Part 6. The Wizard

They rode to where this wizard lived,

A stone’s throw from the cathedral towers,

A tall house it was with a gable high

That overhung the street below.

A massive door of wood there was

Studded with rusty nails of iron.

And on the wall, a plaque of brass

Recorded all who had lived there

In previous years. Each man had proudly placed his name,

Optimistic when he came,

But when he left and went his way,

No one took his name away.

The three climbed up a staircase all of stone

Which spiralled up with steps well-worn

And windows arched at every turn.

It wound up to the wizard’s rooms.

When he threw open the old oak door,

They were amazed at the fine tapestries they saw,

With a unicorn and all the flowers of May.

They covered each and every wall

And hung down to the very floor.

The carpets were a deep red hue and so thick they were,

Their feet sank down at every step

As, wide-eyed, they entered in the room.

Curtains rich, bunched in thick folds of purple and of gold,

Lined each side of two fine windows tall.

A large round table with ten chairs or more

Stood in the centre of the lofty room  

And polished benches ran along the wall.

The wizard made them well at home.

He clapped his hands and all at once

Appeared two servants suddenly,

Who served them both with food and drink.

They sat and marvelled at the spread

Of venison and fowl of many kinds

With sauces made from every spice and herb.

Oranges, melon, peach and pear

Were heaped upon the dishes there

Though then it was mid-winter time,

And outside there was no fruit

In any orchard or leaf on any tree.

The sun came streaming through the coloured panes

Of the stained-glass windows high

Though Anselm remembered when they came

The skies were cloudy and with heavy scuds of rain.

The wizard took a jug of bubbling wine

And poured it into goblets fine

Which he handed to them both,

And then he raised his drink and made a toast

‘May each one gain the thing that he desires most.’

When they could eat and drink no more,

He took them to a room with one white wall.

There was a row of chairs before

And in these chairs he made them sit.

Then first some colours, then some shapes

And then some figures came to life

Upon the wall though there was nothing there at all.

They saw a park of great extent full of wild deer

With massive antlers running here

Among the leafy oaks and beech.

A hundred were caught by the baying hounds

In the frantic chase of the great hunt.

Then they saw falconers with their hawks

Upon the bank of a fair river which flowed past,

Hunting the heron flying there.

So wide this river was and with such trees

It might have been the River Wye 

That flows past Tintern and its wooded dales,

One side in England and one side in Wales.

And then he showed them scenes of Dorigen

Walking in the garden near her home,

And Tristan thought he saw himself there too,

Dancing with her hand in hand,

And as he watched, it seemed to him she smiled.

How he made these scenes appear,

The wizard would not say,

But suddenly he clapped his hands

And all those sights just went away.

While they looked at these amazing things

They had never left the house

But the three of them stayed by themselves

In the wizard’s study where he kept his books,

Row after row upon the crowded shelves.

After supper and another glass of wine or more

The three sat down to business.

The wizard was no fool and well he knew

How to bargain and negotiate

And how the wisest men are generous

When they have eaten well and had a drink or two.

And speaking clearly, he began,

‘What will you give me to remove the rocks

From all the coast of Brittany and then,

From the Gironde to the mouth of the Seine?’

He threw this clause in for good measure

To show he did not stint his magic powers.

But he was firm and made it crystal clear

That for less than one thousand pounds of gold

He would not lift a finger.

Tristan was overjoyed at this.

‘What is a thousand pounds!’ he said.

‘I’d pay it twice over if I had to!’

But Anselm worried more and said,

‘How can you find so much unless you sell

Your house and home and your inheritance?

Between us we have nothing like so much to hand.’

But Tristan laughed and answered then,

‘The whole wide world would I give and more

For just one hour with Dorigen.

Let us say yes to this with speed.’

And dreaming of what he wanted most,

He then shook hands with his strange host,

And the deal was struck and all agreed.

‘Now set to work on this and keep us here no longer,’

Said Tristan, still unsure of the wizard’s powers.

His host then smiled and quietly replied,

‘We start tomorrow, and for that you have my word.’

Then Tristan cheerfully went to bed

And no sooner had he laid his head

On the soft pillow than he was asleep.

He slept more soundly than he’d slept for years.

Anselm, though, lay hours awake,

And worried for his brother’s sake.