The Carlisle Fragment of Thomas's Tristan
translated J. Shoaf(1)

Comparison to the corresponding section of Tristrams Saga
Corresponding section of Sir Tristrem.

Here is my hopeful reconstruction of the most difficult section, where only the second halves of the lines survive:

[She thought how to make] her secret known
[And wondered if] he would notice it this way
For he sat beside her
to comfort her.
[She says she] has been troubled at sea*
and hidden it from him.
"And it was a miracle
I didn't kill you-
If I hadn't been a coward
I would have avenged my uncle.
If I had only known then--
If you were dead
who would comfort me?"
[She reflects on this] sorrow:
"If for love [of my uncle](2)
[Tristran] had lost his life
I would be healed
And I could live [as I should].(3)
....
....
If I had cried out
....when....
.....holy
......in this mad desire."
[A blush] colors her face,
[Then it loses all] color
[As happens to a woman] by love
Seized and imprisoned.
[On Tristran] she leaned
[No more intimately than] was proper--
[If this pleased her] it was no miracle.
"[God's] grace come to me-
[Bitterness*] so holds me-
[How can I] please my heart
[While embarked] on the sea*?
[Had I known] what the sea/love(4) was like--
[That it would be] so bitter*--
[Never would] I have placed myself
[on a ship....]"(5)
....
Here begins the fully represented text. Ysolt is speaking:

"As you believed, my friend;(6)
If you weren't (here?), I wouldn't ever have been,
And I wouldn't have known anything about bitterness/love*.
It's odd that people don't hate the sea*
When they know that at sea* there is such bitter* ill,
And that its anguish is so bitter*!
If I can ever get out of it,
I'll never go back in, I think."(7)

Tristran has noted every phrase,
But she has confused him here
By "l'amer" on which she has rung such changes
That he doesn't know if this pain
She has is from the sea or from love,
Or if she is saying "bitter" about "the sea"
Or is saying "love" is "bitter."(8)
In the doubt he feels
He asks [himself if love has taken her],(9)
[and if she is yielding to it or refraining]
....
....
"[Yet... the truth...]
For one can feel two ills from this-
One from loving, the other from putrid illness."(10)
Ysolt says, "The ill that I feel
is bitter, but not putrid at all;
It torments my heart and holds it tight.
This bitterness* comes from the sea*--
It took hold since I embarked on it."

Tristran replies, "I have a similar one;
My ill is derived from yours.
Torment makes my heart love*
Yet it does not feel the illness as bitter;
Nor does it come from the sea*--
From loving* I have this pain,
And on the sea love seized me.
Now I've said enough for wisdom."(11)

When Ysolt hears his feelings
She is happy indeed [at how this is turning out].(12)
....
For both of them are hopeful;(13)
They speak of their needs and desires,
They kiss, caress, and embrace each other.
They speak to Branguen of love;
They promise her and tell her so much,
That they are all bound by a pact,
And she consents to their desire.
Privately they take what they need
And what joy and pleasure they want,
As often as they can day and night.

Delightful is the sport
Of him who in pain has comfort;
It is the custom with love
To follow pain with joy.
Since have they revealed themselves to each other,
The abstainer would be the loser.

The lovers travel in joy,(14)
Sailing over the smooth high seas,
Towards England at full sail.
Those on the ship see land--
They are all happy and joyful
Except for Tristran the Lover,(15)
For if he could travel by his own desire,
He would not wish to see it for a long time;
He would rather love Ysolt at sea
And carry on with their caresses.

Nevertheless they go towards the land;
By the eyes of the people
Tristran's ship is recognized.
Before it comes to shore.(16)
A young man is on his way
On a swift horse to the king;
He finds him in the woods and tells him
That he saw Tristran's ship arrive.
When the king hears this, he is happy-
He makes the youth a knight
For telling him the news
Of Tristran and the maiden.
He goes to meet them at the shore,
Then sends for all his lords.

