Tristan and Isolda - Opera in Three Acts
by Richard Wagner
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[Transcriber's note: The German text is not included in this eBook.]








LYON & HEALY Chicago









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, Brangaena, changes the draft for a love potion, which enflames their passion beyond power of restraint.


Isolda 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.


Tristan'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.

* * * * *





[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.]


ISOLDA on a couch, her face buried in the cushions. —BRANGAENA 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.)

Brangaena, ho! Say, where sail we?

BRANGAENA (at the opening). Bluish stripes are stretching along the west: swiftly sails the ship to shore; if restful the sea by eve we shall readily set foot on land.

ISOLDA. What land?

BRANGAENA. Cornwall's verdant strand.

ISOLDA. Never more! To-day nor to-morrow!

BRANGAENA. 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 might that commands the wave and the tempest? O subtle art of sorcery, for mere leech-craft followed too long! Awake in me once more, power of will! Arise from thy hiding within my breast! Hark to my bidding, fluttering breezes! Arise and storm in boisterous strife! With furious rage and hurricane's hurdle waken the sea from slumbering calm; rouse up the deep to its devilish deeds! Shew it the prey which gladly I proffer! Let it shatter this too daring ship and enshrine in ocean each shred! And woe to the lives! Their wavering death-sighs I leave to ye, winds, as your lot.

BRANGAENA (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 tear thou'st quitted thy father and mother, and scarce a word of farewell to friends thou gavest; leaving home thou stood'st, how cold and still! pale and speechless on the way, food rejecting, reft of sleep, stern and wretched, wild, disturbed; how it pains me so to see thee! Friends no more we seem, being thus estranged. Make me partner in thy pain! Tell me freely all 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!

(BRANGAENA hastily draws the centre curtains apart.)


[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 wild blows 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 fixed stonily 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?

BRANGAENA (following her glance). Whom mean'st thou?

ISOLDA. There, that hero who from mine eyes averts his own: in shrinking shame my gaze he shuns— Say, how hold you him?

BRANGAENA. 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 trepidation his shame he seeks to hide, While to the king, his relation, he brings the corpse-like bride!— Seems it so senseless What I say? Go ask himself, our gracious host, dare he approach my side? No courteous heed or loyal care this hero t'wards his lady turns; but to meet her his heart is daunted, this knight so highly vaunted! Oh! he wots well the cause! To the traitor go, bearing his lady's will! As my servant bound, straightway should he approach.

BRANGAENA. Shall I beseech him to attend thee?

ISOLDA. Nay, order him: pray, understand it:— I, Isolda do command it!

[At an imperious sign from ISOLDA BRANGAENA withdraws and timidly walks along the deck towards the stern, past the working sailors. ISOLDA, following her with fixed gaze, sinks back on the couch, where she remains seated during the following, her eyes still turned sternward.]

KURVENAL (observing Brangaena's approach, plucks Tristan by the robe without rising.) Beware, Tristan! Message from Isolda!

TRISTAN (starting). What is't?—Isolda?—

(He quickly regains his composure as BRANGAENA approaches and curtsies to him.)

What would my lady? I her liegeman, fain will listen while her loyal woman tells her will.

BRANGAENA. My lord, Sir Tristan, Dame Isolda would have speech with you at once.

TRISTAN. Is she with travel worn? The end is near: nay, ere the set of sun sight we the land. All that your mistress commands me, trust me, I shall mind.

BRANGAENA. That you, Sir Tristan, go to her,— this is my lady's wish.

TRISTAN. Where yonder verdant meadows in distance dim are mounting, waits my sov'reign for his mate: to lead her to his presence I'll wait upon the princess: 'tis an honor all my own.

BRANGAENA. My lord, Sir Tristan, list to me: this one thing my lady wills, that thou at once attend her, there where she waits for thee.

TRISTAN. In any station where I stand I truly serve but her, the pearl of womanhood. If I unheeding left the helm, how might I pilot her ship in surety to King Mark?

BRANGAENA. Tristan, my master, why mock me thus? Seemeth my saying obscure to you? list to my lady's words: thus, look you, she hath spoken: "Go order him, and understand it, I—Isolda— do command it."

KURVENAL (springing up). May I an answer make her?

TRISTAN. What wouldst thou wish to reply?

KURVENAL. This should she say to Dame Isold': "Though Cornwall's crown and England's isle for Ireland's child he chose, his own by choice she may not be; he brings the king his bride. A hero-knight Tristan is hight! I've said, nor care to measure your lady's high displeasure."

[While TRISTAN seeks to stop him, and the offended BRANGAENA turns to depart, KURVENAL sings after her at the top of his voice, as she lingeringly withdraws.]

"Sir Morold toiled o'er mighty wave the Cornish tax to levy; In desert isle was dug his grave, he died of wounds so heavy. His head now hangs in Irish lands, Sole were-gild won at English hands. Bravo, our brave Tristan! Let his tax take who can!"

[KURVENAL, driven away by TRISTAN'S chidings, descends into the cabin. BRANGAENA returns in discomposure to ISOLDA, closing the curtains behind her, while all the men take up the chorus and are heard without.]

KNIGHTS AND ATTENDANTS. "His head now hangs in Irish lands, sole were-gild won at English hands. Bravo, our brave Tristan! Let his tax take who can!"


[ISOLDA and BRANGAENA alone, the curtain being again completely closed. ISOLDA rises with a gesture of despair and wrath. BRANGAENA falls at her feet.]

BRANGAENA. Ah! an answer so insulting!

ISOLDA (checking herself on the brink of a fearful outburst). How now? of Tristan? I'd know if he denies me.

BRANGAENA. Ah! question not!

ISOLDA. Quick, say without fear!

BRANGAENA. With courteous phrase he foiled my will.

ISOLDA. But when you bade him hither?

BRANGAENA. When I had straightway bid him come, where'er he stood, he said to me, he truly served but thee, the pearl of womanhood; if he unheeded left the helm how could he pilot the ship in surety to King Mark?

ISOLDA (bitterly). "How could he pilot the ship in surety to King Mark!" And wait on him with were-gild from Ireland's island won!

