Astronomers have recognised in the past the influence of certain planets prior to their discovery, and subsequently this has verified their prescience. In like manner, the influence of that French poem which is ascribed to the Provençal Guiot is discernible after several modes in the German cycle, and the fact is no less important, even if the providence of books should not in fine lead us to the discovery of the missing text. It is at present a lost planet which will not "swim into our ken." I think that there are difficulties in Wolfram's references to the poem which may be classed as almost insuperable by persons who are unacquainted with the literature of hidden traditions: to these they are the kind of difficulties which--as Newman once said in another connection--do not make one doubt. At the same time the legend of the lost story occupies a position in the cycles which, without being in any way abnormal, is in several respects remarkable. In the past, as I have said, there was one phase of criticism which regarded the whole crux as nothing more than the invention of Wolfram to conceal the real fact that he borrowed from Chrétien. Being the finding of certain German scholars concerning the work of their countryman, it was entitled to a tempered respect antecedently, but it was at no. time tolerable in its pretension and has been since made void. Wolfram lays claim to nothing so little as origination, and I know not why his literary vanity should have been consoled better by a false than a true ascription in respect of his source, more especially as in either case he would be confessing to a French poet. The suggestion, in fine, would account only for a part of the field which he
covered, as we know that Chrétien fell far short of completing his task.
The bare facts of the existence of Guiot and his poem were determined, so far as I am aware, for the first time, and, as it is thought, indubitably, by the publication of the Saone de Nausay in 1902. It has attracted little attention, but the fact of its existence and the important evidence which it offers to our particular subject have been at least stated in England. It is an exceedingly curious text, and in respect of Graal matters it has weird and scoriated reflections of the Joseph legend. But one reference to his son as the first consecrated bishop indicates that cycle of French texts into which it would fall if there were occasion to class it. The Graal is represented in the light of a general healing vessel, which we know otherwise to be in a sporadic sense its office, though it could do nothing within the charmed circle of its own sanctuary for those who belonged thereto.
Much about the time that this poem was put at the disposition more especially of German scholarship, there was an attempt in the same country to show that the reputed Provençal Guiot was a priest of the Church in Britain, and that he died Bishop of Durham. I do not know how this opinion may have impressed those who are most qualified to judge, but at least in France and England it was passed over in complete silence.
The evidences and speculations with which we have been just dealing--while, on the one hand, they satisfy us regarding the existence of Guiot and the poem connected with his name, and, on the other, create some bare and tentative presumption regarding his identity--are of no material assistance in respect of the problems which are raised by his work as it is reflected in the Quest of Wolfram. If we accept the Durham hypothesis of Dr. Paul Hagan it follows not only that Guiot de Provence no doubt anteceded Chrétien de Troyes, but--so doing--that he was the first recorded writer who told the history of the Graal, regarded as a Christian Hallow, and the Quest
thereof. If we set aside this hypothesis, I suppose that it is an open question as to the succession of the two poets in time, and whether one derived from another or both from a common source. There is a disposition--if speaking of it be worth while, when the subject is so precarious--to regard Guiot as first in the point of time. We know only that both poets appealed to a source, and that, on the surface at least, the appeals are exclusive mutually. To his authority Wolfram seems to refer as if he were an old writer, but in ascriptions of this kind the years tend to dissolve rather rapidly into generations. If, however, we assign the superior antiquity to Guiot, it may be thought not unreasonably that the alleged source of Chrétien--the mellor conte qui soit contés en court roial--was actually the Quest of the Provençal. Textual scholarship, however, which is much the best judge in these matters, is tempted, I believe, to conclude that it was not a quest at all. On the other hand, except for personal predispositions--to one of which I have confessed--there is little to warrant the supposition that it was a pious local legend, like that which was produced at Fécamp, because in Chrétien, as in Guiot, the Graal Hallows are not relics of the Passion. There is an inclination at the present day to account for Chrétien's vagueness regarding his central sacred or talismanic object by assuming that he had heard only vaguely concerning it on his own part; that he introduced it in an arbitrary manner; and that it was quite purposeless in his Quest. I do not think that this will bear examination, more especially in the light of Guiot, who, as we have seen, counselled those who followed him to hide the tale at the beginning till it was unfolded gradually in its narration. In accordance with this, Wolfram is not much more explanatory at the beginning than his antecedent in Northern France, though the latter falls short at the point where the German poet himself begins to develop--that is to say, in the interview between Perceval and his hermit uncle.
