The Graal Cup was not so much connected with the Passion as originated therefrom, because it is clear in history that, or ever Robert de Borron spoke of secret words, the meaning of Mass chalices, and the transit of the Great Hallow from East to West, the Precious Blood had been brought already within the wonder-world of relics. So also the sacred Lance had received its justification in tradition before it was exalted in romance. The allocation of other objects within the same sphere of devotion was so natural that it was not likely to be resisted, but it must be observed that the
attributions were inherited and not invented by the makers of books of chivalry. Face-cloth and loin-cloth, nails and crown of thorns had long been included among the objects provided for veneration before the Book of the Holy Graal or the Longer Prose Perceval had dreamed of registering them among the Hallows of the Graal ark, or otherwhere in their holy and marvellous shrines. That they were capable of inventing relics is shown by the history of the sacred Sword, and such relics had their imputed antecedents in Scripture; but the things of the Passion of Christ were too sacred for their interference, and they were left in the hands of the Church. The Church perhaps was not idle, and the Church did not scruple perhaps, but minstrels and weavers of stories knew their proper limits and abode therein. Their respect in the case under notice guarantees it in yet another, for which reason I hold it as certain that never did Robert de Borron tamper with Eucharistic formulæ, or, in other words, that, whether from far or near, he inherited and did not invent the sacred words of the mystery.
The Sword of the Graal is considerable under two aspects--firstly, as a derivative from folk-lore, which passes, as we have seen, through certain branches of the literature without suffering an especial change in its nature; secondly, as a hallowed object having an imputed derivation from the history of the Church of God under one of its two covenants. In the second case, we must be prepared to find--and this is natural also--that certain reflections from folk-lore, as from the earlier state of the object, are to be found in its consecrated form. In the Chrétien portion of the Conte del Graal the Sword is suspended from the neck of a page or squire and is brought to the Master of the House as a present from his niece, with leave to bestow it apparently howsoever he will, so only that it shall be well used. An inscription upon it says that it will never break except in one peril, which is known only to the smith who forged it.
[paragraph continues] In his time as a craftsman he made three such weapons, and no others will follow. As regards this particular example, the belt was worth a treasure, the crosspiece was of fine gold, and the sheath was of Venetian smith's work. It is given to Perceval by the King of the Graal Castle as something to him predestined. But it is only at a later stage that he learns under what circumstances it will fly in pieces and how it may be repaired--namely, by plunging it in a certain lake which is hard by the smithy of him who wrought it. The continuation of Gautier ignores these facts and reproduces the Sword at the Castle, where it is carried by a crowned knight; it is broken already and Gawain is asked to resolder it, in which task he fails. Perceval succeeds, on the occasion of his second visit, except for a slight crevice, thus proving that, at least in a certain measure, he is a lover of God, a true knight, and one who loves also the Church, which is the Spouse of God. The conclusion of Manessier furnishes the history of the Hallow in full, though it has been the subject of allusion previously: (a) one stroke was given therewith; it destroyed the realm of Logres and the country thereto adjacent; (b) this stroke was inflicted on the King's brother, in the course of a battle; (c) when the King himself took up the fragments un- warily, he was pierced through the thigh, and the wound will be healed only when his brother's death has been avenged. In Chrétien, on the contrary, the wound of the Graal King is caused by a spear which passes through his two thighs. The intercalation or alternative conclusion of Gerbert sends Perceval again into exile, because certain imperfections in his life account for the fact that he cannot resolder the Sword, and the Quest must be fulfilled better. The Hallow remains in the Castle, but another sword is introduced and serves to indicate that behind the strange memorial of this unknown poet there were sources of legend which, if we could now recover them, might place yet another construction upon the root-matter of the Graal legend. In Gerbert the sword under notice is
broken not in a conflict which calls for a conventional vengeance, after the worthless motives of folk-lore, but in an attempt to enforce an entrance into the Earthly Paradise.
Passing over the Lesser Chronicles, which, although in the Didot Perceval it is hinted on one occasion that there were many worthy relics, make no reference to the Sword, and coming to the Greater Chronicles we find that in the Book of the Holy Graal there is a Hallow of this kind, and it is very important from the standpoint of the romance itself and for the Quest which follows therefrom. It was the sword of David the King, and it was placed, as we have seen, by Solomon in a mysterious ship destined to sail the seas for centuries as a testimony to Galahad that his ancestor was aware of his coming at the end of the times of the Graal. During the course of its history more than one wound is inflicted therewith, and the circumstances under which it is broken are also told variously. In the Book of the Holy Graal there are actually two swords; to that of David the particular virtue ascribed is that no one can draw it--before the predestined hero in the days of the Quest--without being visited heavily for his rashness. The doom works automatically even to the infliction of death. It is only by a kind of accident that this sword is broken, and then it is rejoined instantly, according to one of the codices. In another there is a distinct account, which does not say how or whether the sword was resoldered in fine. As regards the second sword, it is merely an ordinary weapon with which Joseph II. is smitten by a certain seneschal when he is endeavouring to convert the prince of a certain part of Great Britain. The sword breaks when it pierces him, and the point remains in the wound. After various miracles, which result in the general conversion of the people, the sufferer places his hand on the point of the sword, which is apparently protruding from his thigh; it comes out of the wound, and the place heals up immediately. Joseph then takes the two portions of the broken sword and says: "God
grant that this good weapon shall never be soldered except by him who is destined to accomplish the adventure of the Siege Perilous at the Round Table, in the time of King Arthur; and God grant also that the point shall not cease to exude blood until the two portions are so soldered."