BRANGAENA. As I gave out the message and in thy very words, thus spoke his henchman Kurvenal—

ISOLDA. Heard I not ev'ry sentence? it all has reached my ear. If thou hast learnt my disgrace now hear too whence it has grown. How scoffingly they sing about me! Quickly could I requite them! What of the boat so bare and frail, that floated by our shore? What of the broken stricken man, feebly extended there? Isolda's art he gladly owned; with herbs, simples and healing salves the wounds from which he suffered she nursed in skilful wise. Though "Tantris" The name that he took unto him, as "Tristan" anon Isolda knew him, when in the sick man's keen blade she perceived a notch had been made, wherein did fit a splinter broken in Morold's head, the mangled token sent home in hatred rare: this hand did find it there. I heard a voice from distance dim; with the sword in hand I came to him. Full well I willed to slay him, for Morold's death to pay him. But from his sick bed he looked up not at the sword, not at my arm— his eyes on mine were fastened, and his feebleness softened my heart: the sword—dropped from my fingers. Though Morold's steel had maimed him to health again I reclaimed him! when he hath homeward wended my emotion then might be ended.

BRANGAENA. O wondrous! Why could I not see this? The guest I sometime helped to nurse—?

ISOLDA. His praise briskly they sing now:— "Bravo, our brave Tristan!"— he was that distressful man. A thousand protestations of truth and love he prated. Hear how a knight fealty knows!— When as Tantris unforbidden he'd left me, as Tristan boldly back he came, in stately ship from which in pride Ireland's heiress in marriage he asked for Mark, the Cornish monarch, his kinsman worn and old. In Morold's lifetime dared any have dreamed to offer us such an insult? For the tax-paying Cornish prince to presume to court Ireland's princess! Ah, woe is me! I it was who for myself did shape this shame! with death-dealing sword should I have stabbed him; weakly it escaped me:— now serfdom I have shaped me. Curse him, the villain! Curse on his head! Vengeance! Death! Death for me too!

BRANGAENA (throwing herself upon ISOLDA with impetuous tenderness). Isolda! lady! loved one! fairest! sweet perfection! mistress rarest! Hear me! come now, sit thee here.—

(Gradually draws ISOLDA to the couch.)

What a whim! what causeless railing! How came you so wrong-minded and by mere fancy blinded? Sir Tristan gives thee Cornwall's kingdom; then, were he erst thy debtor, how could he reward thee better? His noble uncle serves he so: think too what a gift on thee he'd bestow! With honor unequalled all he's heir to at thy feet he seeks to shower, to make thee a queenly dower.

(ISOLDA turns away.)

If wife he'd make thee unto King Mark why wert thou in this wise complaining? Is he not worth thy gaining? Of royal race and mild of mood, who passes King Mark in might and power? If a noble knight like Tristan serves him, who would not but feel elated, so fairly to be mated.

ISOLDA (gazing vacantly before her). Glorious knight! And I must near him loveless ever languish! How can I support such anguish?

BRANGAENA. What's this, my lady? loveless thou?

(Approaching coaxingly and kissing ISOLDA.)

Where lives there a man would not love thee? Who could see Isolda And not sink at once into bondage blest? And if e'en it could be any were cold, did any magic draw him from thee, I'd bring the false one back to bondage, And bind him in links of love.—

(Secretly and confidentially, close to ISOLDA.)

Mindest thou not thy mother's arts? Think you that she who'd mastered those would have sent me o'er the sea, without assistance for thee?

ISOLDA (darkly). My mother's rede I mind aright, and highly her magic arts I hold:— Vengeance they wreak for wrongs, rest give to wounded spirits.— Yon casket hither bear.

BRANGAENA. It holds a balm for thee.—

(She brings forward a small golden coffer, opens it, and points to its contents.)

Thy mother placed inside it her subtle magic potions. There's salve for sickness or for wounds, and antidotes for deadly drugs.—

(She takes a bottle.)

The helpfullest draught I hold in here.

ISOLDA. Not so, I know a better. I make a mark to know it again— This draught 'tis I would drain.

(Seizes flask and shows it.)

BRANGAENA (recoiling in horror). The draught of death!

(ISOLDA has risen from the sofa and now hears with increasing dread the cries of the sailors.)

VOICES OF THE CREW (without). "Ho! heave ho! hey! Reduce the sail! The mainsail in! Ho! heave ho! hey!"

ISOLDA. Our journey has been swift. Woe is me! Near to the land!


(KURVENAL boisterously enters through the curtains.)

KURVENAL. Up, up, ye ladies! Look alert! Straight bestir you! Loiter not,—here is the land!— To dame Isolda says the servant of Tristan, our hero true:— Behold our flag is flying! it waveth landwards aloft: in Mark's ancestral castle may our approach be seen. So, dame Isolda, he prays to hasten, for land straight to prepare her, that thither he may bear her.

ISOLDA (who has at first cowered and shuddered on hearing the message, now speaks calmly and with dignity). My greeting take unto your lord and tell him what I say now: Should he assist to land me and to King Mark would he hand me, unmeet and unseemly were his act, the while my pardon was not won for trespass black and base: So bid him seek my grace.

(KURVENAL makes a gesture of defiance.)

Now mark me well, This message take:— Nought will I yet prepare me, that he to land may bear me; I will not by him be landed, nor unto King Mark be handed ere granting forgiveness and forgetfulness, which 'tis seemly he should seek:— for all his trespass base I tender him my grace.

KURVENAL. Be assured, I'll bear your words: we'll see what he will say!

(He retires quickly.)


ISOLDA (hurries to BRANGAENA and embraces her vehemently). Now farewell, Brangaena! Greet ev'ry one, Greet my father and mother!

BRANGAENA. What now? what mean'st thou? Wouldst thou flee? And where must I then follow?

ISOLDA (checking herself suddenly). Here I remain: heard you not? Tristan will I await.— I trust in thee to aid in this: prepare the true cup of peace: thou mindest how it is made.

BRANGAENA. What meanest thou?

ISOLDA (taking a bottle from the coffer). This it is! From the flask go pour this philtre out; yon golden goblet 'twill fill.

BRANGAENA (filled with terror receiving the flask). Trust I my wits?

ISOLDA. Wilt thou be true?

BRANGAENA. The draught—for whom?

ISOLDA. Him who betrayed!


ISOLDA. Truce he'll drink with me.

BRANGAENA (throwing herself at ISOLDA'S feet). O horror! Pity thy handmaid!

ISOLDA. Pity thou me, false-hearted maid! Mindest thou not my mother's arts? Think you that she who'd mastered those would have sent thee o'er the sea without assistance for me? A salve for sickness doth she offer and antidotes for deadly drugs: for deepest grief and woe supreme gave she the draught of death. Let Death now give her thanks!

BRANGAENA (scarcely able to control herself). O deepest grief!

ISOLDA. Now, wilt thou obey?

BRANGAENA. O woe supreme!

ISOLDA. Wilt thou be true?

BRANGAENA. The draught?

KURVENAL (entering). Sir Tristan!

(BRANGAENA rises, terrified and confused. ISOLDA strives with immense effort to control herself.)

