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Who knows not the tragedy of Tristan and Isolt?
The fair-haired Cornish harper whose hands held steel and string?
And Ireland's greatest treasure, borne like Helen 'cross the water
While the waves approaching bowed before her beauty?
All who've heard the telling know the blind and bitter Fates
Placed the cup of love's sweet poison to unconsenting lips
And as plank fell home to timber and the king beheld his lady
Carols rang within the church and seagulls screamed.
All the harpers laboured on their agonies of passion
Unfulfilled and ever straining like lodestones to the north
But few will ever mention how the cold breath of the Northlands
Let them lie at last as one without deceit
When Tristan could no longer bear the shame of guilty conscience
He took ship to far Bretagne, half-hearted and bereft
He cast aside his music, cut the strings which brought him joy
And took solace in the fury of the field.
Praise grew up around him like the corn around a boulder
As the Cornishman did battle with demons in and out
In singing sword and thunder, Tristan vainly sought distraction
Yet she whispered in the silence of the slain
In the way of warriors rewarding noble heroes,
Fairest Blanchmaine of the Bretons was given for his wife
But Blanchmaine knew no pleasure from her cold and grieving husband
For the marble face of memory was his bride
In that time the country was beset with Eden's serpents
And the basest of all creatures can bring the highest low
Two poisons coursed within him, and none could be his saviour
But the healing arts of Ireland and Isolt.
Wings of hope departed, struggling North against the tempest
With tender words entreating for mercy and for grace
If his love no longer moved her, hoist the black into the rigging
But if white brought them together, he would wait.
Daylight creeping downward, Tristan's demons massed against him
And the words of his delusions brought hidden love to light,
While the woman he had married but to whom he'd given nothing
Sat her long and jealous vigil by his side.
Morning framed the answer walking lightly o'er the water
Like Christ's own victory banner, it flew toward the shore
It was white as angels' raiments, but when feebly he begged her,
Fairest Blanchmaine softly told him, "'Tis of night."
Who can say which venom took the soul from Tristan's body,
And the bells began their tolling as Isolt ran up the strand.
The wind grew slow and silent as she wept upon her lover,
And in gentleness it took her grief away.
Side by side they laid them with the earth their separation.
Even yet, they were divided by the morals of the world
But their spirits spiraled upwards, Ireland's briar and Cornwall's rose,
And together at the last, they lay entwined.