Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

Handlung in three acts

Richard Wagner

10 June 1865, Munich (Royal Court and National Theatre)

ISOLDE (Soprano)
KURVENAL (Baritone)
MELOT (Tenor)
BRANGAENE (Mezzo soprano)
STEERSMAN (Baritone)

ship's crew, knights and pages

Cornwall, Brittany and the sea

The legendary days of King Arthur



At sea, on the deck of Tristan's ship during the crossing from Ireland to Cornwall.

Isolde, Brangaene and a Sailor

strays the eye,
flies our ship.
Fresh blows the wind
my Irish maid,
where do you linger?
Is it the breath of your sighs
that fills our sails?
Blow, blow, o wind!
Woe, ah woe, my child,
my Irish maid,
you headstrong, winsome maid!

suddenly starting up
Who dares to mock me?
She looks around her in bewilderment
Brangaene, speak! Where are we?

Blue streaks
arose in the east;
the ship sails
smooth and swift:
on this calm sea, by evening
we shall safely reach land.

What land?

Cornwall's green shore.

Neither today nor tomorrow!

hastening in consternation to Isolde
What is this I hear, my lady? Eh?

gazing wildly before her
Degenerate race,
unworthy of your forebears!
Mother, what has become
of the power to command
sea and storm that you gave up?
O enfeebled art
of sorcery
that now brews only healing draughts!
Awaken again in me,
mighty power;
emerge from my bosom,
where you lay hiding!
Hear my will,
ye timorous winds!
Come forth to the strife
and din of tempest,
to the furious clamour
of raging storms!
Force this dreaming sea
from its sleep,
waken from its depths
its resentful greed!
Show it the booty
I offer it!
Wreck this arrogant ship,
and let the waves devour its shattered fragments!
And all that lives
and draws breath on it
I leave to you winds as prize!

in the greatest alarm, concerning herself with Isolde
Ah! Ah,
the evil that I dreaded!
Isolde! My lady!
Dear heart!
What have you hid from me so long?
Not one tear did you shed
for father or mother;
scarcely one farewell
did you bid those left behind.
Parting from your homeland
cold and silent,
pale and mute
on the journey;
without food,
without sleep;
numb and wretched,
haggard and distraught;
how could I bear
to see you so,
to be nothing more to you,
to be cut off from you?
O tell me now
what troubles you!
Tell me frankly
what torments you,
dearest, lovely
lady Isolde!
Confide now in Brangaene
and let her think herself worthy of you.

Air! air!
My heart is suffocating within me!
Open! Open wide there!

Brangaene quickly draws the curtains apart in the middle.

The above, Tristan, Kurvenal, Sailors, Knights and Squires

Fresh blows the wind
my Irish maid,
where do you linger?
Is it the breath of your sighs
that fills our sails?
Blow, blow, o wind!
Woe, ah woe, my child!

whose eyes at once settle on Tristan: darkly, aside
Destined for me,
lost to me,
splendid and strong,
bold and cowardly!
Head and heart
consecrated to death!
to Brangaene
What do you think of that varlet?

following her gaze
Whom do you mean?

That hero there
who hides his gaze
from mine
and casts down his eyes
in shame and embarrassment.
Say, how does he seem to you?

Is it of Tristan you ask,
Dear lady,
that wonder of all kingdoms,
that highly vaunted man,
that peerless hero,
the crown and embodiment of fame?

mocking her
Who, shrinking from an encounter,
seeks refuge where he can,
since he won for his lord
a corpse‑like bride!
Do my words seem
obscure to you?
Then ask him yourself,
that free man,
whether he dare approach me.
The craven hero
forgets the homage
and reverence
due to his lady,
so that her eye shall not fall on him,
this peerless hero!
Oh, he well
knows why!
Go to this proud man,
take him his lady's word:
let him come to me at once,
ready at my service.

Shall I ask him
to wait upon you?

Let fear of me,
Isolde, his queen,
command this
stubborn man!

At Isolde's imperious gesture Brangaene withdraws and humbly goes along the deck to the stern.

seeing Brangaene coming, pulls at Tristan's cloak, without rising
Take care, Tristan!
A message from Isolde.

with a start
What is it? Isolde!
He quickly recovers himself as Brangaene reaches him and curtsies.
From my lady?
Does her faithful maid
ceremoniously bring
something for her obedient
servant to hear?

Sir Tristan,
my lady Isolde
to see you.

If the long journey irks her,
it will soon be at an end;
before the sun sinks
we shall reach land.
Whatever my lady commands of me
shall faithfully be performed.

Then let Sir Tristan
go to her:
that is my lady's will.

Yonder where the green fields
are still tinged with blue to the sight,
my king waits
for my lady;
soon I will come before her
to escort her to him;
to no one will I cede
this privilege.

Sir Tristan,
listen well:
my lady claims
as your service
that you should come to the spot
there where she awaits you.

Wherever I stand,
faithfully I serve her,
the glory of all women:
were I to leave the helm
just now,
how could I safely
steer the ship
to King Marke's country?

Tristan, my lord!
Why do you mock me?
Does this foolish maid
not make herself clear?
Hearken to my lady's words!
Thus she bid me say:
Let fear of her,
Isolde his queen,
this stubborn man.

springing up
May I make answer?

What then would you reply?

Say this
to the lady Isolde:
He who bestows Cornwall's crown
and England's realm
to Ireland's maid
cannot be at the beck
and call of her whom he
himself brings his uncle as gift.
The hero Tristan
is a lord of all the world!
I cry, say thus, even though a thousand
Lady Isoldes resent my words!
While Tristan tries to restrain him with gestures, and Brangaene indignantly turns to go back, Kurvenal sings at the top of his voice after her hesitantly retreating figure.
"Sir Morold crossed
the sea to us
to exact tributes from Cornwall:
on an island swimming
in the sea's expanse,
there now is he buried!
His head now hangs
in Ireland
as tribute paid
by England.
Hey! this is how our hero
Tristan pays tribute!"

Kurvenal, sent off reprovingly by Tristan, goes below. Brangaene returns in dismay to Isolde, closing the curtains behind her, while the whole crew can be heard outside.

"His head now hangs
in Ireland
as tribute paid
by England.
Hey! this is how our hero
Tristan pays tribute!"

Isolde and Brangaene alone. Isolde raises herself with a gesture of despair and rage. Brangaene throws herself at her feet.

Alas, alas!
To endure this!

on the verge of a terrible outburst, quickly recovering herself
What now from Tristan?
I wish to hear exactly!

Ah, do not ask!

Speak freely without fear!

His words were courteous
but evasive.

But when you clearly pressed it?

When I bade him come
to you at this spot,
he said that
wherever he stood
he would faithfully serve you,
the glory of all women
were he to leave
the helm just now,
how could he safely steer the ship
to King Marke's country?

with bitter irony
"How could he safely steer the ship
to King Marke's country?"
harshly and violently
To pay him the tribute
he took from Ireland!