ISOLDA (to Kurvenal). Sir Tristan may approach!


[KURVENAL retires again. BRANGAENA, almost beside herself, turns up the stage. ISOLDA, mustering all her powers of resolution, walks slowly and with dignity towards the sofa, by the head of which she supports herself, turning her eyes firmly towards the entrance]

(TRISTAN enters, and pauses respectfully at the entrance.)

TRISTAN. Demand, lady, what you will.

ISOLDA. While knowing not what my demand is, wert thou afraid still to fulfil it, fleeing my presence thus?

TRISTAN. Honor Held me in awe.

ISOLDA. Scant honor hast thou shown unto me; for, unabashed, withheldest thou obedience unto my call.

TRISTAN. Obedience 'twas forbade me to come.

ISOLDA. But little I owe thy lord, methinks, if he allows ill manners unto his own promised bride.

TRISTAN. In our land it is the law that he who fetches home the bride should stay afar from her.

ISOLDA. On what account?

TRISTAN. 'Tis the custom.

ISOLDA. Being so careful, my lord Tristan, another custom can you not learn? Of enemies friends make: for evil acts amends make.

TRISTAN. Who is my foe?

ISOLDA. Find in thy fears! Blood-guilt gets between us.

TRISTAN. That was absolved.

ISOLDA. Not between us.

TRISTAN. In open field, 'fore all the folk our old feud was abandoned.

ISOLDA. 'Twas not there I held Tantris hid when Tristan was laid low, He stood there brawny, bright and brave; but in his truce I took no part: my tongue its silence had learnt. When in chambered stillness sick he lay with the sword I stood before him, stern; silent—my lips, motionless—my hand. But that which my hand and lips had once vowed, I swore in stealth to adhere to: lo! now my desire I'm near to.

TRISTAN. What hast thou sworn?

ISOLDA (quickly). Vengeance for Morold!

TRISTAN (quietly). Mindst thou that?

ISOLDA (animated). Dare you to flout me?— Was he not my betrothed, that noble Irish knight? For his sword a blessing I sought; for me only he fought. When he was murdered no honor fell. In that heartfelt misery my vow was framed; if no man remained to right it, I, a maid, must needs requite it.— Weak and maimed, when might was mine, why at thy death did I pause? Thou shalt know the secret cause.— Thy hurts I tended that, when sickness ended, thou shouldst fall by some man, as Isolda's revenge should plan. But now attempt thy fate to foretell me? if their friendship all men do sell thee, what foe can seek to fell thee?

TRISTAN (pale and gloomy, offers her his sword). If thou so lovedst this lord, then lift once more my sword, nor from thy purpose refrain; let the weapon not fail again.

ISOLDA. Put up thy sword which once I swung, when vengeful rancor my bosom wrung, when thy masterful eyes did ask me straight whether King Mark might seek me for mate. The sword harmless descended.— Drink, let our strife be ended!

(ISOLDA beckons BRANGAENA. She trembles and hesitates to obey. ISOLDA commands her with a more imperious gesture. BRANGAENA sets about preparing the drink.)

VOICES OF THE CREW (without). Ho! heave ho! hey! Reduce the sail! The foresail in! Ho! heave ho! hey!

TRISTAN (starting from his gloomy brooding). Where are we?

ISOLDA. Near to shore. Tristan, is warfare ended? Hast not a word to offer?

TRISTAN (darkly). Concealment's mistress makes me silent: I know what she conceals, conceal, too, more than she knows.

ISOLDA. Thy silence nought but feigning I deem. Friendship wilt thou still deny?

(Renewed cries of the Sailors.)

(At an impatient sign from ISOLDA BRANGAENA hands her the filled cup.)

ISOLDA (advancing with the cup to TRISTAN, who gazes immovably into her eyes). Thou hear'st the cry? The shore's in sight: we must ere long (with slight scorn) stand by King Mark together.

SAILORS (without). Haul the warp! Anchor down!

TRISTAN (starting wildly). Down with the anchor! Her stern to the stream! The sails a-weather the mast!

(He takes the cup from ISOLDA.)

I know the Queen of Ireland well, unquestioned are her magic arts: the balsam cured me which she brought; now bid me quaff the cup, that I may quite recover. Heed to my all— atoning oath, which in return I tender Tristan's honor— highest truth! Tristan's anguish— brave distress! Traitor spirit, dawn-illumined! Endless trouble's only truce! Oblivion's kindly draught, with rapture thou art quaff'd!

(He lifts the cup and drinks.)

ISOLDA. Betrayed e'en here? I must halve it!—

(She wrests the cup from his hand.)

Betrayer, I drink to thee!

[She drinks, and then throws away the cup. Both, seized with shuddering, gaze with deepest emotion, but immovable demeanor, into one another's eyes, in which the expression of defiance to death fades and melts into the glow of passion. Trembling seizes them, they convulsively clutch their hearts and pass their hands over their brows. Their glances again seek to meet, sink in confusion, and once more turn with growing longing upon one another.]

ISOLDA (with trembling voice). Tristan!

TRISTAN (overpowered). Isolda!

ISOLDA (sinking upon his breast). Traitor beloved!

TRISTAN. Woman divine!

(He embraces her with ardor. They remain in a silent embrace.)

ALL THE MEN (without). Hail! Hail! Hail our monarch! Hail to Mark, the king!

BRANGAENA (who, filled with confusion and horror, has leaned over the side with averted face, now turns to behold the pair locked in their close embrace, and rushes to the front, wringing her hands in despair). Woe's me! Woe's me! Endless mis'ry I have wrought instead of death! Dire the deed of my dull fond heart: it cries aloud to heav'n!

(They start from their embrace.)

TRISTAN (bewildered). What troubled dream of Tristan's honor?

ISOLDA. What troubled dream Of Isolda's shame?

TRISTAN. Have I then lost thee?

ISOLDA. Have I repulsed thee?

TRISTAN. Fraudulent magic, framing deceit!

BOTH. Languishing passion, longing and growing, love ever yearning, loftiest glowing! Rapture confess'd rides in each breast! Isolda! Tristan! Tristan! Isolda! World, I can shun thee my love is won me! Thou'rt my thought, all above: highest delight of love!


[The curtains are now drawn wide apart; the whole ship is covered with knights and sailors, who, with shouts of joy, make signs over towards the shore which is now seen to be quite near, with castle-crowned cliffs. Tristan and Isolda remain absorbed in mutual contemplation, perceiving nothing that is passing.]

BRANGAENA (to the women, who at her bidding ascend from below). Quick—the mantle! the royal robe!—

(Rushing between TRISTAN and ISOLDA.)

