It is indubitable, and we have seen in the plenary sense, that folk-lore provided its elements as the crude matter of the scheme of the Holy Graal. It is true, and also indubitable, that many accidentals of the Celtic Church became accidentals of the literature; they were worked into the Graal cycle as well as the pre-Christian elements, the process arising in the most natural of all possible manners. It was not exactly that the most early romancers took the matter which was nearest to their hands, but
rather that there was no other; the external aspect of religion was of necessity therefore a reflection of the Celtic Church. But as folk-lore does not explain the Christian Graal and the high experiments of sanctity therewith connected, so the contributory memorials on the Celtic ecclesiastical side do not explain it either. Behind all there lies the secret tradition of the epoch, and it is this precisely which makes the whole research so remote and intractable in respect of its final issues. I need hardly say that the secret tradition had no claim to put forward in respect of super-apostolical succession in the form belonging, as we find, to the Graal literature, though it had--ex hypothesi--its own Divine Warrants. This claim may represent therefore, by a hazardous ascription, the ecclesiastical political programme of the Anjou dynasty in England, and it would be in this way a separable element in the literature. There is no other sense than this in which a Britannic Church shows any true correspondence with Graal subsurface intention, because that intention had neither hostility to Rome nor a plea to put forward in respect of religious independence and the institution of an autonomous pan-Britannic Church. It follows that the secret tradition and the glimpse which we obtain thereof in the Graal books are either a mere dream, or the point of departure for this sub-section must be a total denial of all that has been put forward previously in regard to St. David's legend. As it is premature, however, to make it a point of departure, I must lead up to it from other considerations, and I will therefore say a few further words concerning the Church itself in Britain, not that they are essential to the subject but for the information of those of my readers who may have had no call to consider it.
Brief as it is, the following schedule will, I think, be sufficient for the purpose, and I note: (a) that Christianity existed in Britain during the Roman occupation, and that three British bishops were present at the council of Arles, about 350 A.D.; (b) that the extent of its diffusion is
doubtful, but it was probably the religion of Romans and Romanised Britons in and about the garrison towns; (c) that it became universal early in the fifth century, which was the beginning of the age of Saints; (d) that it is doubtful whether the Celtic Church at this period was a descendant of the Roman-British Church or a colonisation de novo from Gaul, but it may have combined both sources; (e) that an episcopal mission from Gaul into Britain is certain, and its object is supposed to have been the extinction of Pelagian heresy, or Pagan, as it has been suggested alternatively; (f) that the derivation ab origine symboli was possibly from Ephesus through the Johannine Rite into Southern Gaul, and thence into Britain; (g) that, also possibly, there were other Oriental influences, and particularly from Egypt, in the fifth century, the evidence being: (1) The derivation of Celtic ornament from Egyptian ornament; (2) the commemoration in ancient Irish books of "Holy Egyptian hermits" buried in Ireland; (3) the correspondences between the Celtic monastic system and that of Egypt; (4) the practice, attributed to St. Columba, of removing his sandals before entering the sanctuary, a practice known otherwise only in Egypt.
