ood works, good will, all were as naught,
and every benefit so wrought,
should we allow to come to naught
the memory of those who wrought.
Devotion to the common good by one who labors as he should we ought to recognize as good, or we do other than we should. I hear complaint throughout the land when we have got what we demand. Now what is paltry fills the land. What no one wants is in demand. Extolling virtue is easy praise. There are those who spend their days praising what they ought to praise. May they do so, all their days. Tell good from bad—whoever can— I've learned to value such a man. One who knows to judge, and can, what's good in me, or any man. Esteem and praise bring skill to be, if skill is used praiseworthily. Where skill is praised worthily, there much of skill comes to be. Renown is quality's own reward. True honor needs no special guard. What's useless, too, no one will guard. Oblivion is its just reward. In times like these we have our fill of those who weigh the good as ill, who take for good that which is ill. How false the office they fulfill! Craft, discrimination, wit, however smoothly they may fit, envy must destroy the fit, extinguishing all craft and wit. Ho, virtue, how strait a path you travel, a maze how tricky to unravel! I wish him well who can unravel your twisting ways, and on them travel. o go on idling time away from where I am in life today would be to make my worldly way not as I know the world today. now lay before the world these labors I have undertaken. May noble hearts find them a solace— those hearts I love so heartily, in that world where my heart sees clearly. It's not that common world I speak of 50 (a place I only know from hearsay), of those who scorn to endure affliction and only want to soar in pleasure. May God let them have their pleasures! To their world and the one I live in, what I say means different things— their life and mine go different ways. No, I'm speaking to a different world that mingles in its single heart its suavest spoil, its dearest dread, its heart's delight, its longing need, its lovely life, its death so dire, its lovely death, its life so dire. To that life do I yield my own. Of that world be my worldliness, make or break, win or lose. I've stayed with it all my years, there it is I've spent my days, there I've taken help and counsel for all my life's deepest needs. And before that world I lay my labors, a diversion and a pastime, so that with my story its most pressing sorrows may be half softened, its deepest hurt lessened. If anyone will keep his sight on what is able to divert the mind, that helps to free the mind of trouble— that's good for what troubles the heart. Surely you will all agree: when it is an idle person who's weighed down with pain and yearning, the pain of yearning must grow worse. Idleness combined with yearning always increases yearning pain. That is why it's good for any who have taken heartaches to heart to try with full intent to find the right diversion. This will help to lighten the mind and do the mind a lot of good. Now, if he will listen to my advice, never will a man in love busy himself with anything that goes against pure love. Let the sad yearner tell a yearning story with both heart and tongue to ease away the hours. 100 No doubt you've often heard it said, and I'm almost willing to agree, that busying the yearning mind with more tales that tell of yearning only makes the yearning worse. That's a saying I would believe except that one thing stands against it: when one is fervently in love, however love may pain the heart, the heart persists in desiring it. The mind held captive by desire— the deeper it sinks into longing, the more it burns with the fire of yearning, the more intense is its desire. This is a pain so full of love, an evil that does the heart such good, that no noble heart, once having felt it, ever again can beat without it. This I know, as sure as death, and understand it just as surely: the man of noble yearning desires yearning tales. Now whoso longs for a tale of yearning, go no further, linger here; for I shall spin you one of yearning lovers who turned yearning into purity. Lost in yearning, he and she, a man—a girl; a girl—a man. Tristan—Isolt; Isolt—Tristan. know, of course, that not a few have read of Tristan. But it's true that of them there are very few who have read correctly what is true. o have my say about it also, and merely do the same as they, to charge that when they tell the story they only manage to get it wrong would not by any means be right. And so I won't. They wrote honestly, and only with the best intentions, for my sake and for everyone's. Certainly they meant it well, and whatever is done in good will is surely good, and well done, surely. But indeed, as I have claimed, that none of them have read it right, I say again, this is fact: they haven't rightly told the story that master Thomas of Britanje tells— 150 the master, yes, of all these tales, who knows the lives of all the princes from reading the books of Britanje, and lets us know the true story. His way of telling the life of Tristan, the plain truth, told correctly, I have searched for everywhere, in all the books, of both kinds, Latin and not Latin, and taken the greatest care and trouble in writing this poem to follow his example. After much searching, at last in one book I read all that he has said about how this adventure goes. And now from all my reading there about this history of longing, I have chosen to present the tale to all noble hearts as a pleasure and diversion. Reading it will do them good. Good? Oh, yes, the deepest good: it makes love lovely, heartens courage, puts faith in trusting, envirtues living— enlivens, so to speak, our lives. The loyal man who hears or reads about such steadfast faithfulness, love, devotion, steadfast will, learns by doing so to love loyalty and like virtues too: honor, all the many qualities that never otherwise appeal so strongly, nor so well as when we tell of heartfelt love and rue the heartbreak born of love. Yes, such a blessed thing is love, a struggle of such blessedness, that none has honor or worth unless he knows its teachings. Love fosters so much worthiness, so much value comes of it— to no avail for him who never struggles to gain his heart's love— alas, how few of those I find who for his lover will endure the purity of heart's desire for no more reward than the lament which, when the time for sorrow comes, stays buried deep within the heart! 200 What noble mind would refuse to bear a single ill for endless good? For countless weals a single woe? If you know not the pain of love, neither do you know its joy. Love and pain have ever been inseparable in love. It takes them both to win, to try for honor and gain, or you’re not in the game at all. Now, those of whom this story tells— had they not suffered pain for love, not paid with sore lament for joy, not borne it all with single heart, never would their names and tale have brought such joy and blessing to so many a noble heart. The story still is good to hear, still sweet and ever new, of their entire devotion, their love, their hurt, their joy, their need— no matter that they're dead long since. The sweetness of their name lives on, and in the world their death will live much longer still, and evermore inspire the loyal with devotion, and with honor those who seek it. Their death will live forever for us, the living, ever new, because whenever we recite how perfect was their loyalty, their heart's love, their heart's pain— to noble hearts, this is their bread. For us their deaths thus are not dead. We read their lives—yes, they are dead, and this is sweet to us as bread. Their lives, their deaths, must be our bread. Their lives thus live, they live though dead. And so they live, yet both are dead. Their deaths are, for the living, bread.
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