Up, hapless ones! See where we are!

(She places the royal mantle on ISOLDA, who notices nothing.)

ALL THE MEN. Hail! Hail! Hail our monarch! Hail to Mark the king!

KURVENAL (advancing gaily). Hail, Tristan, knight of good hap! Behold King Mark approaching, in a bark with brave attendance. Gladly he stems the tide, coming to seek his bride.

TRISTAN (looking up in bewilderment). Who comes?

KURVENAL. The king 'tis.

TRISTAN. What king mean you?

(KURVENAL points over the side. TRISTAN gazes stupefied at the shore.)

ALL THE MEN (waving their hats). Hail to King Mark! All hail!

ISOLDA (bewildered). What is't, Brangaena? What are those cries?

BRANGAENA. Isolda—mistress! Compose thyself!

ISOLDA. Where am I! living? What was that draught?

BRANGAENA (despairingly). The love-potion!

ISOLDA (staring with horror at TRISTAN). Tristan!

TRISTAN. Isolda!

ISOLDA. Must I live, then?

(Falls fainting upon his breast.)

BRANGAENA (to the women). Look to your lady!

TRISTAN. O rapture fraught with cunning! O fraud with bliss o'er-running!

ALL THE MEN (in a general burst of acclamation). Hail to King Mark! Cornwall, hail!

[People have clambered over the ship's side, others have extended a bridge, and the aspect of all indicates the immediate arrival of the expected ones, as the curtain falls.]


[A Garden before ISOLDA'S Chamber which lies at one side and is approached by steps. Bright and pleasant summer night. At the open door a burning torch is fixed. Sounds of hunting heard.]


[BRANGAENA, on the steps leading to the chamber, is watching the retreat of the still audible hunters. She looks anxiously back into the chamber as ISOLDA emerges thence in ardent animation.]

ISOLDA. Yet do you hear? I lost the sound some time.

BRANGAENA (listening). Still do they stay: clearly rings the horns.

ISOLDA (listening). Fear but deludes thy anxious ear; by sounds of rustling leaves thou'rt deceived, aroused by laughter of winds.

BRANGAENA. Deceived by wild desire art thou, and but hear'st as would thy will:— I still hear the sound of horns.

ISOLDA (listens). No sound of horns were so sweet: yon fountain's soft murmuring current moves so quietly hence. If horns yet brayed, how could I hear that? In still night alone it laughs on mine ear. My lov'd one hides in darkness unseen: wouldst thou hold from my side my dearest? deeming that horns thou hearest?

BRANGAENA. Thy lov'd one hid— oh heed my warning!— for him a spy waits by night. Listening oft I light upon him: he lays a secret snare. Of Melot oh beware!

ISOLDA. Mean you Sir Melot? O, how you mistake! Is he not Tristan's trustiest friend? May my true love not meet me, with none but Melot he stays.

BRANGAENA. What moves me to fear him makes thee his friend then? Through Tristan to Mark's side is Melot's way: he sows suspicion's seed. And those who have to-day on a night-hunt so suddenly decided, a far nobler game than is guessed by thee taxes their hunting skill.

ISOLDA. For Tristan's sake contrived was this scheme by means of Melot, in truth: now would you decry his friendship? He serves Isolda better than you his hand gives help which yours denies: what need of such delay? The signal, Brangaena! O give the signal! Tread out the torch's trembling gleam, that night may envelop all with her veil. Already her peace reigns o'er hill and hall, her rapturous awe the heart does enthral; allow then the light to fall! Let but its dread lustre die! let my beloved draw nigh!

BRANGAENA. The light of warning suppress not! Let it remind thee of peril!— Ah, woe's me! Woe's me! Fatal folly! The fell pow'r of that potion! That I framed a fraud for once thy orders to oppose! Had I been deaf and blind, thy work were then thy death: but thy distress, thy distraction of grief, my work has contrived them, I own it!

ISOLDA. Thy—act? O foolish girl! Love's goddess dost thou not know? nor all her magic arts? The queen who grants unquailing hearts, the witch whose will the world obeys, life and death she holds in her hands, which of joy and woe are wove? she worketh hate into love. The work of death I took into my own hands; Love's goddess saw and gave her good commands The death—condemned she claimed as her prey, planning our fate in her own way. How she may bend it, how she may end it, what she may make me, wheresoe'er take me, still hers am I solely;— so let me obey her wholly.

BRANGAENA. And if by the artful love-potion's lures thy light of reason is ravished, if thou art reckless when I would warn thee, this once, oh, wait and weigh my pleading! I implore, leave it alight!— The torch! the torch! O put it not out this night!

ISOLDA. She who causes thus my bosom's throes, whose eager fire within me glows, whose light upon my spirit flows, Love's goddess needs that night should close; that brightly she may reign and shun the torchlight vain.

(She goes up to the door and takes down the torch.)

Go watch without— keep wary guard! The signal!— and were it my spirit's spark, smiling I'd destroy it and hail the dark!

[She throws the torch to the ground where it slowly dies out. BRANGAENA turns away, disturbed, and mounts an outer flight of steps leading to the roof, where she slowly disappears. ISOLDA listens and peers, at first shyly, towards an avenue. Urged, by rising impatience, she then approaches the avenue and looks more boldly. She signs with her handkerchief, first slightly, then more plainly, waving it quicker as her impatience increases. A gesture of sudden delight shows that she has perceived her lover in the distance. She stretches herself higher and higher, and then, to look better over the intervening space, hastens back to the steps, from the top of which she signals again to the on-comer. As he enters, she springs to meet him.]


TRISTAN (rushing in). Isolda! Beloved!

ISOLDA. Tristan! Beloved one!

(Passionate embrace, with which they come down to the front.)

BOTH. Art thou mine? Do I behold thee? Do I embrace thee? Can I believe it? At last! At last! Here on my breast! Do I then clasp thee! Is it thy own self? Are these thine eyes? These thy lips? Here thy hand? Here thy heart? Is't I?—Is't thou, held in my arms? Am I not duped? Is it no dream? O rapture of spirit! O sweetest, highest, fairest, strongest, holiest bliss? Endless pleasure! Boundless treasure! Ne'er to sever! Never! Never! Unconceived, unbelieved, overpowering exaltation! Joy-proclaiming, bliss-outpouring, high in heaven, earth ignoring! Tristan mine! Isolda mine! Tristan! Isolda! Mine alone! Thine alone! Ever all my own!

TRISTAN. The light! The light! O but this light, how long 'twas let to burn! The sun had sunk, the day had fled; but all their spite not yet was sped: the scaring signal they set alight, before my belov'd one's dwelling, my swift approach repelling.

