I should like very much
to tell you the truth
about the lai men call Chevrefoil-
why it was composed and where it
Many have told and recited it to me
and I have found it in writing,
about Tristan and the queen
and their love that was so true,
that brought them much suffering
and caused them to die on the same day.
King Mark was annoyed,
angry at his nephew Tristan;
he exiled Tristan from his land
because of the queen whom he loved.
Tristan returned to his own country,
South Wales, where he was born,
he stayed a whole year;
he couldn’t come back.
Afterward he began to expose himself
to death and destruction.
Don’t be surprised at this:
for one who loves very faithfully
is sad and troubled
when he cannot satisfy his desires.
Tristan was sad and worried,
so he set out from his land.
He traveled straight to Cornwall,
where the queen lived,
and entered the forest all alone-
he didn’t want anyone to see him;
he came out only in the evening
when it was time to find shelter.
He took lodging that night,
with peasants, poor people.
He asked them for news
of the king-what he was doing.
They told him they had heard
that the barons had been summoned
They were to come to Tintagel
where the king wanted to hold his court;
at Pentecost they would all be there,
there’d be much joy and pleasure,
and the queen would be there too.
Tristan heard and was very happy;
she would not be able to go there
without his seeing her pass.
The day the king set out,
Tristan also came to the woods
by the road he knew
their assembly must take.
He cut a hazel tree in half,
then he squared it.
When he had prepared the wood,
he wrote his name on it with his knife.
If the queen noticed it-
and she should be on the watch for it,
for it had happened before
and she had noticed it then-
she’d know when she saw it,
that the piece of wood had come
from her love.
This was the message of the writing
that he had sent to her:
he had been there a long time,
had waited and remained
to find out and to discover
how he could see her,
for he could not live without her.
With the two of them it was just
as it is with the honeysuckle
that attaches itself to the hazel tree:
when it has wound and attached
and worked itself around the trunk,
the two can survive together;
but if someone tries to separate them,
the hazel dies quickly
and the honeysuckle with it.
“Sweet love, so it is with us:
You cannot live without me, nor I
The queen rode along;
she looked at the hillside
and saw the piece of wood; she knew
what is was,
she recognized all the letters.
The knights who were accompanying her,
who were riding with her,
she ordered to stop:
she wanted to dismount and rest.
They obeyed her command.
She went far away from her people
and called her girl
Brenguein, who was loyal to her.
She went a short distance from the road;
and in the woods she found him
whom she loved more than any living thing.
They took great joy in each other.
He spoke to her as much as he desired,
she told him whatever she liked.
Then she assured him
that he would be reconciled with the king-
for it weighed on him
that he had sent Tristan away;
he’d done it because of the accusation.
Then she departed, she left her love,
but when it came to the separation,
they began to weep.
Tristan went to Wales,
to wait until his uncle sent for him.
For the joy that he’d felt
from his love when he saw her,
by means of the stick he inscribed
as the queen had instructed,
and in order to remember the words,
Tristan, who played the harp well,
composed a new lai about it.
I shall name it briefly:
in English they call it Goat’s
the French call it Chevrefoil.
I have given you the truth
about the lai that I have told here.