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PAGE 2

Tristram And Iseult
by [?]

Tristram

The calm sea shines, loose hang the vessel’s sails;
Before us are the sweet green fields of Wales,
And overhead the cloudless sky of May.–
“Ah, would I were in those green fields at play,
Not pent on ship-board this delicious day!
Tristram, I pray thee, of thy courtesy,
Reach me my golden phial stands by thee,
But pledge me in it first for courtesy.–“
Ha! dost thou start? are thy lips blanch’d like mine?
Child, ’tis no true draught this, ’tis poison’d wine!
Iseult!…

* * * * *

Ah, sweet angels, let him dream!
Keep his eyelids! let him seem
Not this fever-wasted wight
Thinn’d and paled before his time,
But the brilliant youthful knight
In the glory of his prime,
Sitting in the gilded barge,
At thy side, thou lovely charge,
Bending gaily o’er thy hand,
Iseult of Ireland!
And she too, that princess fair,
If her bloom be now less rare,
Let her have her youth again–
Let her be as she was then!
Let her have her proud dark eyes,
And her petulant quick replies–
Let her sweep her dazzling hand
With its gesture of command,
And shake back her raven hair
With the old imperious air!
As of old, so let her be,
That first Iseult, princess bright,
Chatting with her youthful knight
As he steers her o’er the sea,
Quitting at her father’s will
The green isle where she was bred,
And her bower in Ireland,
For the surge-beat Cornish strand;
Where the prince whom she must wed
Dwells on loud Tyntagel’s hill,
High above the sounding sea.
And that potion rare her mother
Gave her, that her future lord,
Gave her, that King Marc and she,
Might drink it on their marriage-day,
And for ever love each other–
Let her, as she sits on board,
Ah, sweet saints, unwittingly!
See it shine, and take it up,
And to Tristram laughing say:
“Sir Tristram, of thy courtesy,
Pledge me in my golden cup!”
Let them drink it–let their hands
Tremble, and their cheeks be flame,
As they feel the fatal bands
Of a love they dare not name,
With a wild delicious pain,
Twine about their hearts again!
Let the early summer be
Once more round them, and the sea
Blue, and o’er its mirror kind
Let the breath of the May-wind,
Wandering through their drooping sails,
Die on the green fields of Wales!
Let a dream like this restore
What his eye must see no more!

Tristram

Chill blows the wind, the pleasaunce-walks are drear–
Madcap, what jest was this, to meet me here?
Were feet like those made for so wild a way?
The southern winter-parlour, by my fay,
Had been the likeliest trysting-place to-day!
Tristram!–nay, nay–thou must not take my hand!–
Tristram!–sweet love!–we are betray’d–out-plann’d.
Fly–save thyself–save me!–I dare not stay.”–
One last kiss first!–“‘Tis vain–to horse–away!”

* * * * *

Ah! sweet saints, his dream doth move
Faster surely than it should,
From the fever in his blood!
All the spring-time of his love
Is already gone and past,
And instead thereof is seen
Its winter, which endureth still–
Tyntagel on its surge-beat hill,
The pleasaunce-walks, the weeping queen,
The flying leaves, the straining blast,
And that long, wild kiss–their last.
And this rough December-night,
And his burning fever-pain,
Mingle with his hurrying dream,
Till they rule it, till he seem
The press’d fugitive again,
The love-desperate banish’d knight
With a fire in his brain
Flying o’er the stormy main.
–Whither does he wander now?
Haply in his dreams the wind
Wafts him here, and lets him find
The lovely orphan child again
In her castle by the coast;
The youngest, fairest chatelaine,
Whom this realm of France can boast,
Our snowdrop by the Atlantic sea,
Iseult of Brittany.
And–for through the haggard air,
The stain’d arms, the matted hair
Of that stranger-knight ill-starr’d,
There gleam’d something, which recall’d
The Tristram who in better days
Was Launcelot’s guest at Joyous Gard–
Welcomed here, and here install’d,
Tended of his fever here,
Haply he seems again to move
His young guardian’s heart with love;
In his exiled loneliness,
In his stately, deep distress,
Without a word, without a tear.
–Ah! ’tis well he should retrace
His tranquil life in this lone place;
His gentle bearing at the side
Of his timid youthful bride;
His long rambles by the shore
On winter-evenings, when the roar
Of the near waves came, sadly grand,
Through the dark, up the drown’d sand,
Or his endless reveries
In the woods, where the gleams play
On the grass under the trees,
Passing the long summer’s day
Idle as a mossy stone
In the forest-depths alone,
The chase neglected, and his hound
Couch’d beside him on the ground.
–Ah! what trouble’s on his brow?
Hither let him wander now;
Hither, to the quiet hours
Pass’d among these heaths of ours
By the grey Atlantic sea;
Hours, if not of ecstasy,
From violent anguish surely free!