ISOLDA. Thy belov'd one's hand lowered the light, for Brangaena's fears in me roused no fright: while Love's goddess gave me aid, sunlight a mock I made. But the light its fear and defeat repaid; with thy misdeeds a league it made. What thou didst see in shadowing night, to the shining sun of kingly might must thou straightway surrender, that it should exist in bright bonds of empty splendor.— Could I bear it then? Can I bear it now?

TRISTAN. O now were we to night devoted, the dishonest day with envy bloated, lying, could not mislead, though it might part us indeed. Its pretentious glows and its glamouring light are scouted by those who worship night. All its flickering gleams in flashes out-blazing blind us no more where we are gazing. Those who death's night boldly survey, those who have studied her secret way, the daylight's falsehoods— rank and fame, honor and all at which men aim— to them are no more matter than dust which sunbeams scatter, In the daylight's visions thronging only abides one longing; we yearn to hie to holy night, where, unending, only true, Love extendeth delight!

(TRISTAN draws ISOLDA gently aside to a flowery bank, sinks on his knee before her and rests his head on her arm.)

(TRISTAN and ISOLDA sink into oblivious ecstasy, reposing on the flowery bank close together.)

BRANGAENA (from the turret, unseen). Long I watch alone by night: ye enwrapt in love's delight, heed my boding voice aright. I forewarn you woe is near; waken to my words of fear. Have a care! Have a care! Swiftly night doth wear!

ISOLDA. List, beloved!

TRISTAN. Let me die thus!

ISOLDA (slowly raising herself a little). Envious watcher!

TRISTAN (remaining in reclining position). I'll ne'er waken.

ISOLDA. But the Day must dawn and rouse thee?

TRISTAN (raising his head slightly). Let the Day to Death surrender!

ISOLDA. Day and Death will both engender feud against our passion tender.

TRISTAN (drawing ISOLDA gently towards him with expressive action). O might we then together die, each the other's own for aye! never fearing, never waking, blest delights of love partaking,— each to each be given, in love alone our heaven!

ISOLDA (gazing up at him in thoughtful ecstasy). O might we then together die!

TRISTAN. Each the other's—

ISOLDA. Own for aye,—

TRISTAN. Never fearing—

ISOLDA. Never waking—

TRISTAN. Blest delights of love partaking—

ISOLDA. Each to each be given; in love alone our heaven.

(ISOLDA, as if overcome, droops her head on his breast.)

BRANGAENA'S VOICE (as before). Have a care! Have a care! Night yields to daylight's glare.

TRISTAN (bends smilingly to ISOLDA). Shall I listen?

ISOLDA (looking fondly up at TRISTAN). Let me die thus!

TRISTAN. Must I waken?

ISOLDA. Nought shall wake me!

TRISTAN. Must not daylight dawn, and rouse me?

ISOLDA. Let the Day to Death surrender!

TRISTAN. May thus the Day's evil threats be defied?

ISOLDA (with growing enthusiasm). From its thraldom let us fly.

TRISTAN. And shall not its dawn be dreaded by us?

ISOLDA (rising with a grand gesture). Night will shield us for aye!

(TRISTAN follows her; they embrace in fond exaltation.)

BOTH. O endless Night! blissful Night! glad and glorious lover's Night! Those whom thou holdest, lapped in delight, how could e'en the boldest unmoved endure thy flight? How to take it, how to break it,— joy existent, sunlight distant, Far from mourning, sorrow-warning, fancies spurning, softly yearning, fear expiring, sweet desiring! Anguish flying, gladly dying; no more pining, night-enshrining, ne'er divided whate'er betided, side by side still abide in realms of space unmeasured, vision blest and treasured! Thou Isolda, Tristan I; no more Tristan, no more Isolda. Never spoken, never broken, newly sighted, newly lighted, endless ever all our dream: in our bosoms gleam love delights supreme!


[BRANGAENA utters a piercing cry. TRISTAN and ISOLDA remain in their absorbed state. KURVENAL rushes in with drawn sword.]

KURVENAL. Save yourself, Tristan!

[He looks fearfully off behind him. MARK, MELOT, and courtiers, in hunting dress, come swiftly up the avenue and pause in the foreground in consternation before the lovers. BRANGAENA at the same time descends from the roof and hastens towards ISOLDA. The latter in involuntary shame leans on the flowery bank with averted face. TRISTAN with an equally unconscious action stretches his mantle wide out with one arm, so as to conceal ISOLDA from the gaze of the new-comers. In this position he remains for some time, turning a changeless look upon the men, who gaze at him in varied emotion. The morning dawns.]

TRISTAN. The dreary day— its last time comes!

MELOT (to Mark). Now say to me, my sov'reign, was my impeachment just? I staked my head thereon: How is the pledge redeemed? Behold him in the very act: honor and fame, faithfully I have saved from shame for thee.

MARK (deeply moved, with trembling voice). Hast thou preserved them? Say'st thou so?— See him there, the truest of all true hearts! Look on him the faithfulest of friends, too His offence so black and base fills my heart with anguish and disgrace. Tristan traitor, what hope stayeth that the honor he betrayeth should by Melot's rede rest to me indeed?

TRISTAN (with convulsive violence). Daylight phantoms— morning visions empty and vain— Avaunt! Begone!

MARK (in deep emotion). This—blow. Tristan, to me? Where now has truth fled, if Tristan can betray? Where now are faith and friendship fair, when from the fount of faith, my Tristan, they are gone? The buckler Tristan once did don, where is that shield of virtue now? when from my friends it flies, and Tristan's honor dies?

(TRISTAN slowly lowers his eyes to the ground. His features express increasing grief while MARK continues.)

Why hast thou noble service done, and honor, fame and potent might amassed for Mark, thy king? Must honor, fame, power and might, must all thy noble service done be paid with Mark's dishonor? Seemed the reward too slight and scant that what thou hast won him— realms and riches— thou art the heir unto, all? When childless he lost once a wife, he loved thee so that ne'er again did Mark desire to marry. When all his subjects, high and low, demands and pray'rs, on him did press to choose himself a consort— a queen to give the kingdom, when thou thyself thy uncle urged that what the court and country pleaded well might be conceded, opposing high and low, opposing e'en thyself, with kindly cunning still he refused, till, Tristan, thou didst threaten forever to leave both court and land if thou receivedst not command a bride for the king to woo: then so he let thee do.— This wondrous lovely wife, thy might for me did win, who could behold her, who address her, who in pride and bliss possess her, but would bless his happy fortune? She whom I have paid respect to ever, whom I owned, yet possess'd her never she, the princess proud and peerless, lighting up my life so cheerless, 'spite foes,—without fear, the fairest of brides thou didst bring me here. Why in hell must I bide, without hope of a heaven? Why endure disgrace unhealed by tears or grief? The unexplained, unpenetrated cause of all these woes, who will to us disclose?

