Prelude: part 2

Parsifal was pleased to hear laughter from Isolde’s room.

‘My Lady?’ he asked, knocking.

The laughter stilled. A woman other than Isolde bade him enter. The Lady herself was bent over a loom, while her companion Brangane passed her thread. The one looked pleadingly at the other. Brangane rose and bowed. Isolde’s eyes followed her from the main chamber.

‘Fine work, my Lady’. The first panel showed a woman, seemingly Isolde, holding a severed head. Gore, bone, a protruding metal shard were all carefully rendered. The second showed a pale young man lying on a couch. Standing over him was Isolde, notched sword slipping from her hands. Each gazed into the other’s eyes. Running through both were whorls of vibrant thread, soaring, eddying, falling across the tapestry.

Tracing them with his finger, he asked ‘What is this?’

‘It’s music, the endless melody that only we – only I can hear’.

‘And is that Sir Tristan of Careol?’

Isolde was silent.

‘I have heard the tale. I swear to protect you and support you. All possible comfort will be made available to you. Should you require the rarest threads to complete this work, I will procure them.

‘The comforts of Monsalvat are not merely, or even mostly, material. This is the citadel of the Grail, the fastness of God upon earth. Trust in the holy power that dwells with us. We know well how love can poison and corrupt. My predecessor, Amfortas, was afflicted once as you are. He was seduced and betrayed, and the kingdom wasted. Only the love of God can heal the wounds that human love inflicts.’

‘Fool. It is lust you speak of.’ Isolde resumed her weaving. The music attained yet a higher crest. Shuddering, she turned around. ‘You know neither the splendour nor the dignity of love.’ Her eyes were set just beyond Parsifal. ‘Love is regent of the world’s course, and all things are subject to her. Besides love, there is nothing that is not dust. Not gold not wealth not godly pomp, not home not hearth not lordly splendour, not troublesome treaties’ treacherous bonds, but, blessed in joy and in sorrow, there is only love’. Her voice was even, her face a dark glass.

Several times she made as if to look at him. At last she did so. ‘Who are you? Can you tell me that?’

‘A pure fool.’ Parsifal departed.


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