Tristan and Isolda - Richard Wagner - ebook
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Tristan, a valiant Cornish knight, is bringing Isolda, princess of Ireland, over as a bride for his uncle, King Mark. He is himself in love with her, but owing to a blood feud between them, forces himself to conceal his passion. Isolda, in anger at his seeming unkindness, attempts to poison herself and him, but her attendant, Brangæna, changes the draft for a love potion, which enflames their passion beyond power of restraint...

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Table of contents

THE STORY OF "TRISTAN AND ISOLDA"

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

ACT I.

ACT II.

ACT III.

THE STORY OF "TRISTAN AND ISOLDA"

ACT ITristan, a valiant Cornish knight, is bringing Isolda, princess of Ireland, over as a bride for his uncle, King Mark. He is himself in love with her, but owing to a blood feud between them, forces himself to conceal his passion. Isolda, in anger at his seeming unkindness, attempts to poison herself and him, but her attendant, Brangæna, changes the draft for a love potion, which enflames their passion beyond power of restraint.ACT IIIsolda has been wedded to King Mark, but holds stolen interviews with Tristan, during one of which they are surprised, for Tristan has been betrayed by a jealous friend, Melot. Touched by King Mark's bitter reproaches, Tristan provokes Melot to fight and suffers himself to be mortally wounded.ACT IIITristan's faithful servant, Kurvenal, has carried his wounded master to his native home in Brittany, where he is carefully tended. Isolda has also been sent for, as being skilled above all others in the healing art. The excitement of her approach only hastens Tristan's death, and he breathes his last sigh in her arms. Mark has followed Isolda; he has had matters explained, and is prepared to reunite the lovers, but it is too late. Isolda utters her lament over the body of her lover, and her heart breaks: in death alone are they united.

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

TRISTANMELOTKING MARKBRANGÆNAISOLDAA SHEPHERDKURVENALA STEERSMANSAILORS, KNIGHTS, AND ESQUIRES

ACT I.

[A pavilion erected on the deck of a ship, richly hung with tapestry, quite closed in at back at first. A narrow hatchway at one side leads below into the cabin.]SCENE I.ISOLDA on a couch, her face buried in the cushions.— BRANGÆNA holding open a curtain, looks over the side of the vessel.THE VOICE OF A YOUNG SAILOR (from above as if at the mast-head).ISOLDA (starting up suddenly).What wight dares insult me?(She looks round in agitation.)Brangæna, ho!Say, where sail we?BRANGÆNA (at the opening).Bluish stripesare stretching along the west:swiftly sailsthe ship to shore;if restful the sea by evewe shall readily set foot on land.ISOLDA. What land?BRANGÆNA. Cornwall's verdant strand.ISOLDA. Never more!To-day nor to-morrow!BRANGÆNA. What mean you, mistress? say!(She lets the curtain fall and hastens to ISOLDA.)ISOLDA (with wild gaze).O fainthearted child,false to thy fathers!Ah, where, mother,hast given thy mightthat commands the wave and the tempest?O subtle artof sorcery,for mere leech-craft followed too long!Awake in me once more,power of will!Arise from thy hidingwithin my breast!Hark to my bidding,fluttering breezes!Arise and stormin boisterous strife!With furious rageand hurricane's hurdlewaken the seafrom slumbering calm;rouse up the deepto its devilish deeds!Shew it the preywhich gladly I proffer!Let it shatter this too daring shipand enshrine in ocean each shred!And woe to the lives!Their wavering death-sighsI leave to ye, winds, as your lot.BRANGÆNA (in extreme alarm and concern for ISOLDA).Out, alas!Ah, woe!I've ever dreaded some ill!—Isolda! mistress!Heart of mine!What secret dost thou hide?Without a tearthou'st quitted thy father and mother,and scarce a wordof farewell to friends thou gavest;leaving home thou stood'st,how cold and still!pale and speechlesson the way,food rejecting,reft of sleep,stern and wretched,wild, disturbed;how it pains meso to see thee!Friends no more we seem,being thus estranged.Make me partnerin thy pain!Tell me freelyall thy fears!Lady, thou hearest,sweetest and dearest;if for true friend you take me,your confidant O make me!ISOLDA. Air! air!or my heart will choke!Open! open there wide!(BRANGÆNA hastily draws the centre curtains apart.)SCENE II.[The whole length of the ship is now seen, down to the stern, with the sea and horizon beyond. Round the mainmast sailors are ensconced, busied with ropes; beyond them in the stern are groups of knights and attendants, also seated; a little apart stands TRISTAN folding his arms and thoughtfully gazing out to sea; at his feet KURVENAL reclines carelessly. From the mast-head above is once more heard the voice of the young sailor.]THE YOUNG SAILOR (at the mast-head invisible).The wind so wildblows homewards now;my Irish child,where waitest thou?Say, must our sails be weighted,filled by thy sighs unbated?Waft us, wind strong and wild!Woe, ah woe for my child!ISOLDA (whose eyes have at once sought TRISTAN and fixedstonily on him—gloomily). Once beloved—now removed—brave and bright,coward knight!—Death-devoted head!Death-devoted heart!—(laughing unnaturally).Think'st highly of yon minion?BRANGÆNA (following her glance).Whom mean'st thou?ISOLDA. There, that herowho from mine eyesaverts his own:in shrinking shamemy gaze he shuns—Say, how hold you him?BRANGÆNA. Mean you Sir Tristan,lady mine?Extolled by ev'ry nation,his happy country's pride,The hero of creation,—whose fame so high and wide?ISOLDA (jeeringly).In shrinking trepidationhis shame he seeks to hide,While to the king, his relation,he brings the corpse-like bride!—Seems it so senselessWhat I say?Go ask himself,our gracious host,dare he approach my side?No courteous heedor loyal carethis hero t'wardshis lady turns;