The secret doctrine of Guiot de Provence and the high tradition of the starry heavens not only failed to convince the minstrel world in Germany concerning the indefectible titles of Parsifal, with its root-matter written in the starry heavens--of which our example is Heinrich--but it failed to hold even those who had no alternative and more elect hero to offer--of which the example, within certain limits, is Albrecht. It came about that at the end of that century which had seen the light of Wolfram there arose the succeeding light of him who was to follow, and, having regard to the welcome which he received, the German world was evidently looking for another. He came to announce--like the French romances before him--that the Graal was taken away. Albrecht von Scharfenberg was a Bavarian poet, who wrote about 1270. He undertook to carry the whole experiment to its term, which he did in a vast poem of 4,000 verses, written in the obscure style of his predecessor-in-chief, whence--and for other reasons--the distinct individualities were confused for a considerable period. He incorporated various materials, for there was firstly the intervention of an anonymous and unknown poet, who seems to have undertaken but not completed the task, and, secondly, there were certain so-called Titurel fragments which were the work of Wolfram himself. Of the first I can say nothing, except that he is believed to have projected a complete chronicle of the Graal and its keepers, drawing for this purpose on the source used by Wolfram. It is a matter of speculation at what point he broke off and for what reason, but his mantle fell upon Albrecht. Of the materials left by Wolfram we know all that is needful,
and they are quite unconsonant with our purpose. They are two in number, and the opening lines of the first fragment explain why they have been termed a Titurel poem. They are really, by Wolfram's evidence, parts of the early history of Sigune and Schionatulander--respectively, the cousin of Parsifal and her lover, whose embalmed body she carries with her so long in the Parsifal poem. Contrary to the evidence of this, it appears from the fragments that the lover met his death in satisfying a whim of his mistress. Albrecht, or his precursor, incorporated these fragments, and in many ways otherwise the Younger Titurel, as it is called, while it covers the same ground, also supplants the earlier knightly epic and carries the history of the Graal--as I have indicated--to its final term. I have explained that the lateness of the poem has excluded it, in the mind of scholarship, from the canon of the Graal; but it has some aspects of importance, and its consideration will help us better to understand the position and claim of the German cycle. To that cycle it makes a real contribution, and it differs in this respect from the metrical romance of Lohengrin, which is ascribed to the year 1300. This is an important document for the legend of the Swan Knight, but its allusions to the Holy Graal are mostly of the occasional kind. As such, however, they offer a complete revolution of the whole Arthurian cycle in respect of the close in disaster of all those gracious times of chivalry. The star of the king's destiny does not close in blood and warfare--
owing to that frightful fatality by which Arthur begat Mordred on the body of his own half-sister. Other stars intervened in their power to avert the doom and vengeance for that which was done in ignorance. In place of the dubious mercy of healing at the hands of Morgan le Fay in the mystic island of Avalon, the king--at the head of his whole chivalry--carries the Graal to India,
and he and they are its guardians even to this day in the remote, undeclared places of the eastern world.
The Titurel differs also from that interned manuscript concerning Parsifal and the Round Table which is preserved among the treasures of the Vatican--being the sole copy that is known. It was written a little earlier than the year 1336, and it incorporates Manessier's conclusion of the Conte del Graal with materials derived from the Parsifal and Titurel. It is therefore a work of compilation, and does not as such concern us.
Now, one important point with regard to the poem of Albrecht is that he rejected the antecedent history of the Holy Graal bequeathed by his earlier German peer in poetry and reverted for his thesis concerning it to the more orthodox traditions of Northern France. In a word, the sacred object is no longer a stone, whether that in the crown of Lucifer or that which consumes the Phœnix and at the same time incubates the egg which the bird has laid. It is the Eucharistic vessel of Joseph, with whom its history begins, so that once again--and but once in the German cycle--we can kneel in spirit while Mass is being said in the Sanctuary, looking towards that time when we also, at the secret words of consecration, shall behold the five changes.
