Chivalric OATHS 113

the full import of Tristan's brief inscription. It has also been suggested that Tristan used ogham, a runic writing that would be much shorter and could contain a lengthy communication in a brief space.

A similar confusion exists at the end of "Chevrefoil," when Tristan creates his own lai. Marie's lines could be read to suggest that Tristan's song is the one that she is repeating, or it could be seen as a separate lai (untold) within the present one.

on a thematic level, the central crux involves Marie's stance with regard to the two lovers' transitory experience of pleasure in the woods. Is she highlighting, as the lai's limited scope would seem to suggest, the ability of Tristan and Iseult to have this dedication to each other, this core of commitment and love, despite their pain? or is one to understand precisely the opposite significance: that the joys of earthly passion are ephemeral and, while the lovers achieve immediate satisfaction, their devotion will lead to sorrow and even destruction?

Communication is the other prominent thematic concern. "Chevrefoil" not only calls attention to its own communicative role as poetry, but within the tale Tristan inscribes language first on the hazel stick and then in the song he composes. Just as the brief episode related in "Chevrefoil" opens onto a wider plot outside of the story, so, too, could Tristan's short message on the hazel stick be said to represent a deeper set of meanings. Viewed from one perspective, Marie could be charting the limitations of representation (just as she may be proposing the limitations of earthly love). From another angle, Marie may be valorizing the power of language to convey, in a reduced form, the essential character of thoughts and feelings. In particular, scholars have paid attention to Marie's concern with the truth (la verite) at the commencement and conclusion of the poem.

Even Marie's attention to titles speaks of this syn-echdochal relationship between language and what it attempts to convey. The word chevrefoil refers to the lai itself; to the honeysuckle; and (presumably) to what the honeysuckle connotes metaphorically, both Iseult and her inseparable contribution to the love affair. Interestingly enough, Iseult is not mentioned by name in the poem (she is called simply "the queen"), and so the notion of chevrefoil again points to an absence, just as Tristan's writing speaks concisely of something to be more fully revealed in Iseult's heart, and just as the lai briefly communicates a much fuller experience. See also courtly love, synedoche.

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