The following is a poem written by a French woman who lived in the 12th century. Marie de France is the earliest woman poet in French literary history. Born in France, she lived the second half of the 12th century in England in the court of Henry II. Her best-known poems are Norman-French tales which are short romantic narratives carrying mostly Celtic lore. Other works were les Fables and L’Espurgatoire Seint Patriz :
Well pleasing ’tis to me the lay called Goat’s-leaf,
And I wish the truth to say, how and where it came to be.
From people I have heard, and in books I have seen
The story of Tristan and the Queen, of their love so complete,
It brought them many a grief and then, death, one day
Wrathful was King Mark, angry with Tristan his nephew,
Banished him from the realm for the love he bore the Queen.
To Southwales where he was born, there to bide a year’s length,
Unfree to re-enter the realm. Thence he laid his life
Open to death and destruction. Marvel not at such conduct,
For he who loves most loyally, most wretched is and desolate
When prey to thwarted desires. Anguish and sorrow move
Tristan his country to leave. Straight to Cornwall he goes;
Thereat dwells the Queen. Alone he enters the forest,
Fearful of being seen. At vesper he come forth
To seek a resting place. With peasants, with poor people,
He finds refuge at night, inquires what tidings or news,
How the king is faring. They tell him this they heard:
The barons have been summoned; They will assemble in Tintagel,
Where, at Whitsuntide, The king will hold festival;
The court will joy and revel, and there shall be the Queen.
Tristan hears and exults; Bound is she to pass by,
Sure is he to see her. The day the king set forth,
Tristan comes to the woods near the road which he knows
The cortege must travel. A branch of hazel he cuts,
Squares it all nicely. Upon the trimmed bough,
With his knife he carves his name, were the Queen to notice it,
Alert to these signals, she will know, seeing it,
The branch is Tristan’s envoy. It happened in times past
They used a similar sign. ‘Tis the sum and symbol
Of what he would write and say: That long has he been there,
Waited long, remained to watch, perchance discover
Possible means of seeing her, for he cannot live without her.
It is with the two of them as it is with the goat’s-leaf.
Which clings to the hazel-tree; When it twines and takes hold,
And coils all round the bole, together, both survive;
But if they be severed the hazel quickly dies,
And dies also the goat’s-leaf. ‘Dear heart, thus are we:
Together, we both live. Asunder, we both die.’
The Queen rides onward, observant all the while.
On a slope she sees the branch, deciphers all the letters.
She bids the chevaliers, who guide and escort her,
To stop, for she wishes to dismount and rest a while.
They obey the Queen’s command. Far from her entourage
She goes, and calls her maid, the trusted Brenguein.
She walks off the road a little; In the forest she finds the being
She loves above all beings. Joyful is their intimacy.
He talks to her at leisure; She tells him her delight,
And conveys to him the means to a reconcilement with the king,
Who now greatly deplores having banished him thus
On one’s accusation. Then, she left her beloved,
But at the moment of parting both began to weep.
To Wales, Tristan returned to await his uncle’s pardon.
For the happiness he enjoyed of his love whom he had seen,
For the record he kept of speech the Queen had spoken,
Lest the words be forgotten, Tristan, who played the harp,
Made a new lay of their tryst. One word ’tis briefly called:
The English say Goat’s-leaf; The French, Chevrefeuille.
To you the truth I reported of the lay here unfolded.
(Translated from Old French by Aline Allard)
Enjoy! The Castle Lady Mwah!
Tomorrow back to England in the northwest and some of Wordsworth’s best! Kiss. Kiss.