To your own words,
as I relayed them to him,
he let his follower Kurneval answer …

I heard him well;
no word of his escaped me.
You perceive my shame,
now hear how it came about.
As they laugh
and sing their songs at me
I well could answer too:
how a boat,
small and frail
came to Ireland's coasts,
and in it lay
a sick and stricken man,
near to death.
Isolde's art
was made known to him:
with healing salves
and soothing draughts
she faithfully tended
the wound that tormented him.
which with studied guile he called himself
Isolde soon recognized
as Tristan,
for into the sick man's sword,
in which there was a notch,
there fitted exactly
a splinter
which her skilled hand
had first found in the head
of the Irish knight,
sent home to her in scorn.
A cry arose
from my inmost being!
With the gleaming sword
I stood before him,
to avenge Sir Morold's death
on him, this overweening knight.
From his couch
he looked up,
not at the sword,
not at my hand,
but looked into my eyes.
His anguish
touched my heart.
The sword I let fall!
The wound inflicted by Morold
I healed, so that in health
he could travel homeward
and trouble me no more with his gaze!

O wonder! Where were my eyes?
The guest whom once
I helped to tend?

You heard him praised just now:
"Hey! our hero Tristan" –
this was that woebegone man.
With a thousand oaths he swore
eternal thanks and fidelity to me!
Now hear how a hero
keeps his oath!
He whom as Tantris
I released unexposed
boldly returns
as Tristan;
on stately,
high‑prowed ship
he requests Ireland's heiress
as bride
for Cornwall's weary king,
for Marke, his uncle.
Had Movold lived,
who would have dared
to offer such an affront?
For our vassals,
the Cornish princes,
to seek Ireland's crown!
Ah, woe is me!
It was I
who in secret brought
this shame upon myself!
Instead of wielding
the avenging sword,
I let it fall harmlessly!
Now I must serve Our vassal!

When peace, armistice and friendship
were sworn by all,
we all rejoiced in that day:
how could I have known
that it would bring you grief?

O blind eyes!
Faint hearts!
Craven spirit,
despairing silence!
How openly
Tristan bragged forth
what I held concealed!
She who silently
gave him his life
by her silence sheltered him
from his foemen's revenge:
that which her protection silently
provided to help him
he rendered up with her!
Exulting in victory,
how heartily,
how loud and clear
he spoke of me:
"She would be a prize,
my lord and uncle:
what think you of her as bride?
I will bring you
the Irish beauty:
since I well know
the way to her,
one sign from you, and I will hasten
to Ireland,
and Isolde shall be yours!
The venture appeals to me!"
Curse on you, traitor!
Curses on your head!
Revenge! Death!
Death to us both!

throwing herself on Isolde with impetuous tenderness
O sweetest,
dearest, fairest,
golden lady!
Beloved Isolde!
She gradually draws Isolde to the couch.
Hear me! Come!
Sit down here!
What madness!
What needless fury!
Why do you choose to fly into a frenzy
so that you can neither see nor hear clearly?
Whatever Sir Tristan
owes you,
say, how could he higher repay you
than with the most splendid of crowns?
Thus he faithfully has served
his noble uncle:
to you he has given
the world's most coveted reward:
noble and true,
he has yielded
his own inheritance at your feet,
to greet you as queen!
Isolde turns away.
And if he has sought Marke
as husband for you,
how could you reproach his choice?
Is he not to be thought worthy of you?
Of exalted race
and gentle manner,
who in might and splendour
could equal the man
whom the noblest of heroes
truly serves?
Who would not share his fortune
and be wife to him?

gazing fixedly before her
to see the noblest man
close beside me!
How could I endure that torture?

What mean these perverse words?
She approaches lsolde flatteringly and caressingly.
Where lives the man
who would not love you?
Who, seeing Isolde,
would not for Isolde
gladly die?
But were he who chose you
never so cold,
or turned from you
by some witchcraft,
I would soon know
how to bind him by a spell.
I would conjure up love's might.
secretly and confidentially, very close to Isolde
Know you not
your mother's arts?
Think you that she
who wisely considers all
would have sent me with you
to a strange land without her counsel?

My mother's counsel
I know well,
and her arts
I prize and welcome –
vengeance for treachery,
peace for the heart in anguish!
Bring here to me that casket!

It holds the balm you need.
She fetches a small golden casket, opens it and indicates its contents.
Thus did your mother arrange
the mighty magic potions –
balsam here
for woe and wounds,
for deadly poisons.
She brings out a phial.
The noblest draught
I hold here!

You mistake, I know one better:
I engraved
a private sign on it.
She seizes a phial and shows it.
This is the draught for my purpose!

recoiling in horror
The draught of death!

Isolde has risen from the couch and with increasing horror hears the sailors' cries.

Ho! He! Ha! He!
Shorten sail
on the lower mast!
Ho! He! Ha! He!

That means the end of the journey.
Alas! We are nearing land!

The above and Kurvenal

Get ready, ladies!
Lively now!
Stir yourselves!
Get ready now, and quick!
more formally
And to Lady Isolde
I am to say
from my master,
the hero Tristan,
that from the mast our joyful flag
gaily blows towards the shore;
it makes your approach known
in Marke's royal castle.
Therefore he begs
Lady Isolde to hasten
to prepare herself for the land,
so that he may escort her.

with calm and dignity, after first shrinking back with a shudder at the message
Take Sir Tristan
my greeting
and tell him what I say
if I am to go at his side
to stand before King Marke,
according to the code of custom
this cannot be
unless I first
receive atonement
for unexpiated wrong:
so let him seek my pardon.
Mark me well,
and tell him plainly:
I will not prepare myself
to accompany him on shore;
I will not walk by his side
to stand before King Marke
unless he first,
by custom's code,
begs me to forgive
and forget
an unatoned wrong:
let him seek my pardon.

Be assured,
I will tell him this;
but wait and see how he takes it!

He hurries back. Isolde hastens to Brangaene and embraces her vehemently.

Now farewell, Brangaene!
Greet the world for me,
greet my father and mother!

What is it? What have you in mind?
Would you flee?
Whither am I to follow you?

quickly collecting herself
Did you not hear?
I will stay here
and wait for Tristan.
Faithfully obey
my orders:
quickly prepare
the drink of atonement –
you know the one I showed you?

She takes the phial from the casket.

Which draught was it?

This one!
Pour it out into
the golden goblet;
it will hold it all.

receiving the phial with horror
Do I hear aright?

Do my bidding!

For whom ... is the draught?

Let him who betrayed me ...


… drink atonement to me!

throwing herself at Isolde's feet
Horror! Spare your poor servant!

Spare me,
faithless maid!
Know you not
my mother's arts?
Think you that she
who wisely considers all
would have sent me with you
to a strange land without her counsel?
Balsam she gave me
for woe and wounds,
for deadly poisons;
for the deepest woe
and greatest grief
she gave me the draught of death.
Let Death now give her thanks!

scarcely in control of herself
O deepest woe!

Now will you obey me?

O greatest grief!

Are you true to me?

The draught?

Sir Tristan!

Brangaene rises in alarm and bewilderment. Isolde makes a tremendous effort to compose herself.

to Kurvenal
Let Sir Tristan approach!

Tristan, Isolde and Brangaene. Latewr Kurvenal, Saiulors, Knights and Squires.

