A high tale of Love and of Death is here
Of the knight Tristan and the queen Isolde;
To their full joy and to their sorrow too,
They loved each other and died together.1
"Little son! I've longed a while to see you,
And now i see you the fairest thing born.
In sadness came I hither, in sadness
Did I bring forth, and in sadness has gone
Your first feast day. And as by sadness
You came into the world your name shall be
Tristan; that is the child of sadness, ho"
Said Blanchefleur, sister of King Mark, Cornwall. 2
Then she kissed him and soon after died.
She was left behind by her husband
On his way to wage his war and was killed
By Duke Morgan. Marshal Rohalt brought up the child that grew well in fight and music.
Fate made Tristan reach King Mark through huntsmen.
Tristan took the harp and played it to Mark,
Who was pleased and took him as his liege.3
Marshall Rohalt introduced to King Mark,
Tristan as his sister's son much later.
The king of Ireland sent a champion
Morholt to demand tribute from Cornwall.
‘Lord King, by your leave i will do battle.'
Tristan fought Morholt in single combat
And killed him, whose wound bore his sword's piece.
Morholt too wounded Tristan, his wound bleeding.4
No doctors could heal and he lost all hope.
He allowed himself to drift in a boat
Across the sea and in a week got the shore.
It was the same place where Morholt lay
And their lady was Isolde the Fair,
Who alone could save Tritson but wished him dead
When she discovered that he only killed Morholt,
But yet took pity and made him recover.5
Anguish, King of Ireland, offered his daughter
In marriage to any knight who would slay
The fearsome dragon that was tormenting.
Tristan accepted the challenge not for himself
But for his uncle King Mark and killed it.
Isolde was coaxed by her father King Anguish
To go with Tristan to marry King Mark.
She set off with Tristan for Cornwall.
Isolde's mother had prepared for Isolde
To share with Mark a potion; they who drink
Of it together love each other forever
In life and death.One day in the voyage
Triston and Isolde were served the potion
By the maid for their thirst, thinking it wine.
They were drawn close and he planted the first kiss.
Tristan and Isolde consummated their love.6
‘Yet she is hopelessly in love with him
The King's Nephew, knight and heir to his kingdom!
Forlornly she walks… her ermine and velvet
Cloak gathering the remnants of broken shells.
Oh God! She is sick from love…ravished by it!
Tristan's scent, the taste of his lips upon
Her tongue, a remembered touch… Oh God!
She'd swoon if she recalled more of him.' 7
When they arrived in Cornwall, Branwen, her aid,
Was introduced as Isolde and taken in marriage
To King Mark. The threesome managed to fool King Mark for some time but Mark found it out.
He challenged his nephew to a duel.
His nephew willingly lost in the duel.
As the treason should not go unpunished,
Tristan was sentenced to banishment, not death.8
Tristan began a new life in a new land,
But remained faithful to Isolde for some time
After a time, he met a beautiful woman who also bore the name Isolde, of the white hands.
He married her but never forgot his Isolde.
In a fight with six men to rescue a woman,
He got brutally wounded and sounded his wife
That only queen Isolde could cure his wounds.9
His wife's brother was entrusted with the job.
Tristan asked him to use white sales upon return
if King Mark released Isolde for this voyage,
And black sales if he did not. He agreed.
Moved by affection, Mark sent him his wife.
Not to lose him to his old love, Tristan's wife lied
That the sail was black. Hearing it, Tristan died.
Arriving late, Isolde collapsed and died.10
(This story was much circulated during 12th century, with different versions. Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare must have been inspired by this episode with a background of history as far back as 7th century.)