It is reasonable to expect that these Hallows should prove a source of confusion as to their duplication and their purpose. I do not conceive that the sword which is brought out of Fairyland in the Huth Merlin, which is claimed by Balan, which brings about the Dolorous Stroke--though this is inflicted actually by another instrument, which in fine involves the two brothers in mutual destruction, can be connected with either of the weapons with which we have been just dealing. The alternative later Merlin has no mystery of swords which can be identified with the Hallow of the Graal, and the prose Lancelot knows nothing of that of David. It speaks, however, of a knight named Elias, who carries two swords; one of them is enclosed in a priceless sheath, and is said to be that which pierced the loins of Joseph of Arimathæa and was broken therein. It is scarcely necessary to notice that the father here is confused with the son. The Quest of Galahad distinguishes the two swords, except in the Welsh version, which identifies them by a natural mischance. That one of them by which Joseph was wounded is presented to Galahad for soldering, and when the elect knight has performed the task, it is given into the charge of Bors, because he was a good knight and a worthy man. After the soldering "it arose grete and marvellous, and was full of grete hete that many men felle for drede." It seems to follow that it was brought back to Logres on the return of Sir Bors from Sarras. The Sword of David was carried to Sarras, as we may infer, by Galahad, but it was not taken to heaven with the Graal and Lance, the reason being doubtless that it was not a symbol of the Passion. In the Longer Prose Perceval the Sword, as we know, is that with which St. John the Baptist was beheaded, and though
there is, firstly, no attempt to account for the presence of this Hallow in England, nor, secondly, any reference to it in early literature, the identification helps us to understand better its place among the Hallows, as some other swords met with in the literature have scarcely a title to be included with sacred objects. The office of Gawain, before he can know anything of Graal mysteries, is to obtain this Sword from its wrongful keepers, and herein he succeeds. The scabbard is loaded with precious stones and the mountings are of silk with buttons of gold. The hilt has also precious stones, and the pommel is a holy and sacred stone set upon it by a certain Roman Emperor. When the Sword came forth from the scabbard it was covered with blood, and this seems always to have been the case at the hour of noon, which was the time of the saint's martyrdom. When noon has passed it becomes clear and green like an emerald. It is the same length as another sword, but when sheathed neither the weapon nor the scabbard seems to be of two spans length. It is said on the testimony of Josephus that the Old Law was destroyed by a stroke of this sword without recovery, and that to effect the destruction our Lord Himself suffered to be smitten in the side with the Spear. These things are not to be understood on the open sense of the text.
The Greater Chronicles of the Graal may be, as they indeed are, upon God's side, but the judgment concerning this sub-section of the Lesser Hallows must be that the Sword is an impediment before the face of the symbolism of the cycle, and often an idle wonder which we could wish to be taken out of the way. We could wish also--or at least I personally--that something of the mystery behind the ascription of Gerbert might come at this day into our hands. In the Parsifal of Wolfram the hero of that great Quest is refreshed as by fruits brought from the Earthly Paradise on the occasion of his first visit to the Temple of the Holy Graal. We know not how or why, but this is another reflection, probably from the source of Gerbert, and one which takes
us no further, except that from time to time, by dim hints and allusions, we see that the legend of the Graal is not so far apart from the legend of Eden. In this manner we recur to the German cycle, and there we find that there is a sword of mark in the Parsifal; it is that which was given to the hero by Amfortas, the Graal King. Now that this, amidst any variations, is the same story as that which is told by Chrétien is rather evident than likely. Another sword broke when Parsifal was fighting with his unknown brother Feirfis, because it would not drink the blood of his kinship, and this is the far antithesis of some of the French stories. In Heinrich's Diu Crône, a fair youth of exalted mien carries a fair broad sword, which he lays before the King of the Castle, and this sword is given by the King to Gawain after he has asked the question which we know to be all important.
In conclusion as to this matter, the Hallow of the Sword is not unlike a corresponding weapon in some of the grades of Masonic chivalry; in the same way as the reverend Knights therein do not, in many cases, know how to use the symbolic arm, so in the Graal literature the poets and romancers have accepted the custody of something which is so little to their purpose that they know scarcely what they shall do therewith: had they only thought less of their folk-lore and hence omitted it entirely, they would have told a better--aye, even a truer--story from the standpoint of their own symbolism.