Here begins the section to which the editors have supplied the rhyme-words, following Gottfried.(17)

He leads Ysolt before [them];
He does what is proper to [honor her];
He has married her with great [display],
And they enjoy themselves all [day].
Ysolt was very [clever? Worried?](18)
She goes to her bedroom
With Tristran.
They call [Branguen] into counsel;
[Ysolt] weeps tenderly, [asking her]
To [help] her tonight
With the king in [her] place
Because he knows her to be [a virgin].
(And she is not [a virgin] at all.)
They persuade her so
And plead and [swear],
That she [agrees to] their request.
Branguen [gets ready]
As if she were a queen.
[She goes to bed] for her lady,
And the queen [wears her clothes].
Mark is....(19)
...
Tristran [puts out] the candles.
That man takes Branguen [in his arms]
And [takes] her virginity.
[Ysolt] is very worried-
She thinks she will [betray them]
to the king;
Because she is enjoying [herself]
She will not want to leave.
She [waits] close by;
When the king had [finished? fallen asleep? called for wine?]
Branguen [left the bed]
And the queen [got in].
After the wine, [Mark sleeps with Ysolt](20)
So that he never [notices]
That she is different.
He finds her [the same woman? just as compliant?].
He shows her [affection]
[He takes] such great joy [in her].


Translator's Notes

1. Based on the edition of Michael Benskin, Tony Hunt, and Ian Short, "Un nouveau fragment du Tristan de Thomas," Romania 113: 289-319. The Carlisle Fragment consisted at one time of a sheet of paper with two columns of 40 lines each on each side of it; this sheet has been trimmed down one side (cutting off the beginnings of the lines on one side and the ends of them on the other) and cut in two to be used as a binding for a set of legal documents. I have also referred to Ian Short's edition, notes, and French translation in Tristan et Yseut: Les premières versions européens, gen. Ed. Christine Marchello-Nizia, Pléiade (Gallimard, 1995), 124-127 and notes. Words in brackets are the translator's (or editors') inventions for filling out missing words in a line.

2. I have put this section into a soliloquy for Ysolt because of the third-person "lost his life," when she has been using the second-person to address Tristran. If the reading "I would be healed" is correct, and Ysolt were speaking out loud, her sense would be very clear indeed to Tristan....

3. Two lines missing, followed by three lines which have only a word or two clear in each.

4. Here there is a clear double entendre. The starred terms indicate the play on l'amer or amer (the act of loving), la mer (the sea), and l'amer or amer, bitterness/gall (or the adjective bitter). The scribe's division of letters does not help much here. I have tried to keep Ysolt's comments ambiguous while allowing Tristran to use the verb "love" more openly.

5. Completely conjectural as to what this line, and the following line which is lost, might have said. The next line, the first full line to be preserved, is damaged and hard to reconstruct; I have followed the editors' reading but it seems to me that it has a sense along the lines of "I should blame you, my friend."

6. I follow the reconstruction of the editors for this damaged line, and also Short's translation.

7. The language of embarkation on the sea is one of entering into or leaving from it, as if it were a room rather than a medium of transportation.

8. Ian Short translates this differently: "If she is saying `love' meaning `the sea' or saying `bitter' instead of `love.'"

9. Here the editors have supplied the bracketed material based on a few letters in the text. I am not confident of the reconstruction. Then there are two lines missing and a third, in which Tristran is speaking, which neither the editors nor I make much sense of.

10. Short translates the two options as "a flux of bile or nausea," taking "amer" as "bile," in a translation closer to Gottfried. (In Gottfried the play is different-- Tristan asks Isold, without using the French words, if she speaks of bitterness from the sea or from a taste, but he avoids the word love.)

Tristran uses the word "puir," to stink, which I have translated "putrid illness," and Ysolt uses it again in her reply. Here, where "amer" is in parallel with the verb "puer," it seems to me to refer to the verb "to love." Recall that the wound Tristran received when he slew the Morholt became putrid, the odor driving his friends away, and finally had to be cured by Ysolt herself and her mother. So the notion of a stinking, putrid wound is part of the poem's theme.

11. "I've said as much as is wise," or, "I've said enough to indicate the truth to a wise listener."

12. Here there is a line with several missing words; I have not tried to translate it.

13. The editors have emended the difficult MS word "esseir" to "espeir" (which I translate) here.

14. At this point, the Saga begins to record the passage quite closely, while Gottfried moves to a somewhat different order and interpretation of events. He gives the lovers a different motivation for wishing to stay at sea: shame and fear of discovery.

15. A title Tristran has in the fragment of Thomas's poem in which he encounters Tristran the Dwarf. Interestingly, although the Saga does not use the word in the Tristram the Dwarf incident, it here gives him the epithet, ástarfullr, love-full, which is best translated "the Lover." In the Folie Tristan of Oxford, which follows Thomas's version of events, Iseut also refers to him as "Tristan le Amerus" (712).

16. Gottfried omits this incident, and has Tristan summon Mark.

17. The editors' suggestions for the rhyme-words, based mostly on Gottfried or on the Saga text, are excellent. In most cases I have followed them, in other cases used my own instinct or translated the truncated line without additions; the added words are in brackets.