Kurvenal goes back again; Brangaene, scarcely in command of herself, retires to the background. Isolde, pulling herself together with a great effort of will, walks slowly and with great dignity towards the couch, leaning on its head and fixing her eyes on the entrance. Tristan enters and remains respectfully at the entrance. Isolde, in fearful agitation, is absorbed in watching him. A long silence.

Demand, lady,
what you will.

Do you not know
what my will is,
even though fear
of fulfilling it
kept you far from my sight?

kept me away.

Scant honour
you paid me:
with open scorn
you refused
obedience to my command.

Obedience alone
held me in check.

Then small are my thanks
to your lord
if his service
counselled discourtesy
towards his chosen bride.

Where I have lived,
custom dictates
that he who accompanies
the bride home
must keep his distance from her.

For fear of what?

Ask custom!

Since you, Sir Tristan,
are so mindful of custom,
let one other custom
be recalled to mind:
to make atonement to a foe
if he is to acclaim you as a friend.

Who is my foe?

Ask of your fear!
A blood feud
hangs between us.

That was resolved.

Not between us!

In the open field
before all the people,
an oath of peace was sworn.

It was not sworn
when I hid Tantris
and Tristan fell to me.
There he stood lordly,
strong and whole;
but what he swore
I did not swear:
I had learned to keep silent.
When he lay sick
in that quiet room,
mutely I stood before him
with the sword:
I held my tongue,
I stayed my hand ...
but what I once with hand
and tongue had promised
I silently swore to keep.
Now I will discharge my oath.

What did you swear, lady?

Revenge for Morold!

Does that distress you?

Do you dare to mock me?
He was betrothed to me,
the noble Irish hero;
I had blessed his weapons;
for me he went forth to fight.
When he fell,
my honour fell with him;
in my heart's anguish
I took an oath
that if no man would avenge his murder
I, a maid, would dare to do so.
Why did I not strike you
when sick and faint
in my power?
You can easily now answer yourself.
I tended the wounded man
so that, restored to health,
he should be struck down in vengeance
by one who had won Isolde from him.
You yourself may now
utter your fate!
Since all men pay him homage,
who is there to strike Tristan down?

pale and sombre
If Morold was so dear to you,
then take up that sword again
and wield it surely and firmly
so that you do not let it slip from your grasp!

He offers her his sword.

How ill would I serve
your master;
what would King Marke say
were I to slay
the best of his knights,
who won for him a crown and country,
the most trusted of his men?
Do you hold so light
the thanks he owes you
for bringing him
his Irish bride,
that he would not blame me
if I slew the wooer
who so faithfully delivers
the pledge of peace to his hand?
Put up your sword!
Once I raised it
when vengeance raged
in my bosom,
when your gaze weighed me up
to see if I should be
a worthy bride
for King Marke.
I let the sword fall then.
Now let us drink atonement!

She beckons Brangaene, who, terrorstricken, falters and hesitates. Isolde urges her on with intensified gestures. Brangaene starts to prepare the potion.

Ho! He! Ha! He!
Take in
the topsail!
Ho! He! Ha! He!

starting up from gloomy brooding
Where are we?

Near the goal!
Tristan, do I have your atonement?
What have you to say to me?

The queen of silence
bids me be silent:
I grasp what she concealed,
I conceal what she cannot grasp.

Your silence I grasp;
you would evade me.
Do you refuse to make atonement to me?

Ho! He! Ha! He!

At Isolde's impatient sign Brangaene brings the cup filled.

taking the cup to Tristan, who looks her steadily in the eyes
You hear the call?
We have reached our goal.
In a few moments
we shall stand
with quiet scorn
before King Marke.
As you conduct me in,
would you not think it well
that you could say to him:
"My Lord and uncle,
look at her! A gentler wife
you could not discover.
Her betrothed
I once slew
and sent her home his head:
the wound his sword
inflicted on me
she kindly healed.
My life lay
in her power:
the gracious maid
granted me it,
and along with it
gave me her country's
disgrace and shame
so as to become your bride.
Such gracious thanks
for gifts of worth
I earned by a sweet
draught of atonement
which in clemency she offered me
to make amends for all my guilt."

Stand by the ropes!
Let go the anchor!

starting up wildly
Let go the anchor!
Put the helm to the current!
Sails and mast to the wind!
He seizes the cup from her.
Well do I know
Ireland's queen
and the magic power
of her arts.
The balsam she once gave me
I took for my good;
this goblet now I take
that today will heal me completely.
Heed well
the oath of atonement
which I make you, with my thanks!
To Tristan's honour
highest troth!
To Tristan's torment
boldest defiance!
Heart's deception,
dream of presentiment!
Sole balm
for endless grief,
oblivion's kindly draught,
I drink thee without flinching!

He raises the cup and drinks.

Betrayed here too?
Half is mine!
She wrests the cup from him.
Traitor, I drink to you!

She drinks, then throws the cup away. Both, seized with awe, in the greatest excitement but motionless, took fixedly into each other's eyes, in which the expression of defiance of death soon gives way to the glow of love.

Trembling seizes them: they clutch convulsively at their breasts and pass their hands over their foreheads. Then their eyes again seek each other, drop in confusion, then fix themselves again on each other with increasing longing.

in a trembling voice

beside himself

sinking on his breast
Faithless dear one.

embracing her ardently
Most blessed maid!

They remain in a silent embrace. Trumpets are heard from afar.

outside, on the ship
Hail! King Marke, hail!

who has been leaning over the side, her face averted in confusion and horror, now turns and sees the pair locked in a loving embrace: she rushes forward, wringing her hands in despair
Alas, alas!
eternal pain
instead of speedy death!
Foolish devotion's
deceitful work
now blossoms forth in lamentation!

Tristan and Isolde both start from their embrace.

What did I dream
of Tristan's honour?

What did I dream
of Isolde's shame?

You lost to me?

You reject me?

Malicious cunning
of a deceitful spell!

Idle threats
of foolish anger!



Sweetest maid!

Dearest man!

How our hearts
beat in exaltation!
How all our sense
are enraptured!
Swelling blossoms
of yearning passion,
blissful glow
of languishing love!
Now joyful longing
in our breast!
Isolde! Tristan!
Escaped from the world,
I have won you!
Supreme joy of love,
I am aware of you alone!

The curtains are torn wide apart: the whole ship is filled with knights and sailors, who joyfully wave from on board towards the shore, which is seen near at hand, with a cliff crowned with a tall castle. Tristan and Isolde remain lost in mutual contemplation, oblivious of what is happening around them.

to the women, whom she beckons up from below
Quick, the mantle,
the royal robe!
She breaks in between Tristan and Isolde
Up, fatal pair!
Hear where we are!

She puts the royal robe on Isolde, who does not notice.

King Marke, hail!
Hail to the king!

Hail, Tristan,
fortunate hero!

Hail! King Markel

Therein his boat
King Marke draws near
with a right royal retinue.
I low gladly he sets forth
to claim his bride!

looking up in bewilderment
Who draws near?

The king.

What king?

Kurvenal points over the side.

waving their hats
Hail! King Marke, hail!

Tristan gazes as if stupefied at the shore.

in bewilderment
What is it, Brangaene?
What is that cry?

Isolde! My lady!
Collect yourself!

Where am I? Living?
What draught was that?

The draught of love.

gazing in dismay at Tristan


Must I live?

