The next act takes place in the courtyard of Tristan’s castle in Brittany. It is in a state of decay. In the hot afternoon sun the sea shines like burnished metal, and Tristan, who has been brought there by Kurvenal, lies delirious. Presently one of the saddest songs ever written sounds from a shepherd’s pipe without. It half awakens Tristan, and he talks of it—how it has haunted him since his childhood. Kurvenal tells him Isolda has been sent for. He becomes more and more delirious, and at last, after an outburst, he faints; then awakens and sings the sublime passage in which he sees Isolda coming over-seas, the ship covered with sweet-smelling flowers. The accompaniment to this piece of magic is a figure taken from the fourth theme I have quoted in this chapter. It is given at first to the horns, and over it sways a lovely melody, leading to Tristan’s cry of “Oh, Isolda!” which occurs again and again until Isolda does come.
[Illustration: Some bars of music]
There are few tender and beautiful and pathetic things in music to match it. Presently the horn of the shepherd is heard again; but this time it plays a lively tune, as a signal that the ship is in sight. Tristan goes mad for joy, and tears the bandages from his wounds. As Isolda rushes in he staggers into her arms, and dies there to the phrases in which they had first spoken after drinking the love-philtre. Isolda’s plaints are as touching and profound as those of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni after her father has been murdered. There is again tumult; even at the last the lovers cannot be left alone; another ship comes in sight, and Melot and Mark’s warriors rush in. Kurvenal fights and kills Melot, and is himself stabbed. He receives