The Titurel claims to give the perfect and rectified history of the Vessel and its Wardens from the beginning to the end thereof. Considering that the first Graal King is the real centre of interest, an excessive space is devoted to Sigune and her lover--but this I refer to the anonymous poet who preceded. At the inception it gives the generations of the secret dynasty from the days of Vespasian, when Berillus the Cappadocian, who had great possessions and was moreover of the Christian faith, took service with the Roman general at the siege of Jerusalem and followed in his train subsequently when he was called to the throne of the empire. Berillus married Argensilla, the daughter of the emperor, and a considerable part of France was thereafter assigned to him in
fief. He had as issue Titurisone, who married Elizabel of Aragon and of her--after long years and precious offerings in pilgrimage at the Holy Sepulchre, because of their childless condition--there was born Titurel, this name being, as one writer has indicated, a contraction of the parental names. It will be seen that the genealogy takes back the so-called Angevin dynasty to a very early period of the Christian centuries, as well as to those districts which abut on the Holy Fields. The remaining succession in the keepership follows the indications of Wolfram, and the main outlines of the Quest are also followed in substance, with no remarkable exception. Wolfram knew nothing of that sister of Parsifal who attained to such spiritual heights in the Quest of Galahad, and Albrecht--who knew indeed, since he had fair opportunity to be acquainted with the whole cycle--does not, if I remember, mention her; but, on the other hand, he has not elected to ignore the marriage of Parsifal or all reference to Kondwiramur. It follows that, in dedicating that hero to the great exaltation, he considered that his virgin celibacy was not a first qualification within the domain of Nature. And these words may be called an introduction to a short statement concerning the ascetic aspects of Die Jungere Titurel. They are supposed to be somewhat pronounced, and to impress upon the poem a peculiar ecclesiastical aspect, which I interpret as meaning that it carries the seal of sanctity rather than the seal of ethics and other preliminary exercises in the school without the gates. At the same time, I see nothing in the poem to connect it with the mystical degrees, and I see nothing to indicate the conscious existence on the part of the author of any subsurface sense. It lends itself to a construction of this kind only in the way that all great books of romance--and greater than is this book--speak otherwise than in the external tongues to the higher part of our nature. It is only by reflection from the sources in Northern France that the Titurel reproduces--as we shall see that
it does--the recession of the Graal. Perhaps--but I do not know--Albrecht may have divined dimly that the heaven of Galahad's attainment and the land of Prester John are neither of them out of this world, and, so far as distance goes, not especially more remote than the corner of the nearest street. In such case, by saying that it went to India he would know that he was telling the same story as he who testified that the hand which had no body came right to the vessel and so took it and bore it up to heaven. Perhaps--in the alternative sense--the episode spelt nothing more for the poet than a good illustration of that which follows from the common unworthiness of the world. He describes the evil time which fell upon things outside the precincts of the Temple, and it was in pursuance of their own counsels of prudence, rather than by an instruction from within, that the Keepers of the Holy Vessel in fine convened the cohort of the Templar chivalry and that Parsifal, accompanied by them and carrying the Hallows of the House, went in' quest of his brother Feirfeis, so reaching India.
The Parsifal of Wolfram indicates that Prester John was the issue of this brother; but the Titurel represents him as an independent ruler in the East, despite his attributed genealogy, and gives such an account of himself and his wonderful kingdom that the reigning keeper is minded, and indeed prompted by Feirfeis, to bequeath the Graal to his care. When, however, he came into his august presence, bearing the Holy Vessel, the Priest-King offered his realm and crown to him who was the Graal King. Parsifal, on his part, desired to enter his service, for report had well assured him that all material and spiritual riches abode with Prester John, even the Seven Gifts and the Twelve Fruits of the Divine Spirit of Counsel. But the decision was not between them, for there was an intervention on the part of the Graal, by which it was ordained that Parsifal should remain as he was, the Guardian of the Holy Vessel. He became therefore the heir of Prester John and assumed his name. At the
prayers of the keeper, the Castle and the Sanctuary of Mont Salvatch were transported in a single night to India, like a mystic city of Irêm, so that the great Palladium had again its proper asylum. It was this, I conclude, that led to the whole chivalry remaining as they were in the East, whereas, if they had relinquished their trust, they would have returned whence they came. So does the House of the Doctrine follow the transit of Doctrine, as the house of man at his highest is wherever the highest is attained. It is for this reason that Wisdom has finished its temples, seeing that its proper habitations are waiting all over that world which once was built in Wisdom.
It is to Ethiopia or Turkey that other legends refer the retreat of Prester John, which really was "built in the unapparent." There is therefore no need to co-ordinate rival versions, nor would such a task be possible in the conflicting accounts of Albrecht and Wolfram. To vary the issues of confusion, I will mention only that, according to the Dutch Lancelot, the Priest-King appears to have been Perceval's son. It is thought that the reticence of Wolfram on the whole subject is explicable by the fact that there were few materials at his period, while in the fifty subsequent years the rumours of the eastern legend had extended and was available to Albrecht. But it should be mentioned that the first rumour is referable to 1156, and before the end of the twelfth century it had the support of Maimonides as well as of the wandering Israelite, Benjamin of Tudela. The seat of Peter had done more than confess to an attraction when an embassy was sent to Prester John bearing a written communication from Alexander III.; and before 1180, or at and about this time, the Emperor of Constantinople is supposed to have received the celebrated letter in which the mysterious potentate announced his own existence with consummate grandiloquence. It was a pretentious and impossible document in the worst style of false-seeming, but it created great interest and great wonder. It concerns us only because it may have provided certain materials both for
[paragraph continues] Wolfram and Albrecht. The palace of Prester John is like the Castle of Mont Salvatch drawn out into a greater wilderness of building, and the Parsifal allusions to the Earthly Paradise are recalled by the account of that spring which is three days' journey from the Garden of Eden. Whosoever can drink of its water will have, through all his later life, the aspect of thirty years--precisely that period which was maintained by the Templar chivalry owing to the presence of the Graal. The myth has been noticed exhaustively by several writers; it never required exploding, but that work was done in the seventeenth century by Julius Bartolocci in his Magna Bibliotheca Rabbinica.
I have only to add concerning Albrecht and his Titurel (a) that in the earlier part of the fourteenth century it was not only allocated to Wolfram, as we have seen, but was held to be his master work; (b) that all assertions notwithstanding, the hypothesis of Albrecht's acquaintance with the poem of Guiot is regarded as precarious; (c) that the Titurel represents King Arthur and his knights as travellers in search of the Graal after it had been taken away: it was a vain journey, of which Parsifal had calculated the probabilities beforehand when he took leave of the Round Table; but the adventure--as we have seen--is the root-matter of that other fable which was conceived subsequently by the author of the metrical Lohengrin.