TRISTAN (raising his eyes pitifully towards MARK). O monarch! I— may not tell thee, truly; what thou dost ask remains for aye unanswered.—

(He turns to ISOLDA, who looks tenderly up at him.)

Where Tristan now is going, wilt thou, Isolda, follow? The land that Tristan means of sunlight has no gleams; it is the dark abode of night, from whence I first came forth to light, and she who bore me thence in anguish, gave up her life, nor long did languish. She but looked on my face, then sought this resting-place. This land where Night doth reign, where Tristan once hath lain— now thither offers he thy faithful guide to be. So let Isolda straight declare if she will meet him there.

ISOLDA. When to a foreign land before thou didst invite, to thee, traitor, resting true, did Isolda follow. Thy kingdom now art showing, where surely we are going! why should I shun that land by which the world is spann'd? For Tristan's house and home Isold' will make her own. The road whereby we have to go I pray thee quickly show!—

(TRISTAN bends slowly over her and kisses her softly on the forehead. MELOT starts furiously forward.)

MELOT (drawing his sword). Thou villain! Ha! Avenge thee, monarch! Say, wilt suffer such scorn?

TRISTAN (drawing his sword and turning quickly round) Who's he will set his life against mine?

(casting a look at MELOT).

This was my friend; he told me he loved me truly: my fame and honor he upheld more than all men. With arrogance he filled my heart, and led on those who prompted me fame and pow'r to augment me by wedding thee to our monarch.— Thy glance, Isolda, glamoured him thus; and, jealous, my friend played me false to King Mark, whom I betrayed.—

(He sets on MELOT.)

Guard thee, Melot!

[As MELOT presents his sword TRISTAN drops his own guard and sinks wounded into the arms of KURVENAL. ISOLDA throws herself upon his breast. MARK holds MELOT back. The curtain falls quickly.]


A Castle-Garden.

[At one side high castellated buildings, on the other a low breastwork interrupted by a watch tower; at back the castle-gate. The situation is supposed to be on rocky cliffs; through openings the view extends over a wide sea horizon. The whole gives an impression of being deserted by the owner, badly kept, and here and there dilapidated and overgrown.]


[In the foreground, in the garden, lies TRISTAN sleeping on a couch under the shade of a great lime-tree, stretched out as if lifeless. At his head sits KURVENAL, bending over him in grief and anxiously listening to his breathing. From without comes the mournful sound of a shepherd's pipe.

Presently the shepherd comes and looks in with interest, showing the upper half of his body over the wall.]

SHEPHERD. Kurvenal, ho!— Say, Kurvenal,— tell me, friend! Does he still sleep?

KURVENAL (turning a little towards him and shaking his head sadly). If he awoke it would be but for evermore to leave us, unless we find the lady-leech; alone can she give help.— See'st thou nought? No ship yet on the sea?

SHEPHERD. Quite another ditty then would I play as merry as ever I may. But tell me truly, trusty friend, why languishes our lord?

KURVENAL. Do not ask me;— for I can give no answer. Watch the sea, if sails come in sight a sprightly melody play.

SHEPHERD (turns round and scans the horizon, shading his eyes with his hand). Blank appears the sea!

(He puts the reed pipe to his mouth and withdraws, playing.)

TRISTAN (motionless—faintly). The tune so well known— why wake to that?

(opens his eyes and slightly turns his head).

Where am I?

KURVENAL (starting in joyous surprise). Ha!—who is speaking? It is his voice!— Tristan! lov'd one! My lord! my Tristan!

TRISTAN (with effort). Who—calls me?

KURVENAL. Life—at last— O thanks be to heaven!— sweetest life unto my Tristan newly given!

TRISTAN (faintly). Kurvenal!—thou? Where—was I?— Where—am I?

KURVENAL. Where art thou? In safety, tranquil and sure! Kareol 'tis; dost thou not know thy fathers' halls?

TRISTAN. This my fathers'?

KURVENAL. Look but around.

TRISTAN. What awoke me?

KURVENAL. The herdsman's ditty hast thou heard, doubtless; he heedeth thy herds above on the hills there.

TRISTAN. Have I herds, then?

KURVENAL. Sir, I say it! Thine are court, castle—all. To thee yet true, thy trusty folk, as best they might, have held thy home in guard: the gift which once thy goodness gave to thy serfs and vassals here, when going far away, in foreign lands to dwell.

TRISTAN. What foreign land?

KURVENAL. Why! in Cornwall; where cool and able, all that was brilliant, brave and noble, Tristan, my lord, lightly took.

TRISTAN. Am I in Cornwall?

KURVENAL. No, no; in Kareol.

TRISTAN. How came I here?

KURVENAL. Hey now! how you came? No horse hither you rode: a vessel bore you across. But on my shoulders down to the ship you had to ride: they are broad, they carried you to the shore. Now you are at home once more; your own the land, your native land; all loved things now are near you, unchanged the sun doth cheer you. The wounds from which you languish here all shall end their anguish.

(He presses himself to TRISTAN'S breast.)

TRISTAN. Think'st thou thus! I know 'tis not so, but this I cannot tell thee. Where I awoke ne'er I was, but where I wandered I can indeed not tell thee. The sun I could not see, nor country fair, nor people; but what I saw I can indeed not tell thee. It was— the land from which I once came and whither I return: the endless realm of earthly night. One thing only there possessed me: blank, unending, all-oblivion.— How faded all forebodings! O wistful goadings!— Thus I call the thoughts that all t'ward light of day have press'd me. What only yet doth rest me, the love-pains that possess'd me, from blissful death's affright now drive me toward the light, which, deceitful, bright and golden, round thee, Isolda, shines. Accursed day with cruel glow! Must thou ever wake my woe? Must thy light be burning ever, e'en by night our hearts to sever? Ah, my fairest, sweetest, rarest! When wilt thou— when, ah, when— let the torchlight dwindle, that so my bliss may kindle? The light, how long it glows! When will the house repose?

(His voice has grown fainter and he sinks back gently, exhausted.)

KURVENAL (who has been deeply distressed, now quickly rousts himself from his dejection). I once defied, through faith in thee, the one for whom now with thee I'm yearning. Trust in my words, thou soon shalt see her face to face. My tongue that comfort giveth,— if on the earth still she liveth.