18. In Gottfried, the planning session takes place while the three are still on shipboard.
 

19. A line is missing here.

20. The Saga here inserts the information that Bringvet brought Mark the love-potion to drink, though Isond did not partake of it "that time." This motivates the affection he shows to Isond a few moments later. In Sir Tristrem, also, the "love drink of Ireland"  is brought by Brengwain to Ysonde and Mark in bed, but Ysonde does not drink "for she had no need." Gottfried says explicitly that Mark drank wine to celebrate Isold's deflowering, but that this wine was not the potion, since the flask had been thrown overboard, though "many" folks mistakenly claim he did drink it.

Given the evidence, it is odd that Carlisle does not seem to recount the bringing of the wine, but only the moment "après le vin...." The editors note that Carlisle exculpates Thomas from the literary crime of which Gottfried seems to accuse him, at any rate.
 


Comparison of Tristrams Saga, parts of ch. 46, with the corresponding section of the Carlisle fragment (both trans. J. Shoaf)


The saga excerpt begins just before the section that would correspond to the first half or so of the Carlisle fragment (replaced with two sentences) but continues in close correspndence from the time the lovers approach England. I have included the end of the chapter, suggesting what might have followed on the next page of the manuscript from which Carlisle is derived. 
The two texts are meant to be set up in line-to-line correspondence. This may necessitate some adjustment of the browser window. The Saga of course is written in prose, but I have broken it up into short lines. Where one text  includes a line which has no corresponding material in the other, I have inserted a ** to mark the "blank" line. No  line in either text has been omitted, however.
Tristram's Saga, latter half of Ch. 46
Carlisle fragment
And they were both now tricked by this drink, which they drank, because the servant-boy made a mistake; and from this there came to them a sorrowful life, torment and long anguish, along with physical desire and constant longing. Because of this Tristram cared only for Isond and her care was all for him, with such an exceeding love, that no remedy could separate them [Missing section: the potion] 
Avowal of love 
consummation
** 
Now they sail with all sails spread 
and they are on the right course for England. 
Next the knights said they saw land rising from the sea, 
And they were all glad of it, 
except Tristram the Lover, 
for if he could have done as he wished, 
they would never have seen land- 
he would rather have traveled with his love 
and pleasure and enjoyment. 

Nevertheless they go towards the land and land in a good harbor. 
Men recognized 
Tristram's ship, 
** 
and one young man mounted a swift horse 
and rode as fast as possible to the king 
and found him in the forest hunting and spoke to him 
"My lord (he said), we saw Tristram's ship land in the harbor." 
When the king heard this news, he was delighted and very happy 
and he made the young man a knight 
and gave him a fine suit of armor 
for telling him this welcome news. 
** 
The king rode down to the shore 
and sent an invitation to all his kingdom 
and held his marriage to Isond 
with great honor 
and in a kingly manner, 
and they amused themselves all day, 
with great good cheer for all of them who were there. 

But Lady Isond was the cleverest woman. 
When evening came,
she took Tristram by the hand 
and they went together to the king's sleeping-house. 
And they called to them Bringvet, her maid, to counsel, 
and Isond began to weep and ask her with pretty words 
to help her tonight 
and be in the queen's place in the king's house and bed 
as if she were herself the queen-but the queen was dressed like Bringvet-- 
for she knew that she was an unspoiled maiden, 
but she knew that she herself was none such. 
They asked the maiden for so long 
with sweet and lovely words, 
that she agreed to their request, 
and she dressed herself in all the queen's clothes 
as if she were a queen herself 
and she went to the king's bed for her lady, 
but the queen wore Bringvet's clothes. 
The king was happy and joyful and a little drunk, 
when he went to bed; 
and Tristram put out the lights on all the candles. 
The king took Bringvet in his arms 
and amused himself with her. 
But Isond was worried and feared 
that she would turn traitor 
and tell the king what was going on. 
 ** 
 ** 
Because of this, she stayed close all night 
and was aware of what they said. 
When the king was asleep, 
Bringvet got out, 
and the queen lay down beside the king. 
And when he awoke, he asked for some wine to drink, 
and Bringvet artfully gave him the wine the Irish queen had prepared. But the queen drank none of it this time. 
A while later the king turned to her and slept with her, 
so that he never realized 
that she was not the same. 
And because he found her pleasurable and desirable, 
he showed her great love and joy and happiness, 
so that Isond was very pleased. 
They spoke all kinds of nonsense, as was fitting for young people, with kingly amusement and queenly worth. And the night was a loving celebration for them. Isond then behaved happy and glad, and loving to the king, and gracious and praiseworthy to all, rich and poor. And she and Tristram were secretly together every time they could meet. And because she was always in his guard, it never occurred to anyone to suspect them.