As regards the hypothesis put forward in the previous sub-section, it is observable that we have not been invited to consider in the Celtic Church any traces of a particular theological or doctrinal tradition--such as might, for example, be inferred from the Johannine Rite--or of an evasive or concealed claim; it is not suggested that in Wales, Scotia or Ireland there is any trace of an ecclesiastical legend concerning a relic which at any distance might be held to offer a real correspondence with that of the Holy Graal or its companion Hallows, because the essential condition of the analogy must be indubitably the existence of memorials of the Passion of our Lord. Of these it is certain that there were none, because otherwise it is certain that they would be adduced. We are asked, on the contrary, to assume that a variant liturgical
reading, the legend of an historical apostle after passing under a specific transmutation, and the mythical restitution of a Welsh King are the first matter in combination of the complex cycles of literature which are comprised in the Graal legend. If this hypothesis can be taken with such high seriousness that we may suppose it put forward--shall I say?--as an equivalent by analogy for that which has offered St. Dominic and the enchanting fable of a question which should have been put to the Pope as a real explanation of the Perceval-Graal myth, it will be sufficient, I think, to deal with it on general lines rather than by an exhaustive process of criticism in detail. Let us put aside, in the first place, all that part which is purely in the region of supposition, and take the actual facts as things for valuation in the schedule. Question of Epiclesis or question--as we shall see presently--of a particular tense, it is obvious that the oriental terms of consecration, when those prevailed in the West, were the secret of no particular sanctuary as distinguished from all other holy places in Britanny, Britain and Wales. They were catholic to these countries and also to a great part of that which we understand by Scotia, Ireland and Gaul. They connect in themselves with no keepership and with no Hallows. We know that the Roman rite colonised all these countries, and that in the course of time it prevailed. But the period between the public use of the words now in question and their final abrogation was one of centuries, and although during a portion thereof--ex hypothesi--they may have been perpetuated in concealment, there is no doubt that they had fallen into complete desuetude long before the third quarter of the twelfth century. It is impossible to suppose that there was at that time any one concerned in their perpetuation sufficiently to put them forward as a great mystery of sanctity inherent in the heart of Christianity, and it is impossible, mystically speaking, that they should carry this significance. The secret words do not appear in the
metrical romance of Joseph as in any sense the material of romance; they appear with all the marks of a particular claim advanced for a special reason and maintained through more than one generation by the successive production, firstly, of a prose version of the early metrical Merlin, and, secondly, by the similar derivation or independent invention of the Didot Perceval, which carried on the same tradition, though it seems left unfinished, perhaps from the standpoint of narrative and assuredly of the term of its intention. In the second place two concurrent claims appear, and the second--which is stronger than the first--abandons the claim in respect of secret words. It does this so explicitly that it makes public the words of consecration, by which we are enabled to see at once how little they could have ever signified, if indeed it were possible to suppose that these are the lost words of Graal literature. Moreover, by a particular fatality, they do not happen to contain the Epiclesis clause. In its place, as we know so well already, we have the claim to a super-apostolical succession--as I have said, a much stronger claim and one for which there is little precedent in the dubious history of the Celtic Church. It is out of this pretension that the Galahad Quest arises, though at a period when the claim itself appears to have lapsed. We are agreed that, so far as there is a true story at all, it is that of Galahad, and the question of secret words never entered into the heart thereof. It is, therefore, useless to put forward the assumed fact of their existence in the Celtic Rite of Institution as something which is explanatory of the literature. In this connection it is of importance to remember (a) that the only prose Perceval which is of any importance mystically is that which depends from the Book of the Holy Graal, not from Robert de Borron; and (b) that the only metrical romance of Perceval which mystically may be also important is that of Wolfram. The first has abandoned the words and the second nearly all Eucharistic connection. The first puts the Roman dogma
of transubstantiation in its most materialised possible form. It will be seen, therefore, that the Celtic hypothesis fails along what must be regarded as the most important line. I submit, therefore, that the pretension to a super-apostolical warrant is either part of a fraudulent scheme of pre-eminence as an argument for autonomy on the part of the British Church, with the advisers of a King for its spokesmen, or it belongs to another order of concealed sentiment and event, the details and motives of which are wanting on the historical side of things. In the former case it is not of our concern, and it is explanatory only of one branch in a large literature; in the latter, we must go much further, and, if we can supply the missing events and motives, from certain hidden sources, we shall be in possession, for the time being at least, of a provisional explanation concerning things which are most important in the literature, and--donec de medio fiat--it must be allowed to hold.
The distinctive note of the Latin Eucharistic Rite is that, like the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark, it gives the first words of institution thus: Accipite et manducate ex hoc omnes. Hoc est enim corpus meum ("Take and eat ye all of this. For this is My body"). Hereto certain oriental rites added other words which should read in Latin: Quad pro multis confrangetur ("Which shall be broken for many"). The Book of the Holy Graal gives: Venés, si mangiés et chou est li miens cors qui pour vous et pour maintes autres gens sera livres à martire et à torment--the substantial equivalent of pro multis confrangetur. Compare the gospel of St. Luke in the Latin Vulgate, which uses the present tense: quod pro vobis datur.
So far as regards the really trivial question of tense. The mode of consecration by Epiclesis, or the Invocation of the Holy Spirit, may be unknown to some of my readers, and I extract it therefore from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.
THE PRIEST (saith).--Blessed art Thou, Christ our God, who didst fill the fishermen with all manner of wisdom, sending down upon them the
[paragraph continues] Holy Ghost, and by them hast brought the whole world into Thy net, O Lover of men: Glory be to Thee.