She falls unconscious on his breast.

to the women
Help your lady!

O rapture rich in malice!
O bliss inspired by guile!

Cornwall, hail!



In Marke's royal castle in Cornwall. A garden with tall trees in front of Isolde's chamber.

Isolde and Brangaene

Do you hear them still? To me the sound
has already died away in the distance.

They are still near:
they ring out clearly there.

Anxious fear
deceives your ear.
You are deluded
by the rustle of leaves
that the wind laughingly shakes.

You are deluded
by the wildness of your desire
into hearing only what you choose to.
She listens.
I can hear the winding of the horns.

listening again
No winding of horns
sounds so sweet;
the gentle plashing
of the fountain
ripples so joyfully yonder.
How could I hear it
if the horns were blowing?
In the silence of the night
only the fountain laughs to me.
Would you keep afar from me the one
who waits for me in the silent night,
by thinking the horns
still sound near at hand?

The one who waits for you ...
o hear my entreaty!
Spies wait for him by night.
Because you blind yourself,
think you that the world's eyes
grow dim for you?
On board ship,
when Tristan's trembling hand
delivered to King Marke
the pale bride,
scarcely in possession of herself,
as all looked in wonder
on her shrinking
and the kindly king,
gently solicitous,
loudly deplored the hardship of the long
journey that you had suffered,
one there was –
I marked him well –
who fixed his eyes only on Tristan.
With malicious craft
he sought by stealthy looks
to find in his mien
something to serve his purpose.
Often I see him,
spitefully watching:
he is laying secret snares for you;
beware of Melot!

Mean you Sir Melot?
O how deceived you are!
Is he not Tristan's
truest friend?
When my dear one must shun me,
then with Melot alone does he stay.

What makes me mistrustful
endears him to you!
Melot's path
is from Tristan to Marke:
there he sows evil seed.
Those who today
so suddenly and hastily planned
this hunt by night
are intent on
a nobler quarry
than you, in your fancies, imagine.

Friend Melot
devised this stratagem
from sympathy
to help his friend.
Now will you reproach his fidelity?
He looks after me better
than you do:
he opens ways
that you close to me.
O end my agony of waiting!
The signal, Brangaene!
Give the signal!
Quench the torch's
last glow.
Give night the sign
that she may descend on us.
Already she sheds her silence
over grove and house
filling the heart
with blissful tremors.
O put out the light now,
extinguish its deterring glare!
Let my loved one come!

O leave the warning flame,
let it show you your danger!
Alas, alas!
Woe is me
for that hapless draught!
That I disloyal only once
should have worked
against my lady's will!
Had I obeyed, deaf and blind,
your deed then
would have been death.
But must I bear
the guilt forever
for your shame
and grievous pain?

Your deed?
O foolish maid!
Know you not the goddess of love
and the power of her magic?
She who rules over
the proudest spirit
and governs
the world's unfolding?
Life and death
are thrall to her,
which she weaves from joy and sorrow,
changing envy into love.
I presumptuously took
death's work into my hands:
the goddess of love snatched it
from my grasp.
She took me,
death‑consecrated, as pledge
and seized the work
in her hand.
However she turns it,
however she ends it,
whatever she reserves for me,
wherever she leads me,
I have become her very own:
now let me show my obedience!

If the baleful draught
of love
has quenched your light of reason,
if you will not see
that of which I warn you,
only hear now,
hear my supplication!
The shining light of danger,
for today, but for today,
do not extinguish the torch!

She who fans the glow
within my bosom,
who sets my heart
on fire,
who laughs like daylight
in my soul,
the goddess of love desires
night to come,
that she may brightly shine there
She hastens to the torch.
where she has banished your light.
She takes the torch from the door.
Now to the watch‑tower:
keep good watch!
I fear not to quench the torch,
even were it the flame of my existence!

She throws the torch to the ground, where it gradually goes out. Brangaene turns away in dismay. Isolde listens and looks out, diffidently at first, into an avenue: moved by growing longing, she paces closer to the avenue and gazes more intently. A gesture of sudden delight reveals that she has caught sight of her beloved in the distance.

Tristan and Isolde.

rushing in
Isolde! Beloved!

running to him
Tristan! Beloved!
passionate embrace
Are you mine?

Do I hold you again?

Dare I embrace you?

Can I believe it?

At last! At last!

Here on my breast!

Is it really you I feel?

Do I really see you?

These your eyes?

These your lips?

This your hand?

This your heart?

Is it I? Is it you?
You in my arms?

Is it I? Is it you?
Is it no illusion?

Is it no dream?
O rapture of my soul,
sweetest, highest,
boldest, loveliest,
blissful joy!


Supreme treasure!

Supreme joy!

For ever!

For ever!



Overwhelming joy!

Entrancing bliss!

Highest heaven's
oblivion of the world!
Mine! Tristan / Isolde mine!
Mine and thine!
One for ever and ever!

How long apart!
How far apart so long!

How far when near!
How near when afar!

O foe to friendship,
spiteful distance!
Dragging length
of sluggish hours!

O distance and nearness,
harshly divided!
Blessed nearness,
tedious distance!

You in the darkness,
I in the light!

The light, the light!
O that light,
how long before it was put out!
The sun had sunk,
the day was done,
but it would not
suppress its envy:
its signal of alarm
shone out,
planted by my beloved's door
so that I should not go to her.

But your beloved's hand
put out the light;
I feared not to do so
though my maid hindered me:
in the power and protection of the love goddess
I defied the day!

The day! The day!
Hate and detestation
of the envious day,
the cruellest foe!
Would that, as you quenched the torch,
I could extinguish the glare
of importunate daylight,
to avenge all love's sorrows!
Is there one grief
or one pain
that it does not awaken
with its light?
Even in the spreading
splendour of night
my beloved sheltered it at her house,
reaching out to me like a threat.

If your beloved
harboured it at her house,
once it was defiantly harboured,
clear and bright,
by my lover
in his own heart –
Tristan, who betrayed me!
Was it not the day
in him that lied
when he went
to Ireland to woo,
to win me for Marke,
and doom his true love to death?

The day! The day
which shone around you,
in which you shone
like the sun,
in highest honour's
gleaming light,
seized Isolde from me!
What so enchanted
my eye
weighed my heart
down to earth:
how could Isolde be mine
in the shining light of day?

Was she who chose you
not yours?
What lies
did spiteful day tell you,
that you betrayed the beloved
who was destined for you?

What shone around you
in splendour,
the lustre of honour,
the power of fame –
madness held me captive
to set my heart on these.
That which brightly shone
down on my head
with the glitter
of dazzling light,
the noonday sun
of worldly fame,
with its rays
of empty rapture
forced its way
through head and brain
to the inmost shrine
of my heart.
That which awoke there,
darkly locked away in chaste night,
that which, unknown and unimagined,
I dimly perceived there –
a vision that my eyes
had not dared to gaze on –
lay gleaming before me,
lit up by the light of day.
That which seemed to me
so glorious and splendid
I plainly proclaimed
before the host;
in front of all the people
I loudly praised
the loveliest royal bride
on earth.
The envy that day
awoke in me,
the passion
that my fortune dismayed,
the jealousy that began
to taint my honour and fame,
these I defied,
and loyally vowed
to preserve my fame and honour,
and journey back to Ireland.

