire, your command to leave the court," Tristan requested. "They are more than I can handle. If they have set themselves against me, I can't expect to continue here. If I had a world to govern of kingdoms so contentious, by far would I prefer never to have a realm at all." When Marke saw his determination, he bade him say no more, and answered, "Nephew, as much as I would like to be constant and loyal on your behalf, regrettably, you do not let me. Whatever comes of this affair, I'll not be held accountable. But anything I can do for you, that I am ready and willing to do. Tell me then, what do you want?" "Call together those councillors, the ones who maneuvered you into this, and ask each one his opinion. Find out what it is they wish that you should do in this matter— when you know what they really want, it can be settled honorably."
This was accomplished without delay. 8450 Once they had all been assembled, the course of action they advised was intended only to destroy Tristan. They declared that the lovely Isolt would make for the king a perfect wife, in her person, high birth, and aptitudes. They ratified their standing counsel. Before Marke in plenary session one of them was delegated to deliver for all in one voice their unanimous opinion: "Sire," he said, "we think this good. The lovely Isolt of Irlant, as is well-known in all the countries neighbor both to us and them, is a maiden and a child on whom the height of womanhood has bestowed every blessing that could possibly be awarded. As you yourself, many times, have heard it said of her person, she is fortunate and perfected in life as well as in body. If she may now become wife to you and our mistress, for us here on earth no better lady could be chosen." "But sirs, consider," the king replied, if indeed I wished to have her, how could that come about? You must always bear in mind how things stand and long have stood between us and the Irish— land and people are our foes. Gurmun hates me heartily, and with good reason, as I do him. Whoever could restore between us a state of friendship and peace?" "Sire," the spokesman answered, "it comes about often enough that there is strife between peoples. Then both sides should take counsel to seek and find a remedy, and together with their children be reconciled again. Out of great enmities often come strong friendships. Give this matter your attention, and you may yet see the day when Irlant comes under your rule. 8500 The land is held by only three. The present king and his queen have as heir Isolt alone. She is the only child they have."
To this speech Marke answered: "Yes, Tristan has moved me to think earnestly about her. She has been much on my mind as he spoke her praises to me. Because of this preoccupation I have come to prefer her above all others. Unless she becomes mine, never on this earth shall another be my wife, by God and by my own life." But with this oath he didn't mean that now he favored their plan any more than formerly. It was but a calculation, since it remained unthinkable that such a thing could ever be. But the royal councillor continued: "Sire, you have but to command that my Lord Tristan, standing here, who is familiar at that court, deliver your proposal there. That will accomplish all our aims and do it at a single stroke. He is wise and very clever, and fortunate in his ventures. Surely he can succeed in this: he knows all their languages, and he does what he sets out to do."
"That is wicked advice," said Marke. "You concern yourselves too much only for Tristan's destruction. Already once he has tasted death for you and your progeny. And now you would have him die yet again. No, no, ye of Curnewal, you may do this thing yourselves, don't tell me to use him for it!"
"Wait, Sire," Tristan said. "This is not bad advice. It would be most effective, whatever your desire might be, that I should sooner undertake it and more willingly than any other, 8550 and it is right, that I should. I'm the man, Sire, to do this. I can best present your courtship. Just command all these lords to accompany me on the voyage, to see to all your best interests on the way there and back." "No, no, never again shall you fall into foreign hands, from which God has once saved you." "Nay, Sire, this must be done. Whether they shall live or die, I must also share their fate. They shall see for themselves that if this land has no heir, whether it be my fault or no. Command them to make ready now. I will captain the ship myself and steer it with my own hand to the happy isle of Irlant, once again to Develin, to that source of sunshine that bears joy to many a heart. Who knows, perhaps she will be ours— Sire, if you gain the lovely Isolt, and cost it the death of us all, that were a small price to pay." Now when Marke's councillors heard the way the talk was going, they had never in all their years been quite so downcast as at the results of this debate.
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