B. Both now and ever, &c.
THE PRIEST (saith).--When the Highest came down and confounded the tongues, He divided the nations; when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity; and with one voice we praise the Holy Ghost.
The Deacon, pointing to the Holy Bread, saith in a low voice:
DEACON.--Sir, bless the Holy Bread.
The Priest standeth up, and thrice maketh the sign of the Cross on the Holy Gifts, saying:
PRIEST.--And make this bread the Precious Body of Thy Christ.
DEACON.--Amen. Sir, bless the Holy Cup.
PRIEST.--And that which is in this Cup the Precious Blood of Thy Christ
DEACON.--Amen. (And pointing with his stole to both the Holy Things) Sir, Bless.
PRIEST.--Changing them by Thy Holy Ghost.
DEACON.--Amen, Amen, Amen.
PRIEST.--(after a pause) So that they may be for purification of soul, forgiveness of sins, communion of the Holy Ghost, &c.
I believe that in the Mozarabic Rite, which is thought to be in near consanguinity with the Celtic, the Epiclesis formula is used on occasions only. It is missing altogether from the so-called Liturgy of St. Dionysius, which only survives in the Latin. I should add that the existence of the clause in the Celtic Rite--whatever the strength of the inferences--is a matter of speculation, for the simple reason that no such liturgy is extant.
The other analogies and possibilities are a little attractive on the surface, and are of the kind which are caught at rather readily; but they seize upon a single point where they can be made to apply, and the other issues in a long sequence are ignored. The name Cadwaladr naturally suggests that of Galahad, and on the appeal to certain laws of permutation, it seems for a moment justified; but it is not justified in the legends. The last King of the Britons had indeed the hallows of his family by the right of inheritance, but there was no antecedent keeper whom he was required to heal, and there was no
quest to undertake in order that he might secure his own. But this healing and this quest inhere in the Graal legend, and are manifestly at the root of the design, so that there is no connection possible between the two cases. Moreover, Cadwaladr is destined by his legend to return, while it is of the essence of that of Galahad that he comes back no more. The same remarks will apply to all traceable instances of hereditary Keepership in Celtic families, whatever the object reserved. It is even more certain that any comparison of St. David the Waterman with the Rich Fisherman who is wounded is highest fantasy; neither physically nor symbolically did the Saint suffer any hurt, but, again, one of the foremost Graal intentions resides in the King's wounding. The symbolical term Fisherman signifies the guardian of the Holy Mysteries; it can have nothing to do with DEVERUR = Waterman. We do not know why a great fish is said to have heralded the birth of the Welsh Apostle. To help out the argument, we may affirm that he was a guardian of the Christian Mysteries in the land to which he was commissioned, but we do not in this manner account, either in the historical or symbolical sense, for the fishing of Brons or Alain in the lake, or for the title of Rich Fisherman applied to the Wardens of the Graal. It is true that they also were Guardians of Mysteries, but this is an instance of concurrence and not of derivation. The Lesser Holy Graal may create a comparison between the Sacred Vessel and the Sepulchre in which Christ was laid; but it does not for this reason institute any analogy between that vessel and St. David's altar, nor is the appeal to Wolfram useful except in the opposite sense, for the Graal stone of the Parsifal, whether or not it was once in the crown of Lucifer, can tolerate still less the institution of its likeness to "a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid." The altar of St. David is an interesting fable of its type, as preposterous as that of Fécamp, and between
the tomb of Christ, ex hypothesi, transported to Wales, and the sacramental ciborium likened to the Holy Sepulchre there is no analogy in any world of correspondences.
It remains therefore that in this literature we have shown how evil fell upon the House of the Doctrine; how it overtook also the Keeper of secret knowledge; after what manner he was at length healed; how the hidden treasures passed under the care of his saviour; and how at the term of all they were removed because of a fell and faithless time. That would be a very pleasant scheme of interpretation which could say that the House of Doctrine was the Celtic Church and that the wounded Keeper signified the Church in desolation, but it remains that we must go further in our search for a key to these mysteries.