TRISTAN (very feebly). Yet burns the beacon's spark: yet is the house not dark, Isolda lives and wakes: her voice through darkness breaks.

KURVENAL. Lives she still, then let new hope delight thee. If foolish and dull you hold me, this day you must not scold me. As dead lay'st thou since the day when that accursed Melot so foully wounded thee. Thy wound was heavy: how to heal it? Thy simple servant there bethought that she who once closed Morold's wound with ease the hurt could heal thee that Melot's sword did deal thee. I found the best of leeches there, to Cornwall have I sent for her: a trusty serf sails o'er the sea, bringing Isold' to thee.

TRISTAN (transported). Isolda comes! Isolda nears! (He struggles for words.) O friendship! high and holy friendship!

(Draws KURVENAL to him and embraces him.)

O Kurvenal, thou trusty heart, my truest friend I rank thee! Howe'er can Tristan thank thee? My shelter and shield in fight and strife; in weal or woe thou'rt mine for life. Those whom I hate thou hatest too; those whom I love thou lovest too. When good King Mark I followed of old, thou wert to him truer than gold. When I was false to my noble friend, to betray too thou didst descend. Thou art selfless, solely mine; thou feel'st for me when I suffer. But—what I suffer, thou canst not feel for me! this terrible yearning in my heart, this feverish burning's cruel smart,— did I but show it, couldst thou but know it, no time here wouldst thou tarry, to watch from tow'r thou wouldst hurry; with all devotion viewing the ocean, with eyes impatiently spying, there, where her ship's sails are flying. Before the wind she drives to find me; on the wings of love she neareth,— Isolda hither steereth!— she nears, she nears, so boldly and fast! It waves, it waves, the flag from the mast! Hurra! Hurra! she reaches the bar! Dost thou not see? Kurvenal, dost thou not see?

(As KURNEVAL hesitates to leave TRISTAN, who is gazing at him in mute expectation, the mournful tune of the shepherd is heard, as before.)

KURVENAL (dejectedly). Still is no ship in sight.

TRISTAN (has listened with waning excitement and now recommences with growing melancholy). Is this the meaning then, thou old pathetic ditty, of all thy sighing sound?— On evening's breeze it sadly rang when, as a child, my father's death-news chill'd me; through morning's mist it stole more sadly, when the son his mother's fate was taught, when they who gave me breath both felt the hand of death to them came also through their pain the ancient ditty's yearning strain, which asked me once and asks me now which was the fate before me to which my mother bore me?— What was the fate?— The strain so plaintive now repeats it:— for yearning—and dying!

(He falls back senseless.)

KURVENAL (who has been vainly striving to calm TRISTAN, cries out in terror). My master! Tristan!— Frightful enchantment!— O love's deceit! O passion's pow'r! Most sweet dream 'neath the sun, see the work thou hast done!— Here lies he now, the noblest of knights, with his passion all others above: behold! what reward his ardor requites; the one sure reward of love!

(with sobbing voice.)

Art thou then dead? Liv'st thou not? Hast to the curse succumbed?—

(He listens for TRISTAN'S breath.)

O rapture! No! He still moves! He lives! and gently his lips are stirr'd.

TRISTAN (very faintly). The ship—is't yet in sight?

KURVENAL. The ship? Be sure t'will come to-day: it cannot tarry longer.

TRISTAN. On board Isolda,— see, she smiles— with the cup that reconciles. Dost thou see? Dost thou see her now? Full of grace and loving mildness, floating o'er the ocean's wildness? By billows of flowers lightly lifted, gently toward the land she's drifted. Her look brings ease and sweet repose; her hand one last relief bestows. Isolda! Ah, Isolda! How fair, how sweet art thou!— And Kurvenal, why!— what ails thy sight? Away, and watch for her, foolish I see so well and plainly, let not thine eye seek vainly Dost thou not hear? Away, with speed! Haste to the watch-tow'r! Wilt thou not heed? The ship, the ship! Isolda's ship!— Thou must discern it, must perceive it! The ship—dost thou see it?—

(Whilst KURVENAL, still hesitating, opposes TRISTAN, the Shepherd's pipe is heard without, playing a joyous strain.)

KURVENAL (springing joyously up). O rapture! Transport!

(He rushes to the watch-tower and looks out.)

Ha! the ship! From northward it is nearing.

TRISTAN. So I knew, so I said! Yes, she yet lives, and life to me gives. How could Isold' from this world be free, which only holds Isolda for me?

KURVENAL (shouting). Ahoy! Ahoy! See her bravely tacking! How full the canvas is filled! How she darts! how she flies!

TRISTAN. The pennon? the pennon?

KURVENAL. A flag is floating at mast-head, joyous and bright.

TRISTAN. Aha! what joy! Now through the daylight comes my Isolda. Isolda, oh come! See'st thou herself?

KURVENAL. The ship is shut from me by rocks.

TRISTAN. Behind the reef? Is there not risk! Those dangerous breakers ships have oft shattered.— Who steereth the helm?

KURVENAL. The steadiest seaman.

TRISTAN. Betrays he me? Is he Melot's ally?

KURVENAL. Trust him like me.

TRISTAN. A traitor thou, too!— O caitiff! Canst thou not see her?

KURVENAL. Not yet.

TRISTAN. Destruction!

KURVENAL. Aha! Halla-halloa I they clear! they clear! Safely they clear! Inside the surf steers now the ship to the strand.

TRISTAN (shouting in joy). Hallo-ho! Kurvenal! Trustiest friend! All the wealth I own to-day I bequeath thee.

KURVENAL. With speed they approach.

TRISTAN. Now dost thou see her? See'st thou Isolda?

KURVENAL. 'Tis she! she waves!

TRISTAN. O woman divine!

KURVENAL. The ship is a-land! Isolda.'—ha!— With but one leap lightly she springs to land!

TRISTAN. Descend from the watch-tow'r, indolent gazer! Away! away to the shore! Help her! help my belov'd!

KURVENAL. In a trice she shall come; Trust in my strong arm! But thou, Tristan, hold thee tranquilly here!

(He hastens off.)

TRISTAN (tossing on his couch in feverish excitement). O sunlight glowing, glorious ray! Ah, joy-bestowing radiant day! Boundeth my blood, boisterous flood! Infinite gladness! Rapturous madness! Can I bear to lie couched here in quiet? Away, let me fly to where hearts run riot! Tristan the brave, exulting in strength, has torn himself from death at length.

(He raises himself erect.)

All wounded and bleeding Sir Morold I defeated; all bleeding and wounded Isolda now shall be greeted.

(He tears the bandage from his wound.)

Ha, ha, my blood! Merrily flows it.

(He springs from his bed and staggers forward.)