[paragraph continues] However this may be, it is most important to note (a) the absence of the Passion-relics in both poets, and (b) the absence of the feeding qualities of the Graal in Chrétien, thus, in my . opinion, (c) disposing of any theory that he derived from Guiot, supposing that these elements were present in Guiot's text. On this last point, as the evidences which can be extracted from Wolfram leave much to be desired in respect of fulness, the question remains open. While he states in the first place that he knows of no other witness, the third book seems to speak in the plural of those who told the story before him and, at the same time, having regard to his judgment concerning Chrétien, he can scarcely have held that it was recited to any purpose by him. The Provençal, on the German's authority, gave it to the very end--which, I suppose, means to the winning of the Graal by Parsifal. Yet it is certain on the text only that he is responsible for (1) The Arabian source of the Graal story; (2) the names of its appointed Keepers; (3) the history of Gawain, or at least some part thereof; and (4) the kinship of Parsifal and Sigune. It is difficult in several respects to follow Guiot as he is represented by Wolfram solely, though additamenta gathered from later sources lie under the suspicion of false and invented ascriptions. The Graal itself is a case in point; there is a later report that it was originally a stone in the crown of Lucifer, which I do not find in the Parsifal. Assuming that this account was derived from Guiot, one is inclined to speculate whether the feeding properties of the talismanic object could have been a part of his scheme, as the two notions are quite foreign to each other, and yet the Dish of Plenty looms so largely in Wolfram that it is difficult to predicate its absence in his palmary source. At the same time, though Wolfram acknowledged, as I have said, no other exemplar, he did adopt extrinsic materials, as, for example, the legend of Lohengrin from the Lorraine epic cycle. To increase the confusion, the stone is identified in Parsifal with the fabulous or
symbolic Phœnix, and thus recalls the Phenicite Stone of Dioscorides. In this connection, it has not been noticed that one of the myths incorporated by the Book of the Holy Graal concerns a bird similar to the Phœnix, but more extravagantly described. After laying her eggs this bird is said to make use of a stone called Piratite, found in the valley of Hebron, the property of which is to burn anything that rubs it, and it is supposed to consume the bird. It is not the Lapis Judaicus or Thecolithos, but apparently the Black Pyrites, which, according to Pliny, burns the hand when touched. The same fable says that the name given to the bird is Serpelion, but hereto I find no reference. Neither on this nor on another consideration can Wolfram's historical account of the Graal be held to explain its imputed sacred character, and it is not surprising that no spiritual exaltation seems to follow its presence. If the vague story does not imply the later legend of the Crown of Lucifer, there is no explanation of its origin or of its supposed custody by the fallen angels of the air, though part at least of this story is repudiated afterwards by the person who relates it to Parsifal. Why it was sent by God, what purpose was served by its presence on earth, in what sense the stone which consumes the Phœnix is identical with the talisman which supplies inexhaustible delicacies ready dressed and cooked at a banquet--these things remain a mystery, and if any explanation were possible on the assumption of a subsurface sense, the presentation would remain and is the worst form of the legend on the official and extant side.
