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The elements of Robert de Borron's poem are those of the apocryphal gospel rather than of the romance, as we now understand that term. I do not wish to be construed too expressly, as I am simply creating a comparison or instituting a tolerable approximation. In the Conte del Graal of Chrétien de Troyes and the group of poets who continued what his zeal had begun, we enter into a different atmosphere from that of the two texts with which we have been concerned previously, and yet it has analogies therewith. As a whole, it is the sharpest possible contradistinction to the hypothetical non-Graal quest; but in its first part, being that which was furnished by Chrétien, it represents more especially the transition from the folk-tale to the true Graal romance, and it offers in itself a certain typical specimen of the developing process. There is therefore little which distinguishes especially and signally this branch from the old tale of Peredur, as we can conceive it in its original form; there is a great deal by which several parts of Manessier's conclusion are distinguished from both, and still more the alternative rendering of Gerbert. Between all of them and the Quest of Galahad it is understood, this notwithstanding, that the deep abyss intervenes. The elements of Chrétien's poem are perhaps the most natural born that it has entered into the heart to conceive. The narrative is beautiful, or perhaps I should say that it is charming, after the manner of Nature; it is like a morning in spring. It has something more than the touch of Nature which takes us at once into its kinship; it seems actually Nature speaking; and so much of the Graal Mystery as can be said to enter within its dimensions is that Mystery expressed in the terms of the outside world, though still

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bearing a suggestion of translation direct from a strange and almost unknown tongue. The poem, taken as a whole, has few symbolic elements, and they are so entirely of the natural sacraments that it is difficult to recognise one touch of grace therein. Again, I except from this description what is termed the interpolation of Gerbert, which in comparison with the rest is like a Masonic tracing-board lecture compared with an essay of Goldsmith. This analogy is instituted expressly to show that in the widest construction Gerbert is also far from the goal.

Well, the Conte is a product of successive generations, but this granted it is the work of a single epoch. If it be approached simply from the poetic standpoint, there is no doubt much to repay the reader, if he be not deterred by the difficulties of extremely archaic French verse. But of the odor suavitatis of the sanctuary, of that which criticism has agreed to describe as the ascetic and mystic element, of that element which I and those whom I represent desire and look for, there is so little that it can barely be said to exist. Many who know and appreciate the sacramental mystery which attaches in certain parts to the Graal Quest in Malory and to the Longer Prose Perceval, which has been termed The High History of the Holy Graal, by Dr. Evans, its translator, will appreciate exactly this contrast, and will understand that in Chrétien de Troyes there is little of the secret once delivered to the saints of any sanctuary, though he made use of materials which may have carried this suggestion with them. He is described by his one editor as the poet of love, and as the poet who created the poetry of sentiment. He is fresh, natural, singularly direct, and he carried his intention very plainly on the surface in respect of his presentation of the story, so far as he is known to have taken it. To put it briefly, anything that is recondite in its significance is that which is typical of the entire cycle, while that which is obvious is of the poet.

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The Conte del Graal was begun, approximately speaking, about the third quarter of the twelfth century, and this metrical romance is the longest of the whole cycle, unless we elect to include the compilation which passes under the name of the Dutch Lancelot. It is the work of several hands, first among whom, both as to time and merit, is Chrétien de Troyes. He derived his materials from a source which is no longer extant, and is responsible for something less than one-eighth of the entire medley, unless, indeed, his editor, M. C. Potvin, is correct in his opinion that certain preliminary and certain subsequent matter, now regarded as later, should be included in his work. But this, I believe, is rejected with no uncertain voice by all later criticism.

Speaking generally of those quests of the Holy Graal into which we are here entering by a kind of anticipation, in order to dispose of one which offers too little to our purpose, it is not very difficult to follow the mind of romance in its choice one after another of several heroes, though these are exclusive of each other. In a subject of this kind, I care little for antecedents in folk-lore as such, and many speculative constructions of scholarship may also be set aside reverently. It does not appear, for example, by the texts themselves that Sir Gawain was at any time the typical hero of the quest, not even in the mind of Chrétien, though I have said that he was after the manner born of Nature in his general treatment of the theme. There are two heroes only, whether typical or otherwise, and these are Perceval and Galahad, but among these Perceval is neither the ideal questing Knight nor one who can be called possible until he has undergone the transmuting process of the later texts. Perhaps at the highest he represents the spirit of romance when it was tinctured only in part by sacramental mystery; Galahad represents that spirit when it has undergone the complete change. From this point of view, we may say that there are three epochs of the Quest in Northern France:--

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(a) The epoch of Chrétien, all continuations included, and of the Didot Perceval considered as a derivative of Robert de Borron, one of growth and development after its own manner.

(b) The epoch of the Longer Prose Perceval, deriving from the putative Walter Map and the later Merlin romances.

(c) The epoch of the Great Prose Lancelot and the Quest of Galahad.

It is understood that I am using the term epoch to characterise a condition of mind rather than one of time, and, secondly, that the German cycle of the Holy Graal remains over for consideration. It should be observed in the first epoch that Chrétien and Gautier are the only French writers who tolerate the notion of an alternative Graal hero in the person of Gawain. In the second epoch there is Perceval shining in the kind of light which is native only to Galahad, for the visit which is paid by Gawain to the Graal Castle is not a part of the Quest but a pure matter of chance, and he is reflected in a high mirror of idealism. In the third epoch we have the Quest in its final exaltation, and there are many heroes, each of whom is dealt with according to his merits, with Galahad as the Morning Star among all the lesser lights. Gawain "died as he had lived, in arms" and spiritual inhibition. It is in the Conte del Graal, the Longer Prose Perceval and in more than one dubious text of the German cycle that he is represented as an intentional Graal quester. It is true that he proposes the experiment in the prose Galahad, but he takes none of the instituted precautions, and he abandons it easily and early. Those who imputed a certain righteousness to Nature allowed him some qualified success within the measure of their capacity, but it came about that the mystic mood intervened and, having found that Nature was of no effect, the Quest was transferred thenceforward into the world of mystery.

Next: § B.--The Poem of Chrétien De Troyes