In due course it came about that on occasion Marke sat a little after dinnertime, when entertainment was the custom, listening attentively to the verses of a lay his harpist performed, a master of his craft, the finest anyone knew. The fellow was a Gaulois. Then came Tristan, the Parmenois, and sat down at the singer's feet. And listening with rapt attention to the verses and fluid melody, even had it been forbidden, he couldn't have concealed his feelings. His emotions got the best of him, flooding his heart with recollection. "Master," he said, "you're a fine harpist. You do the melody very well, with just the intended sense of yearning. The Brituns composed it, you know, about my Lord Gurun, and about his beloved." The harpist understood the boy's remarks plainly, but acted as though he hadn't heard until he finished the lay. Then he turned to face the boy. "How do you know, my child," he asked, where this music came from? Can you sing and play a little?" "Oh, yes, master," replied Tristan. "I once could play very well, but now I'm so out of practice that I wouldn't risk it, before you." "Nay, my friend, here's the harp, we would like to hear what songs they know in your country." "Well, my master, if you insist, and if it's with your permission, shall I play for you?" said Tristan. "Indeed, fellow. Here, take it." And when he reached for the harp, it seemed to belong in those hands, so well-formed, as I have read, that hardly could they have been finer, 3550 soft and smooth, slim but long, almost like white ermine. But with them he could pluck and strum a torrent of preludes and melodies, foreign, sweet, and pleasing. Now he began to think again of the Britun lays he knew. He took the pick in hand, adjusted the pegs and strings, some higher, some lower, just as he wanted them to be. Nor did this take long; Tristan, the new minstrel, assumed his new appointment conscientiously. This remarkable debut, his tunes and voluntaries, he played so melodiously and produced so harmoniously and with such resonance that everyone who hurried there called someone else to come along. Soon the entire court was there, many of them at a run, each impatient for something new. Marke kept his seat, nearby, and seeing all, marvelled, watching his friend Tristan. How could this boy, he wondered, have hidden such courtly polish and all these pretty skills that Marke now realized he had known all along? Meanwhile Tristan had begun to perform the verses of the lay about the beloved, proud and beautiful, of Graland the handsome. He played so delightfully and mastered the harp so expertly in genuine Britun style that many who stood or sat to hear forgot themselves, or who they were. Very soon hearts and hearing ceased to hear and feel as they did ordinarily. Now strange feelings came out in strange ways. And many said to themselves, "A blessing on the merchant who ever got a son so noble!" 3600 Yes, the tunes ran from his fingers just right and skillfully resounding into the strings. Their tones and tunes rang out to echo throughout the palace. Many and eye turned his way and many a discerning glance, to watch the magic of his hands. When he finished with this lay, good King Marke called his page and sent him to request another one, at least. "mu voluntiers!" Tristan replied, and began again, lustily, a lay of yearning, as before, de la curtoise Tispe of Babylon, of long ago. He performed this so clearly, keeping the lines of melody flowing as only a master could, that the royal harpist was astounded. And when he came to the right place, this youth, so greatly talented, began with the chanson. He sang the verses of the lay, sweetly and delightfully. Britunic and Galoise, Latin and also Franzois, all in such a voice that no one there could say which was the more pleasing, or more to be praised, his playing or his singing. This caused much speculation and talk about his talent and who he really was. On one thing all agreed, that never had anyone seen such talent in a single person. Some said this, others that-- "what sort of child is this? this boy we've taken in-- of all the children anywhere, none of them are like this, none can match our Tristan!" When Tristan now had done the lay just as he had wanted it, Marke said, "Tristan, come here. Blessed be of God whoever it was that taught you, 3650 and be you likewise! You do well. I shall gladly hear your playing in the evenings, now and then, if perhaps you cannot sleep. That will be well for both of us." --"Yes, my lord, indeed."--"Now tell me what other instruments you play." "None, Sire," he said. --"None, indeed? I ask you this by such esteem as you, Tristan, may have for me." "My Lord," the boy now replied, "you needn't have called for such a pledge that I would have told you everything, since to tell you indeed I am obliged, and since you wish to know. I have studied, Sire, playing all the strings, but play no one of them so well that I wouldn't wish to better. Nor have I spent much time working at this branch of learning, although what with now and then it's been at least seven years or maybe more, sure enough. With Parmenian tutors fiddle and hurdy-gurdy-- to play the harp and the crowd, that I learned from Galotten, two Galoise masters. Then, with the Britunoise, who came from the town of Lut, lyre and sambuca." "Sambuca? What is that, good fellow?" "The best string I know how to play." "Now, see," the courtiers murmered, "what a wealth of life's pleasures and how much else of his grace God has showered on this child!" But Marke had still other questions. "Tristan, just a while ago I heard you singing Britunish, Galois, fluent Latin, and also Franzois. You know these tongues?"--"Sire, indeed, well enough." Now came the courtiers crowding there around them, and any of them who knew a language of neighboring lands put him at once to trial, one thus, another so. And to each he answered courteously, 3700 satisfying their questions, whether Norwaegen or Irlandaeren, Almanjen, Schotten, or Tenen. Many a heart began to long to have Tristan's talents; more than a few of them would gladly have been as he was. Their hearts' desires spoke to him fervently and sweetly-- "Ah, Tristan, were I but as you! Tristan, you may live happily, blessed as you surely are, with all the skills that any man could wish to have in this world." And now among themselves the talk turned to marvels. "Now hear!," said one, and "hear!" another, "listen to this, all the world, a fourteen-year-old boy knows everything there is to know!" "Now, listen, Tristan," said the King, "you have all that I desire, you can do all I want, in hunting, languages, and music. We'll be companions, you and I, you mine, and I yours. By day we'll ride to the hunt, and evenings indulge here in pleasures of the court, with the harp, the fiddle, and song. What you know best, you shall do; I also know a trick or two that I expect will please you well-- splendid dress and fine horses you shall have to your heart's fill. That's the tune I'll play for you. Now see here, my spurs and sword, my crossbow and my golden horn, I commend to my companion. You take them, use them for me, and be merry in our court!" Thus now the wanderer became there at court a trusted member. Never before did anyone see in any child so many gifts. In all he did, in every word, he was so pleasing and so right that he delighted all the world and had everyone's devotion.
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