Fortunately, its mere presentation disposes of the suggestion that Guiot was heretical in his tendencies. This has arisen in part out of the Templar element, which is so obvious in the Parsifal, and for the rest out of the Albigensian implications, which may be thought to underlie at the period any text connected, directly or otherwise, with the South of France. We have seen that the charge against Wolfram is without foundation,
and utterly. There is no Mass of the Graal in the Parsifal, no priestly character in the Wardens, no kind of competition with Church claims, no interference with ecclesiastical matters. If it be said that the arch-consecrated Host brought down from Heaven to renew the virtues of the Graal constitutes a questionable element, that must depend upon the general context, and in the light of this it raises no difficulty. There is a significant absence of suggestion that souls are sustained through the Graal from a superior channel of grace than can be claimed by the official Church, for on the surface sense of the text it is the bodies of the confraternity which, owing to the Graal and its annual renewal, were fed by the Host, while the recipients, including the Keepers, were not preserved thereby in a catholic state of sanctity. This is folly and all confusion, but it is not heresy by intention; it is a muddled thesis concerning a grotesque object, of all things least sacred in the world of imaginative writing; it is worse than the Fécamp reliquary as compared with other legends of Joseph of Arimathæa; in a word, it is on a due and just level with the moral elevation which is ascribed spuriously to the epic. The story of Perceval was never written at all till the task was undertaken by the unknown author of the Longer Prose Perceval, and so far as we can trace the hand of Guiot in Wolfram, those so-called Chronicles of Anjou must have taken him far from the term.
Varied and considerable learning is ascribed to Guiot de Provence, and, among many indirect evidences, this is suggested by the circumstances under which, in his own turn, he claims to have derived the fundamental part of his story. We know that his alleged source was written in the Arabic tongue; that the recipient in primis, in far pre-Christian days, was a Jew who on one side of his parentage was also of pagan stock; and that in fine the old and old chronicle was lying neglected and forgotten among the undemonstrable archives of Toledo. We have seen further that above this story on earth there was an
eternal story in heaven, as the last possible antecedent of all records, and it was therein that the Jew read, while the beating of his own pulses alone throbbed in the silent spaces. But as it is desirable to give a certain local touch to these abstruse matters, I have mentioned that the Jew's name was Flegetanis, to increase the verisimilitude of which we may memorise the fact that he wrote in Arabic rather than in Hebrew. The baths of disillusion are colder than those of Apollo, and from all--if any there be--who can dream that these things were possible individually before, or collectively after, the manifested Light of the World, we may well cry with devotion our Libera nos, Domine. The fact which remains is that Flegetanis read in the starry heavens, and that in the Book of the Holy Graal a person of this name, or nearly, was the mother of Celidoine, who was born under such high stellar auspices and himself divined by the stars. In such strange ways does one of the latest histories seem to draw from another which is earliest by the high imputation of things; only these two texts contain the Celtic name in question, and these only produce from their hidden source in common the myth which exceeds explication concerning the Phœnix bird and the ardent stone. It is in connections of this kind that one occasionally obtains, out of all expectation, a certain extrinsic light. The suggestion that, at however far a distance, there may have been the hand of Jewry in the literature of the Holy Graal might well be a source of scandal. But the Provençal Guiot was, as we have seen, a man of curious learning, and by a somewhat precarious induction it is supposed that he was a student at Toledo in those days when the relations between Southern France and Northern Spain may be described as intimate. Whatever be the merits or otherwise of this supposition, it is certain that in one curious respect he gives evidence of an acquaintance with the secret ways of Israel. One of the interminable discourses comprised in the collection of the Zohar states that in the whole extent of the heavens, the circumference
of which surrounds the world, there are figures and there are signs by means of which the deepest mysteries may be discovered. These figures are formed by galaxies and constellations of stars, which are for the sage a subject of contemplation and a source of mysterious delights. The simple indication in the great canon of the Kabalah is the root-matter of all Hebrew astrology, and the reader who is sufficiently curious may consult on the whole subject certain Unheard-of Curiosities collected by James Gaffarel, where he will find the celestial constellations expressed by Hebrew characters and the celestial Hebrew alphabet. It follows that all mysteries resident in the letters and their combinations would be indubitably in the starry heavens, and the mysterious inspiration which, according to Guiot's story, fell on the Jew of Toledo represents a mode of divination which in that place was well known and in practice at that period. It will, I hope, be understood that nothing follows from this fact except that by a curious instance I have illustrated the curious learning which must have been possessed indubitably by the Provençal poet.
The considerations of this section are far indeed from our term, but, as seen already, something remains to be said, when the pageant draws to its close, concerning the second sense of Guiot and his German reflection.