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p. 202


By our previous considerations we have ascertained that after certain preliminary matters which are curious, but late in comparison and dubious, the Conte del Graal was opened in ample form by a master-singer of his period--that is to say, by Chrétien de Troyes. Now, if it be agreed that the Peredur and Syr Percyvelle are reflections of a lost primordial quest, it is desirable to note that they offer nothing concerning the feast of good things and the Bowl of Plenty. How, therefore, from the standpoint of scholarship, did this element, confessedly foreign thereto, in the beginning of things, come to be imported therein? There is no trace of it, as we have seen, in the long section of that great poem which is now set for our consideration, though it is supposed to have heralded and inaugurated everything which belongs to the seeking part of the Graal literature. It was not evidently from this source in folk-lore that Chrétien derived his knowledge of that mysterious object which he calls a Graal and from which was diffused so great a light, though nowhere in his long contribution does he term it the Holy Graal. It was carried by the maid who had charge of it in her two hands, from which it may follow either that it was a heavy object, as might be a large dish, or something exceedingly sacred--to be exalted with reverence--as it might be, an Eucharistic Chalice or a most holy Reliquary. That it was not certainly the first of these objects is made evident by the fact that a Dish was carried separately in the pageant at the Graal Castle. We know further from the brief description that it was a jewelled vessel:--

"Pières pressieuses avoit
El graal, de maintes manières,
Des plus rices et des plus cières
Qui el mont u en tière soient;
Tote autre pières pasoient
Celes dou grèal, sans dotance."

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[paragraph continues] That it connects with the second or the third in my enumeration of possible objects is shown at a much later stage to Perceval in the narrative of his uncle the hermit, who tells how some hidden King of the Graal is sustained and comforted by a Sacred Host therein. Whencesoever the German poet Heinrich drew his materials, it is obvious that he and Chrétien speak of the same vessel and, as I have shown otherwise, rather of a ciborium than a Reliquary. The essence of a Reliquary is that it should contain an invariable sacred deposit, as, for example, the Precious Blood of our Saviour or the liquefying blood of St. Januarius. We are therefore at once in the region of great sacramental wonders. The legends of sanctity had already in far other texts borne witness to those cases in which the supersensual Bread of Life had served for the saints as their only daily nourishment. This is therefore the manner in which Chrétien de Troyes understood--had he indeed heard of them--the feeding properties of the Graal. It follows--and we shall see duly--that three poets--Wolfram, Heinrich and Chrétien--who are at the poles sometimes in variance over matters of symbolism, do yet, in the most important of all their concerns, tell the same story. And we who know better than they could have ever known all that is involved in the root-matter of their testimony, can say in our hearts, even when we hear these dim echoes which are far from the term of the Quest:--

"Tu qui cuncta scis et vales,
Qui nos pascis hic mortales,
Tuos ibi commensales,
Cohæredes et sodales
Fac sanctorum civium."

[paragraph continues] We have no doubt as to the service or the table, and can bear witness on our own part that " many men, both of high and low condition in these last years past," have to our knowledge seen the mystery of all sacredness and sweetness unveiled before their spiritual eyes. It follows that if there were many antecedents, the Graal is still one,

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and that even at the epoch of Chrétien the true nature of the Sacred Vessel was known, and that clearly. Of himself the poet knew nothing, but in some book which he followed there must have been strange materials. One of the keynotes may be--among many others--that Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, investigated about 1140 a case of miraculous sustenance by the Eucharist.

As regards the source of his story the poet himself gives us an exceedingly simple explanation. He says that he wrote by command of a certain Count--that is to say, Count Philip of Flanders. The order was:--

"À rimoir le mellor conte
Qui soit contés en court roial."

[paragraph continues] The materials were written materials, namely, li contes del Gréal, as to which li Quens li bailla le livre. Such was the source of the earliest Quest-matter; and the earliest extant History-matter depends also from a great book, wherein great clerks wrote "the great secrets which are called the Graal":--

"Ge n’ose conter ne retreire,
Ne ge ne le pourroie feire,
Neis, se je feire le voloie,
Se je le grant livre n’avoie
Où les estoires sunt escrites,
Par les granz clers feites et dites:
La sunt li grant secré escrit
Qu’en nvmme le Graal et dit."

[paragraph continues] Whereas therefore his patron communicated to Chrétien, it was Robert de Borron who communicated to Walter Montbéliard, in whose service he was. We see in this manner that the first poet of the Conte del Graal depended on antecedent authority which was not of the oral kind; by one stage the question of source raised here has been moved back, and there must be left for the present.

We saw in the Welsh Perceval that there was a sword which broke and was rejoined, but in the stress of the last trial it was shattered beyond recovery. The episode in Chrétien which corresponds hereto is represented

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sufficiently for my purpose by the details already given when considering the Hallows of the Legend. I may add only that while certain codices make no attempt to account for the return of the Broken Sword to the Graal Castle, there are others which illustrate the foreknowledge of the king by his despatch of a messenger to follow Perceval in his travels till the mischance of the promised peril overtakes him. In yet others the fragments of the mystic weapon seem to have been spirited away. It will be seen that in the Welsh Perceval there is nothing to connect the maiming of the Lord of the Castle with the gigantic Lance which is carried about therein. The connection remains naturally a reasonable inference, but we cannot tell. The Sword certainly serves no purpose but that of a trial of strength. In Chrétien it appears, on the other hand, almost as a part of the plot, and the scheme is carried out by the sequels in accordance with so much as may be called manifest in the intention of the first poet.

