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Part 5. The Journey to Orleans

Tristan too went home, head down, and walking slow.

His fingers fumbled as he opened his own door,

And scarcely could he turn the key.

His head felt heavy, and he fell

Cold in a faint on the flagstones of the floor

As if he suffered from some strange disease.

His brother, who knew of all he had been through,

Put his arm around his shoulder,

And helped him to his bed

And brought him blankets warm and pillows soft

And did his best to make him feel at ease.

The next day Roderick came home.

How happy was young Dorigen then

As she welcomed him and took him in her arms.

She held him tight and murmured to herself

That she would never let him leave again.

In her mind her promise lightly given

Had left no trace at all,

Like the roses in the garden

That drop in the cold of autumn

When the leaves begin to fall.

This knight had never given a thought

That any man might have come to Dorigen

And murmured words of love.

It had never crossed his mind.

And so in joy and bliss I let them dwell,

And of sick Tristan I will tell.

Many weeks and many months passed by,

And Tristan never left his bed

But sickened despite the constant care

The whole day from his brother there.

His name was Anselm.

Tristan took help from him alone,

For he would tell no other of his love.

He spoke no word of his dire plight,

But only to his brother, and in him

He confided all by day and night.

Anselm wept to see poor Tristan there so ill

And then thought back to many years before,

When he studied in Orleans. For there he’d met

A wizard who had made the students in that town

Dumbfounded by his knowledge and his skill.

His tricks and magic had amazed them all.

‘If I can find this man’ he thought,

‘Then he might help us in some way.’

He then went straight to his brother’s room.

He gently woke him from a fitful sleep

And told him of his plans and hopes.

As the first sun rose the very next day

And lit the early farmhands to their work,

Through the cold and silent streets

To Orleans straight they took their way.

Through the sparkling morning mist,

They went to find this man of magic there,

This strange illusionist.

They took their horses and rode fast

With the rising sun right in their eyes,

Tristan always far ahead and urging on his brother,

Angrily shouting for him to hurry more.

Poor Anselm had as much as he could do

To stay upon his steed.

More used he was to a stool and desk

Than to a saddle and the stirrups hard

From which his feet would always jump

And leave him grabbing for the mane.

He could not rise to the gentle trot,

And ride in rhythm with his horse

But bounced along going up and down again.

Next day for certain he’d be saddle sore.

He was not good at cantering at all,

And to gallop was far beyond his skill.

And I am sure that if he’d tried

He’d have finished down on his backside,

And that’s the truth, and I can say no more.

We all have different strengths

And these at times we show with pride,

Yet all of us have some weak point

Which as best we can we try to hide.

But in the end they neared Orleans,

And Anselm gave a prayer of thanks

When he saw the great west front  

Of the cathedral there and the slim spire behind

With its weather cock that never crowed at all

But turned all day to left and right

To spot those coming up along the road,

Long time before they reached the city wall.

As they rode up to the entrance gate,

A man approached and said,

‘I know why you have come.’

And then he told them all they had in mind.

Then they were both amazed and knew

He was the wizard they had come to find.

Anselm asked about his friends from earlier years

But the wizard said that all of them had died,

And at this news poor Anselm cried

And freely flowed his tears.