TRISTAN I, RIWALIN
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
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.