TRISTAN I, RIWALIN

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There once in Parmenie prevailed a lord

Yet in the dawn of his prime, as I have read;

Born peer of kings and landed equally;

Of ample charm, he was vowed generous,

Honest, yet mirthful, kind, and loyal;

He, a delight to all who served him

And glory of his kinsmen, was the firm hope

Of that land. Of all the chivalry and virtue

Which a lord must possess, he had primacy,

But for one flaw: he'd demand manifest

The will of his exalting heart, and nothing

Less would he tolerate of life than this.

By that one defect he finally devised

For himself, and for those he loved, dire sorrow.

So has it ever been: youth's effulgent

Ascent, upon the potent sprig of fortune

Will bear, in time, the pome of hubris.

To forbear misuse, to pardon a fault, as all

Who attain in age renown must, issued not

In his regard; to prove power against power,

Thus evidence his own distinction,

Proceeded thus his youthful ardency.

 

Such a life of reprisal, levied

Moreover in coin of the realm, will never

Endure. Heaven knows what a man must learn

Of restraint, for those men who will condemn

All fault must ever offend, and thus suffer

Ruinous fortune. As a bear conveys

Each blow a blow, 'til by blows he is

Over-laden and subsides, thus too befell

Riwalin's life. Though not malice-provoked

Was the prompt setting of his unample years,

But the impression and the standard cast

Of that very deficiency in term;

He dispensed with his will as all yet young

Ever have and ever will: in improvidence.

By brashly so pursuing life, it was

That very life to overwhelm and cast

His early demise. For, as life ascended

And, so like the day-star, over the world he blithely

Surveyed, he believed life would advance

Ever-sweet and linger in joy; yet as his star

Impelled to the assurance of long bliss,

The evening, concealed formerly to him, arrived,

And the morning star of his life ceased to shine.

 

As to his true name, as revealed in former

Portrayals of this tale, it was Riwalin;

His surname Kanelengres. Many have

Professed this same lord a Lohnosian,

And king of Lohnois; yet Thomas, so read

In all the tales of that land, plainly asserts

Riwalin birthed to Parmenie and, further,

A salutary lord obliged in fealty

To a Breton duke of the name of Morgan.

 

Nigh to three years of knighthood fared, distinctions

Drawn by Riwalin were those of an honor

Near entire, and nigh-mastery the art

Of chivalry, with all the resources

Requisite to warfare: land, and men, and more,

Distinguishment. Then, whether was he

Provoked to necessity or was he

Possessed by arrogance, the tales tell not,

But lord Riwalin, as resisting

Some assailment, cast his force athwart

The duke Morgan, to make war. And he rode

Upon his foe's lands in such strength to prevail,

And to secure divers fortifications.

Towns too he forced to yield, and ransom

Both lives and goods; thereby amassing

Such arms in such numbers that he his will
might further impose over all that Morgan

Could mark his claim. Yet of Riwalin too

Were losses rejoined; many men of worth

Then were passed, for Morgan primed and moved

His means and men to meet Riwalin

Time and again. So fare all men in war

And chivalry: losses attend each gain,

And each then is repaid. Thusly had Morgan

Served in accord his rival, and took him

Likewise fortifications, towns, and men.

Though but brief this availed him, for Riwalin

So pressed his gathered might upon his foe

Until no longer could Morgan withstand,

And was compelled to flee to his most

Formidable strongholds. These Riwalin

Invested will all secured battalions,

In such power that each skirmish then launched

In defense of these citadels before

Riwalin's might broke, and were thrust through the gates.

Moreover, he would hold before the walls
Tournies to flaunt in finest chivalry

The celebration of his triumph.

Riwalin set his idling force upon

Those lands too, to pillage and to flame until

The devastation so compelled his rival

That parley was his only respite.

Entreaties then were offered, and the foes

Consented to a year's accord of peace,
And with oaths thusly they confirmed their truce.

Riwalin returned then to his home content,

Endowed with the wealth such victors may claim;

And with him rode the men who labored for

His aims, graced by honor and their lord.

 

Though the idle pleasures of home sated not

Riwalin long; adventure had compelled so

His noble heart that its want he could not

Endure to prolong. So set he to journey

Once more, pursuing adventure's keen return.

Attiring himself in great elegance,

As to his station and honor belonged,

And aboard a ship had he then borne a year's

Necessities in baggage and in stores,

For oft and long accounted in his presence

Had been the tales of a renowned court,

Supreme in honor and in grace; as told,

A paradigm of chivalry, and joy

To all noble hearts: the court of Mark of Cornwall,

England's own king. Therefore resolved to sail

Riwalin there. By heritage was Mark

Lord of the court of Cornwall; as to England,

Affairs proceeded thusly: he had claimed

The throne of that realm since the Saxons

Of Gales had expelled the Britons from the land

Of Brittany, heretofore hailed as England.