O vain slave of day!
Beguiled by that
which beguiled you,
how I, loving,
had to suffer through you
whom deep in my heart,
where love
warmly enfolded you,
I fiercely hated,
in the glittering toils
of day's false glare.
Ah, in my inmost heart
how deeply the wound smarted!
How wicked seemed to me
the one whom I secretly sheltered there,
when in the glow of day
the one and only truly cherished
vanished from love's sight
and stood before me now as a foe!
From the light of day,
from that which showed
you betraying me,
I longed to flee,
to draw you with me
into the night,
where my heart promised me
an end of deception,
where the presaged dream
of delusion would vanish,
there to drink
eternal love to you,
you united to me
I longed to dedicate to death.

In your hand
sweet death –
when I realised what
you were offering me,
when my foreboding,
exalted and certain,
showed what atonement
held in store,
then there gently spread
within my breast
the noble sway of night:
for me day was at an end.

But ah, the false draught
deceived you,
so that once again
night forsook you,
giving back to day
one who sought only death!

O hail to the draught!
Hail to its liquor!
Hail to the mighty power
of its magic!
Through the gates of death,
whence it flowed to me,
wide open
it revealed to me
the wondrous realm of night, in which
I otherwise had awakened only in dreams.
From the vision in my heart's
sheltering shrine
it repulsed day's
deceiving light
so that my eye, piercing the darkness,
served to see it truly.

But rejected day
took its revenge:
it took counsel
with your misdeeds:
what night's dim light
revealed to you
you were forced to surrender
to the royal might
of the star of day,
there to dwell
shining in barren splendour.
How could I bear it?
How can I bear it now?

O we were now
dedicated to night!
Spiteful day,
filled with envy,
could separate us with its deceit
but no longer cheat us with its lies!
Its idle pomp,
its boastful glare,
is derided by him whose sight
night has blessed.
The fleeting lightning
of its flickering fire
blinds us no more.
Before him
who has lovingly looked
at death's night,
and has known
its deep secrets,
the lies of daylight honour and fame,
power and profit,
glittering so bright –
are scattered
like barren dust in the sun.
Amid day's empty fancies
one single longing remains,
the longing
for holy night,
where everlasting,
solely true,
love's delight laughs to him!

Tristan draws Isolde gently down on to a flowery bank, sinks on his knees before her and lays his head on her arm.

O sink down upon us,
night of love,
make me forget
I live:
take me into your bosom,
free me from the world!

Extinguished now
is the last glimmer ...

of what we thought,
of what we dreamed ...

all remembrance ...

all recollection ...

holy twilight's
glorious presentiment
obliterates the horror of delusion,
setting us free from the world.

The sun lies hidden
in our breast,
stars of bliss
shine smiling.

Gently enfolded
in your spell,
sweetly melting
before your eyes ...

heart to heart,
lip to lip ...

bound together
in one breath ...

my eyes grow dim,
blinded with ecstasy,
the world and its vanities
fade away ...

the world which lying day
illuminates for us ...

then, confronting
cheating illusion ...

I myself am
the world:
supreme bliss of being,
life of holiest loving,
never more to awaken,
sweetly known desire.

Tristan and Isolde sink down in total rapture, their heads together on the flowery bank.

from the battlements
Alone I watch
in the night:
you to whom
love's dream laughs,
heed the cry
of one who
foresees ill
for the sleepers
and anxiously
bids them awake.
Take care!
Take care!
Soon the night will pass.

Hark, beloved!

Let me die!

gradually raising herself a little
Grudging watcher!

still leaning back
Never to wake!

But must not day
arouse Tristan?

raising his head a little
Let day give way
to death!

Day and death,
would they not
with equal force
attack our love?

raising himself more
Our love?
Tristan's love?
Yours and mine,
Isolde's love?
What blow by death
could ever make it yield?
Were mighty death
to stand before me,
however he menaced
life and limb,
which willingly
I would lose for love's sake,
how could his blows
affect love itself?
still more tenderly, nestling his head on Isolde
Were I now to die for love,
for which I would so gladly die,
how could love
die with me,
the ever‑living
perish with me?
So, if his love could never die,
how could Tristan die
in his love?

But this our love
is it not called Tristan
and - Isolde?
This sweet little word "and",
binding as it does
love's union,
would death not destroy it
were Tristan to die?

What could death destroy
but what impedes us,
that hinders Tristan
from loving Isolde forever,
and forever living but for her?

Yet this little word "and":
how might it be destroyed
other than
with Isolde's own life,
if death were to be given Tristan?

Tristan gently draws Isolde to him with a meaningful gesture.

Thus we died,
one for ever
without end,
never waking,
never fearing,
embraced namelessly
in love,
given entirely to each other,
living only in our love!

looking up at him in thoughtful rapture
Thus we died,
undivided ...

one for ever
without end ...

never waking ...

never fearing ...

embraced namelessly
in love,
given entirely to each other,
living only in our love!

As if overcome, Isolde leans her head on his breast.

Take care!
Take care!
Night is already giving way to day.

leaning, smiling, to Isolde
Must I listen?

looking up at Tristan adoringly
Let me die!

more seriously
Must I awake?

more agitatedly
Never awaken!

more urgently
Must day
yet rouse Tristan?

with exaltation
Let day
give way to death!

Shall we then defy
day's threats?

with increasing rapture
To escape its guile for ever!

So that its dawning light
will never daunt us?

rising, with a grand gesture
May night last for us for ever!

Tristan follows her: they embrace in rapturous passion.

O endless night,
sweet night!
Glorious, exalted,
night of love!
Those whom you embrace,
on whom you smile,
how could they ever awaken
from you without dismay?
Now banish fear,
sweet death,
ardently desired
death in love!
In your arms,
devoted to you,
ever sacred glow,
freed from the misery of waking!

How to grasp,
how to relinquish,
this bliss …

far from the sun,
far from the day's
lamentations at parting!

Without delusions ...

Tender yearning;

without fears ...

sweet longing.
Without grieving ...

sublime drifting.

Without languishing ...

enfolded in sweet darkness.

Without separating ...

without parting,
dearly alone,
ever at one,
in unbounded space,
most blessed of dreams!

You Tristan,
I Isolde,
no more Tristan!

You Isolde,
I Tristan,
no more Isolde!

No names,
no parting;
newly perceived,
newly kindled;
ever, unendingly,
one consciousness;
supreme joy of love
glowing in our breast!

The above, Kurvenal, Brangaene, Marke, Melot and Courtiers.

Tristan and Isolde remain entranced. Brangaene utters a piercing shriek. Kurvenal rushes in with drawn sword.

Save yourself, Tristan!

