None, unless the saints above,
Knew the secret of their love;
For with calm and stately grace
Isolde held her queenly place,
Tho’ the courtiers’ hundred eyes
Sought the lovers to surprise,
Or to read the mysteries
Of a love—so rumour said
By a magic philtre fed,
Which for ever in their veins
Burn’d with love’s consuming pains.
Yet their hands would twine unseen,
In a clasp ’twere hard to sever;
And whoso watched their glances meet,
Gazing as they’d gaze for ever,
Might have marked the sudden heat
Crims’ning on each flushing cheek,
As the tell‐tale blood would speak
Of love that never should have been
The love of Tristan and his Queen.
But, what hinders that the two,
In the spring of their young life,
Love each other as they do?
Thus the tempting thoughts begin
Little recked they of the sin;
Nature joined them hand in hand,
Is not that a truer band
Than the formal name of wife?
Ah! what happy hours were theirs!
One might note them at the feast
Laughing low to loving airs,
Loving airs that pleased them best;
Or interchanging the swift glance
In the mazes of the dance.
So the sunny moments rolled,
And they wove bright threads of gold
Through the common web of life;
Never dreaming of annoy,
Or the wild world’s wicked strife;
Painting earth and heaven above
In the light of their own joy,
In the purple light of love.
Happy moments, which again
Brought sweet torments in their train:
All love’s petulance and fears,
Wayward doubts and tender tears;
Little jealousies and pride,
That can loving hearts divide:
Murmured vow and clinging kiss,
Working often bane as bliss;
All the wild, capricious changes
Through which lovers’ passion ranges.
Yet would love, in every mood,
Find Heaven’s manna for its food;
For love will grow wan and cold,
And die ere ever it is old,
That is never assailed by fears,
Or steeped in repentant tears,
Or passed through the fire like gold.
So loved Tristan and Isolde,
In youth’s sunny, golden time,
In the brightness of their prime;
Little dreaming hours would come,
Like pale shadows from the tomb,
When an open death of doom
Had been still less hard to bear,
Than the ghastly, cold despair
Of those hidden vows, whose smart
Pale the cheek, and break the heart.