Having attained their end and seized the land,

Each Saxon lord assumed himself a king,

And rended they the holds accordingly

To petty kingdoms, thereby rousing

A broad misfortune; for each battled each,

Disputing ever over the land's bounty.

This discord finally resolved in the

Ascent of Mark, as dissolved the petty kingdoms

In willing pledge to their new liege, whom

Thereafter they served in all things, so mighty

And feared was he. Moreover, the annals

Of neighboring realms give account of Mark

As esteemed over all kings of that age.

It's here Riwalin longed to be; he here

Aspired to devote a year, and with that valued

King, to acquire what virtues he may,

And further apply him to chivalry,

Gracing his manners with fresh elegance.

His noble heart believed that were he

To acquaint himself with customs of lands foreign,

He may therein refine his nature.

So, with his cherished Parmenie entrusted,

People and lands, to his most loyal

Of marshals, Rual li Foitenant, Riwalin

Took sail immediately, joined by but nine

Companions.

 

                 In due time they arrived

Nigh the coast of Cornwall, consigning dispatch

To announce their presence and intent at court,

Yet were informed that Mark, with choice retainers,

To Tintagel had sojourned, to pleasure in

The heath in the wealth of spring, for respite

From the cares of court. Altering his route to there

Be received, took to sail Riwalin

Once more, and he there met Mark in as noble

A bearing as foretold by all. The King

Received Riwalin and companions

In magnificent distinction; indeed, honors

Bestowed upon Riwalin in reception

Surpassed in grandeur all preceding

In other courts. Delighted by such grace

And courtesy as there met him, he trusted

It was God Himself who'd brought him to these people,

And to this king, who'd proved accounts of his

Virtue and majesty were each sincerely

Conveyed, so proper and so courtly

Were his ways. This he took then to pronounce

To Mark in praise, and issued the purpose

Of his stay. The king in kind, attending to

The etiquette in discourse there evinced

In his guest, welcomed him with charity;

Thus commenced in joy his term at Tintagel.

 

Riwalin found in the court pleasures profound,

And the court, in turn, was replete with his praises;

Of poor and of rich, of servants and lords,

No guest was ever valued more, nor so

Esteemed by all. Moreover, such acclaims

To his honor were well deserved, for virtuous

Riwalin was ever content to serve

All in his friendship; whether of his person

Or of his wealth, he gave as he well knew how.

So he lived gladly, revered and devoted

To his daily pursuit of virtue,

Until the day arrived of the king's great fair.

 

At the annual behest of Mark, across

The kingdom of England to Cornwall fared

The assorted knights of that land, to display

Their prowess in tourney. Accompanied

Beside arrived bevies of gracious,

Alluring ladies in magnificent

Carriage in convoy. Festivities

Had been appointed to that so abrupt

Yet venerated term of May-tide's bloom;

Those four weeks in which blossom forth the florets

And shoots from the sodden earth, and the gentle breath

Of spring renews our hearts with its warm soothe.

In such a meadow and by such a stream

As fair as ever glimpsed in any age

Before or since, set Mark his annual fair.

Indeed, the spring had wrought its charm with care

Upon the mead; of the caroling of wood-birds,

The budding of flower and leaf, and the lush

Grasses in their advance, the springtide meadow

Teemed with delight. All man may wish to find

In such a time, May dutifully issued.

An awning of shade from the daylight,

The linden near the fountain, and the breeze

So leisurely cooling, contented Mark

And his companions, each according to

Its nature. May's attendant, the greensward,

Had donned its favored vestment of the season,

As flowers gleaned in the eyes of the mead's guests.

The fragrant lilac and viburnum too

Imbued the air to impress such affection

And arouse gratitude for the sanctity

Of not merely that precious tide, but life.

The hymn of bird-song, dear anointer

Of both the ears and spirit to wonderment,

Delivered in abundant phrasing

Through valley and hill; the blessèd nightingale

Especially, whose call is the very

Anticipation of love's bliss, ever trilled

Of its abode in the brush flowering,

To elevate the noble hearts of that

So noble assembly.

 

                           In their revelry

Lodged Mark and his retinue, each according

To his whim; in abundance lodged the affluent,

In elegance the refined; some sheltered in

Their silk pavilions, others 'neath the bloom.

Under that linden awning of leafed boughs

Had sheltered many, and no guest ever lodged

In such delight as there. Moreover,

Profuse cuisine and wares of noblest aspect,

Such as each guest may wish, had been arranged

For the occasion. Thusly began Mark's

May fair, and all lovers of spectacle

Indeed attended to indulge themselves there:

Some to regard the many ladies,

Others attended to the dancing;

Some to remark upon the buhurt,

Others accounted the contests of jousting.