He looks behind him in horror. Marke, Melot and courtiers in hunting attire quickly come from, the avenue to the foreground and stop in horror before the lovers. At the same time Brangaene comes down from the battlements and hurries towards Isolde, who, seized with involuntary shame, leans with averted face on the flowery bank. Tristan, with an equally involuntary movement, stretches out his cloak wide with one arm so as to hide Isolde from the others' gaze. In this position he remains motionless for some time, staring at the men, who fix their eyes on him with various expressions. Day begins to dawn.

after a long silence
For the last time, dreary day!

to Marke
Now tell me, my lord,
whether I accused him with just cause,
whether I have redeemed my head
that I staked in pledge?
I have shown him to you
in the very act:
I have faithfully preserved
your name and honour
from shame.

after deep shock, with a trembling voice
Have you indeed?
Think you so?
See him there,
the truest of all true men;
look on him,
the staunchest of friends:
his freest deed
of devotion
has struck my heart
with cruellest betrayal!
If Tristan has betrayed me,
could I hope
that what his treachery
has damaged
might be honourably restored
by Melot's words?

with convulsive vehemence
Phantoms of day,
Moming dreams,
deceiving and vain,
away, begone!

deeply affected
This to me?
To me, Tristan, this?
Where now is loyalty
if Tristan has betrayed me?
Where are honour
and true breeding
if Tristan, the defender
of all honour, has lost them?
Where is virtue,
that Tristan chose as device
for his shield,
now flown
if it has flown from my friend,
and Tristan has betrayed me?
Tristan slowly lowers his eyes to the ground: as Marke continues, increasing grief can be read in his expression.
To what end the
unstinted service,
the fame of honour,
the mighty greatness
that you won for Marke
if fame and honour,
might and greatness
and the unstinted service
must be paid
with Marke's shame?
Did you deem
my thanks too scant
in bequeathing to you
for your very own
the fame and kingdom
that you had gained for me?
When his wife
died childless
Marke loved you so
that he never would re‑marry.
When all his people
at court and in the country
pressed him
with pleas and warnings
to select a queen for the country
and a consort for himself;
when you yourself
besought your uncle
graciously to grant
the court's wish
and the people's will,
with craft and kindness,
resisting court and country,
resisting you yourself,
he refused
until, Tristan, you threatened
to quit for ever
his court and land
if you were not
yourself sent off
to win the king a bride.
Then he let it be so.
Who could behold,
who could know
this wondrous wife
that your valour won for me,
who could proudly
call her his
without deeming himself blessed?
One whom my longing
never emboldened me
to approach,
whom my desire renounced,
who, so splendid,
fair and exalted,
could not but delight my soul,
despite foes and dangers,
a queenly bride
you brought me hither.
Now that through such
a possession you had made
my heart more sensitive
to pain than before,
why, wretched man,
have you now wounded me so sore,
where most tender,
soft and open
I could be struck,
with never a hope
that I could
ever be healed?
There, with your weapon's
torturing poison
that scorches and destroys
my senses and brain,
that denies me faith
in my friend,
that fills my trusting heart
with suspicion,
so that now stealthily,
in the darkness of night,
I must lurk and creep up on my friend
and achieve the fall of my honour?
Why must I suffer this hell
that no heaven can restore?
Why this dishonour
for which no misery can atone?
Who will make known to the world
the inscrutable, deep,
secret cause?

raising his eyes compassionately to Marke
O king, that
I cannot tell you,
and what you ask
you can never hope to know.
He turns to Isolde, who looks up at him tenderly.
Where Tristan now is going
will you, Isolde, follow him?
To a land, Tristan means,
where the sunlight never shines;
it is the dark
land of night
from which my mother
sent me forth
when he whom in death
she conceived
in death she let go
into the light:
there where she bore me,
which was the refuge for her love,
the wondrous realm of night
from which I first awoke,
that Tristan offers you,
where now he goes on ahead;
let Isolde now tell him
if she will follow,
loyal and gracious.

When her friend once courted her
for a foreign land,
Isolde, loyal and gracious,
had to follow
the ungracious one.
Now you lead the way to your own land
to show me your heritage:
how could I flee from the land
that spans the whole world?
Isolde will dwell
where Tristan's house and home is:
now show Isolde the way that,
loyal and gracious,
she must follow!

Tristan bends slowly over her and kisses her gently on the forehead. Melot starts forward furiously.

drawing his sword
Ha! Traitor!
Vengeance, o king!
Will you endure this dishonour?

Tristan draws his sword and turns round quickly.

Who pits his life against mine?
He fixes his gaze on Melot.
This was my friend,
he loved me well and truly;
more than any man
he cared for my fame and honour.
He incited my heart
to presumption
and led the forces
urging me
to increased fame and honour
by giving you in marriage to the king!
Your glance, Isolde,
blinded him too:
for passion my friend
betrayed me
to the king whom I betrayed!
He throws himself on Melot.
Defend yourself, Melot!

As Melot thrusts his sword at him, Tristan lets his own fall, and sinks wounded into Kurvenal's arms. Isolde throws herself on his breast. Marke holds Melot back.


Tristan's castle in Brittany.

Shepherd, Kurvenal and Tristan.


Tristan lies asleep on a couch in the shade of a great lime‑tree: he is stretched out as if lifeless. At his head sits Kurvenal, bending over him in grief and listening intently to his breathing. The sound of a shepherd's pipe, sad and yearning, is heard.

Hey, Kurvenal!
Kurvenal, say!
Hear me, friend!
Has he not woken yet?

shaking his head sadly
Were he to wake,
it would be
only to leave us for ever,
unless the healing lady,
she who alone can help us,
first appears.
Have you seen nothing yet?
No ship yet upon the sea?

You would hear
another tune then,
as merry as ever I can play.
Now tell me truly,
old friend,
what ails our master?

Cease your questions,
for you can never understand.
Keep watch zealously,
and if you see a ship
play out blithe and clear!

Deserted and empty is the sea!

He puts the pipe to his lips and goes off playing.

motionless, faintly
That old tune;
why does it wake me?

starting in surprise

opening his eyes and turning his head a little
Where am I?

Ha, that voice!
His voice!
Tristan, my lord!
My hero! Tristan!

with an effort
Who is calling me?

At last, at last!
Life, o life!
Sweet life
given once more to my Tristan!

Kurvenal, is it you?
Where was I?
Where am I?

Where are you?
Safe and free, in peace.
At Kareol, my lord:
know you not
your ancestors' castle?

My ancestors?

Just look around you!

What was it I heard?

You heard once more
the shepherd's tune:
down the hillsides
he tends your flocks.

My flocks?

Master, that is what I said!
Yours is the house,
the court and castle!
The people, true
to their dear lord,
have tended as best they could
his house and court
that my hero once bequeathed
to his serfs and vassals
for their own as heritage,
when he left all behind
to go to a foreign land.

To what land?

Why, to Cornwall:
bold and blithe,
whatever there is of glory,
fame and honour
Tristan, my hero, nobly wrests!

Am I in Cornwall?

Not so: in Kareol!

How did I come here?

Well now! How did you come?
You did not ride on a horse:
a small ship brought you here.
But to the ship
I bore you on my shoulders –
they are broad:
they bore you thence to the shore.
Now you me at home in your country,
in your own,
your native land,
amid the pleasures of your own pastures,
in the light of the old sun,
in which you will safely recover
from death and wounds.