She who can help my wound and close it, she comes in her pride, she comes to my aid. Be space defied: let the universe fade!

(He reels to the centre of the stage.)

ISOLDA'S VOICE (without). Tristan! Tristan! Beloved!

TRISTAN (in frantic excitement). What! hails me the light? The torchlight—ha!— The torch is extinct! I come! I come!


[ISOLDA hastens breathlessly in. TRISTAN, delirious with excitement, staggers wildly towards her. They meet in the centre of the stage; she receives him in her arms, where he sinks slowly to the ground.]

ISOLDA. Tristan! Ah!

TRISTAN (turning, his dying eyes on ISOLDA). Isolda!—

(He dies.)

ISOLDA. 'Tis I, 'tis I— dearly belov'd! Wake, and once more hark to my voice! Isolda calls. Isolda comes, with Tristan true to perish.— Speak unto me! But for one moment, only one moment open thine eyes! Such weary days I waited and longed, that one single hour I with thee might awaken. Betrayed am I then? Deprived by Tristan of this our solitary, swiftly fleeting, final earthly joy?— His wound, though—where? Can I not heal it? The rapture of night O let us feel it? Not of thy wounds, not of thy wounds must thou expire! Together, at least, let fade life's enfeebled fire!— How lifeless his look!— still his heart!— Dared he to deal me Buch a smart? Stayed is his breathing's gentle tide! Must I be wailing at his side, who, in rapture coming to seek him, fearless sailed o'er the sea? Too late, too late! Desperate man! Casting on me this cruelest ban! Comes no relief for my load of grief? Silent art keeping while I am weeping? But once more, ah! But once again!— Tristan!—ha! he wakens—hark! Beloved— —dark!

(She sinks down senseless upon his body.)


[KURVENAL, who reentered close behind ISOLDA, has remained by the entrance speechless and petrified, gazing motionless on TRISTAN. From below is now heard the dull murmur of voices and the clash of weapons. The Shepherd clambers over the wall.]

SHEPHERD (coming hastily and softly to KURVENAL). Kurvenal! Hear! Another ship!

(KURVENAL starts up in haste and looks over the rampart, whilst the Shepherd stands apart, gazing in consternation on TRISTAN and ISOLDA.)

KURVENAL. Fiends and furies!

(In a burst of anger.)

All are at hand! Melot and Mark I see on the strand,— Weapons and missiles!— Guard we the gate!

(He hastens with the Shepherd to the gate, which they both try quickly to barricade.)

THE STEERSMAN (rushing in). Mark and his men have set on us: defence is vain! We're overpowered.

KURVENAL. Stand to and help!— While lasts my life I'll let no foe enter here!

BRANGAENA'S VOICE (without, calling from below). Isolda! Mistress!

KURVENAL. Brangaena's voice! (Falling down.) What want you here?

BRANGAENA. Open, Kurvenal! Where is Isolda?

KURVENAL. With foes do you come? Woe to you, false one!

MELOT'S VOICE (without). Stand back, thou fool! Bar not the way!

KURVENAL (laughing savagely). Hurrah for the day on which I confront thee!

(MELOT, with armed men, appears under the gateway. KURVENAL falls on him and cuts him down.)

Die, damnable wretch!


MELOT. Woe's me!—Tristan! (He dies.)

BRANGAENA (still without). Kurvenal! Madman! O hear—thou mistakest!

KURVENAL. Treacherous maid! (To his men.) Come! Follow me! Force them below! (They fight.)

MARK (without). Hold, thou frantic man! Lost are thy senses?

KURVENAL. Here ravages Death! Nought else, O king, is here to be holden! If you would earn it, come on!

(He sets upon MARK and his followers.)

MARK. Away, rash maniac!

BRANGAENA (has climbed over the wall at the side and hastens in the front). Isolda! lady! Joy and life!— What sight's here—ha! Liv'st thou, Isolda! (She goes to ISOLDA'S aid.)

MARK (who with his followers has driven KURVENAL and his men back from the gate and forced his way in).O wild mistake! Tristan, where art thou?

KURVENAL (desperately wounded, totters before MARK to the front). He lieth—there— here, where I lie too.—

(Sinks down at TRISTAN'S feet.)

MARK. Tristan! Tristan! Isolda! Woe!

KURVENAL (trying to grasp TRISTAN'S hand). Tristan! true lord! Chide me not that I try to follow thee! (He dies.)

MARK. Dead together!— All are dead! My hero Tristan! truest of friends, must thou again be to thy king a traitor? Now, when he comes another proof of love to give thee! Awaken! awaken. O hear my lamentation, thou faithless, faithful friend!

(Kneels down sobbing over the bodies.)

BRANGAENA (who has revived ISOLDA in her arms). She wakes! she lives! Isolda, hear! Hear me, mistress beloved! Tidings of joy I have to tell thee: O list to thy Brangaena! My thoughtless fault I have atoned; after thy flight I forthwith went to the king: the love potion's secret he scarce had learned when with sedulous haste he put to sea, that he might find thee, nobly renounce thee and give thee up to thy love.

MARK. O why, Isolda, Why this to me? When clearly was disclosed what before I could fathom not, what joy was mine to find my friend was free from fault! In haste to wed thee to my hero with flying sails I followed thy track: but howe'er can happiness o'ertake the swift course of woe? More food for Death did I make: more wrong grew in mistake.

BRANGAENA. Dost thou not hear? Isolda! Lady! O try to believe the truth!

ISOLDA (unconscious of all around her, turning her eyes with, rising inspiration on TRISTAN'S body). Mild and softly he is smiling; how his eyelids sweetly open! See, oh comrades, see you not how he beameth ever brighter— how he rises ever radiant steeped in starlight, borne above? See you not how his heart with lion zest, calmly happy beats in his breast? From his lips in heavenly rest sweetest breath he softly sends. Harken, friends! Hear and feel ye not? Is it I alone am hearing strains so tender and endearing? Passion swelling, all things telling, gently bounding, from him sounding, in me pushes, upward rushes trumpet tone that round me gushes. Brighter growing, o'er me flowing, are these breezes airy pillows? Are they balmy beauteous billows? How they rise and gleam and glisten! Shall I breathe them? Shall I listen? Shall I sip them, dive within them, to my panting breathing win them? In the breezes around, in the harmony sound in the world's driving whirlwind be drown'd— and, sinking, be drinking— in a kiss, highest bliss!

(ISOLDA sinks, as if transfigured, in BRANGAENA'S arms upon TRISTAN'S body. Profound emotion and grief of the bystanders. MARK invokes a blessing on the dead. Curtain.)


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