Turning from the Hallows of the story, it so happens that it is after the manner of Chrétien to furnish his most important elucidations with the least suggestion of intention. I have spoken of the mystery of that Chamber wherein the Graal enters or re-enters after its manifestation in the pageant, or into which alternatively the dove flies in one Quest of the Greater Chronicles, before the Sacred Vessel is displayed. It is Chrétien only who discloses the secret of the hidden place, or at least manifests up to what point he understands it himself, when he says of the king, whom I interpret as sometime king of the Graal:--

". xx . ans i a estet ensi.
Que fors de la cambre n’issi
Ù le Gréal véis entrer."

[paragraph continues] It was the bedchamber of that Warden of the Hallows who was far more concealed than he who is called or miscalled the Rich Fisher in the same text. The further question which arises for our consideration

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concerns, therefore, this nameless being who is the father of the king in evidence. The allusions to him are so brief and so vague that those who continued the story thought it best to ignore them, though I hold it as certain that Gautier had the elements of an explanation in his hands. Without forestalling what there is to say on this point in the next sub-section, I will refer back to an earlier part of our inquiry, when it was noted that the quest in Chrétien presupposes an early history and--notwithstanding certain 1 confusions, as, for example, regarding the origin of the title King Fisherman--that this history may have corresponded, in respect of its essence, to the first draft of the metrical romance by Robert de Borron, or alternatively to the source from which the latter drew, and in which it may be hazarded that there seem to have been several histories. It is too early to speculate whether the texts which had come into the possession of the pious minstrel included the single story which the Count of Flanders placed in the hands of Chrétien, but there must have been a general prototype. Apart from the Longer Prose Perceval, which is extra-lineal in most details of its tradition, there are three persons connected immediately with the Graal in the various quests. In the Parsifal of Wolfram there are (a) Titurel--precisely in the position of the mysterious king in Chrétien, and like him abdicated; (b) the reigning king Amfortas, who is fed by the Graal; and (c) Parsifal, the king who is to come. In the quest of Galahad there are (a) the maimed king, Pellehan; (b) the reigning king, Pelles; and (c) Galahad, the king who is to come. In the Didot Perceval there are (a) Brons, who is sick of the centuries, but still the Graal king; (b) his i son Alain, but in this case he dies, without it being possible for us to assign his special place in the mystery; and (c) Perceval, as a coming king who is in the warfare of his training. Now, this notion of a triple guardianship was first put forward in the romance

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of De Borron, and is evidently one of the root-ideas of the historical branches; and if in a certain sense it is broken in the Book of the Holy Graal to establish some phantom of a chronological succession, the Quest which follows therefrom recurs, as we see, thereto. I should add that the Royal Family of the Holy Graal--in the story of Chrétien and its sequels--has no names in the canonical texts till Perceval comes into his own, but there is a variant or interpolation in a Berne manuscript which follows the keepership in De Borron.

Separating from the poem of Chrétien not merely the prologue, which is by another hand, but an introductory part which is also of uncertain authorship, while it has elements in rather close correspondence with the Welsh Mabinogi of Peredur, and adhering to the more authentic poem itself, there is a diversity of the circumstances under which Perceval was born whereby it is set apart from the Welsh story and from the English poem. In the introduction there are variants from these, but they are matters of detail. According to Chrétien, it is the maiming of Perceval's father which takes the family into the woods. Perceval is the youngest of three sons, and the time comes for the others to be sent into the world. They are commissioned to the courts of two kings, where they are both knighted on the same day, and, though widely separated, both are also slain. It is this misfortune which causes the death of the father and the desire on the mother's part to isolate her remaining boy from all knowledge of chivalry. While the result is a certain inexperience, he does not seem so savage or untrained as in the texts which we have considered previously, and the surroundings of his father's house are those of a knight who has retired to a country estate on account of his health. Seeing that there is nothing so little to my purpose as to be at any unnecessary pains regarding the conventional story part of successive texts, I shall deal very shortly with points of minor variation in the life and adventures of the hero, and as regards the major episodes, they may

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be thus recited in summary:--The adventure of the Pavilion; the initial visit to the Court of King Arthur; the struggle with the Red Knight; the sojourn with an instructor in chivalry; the liberation of that Lady of the Castle who is here named Blanchefleur; the first visit to the House of the Graal; the meeting with Perceval's kinswoman afterwards; the exoneration of the Lady of the Pavilion; the search of the King and his knights after the hero whom they had once rejected almost; the love-trance; the denunciation of Perceval by the laidly damosel; his godless wanderings; the episode of Good Friday; the renewal of grace which he receives at the hands of a hermit, who--in this case--is his uncle: all these follow in due order, and though it is not throughout the exact order which we find in the Welsh Mabinogi, that text remains the artificial prototype representing the early narrative portion, and to this Chrétien has added the Holy Graal as his ostensible motive in chief. The first sojourn of Perceval at the Graal Castle takes place in the absence of any design on the part of the hero; he is not, in other words, on the Quest of the Sacred Vessel and he knew nothing about it. When he has liberated Blanchefleur from her thraldom in the castle of Beaurepaire, his avowed quest is that which will bring him to his mother, but when he has found her he will return to the maiden, will marry her and share her rule. The other maiden who reproaches him for his failure immediately after his departure from the Graal Castle is his cousin-german instead of his foster-sister, and in addition to his responsibility in respect of his mother's death, she denounces him for not asking the redeeming questions concerning the Vessel and the Lance. In this manner the subsequent reproaches of the laidly damosel at the Court of King Arthur--which is in camp on the quest of Perceval, and not at Caerleon--concern a twice-told tale. The adventures of Perceval are carried by Chrétien as far as his visit to that uncle who has embraced the life of a hermit.

Next: § C.--The Extension of Gautier