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.