All each attendant may've desired he there

Obtained in plenty, for all of the years

Of life's so pleasurable prime there vied

For revelry at the fair; and Mark, that good,

Munificent king, had supplied in the ring

Of his pavilions a keen wonder

Divorced from the stature of all other ladies:

His sister, Blanchefluer. It is said of

This maiden's beauty that no man possessing

Vitality could regard her and in

His innermost not then further esteem

Both woman and virtue. This paradigm

Of feminine grace upon the heath obliged

To wandering the eyes of numerous men,

Averting much attention, and enlivening

The noble hearts attendant. Everywhere

Idling upon the mead were unique beauties

Beside Blanchefluer, and each brought gaiety

To the occasion merely by their presence.

 

When the lea was with poled and roped pavilions

Of silk and cloth devised, and when retainers

And patrons alike gathered upon the site,

Both claimants young and tested men then met

And set to commence the contest of buhurt.

Revered Mark too acquiesced to take part, and his

Companion with, Riwalin, so near the two

Had become. Of Riwalin's entourage

Of nine, he set them to perform as they may,

And invite both honor and fame to their home

Of Parmenie. Rife were the chargers,

And richly bedecked, as the buhurt set

To begin; riding forth and duly draped

In silks and cendale of snow-white or yellow,

Of red, of green, violet, or blue; then others

In checkered or in particolored fashion;

Each too adorned of divers accent.

The knights in procession donned garments so cut

And pleated in prime splendor, and the season's

Bloom too adorned the display in garlands

Woven to deck the players.

 

                                          So in the fullness

Of spring commenced in Tintagel the contest,

As aligned in parallel columns combatants

In the field. Then, at once rushed all upon

Each other to clash, recoil, and then meander

In test, and clash once more, continuing so

Until in time the battle beside Blanchefluer

Had come, where she and ladies aside gathered

To survey; for so stately the bearing

Of these knights, so superbly did they ride,

That many in delight assayed their fray.

Whatever courage and feats there displayed,

It was Riwalin, as though ordained,

Outrivaling all. The ladies, moreover,

Adduced that none had rode in so masterful

Command of horse and chivalry as he,

And remarked they at once his every virtue,

Often reflecting upon the graceful progress

Of his motions, the control of shield and spear,

His elegance in dress, nobility in

Demeanor, the charm of his character,

And the good fortune of the woman

Who would by him sustain. Blanchefluer, so feigning

As though upon the field her attention

Remained, had yet marked all uttered of him,

Yet revealed not her thoughts; for in her reserved

Yet ardent heart, she knew that her companions

Had but freely conferred their praise, as freely

She knew such praise would then elapse; as praise,

Though silent in her, would through ardor last;

For secretly had she received him

Into the kingdom of her heart, and there,

Abruptly enthroned, had prevailed his image,

To reign over her with scepter and with crown.

 

The buhurt meanwhile had resolved, as dispersed

Each knight as his bliss might compel his progress.

It then befell, Riwalin, as proceeding

Through the brimmed mead, came there upon the gathering

'Round Blanchefluer and her retinue of maidens.

Impressed as though her eyes upon him lingered,

He spoke, “Ah, Dieu vous sauve, belle!”

 

                                                                With a coy,

"Merci!," she had replied; and ablush

Declaimed she then, “May the grace of the Lord,

Our God, of Whom our hearts are favored with pardon,

Offer such grace to you, my lord. Indeed,

I gratefully tender my thanks to you,

Dear sir, yet not neglecting now this one

Discourtesy of which we yet must speak.”

“Ah, treasured lady, what offense to you

May've I committed?” inquired he then.

“A dear companion of mine, the dearest,

In fact, that I have ever yet obtained,

Has suffered grievance by your hand, my lord,

And dear grievance it is.”

 

                                        'My God,' thought he,

'Who could it be that I have so agrieved

As to displease this pleasant woman?

What shame now on me may she name?' and pursuing

Further the proof of her words, he surmised

There was, perhaps, some kinsmen of her's upon

Whom had he once devised some harm in the course

Of buhurt. But no, the one friend named nearest her

Was her own heart, suffering then by Riwalin.
Yet naught of this did he wholly yet know,

And thus he spoke, “Fair woman, I would yet

Attain some grace in your regard; if truly

Have I obliged such, please do decree

As you wish; how may I atone this misdeed,

And please you? Any command you have willed,

This I shall welcome.”

 

                                   And so sweetly then spoke she,

“For this loss I do not fully hate you,
Yet neither fully do I love you.

As to the amends you may offer to please

My grievance, this shall we address, perhaps,

In the course of time.” As he bowed to take his leave,

She secretly spoke from the innermost

Of her young heart, 'Dear friend, God bless you.'

From then were they immersed, ever the other

In the thoughts of the other; in Riwalin,

Blanchefluer; and in Blanchefluer, Riwalin.