Think you so?
I know otherwise,
but cannot tell you how.
Where I awoke
I did not stay;
where I stayed
I cannot tell you.
The sun I did not see,
nor saw I land or people:
but of what I saw
I cannot tell you.
I was
where I had been for all time
and where for all time I shall go,
in the vast realm
of universal night.
But one knowledge
there is ours –
divine, eternal,
total oblivion!
How did that presentiment fade from me?
Yearning exhortation,
do I call you,
that drove me back
to the light of day?
What alone was left in me,
an ardent, burning love,
drives me from the fearful bliss of death
to seek the light that,
falsely bright and golden,
still shines on you, Isolde!
Kurvenal, filled with horror, hides his head. Tristan gradually raises himself more and more.
Isolde still
in the realm of the sun!
In the radiance of day
is Isolde still!
What longing!
What anxiety!
What yearning
to see her!
I have already heard
the crash
of death's door
closing behind me:
now it again
stands wide open,
burst open
by the sun's rays:
with clear eyes, wide open,
I must break forth from night
to seek her
and see her,
to find her
in whom alone
Tristan is granted
to pass away
and to be no more.
Alas, day's
wild passion rises,
pale and fearful,
for me;
its star,
garish and false,
wakes my brain
to deception and delusion!
Accursed day,
with your glare!
Must you ever
re‑awaken my toment?
Does this light
for ever burn
which even by night
kept me from her?
Ah Isolde,
sweet fair one!
When at last,
when, ah when
will you quench the flame,
that it may announce to me my happiness?
When will the light die out?
He sinks back gently, exhausted.
When will stillness come to the house?

Once, from loyalty to you,
I defied her
for whom now, with you,
I must long.
Trust my word:
you shall see her
here, today –
that comfort I can give you,
if only she still is living.

very faintly
The light is still not quenched,
it is not yet dark in the house:
Isolde lives and watches;
she has called me out of the night.

If she then is living,
let hope smile upon you!
Though Kurvenal may seem simple to you
today you shall not chide him.
You lay as if dead
since the day
when the accursed Melot
dealt you a wound.
How to heal
that grievous wound?
It seemed to me,
ignorant as I am,
that she who once healed
the wound you had from Morold
could easily heal the hurt
inflicted by Melot's sword.
I soon found
the best physician;
to Cornwall
I sent word:
a trusty man is bringing
Isolde here across the sea.

beside himself
Isolde coming! Isolde drawing near!
He struggles for speech.
O loyalty! Sublime,
beautiful loyalty!
He draws Kurvenal to him and embraces him.
My Kurvenal,
beloved friend,
unfailingly true,
how can Tristan thank you?
My shield, my sword
in battle and combat,
ever ready
in my weal or woe;
those I hated
you hated too;
those I loved
you too loved.
When I truly served
good King Marke,
you were truer to him than gold!
When I had to betray
my noble lord,
how in sympathy you betrayed him too!
Never your own man,
mine alone,
you suffer with me
when I suffer;
yet what I suffer
you cannot suffer!
This terrible yearning
that seats me,
this ravaging fire
that consumes me –
it I could name it,
if you could know it,
you would not linger here:
you would hasten to the watch‑tower,
straining forth
with every sense,
seeking and gazing there
where her sails are swelling,
where Isolde steers here
before the wind,
inflamed with love's passion,
to find me.
It draws near! It comes
with brave haste!
The flag at the mast
waves, it waves!
The ship! The ship!
It glides by the reef!
Do you not see it?
Kurvenal, do you not see it?

As Kurvenal hesitates, unwilling to leave Tristan, who looks at him in mute expectation, the shepherd's mournful tune is heard, as before, nearby, then further off.

No ship is in sight yet!

with growing melancholy
Am I thus to understand
that old sad tune
with its plaintive sound?
On the evening breeze
it sent its lament
when once to a child
it announced his father's death;
through morning's grey,
more fearful yet,
when the son
learnt of his mother's fate.
He begot me and died;
she, dying, gave me birth.
To them too
must have wailed
the old tune's
mournful plaint
that once asked me,
and asks me now,
to what fate was I destined
when I was born?
To what fate?
The old tune
tells me again: ‑
to yearn and die!
No! Ah, no!
It is not so!
To yearn, to yearn!
Dying, still to yearn,
not of yearning to die!
What never dies
now calls, yearning
to the distant physician
for the peace of death.
When, dying, I lay
silent in my boat,
the wound's poison
near my heart,
that strain rang out
in yearning lament;
the wind swelled the sails
towards the maid of Ireland.
The wound that she
healed and closed
she tore apart again
with the sword;
but then she let
the sword drop;
she gave me
the poison draught to drink;
but when I hoped
to be quite cured
the direst spell
was cast ‑
that I should never die
but should be left in eternal torment!
The potion! The potion!
The terrible draught!
How madly it surged
from heart to brain!
No healing,
no sweet death,
can ever free me
from the pain of yearning:
nowhere, ah nowhere
can I find rest:
night casts me
back to day
so that the sun can for ever feast
its sight upon my suffering.
I this sun's
scorching beams,
how their fiery torment
burns into my brain!
Against the devouring heat
of this glow
ah, there is no cooling
shelter of shade!
Against the fearful torture
of my agonies
what balm
could bring me relief?
The terrible draught
which brought this anguish on me
I, I myself,
did brew!
From father's grief
and mother's woe,
from love's tears
through the ages,
from laughing and weeping,
rapture and grief,
did I distil
the draught's poison
Accursed be that fearful draught
that I brewed,
that flowed into me,
that I quaffed
with endless delight,
and accursed be he who brewed it!

He sinks back unconscious.

who has vainly been trying to calm him, cries in terror
My master! Tristan!
Dreadful enchantment!
O love's deceit!
O power of love!
The world's sweetest illusion,
what have you wrought?
Here he lies now,
the blissful man
who has loved as no man ever loved.
Now see what thanks
it has won him,
what thanks love ever wins!
with sobbing voice
Are you dead now,
or still living?
Has the curse carried you away?
He listens to his breathing.
O joy! No!
He stirs, he lives!
How gently his lips move!

slowly regaining consciousness
The ship? Do you not see it yet?

The ship? It will
certainly come today:
it cannot be delayed much longer.

And on it Isolde,
how she signals
as she sweetly
drinks atonement to me!
Do you see her?
Can you not see her yet,
how happily,
sublimely and tenderly
she travels
over the sea's expanse?
On shining waves
of beauteous flowers
she gently draws
to land.
To me she smiles solace
and sweet repose
and brings me
final balm.
Ah, Isolde, Isolde!
How fair you are!
Kurvenal, how could you
not see her?
Up to the watch‑tower,
you purblind wight,
that what I can see so plain and clear
should not escape you!
Do you not hear me?
Quickly, to the look‑out!
Make haste to the watch‑tower!
Are you at your post?
The ship? The ship?
Isolde's ship?
You must see it!
You must!
The ship? Have you not seen it yet?

While Kurvenal remains struggling with Tristan, the shepherd's pipe is heard outside. Kurvenal springs up joyfully.

O rapture! Joy!
He rushes to the watch‑tower and looks out.
Ha, the ship!
I see it coming from the north.

in growing excitement
Did I not know it?
Did I not say
that she still lives
and brings me life?
How could Isolde
be out of this world
that for me holds
Isolde alone?

exultantly, calling from the watch‑tower
Hey there!
How bravely she steers!
How strongly the sail billows out!
How she courses, how she flies!

The flag? The flag?