The lovers travel in joy, 
Sailing over the smooth high seas, 
Towards England at full sail. 
Those on the ship see land-- 
They are all happy and joyful 
Except for Tristran the Lover, 
For if he could travel by his own desire, 
He would not wish to see it for a long time; 
He would rather love Ysolt at sea 
And carry on with their caresses. 

Nevertheless they go towards the land; 
By the eyes of the people 
Tristran's ship is recognized. 
Before it comes to shore. 
A young man is on his way 
On a swift horse to the king; 
He finds him in the woods and tells him 
That he saw Tristran's ship arrive. 
When the king hears this, he is happy- 
He makes the youth a knight 
** 
For telling him the news 
Of Tristran and the maiden. 
He goes to meet them at the shore, 
Then sends for all his lords. 
He leads Ysolt before [them]; 
He does what is proper to [honor her]; 
He has married her with great [display], 
And they enjoy themselves all [day]. 
** 

Ysolt was very [clever? Worried?] 
She goes to her bedroom 
With Tristran. 
** 
They call [Branguen] into counsel; 
[Ysolt] weeps tenderly, [asking her] 
To [help] her tonight 
With the king in [her] place 
** 
Because he knows her to be [a virgin]. 
(And she is not [a virgin] at all.) 
They persuade her so 
And plead and [swear], 
That she [agrees to] their request. 
Branguen [gets ready] 
As if she were a queen. 
[She goes to bed] for her lady, 
And the queen [wears her clothes]. 
Mark is... 
... 
Tristran [puts out] the candles. 
That man takes Branguen [in his arms] 
And [takes] her virginity. 
[Ysolt] is very worried- 
She thinks she will [betray them] 
to the king; 
Because she is enjoying [herself] 
She will not want to leave. 
She [waits] close by; 
** 
When the king had [finished? fallen asleep? called for wine?] 
Branguen [left the bed] 
And the queen [got in]. 
** 
** 
After the wine, [Mark sleeps with Ysolt] 
So that he never [notices] 
That she is different. 
He finds her [the same woman? just as compliant?]. 
He shows her [affection] 
[He takes] such great joy [in her]. 
 

Sir Tristrem, from the TEAMS edition online, ed. Alan Lupack
(Potion and wedding-night sequence)




from Line 1660

Swete Ysonde the fre
Asked Bringwain a drink.
The coupe was richeli wrought:
Of gold it was, the pin.
In al the warld nas nought
Swiche drink as ther was in.
Brengwain was wrong bithought.
To that drink sche gan win
And swete Ysonde it bitaught.
Sche bad Tristrem bigin,
To say.
Her love might no man tuin Their;
Til her ending day.

An hounde ther was biside
That was ycleped Hodain;
The coupe he licked that tide
Tho doun it sett Bringwain.
Thai loved al in lide
And therof were thai fain.
Togider thai gun abide
In joie and ek in pain
For thought.
In ivel time, to sain,
The drink was ywrought.

Tristrem in schip lay
With Ysonde ich night;
Play miri he may
With that worthli wight
In boure night and day.
Al blithe was the knight,
He might with hir play.
That wist Brengwain the bright
As tho.
Thai loved with al her might
And Hodain dede also.

Tuai wikes in the strand
No seyl thai no drewe.
Into Inglond
A winde to wille hem blewe.
The King on hunting thai fand.
A knave that he knewe,
He made him knight with hand
For his tidinges newe
Gan bring.
Ysonde, bright of hewe,
Ther spoused Mark the King.

He spoused hir with his ring;
Of fest no speke Y nought.
Brengwain, withouten lesing,
Dede as hye had thought.
Sche tok that love drink
That in Yrlond was bought.
For Ysonde to the King
Brengwain to bed was brought
That tide.
Mark his wille wrought
On bed Brengwain biside.

When Mark had tint his swink,
Ysonde to bed yede;
Of Yrlond hye asked drink;
The coupe sche gan hir bede,
Biside hir sche lete it sink.
Therof hadde sche no nede
Of non maner thing
Ogain Tristrem, in lede,
As tho.
No might no clerk it rede,
The love bituen hem to.

Thai wende have joie anough;
Certes, it nas nought so.
 .......................