Here is what fair Isolde did. She quickly mastered the pick of his attainments and diligently pursued whatever she took up... She had previously acquired a number of refinements and polite accomplishments that called for hands or voice, the lovely girl spoke the language of Dublin, and French and Latin, and she played the fiddle excellently in the Welsh style. Whenever they played, her fingers touched the lyre most deftly and struck notes from the harp with power. She managed her ascents and cadences with dexterity. Moreover, this girl so blessed with gifts sang well and sweetly. She profited from the accomplishments which she had already acquired, and her tutor, the minstrel, much improved her.

... Were they rich or poor, she was a rapturous feast for their eyes and delight to their ears and hearts - without and within their breasts their pleasure was one and undivided! Sweet and exquisite Isolde, she sang, she wrote, ant she read for then, and what was joy to all was recreation for her. She fiddled, her estampie, her lays, and her strange tunes in the French style, about Sanze [possibly Sandde, the saintly father of David of Wales] and St. Denis (than which nothing could be rarer), and knew an extraordinary number. She struck her lyre or her harp on either side most excellently with hands as white as ermine. Ladies' hands never struck strings more sweetly in Lud or Thamise than hers did here - sweet, lovely Isolde! She sang her "pastourelle", her "rotruengell" and "rondeau", "chanson", "refloit", and "folate" well, and well, and all too well. For thanks to her, many hearts grew full of longing; because of her, all manner of thoughts and ideas presented themselves. No end of things came to mind, which, as you know, happens when you see such a marvel of beauty and grace as was given to Isolde.


Gottfried von Strassburg,Tristan, trans. by A.T. Hatto, Penguin Classics, Edinburgh, 1960, p.147-148.

PLACE: Dublin, Ireland.

TIME: Middle Ages

CIRCUMSTANCE: Description of the musical and vocal powers of Isolde, Princess of Ireland. The "rotruenge" was a rollicking popular danceform, with refrain; "folate" remains unexplained.