The flag of joy,
gay and bright at the mast!

standing upright on his couch
Aha! The flag of joy!
In bright daylight
to me comes Isolde,
Isolde to me!
Can you see her there?

Now the ship has disappeared
behind the rocks.

Behind the reef?
Is there danger?
There the breakers rage,
ships run aground!
Who is at the helm?

The trustiest of seamen.

Would he betray me?
Could he be Melot's creature?

Trust him as you trust me!

You a traitor too!
Can you see the ship again?

Not yet.


Ahoy! Hey there!
She is past,
safely past!

Ha ha! Kurvenal
truest friend!
All I have and hold
I give go you this day.

They're coming in at full speed.

Can you see her at last?
Can you see Isolde?

There she is! She is waving!

Most blessed woman!

The ship is in port.
Ha, Isolde
with one jump leaps
from deck to shore.

Come down from the watch‑tower,
idle gaper!
Down to the shore!
Help her! Help my lady!

I'll carry her up here:
trust to my arms!
But you, Tristan, stay
quietly there on your bed!

Kurvenal hurries off.

Tristan, Isolde and Kurvenal.

O this sun!
Ha, this day!
Ha, the bliss
of this sunniest day!
Turbulent blood,
jubilant spirit!
Joy without measure,
blissful madness!
How can I endure them,
confined to this bed?
Then up and away
to where hearts are beating!
Tristan the hero,
exulting in his strength,
has snatched himself
from death's grasp.
He gets to his feet.
Once with a bleeding wound
I fought against Morold:
today with a bleeding wound
I will capture Isolde!
He tears the bandage from his wound.
Ha, my blood!
Flow joyfully!
He springs from the couch and staggers forward.
She who will close
my wound for ever
comes to me like a hero,
to save me.
Let the world pass away
as I hasten to her in joy!

from without
Tristan! Beloved!

in wildest excitement
What, do I hear the light?
The torch, ha!
The torch is put out!
To her! To her!

Isolde hurries in breathlessly. Tristan, at the end of his tether, rushes feebly towards her. She takes him in her arms. Tristan sinks slowly to the ground in her arms.

Tristan! Ah!

dying, looking up at her
He dies.

It is I, it is I,
dearest friend!
Wake, once more,
hear my cry!
Isolde is calling:
Isolde has come
faithfully to die with Tristan.
Have you no word for me?
For one hour,
but one hour,
stay awake for me!
Such anxious days
she stayed awake, longing,
that she might yet be awake
with you for one hour.
Is Isolde cheated,
Is Tristan cheating her
of this single,
eternally brief
last earthly happiness?
Where is your wound?
Let me heal it,
that, blissful and blessed,
we may share the night;
of your wound do not die,
not of your wound:
let the light of life
be quenched of us both united!
His eyes are dimmed!
His heart still!
Not the fleeting stirring
of breath!
Must she who boldly
came across the sea
in joy to wed you
now stand before you mourning?
Too late!
Stubborn man!
Do you punish me
thus harshly,
quite without pity
for my grief’s guilt?
Are you deaf
to my plaints?
But once, ah,
but once more!
Tristan! Ha!
Hark! He wakes!

She sinks unconscious on his body.

The above, Shepherd, Steersman, Melot, Brangaene, Marke, Knights and Squires.

hastily and softly, turning to Kurvenal
Kurvenal, hark!
A second ship!

in an access of rage
Death and damnation!
All give a hand!
I have recognised
Marke and Melot.
Weapons and stones!
Help me! To the gate!

He hurries with the shepherd to the gate, which they hastily try to barricade.

rushing in
Marke is behind me
with men and followers:
resistance is useless!
We are outnumbered.

Stand and help!
As long as I live,
none shall intrude upon us here!

from below
Isolde! My lady!

Brangaene calling?
calling down
What do you seek here?

Do not shut me out, Kurvenal!
Where is Isolde?

Are you too a traitress?
A curse upon you!

Get back, you fool!
Do not stand there!

with a furious laugh
Aha! I bless the day
on which we meet!
Melot, with armed men, appears in the gateway. Kurvenal hurls himself upon him and strikes him to the ground.
Die, infamous wretch!

Woe is me! Tristan!
He dies.

still outside
Kurvenal! Madman!
Listen, you are mistaken!

Faithless maid!
to his men
Forward! Follow me!
Drive them back!

They fight.

Hold, madman!
Are you out of your mind?

Death rages here!
O king, naught else
is there to win here:
if that is what you seek, come on!

He attacks Marke and his followers.

appearing in the gateway with his retainers
Stand back, madman!

Isolde! My lady,
I bring happiness!
Ah, what do I see?
Are you alive? Isolde!

She busies herself with Isolde. Marke with his men has driven Kurvenal and his helpers back from the gate and pressed in.

O fraud and deception!
Tristan, where are you?

severely wounded
There he lies –
here ‑ where ‑ I lie.

He sinks down at Tristan's feet.

Tristan! Tristan!
Isolde! Alas!

trying to grasp Tristan's hand
Tristan! Dearest master,
do not chide me
that your faithful follower comes with you!

He dies.

Are all dead then?
All dead!
Tristan, my hero!
Dearest of friends,
even today too
must you betray your friend,
today, when he comes
to give you proof of his supreme faith?
Awake, awake!
Awake to my mourning,
bending over the bodies, sobbing
you faithless, faithfullest friend!

who has revived Isolde in her arms
She wakes! She lives!
Isolde, hear me,
hear of my atonement!
The secret of the potion
I revealed to the king:
with solicitous haste
he put to sea
to reach you,
to release you
and to bestow you on his friend.

Why, Isolde,
why this to me?
When what I had not grasped before
was made clear to me,
how happy I was to find
my friend free from guilt!
With billowing sails
I sped after you
to wed you
to the man you loved.
But why must he who brings peace
be met with
a fury of malevolence?
I have but enriched Death's harvest;
delusion has increased grief.

Do you not hear us?
Isolde! Dearest!
Do you not perceive your faithful servant?

Isolde, who has taken in nothing around her, fixes her eyes on Tristan's body with growing ecstasy.

How gently and quietly
he smiles,
how fondly
he opens his eyes!
Do you see, friends?
Do you not see?
How he shines
ever brighter,
soaring on high,
stars sparkling around him?
Do you not see?
How his heart
proudly swells
and, brave and full,
pulses in his breast?
How softly and gently
from his lips
sweet breath
flutters –
see, friends!
Do you not feel and see it?
Do I alone
hear this melody
which, so wondrous
and tender
in its blissful lament,
gently pardoning,
sounding from him,
pierces me through,
rises above,
blessedly echoing
and ringing round me?
Resounding yet more clearly,
wafting about me,
are they waves
of refreshing breezes?
Are they clouds
of heavenly fragrance?
As they swell
and roar round me,
shall I breathe them,
shall I listen to them?
Shall I sip them,
plunge beneath them,
to expire in sweet perfume?
In the surging swell,
in the ringing sound,
in the vast wave
of the world's breath –
to drown,
to sink
unconscious –
supreme bliss!

Isolde, as if transfigured, sinks in Brangaene's arm gently on to Tristan's body. Deep emotion and sense of exaltation among those present. Marke blesses the bodies.