If the legend of the Holy Graal were the last light of the Celtic Church before it expired in proscription, one would confess that it was glorious in its death. But the most that we can actually say is that it left elements which in fine served a better purpose. The Longer Prose Perceval, the poem of Wolfram, and the sacred and beautiful Quest of Galahad, these are three records which bear witness on earth of the secret things which are declared only in the heavens. There are three tabernacles wherein transfiguration takes place.
In the extrinsic Celtic remains, the only substitute which offers for the great legend of the Holy and Sacramental Cup is an obscure and nameless vessel which is subject in its latest history to the irreverence of a pedlar, and this it was .deemed worth while to avenge. From such inefficiencies and trifles it is certain that we must have recourse, even if for a moment only, to the Glastonbury legend, which did invent high fictions to glorify the British Church. This resource must however in its turn fail us, because Glastonbury is (a) of very small moment throughout the Graal literature; (b) is never the place of the sacred vessel, for even its most mythical allocations
[paragraph continues] --as, for example, Corbenic--cannot be identified therewith; and (c) it knows nothing of the second Joseph. The Book of the Holy Graal does, in one of its codices, speak of Glastonbury as the burial-place of the elder Joseph, but it only says Glas in England, for which other texts substitute Scotland. I doubt very much whether the Glastonbury legend was intended for more than the praise of a particular monastery; it represents Joseph of Arimathæa as the chief among twelve apostles sent by St. Philip to Britain, and they carried a phial or phials containing the Precious Blood. The Graal notion may have gratified Henry II., who concerned himself with things Arthurian, but beyond this we have only romance of history. It is certain in any case that St. David was not transformed into Joseph of Arimathæa, so far as Glastonbury is concerned. He and his apostoli coadjutores, his staff and his relics, belong to another story brought over from the Continent when St. David had passed into desuetude. Even so, of the Joseph claim, as we have it in the Graal romances, there is little enough trace in the historical writers of the time. The abbey of Noirmoutier in France laid claim to the original possession of Joseph's body, but it disappeared, or was stolen--as some said--by the monks of Glastonbury. If it be affirmed that the second Joseph, who is a creation of the Book of the Holy Graal, signifies some move in the strange ecclesiastical game which was played by Henry II., the evidence is in the opposite direction, so far as it can be said to exist; it is obvious that any game would have worked better with the original apostolical Joseph than with his imaginary son.
It is time to close these reflections, and there are only two points which remain, as I have not covenanted to deal with the minima as a whole. If King Arthur was enabled to make chalices for ordinary sacramental uses in official churches from the prototype which he saw in his vision, being a chalice that was arch-natural wholly, this occurred after the same manner that the Pilgrim Masons
who discovered the body of the Master Builder were enabled to bring away certain things in substitution for the secrets that were lost at his death, and there are thus other analogies than the natural and reasonable gifts of the Welsh Apostle, but there is no need to dwell upon them in this place.
The quotation which I have given from the Lesser Holy Graal raises an interesting point, and, without being versed in the ecclesiastical side of things, we can all of us believe that a church so strange as that which once ministered in Wales had also some curious things belonging to the liturgical world; but the extract in question must be read in connection with the original metrical romance, where the symbolism is expressed differently.
[paragraph continues] The Blood is therefore mentioned and the analogy is complete; it is also gracious and piteous, as the poem might say itself; and, in fine, it is a true, catholic and efficacious comparison, which exhibits for those who can read in the heart one other side of secret Eucharistic symbolism--even the deep mystery of that mystical death which is suffered by the Lord of Glory in the assumption of the veils of bread and wine, that He may arise into a new life in the soul of the reborn communicant.
I do not propose to speak of the original Graal book, because this is for another consideration, but if there was a secret liturgy or missal at the root of the legend, I know that it was not especially Celtic and still less Welsh especially. Behind the hypothesis of the Epiclesis clause there lies a deeper speculation, for there are traces of a very wonderful and super-efficacious Office of the Holy Spirit here and there in the Graal literature, and I believe that this is one of the keys as to its source in doctrine. We shall open hereafter another gate which may bring us back to the Johannine Rite.
I have indicated already that if we accept the hypothesis of a Pan-Britannic Church, it has no operation outside the Book of the Holy Graal. Of Chrétien's intention we can discern little, nor does it signify; it seems fairly clear that he had no religious, much less ecclesiastical, implicits. Gautier is in the same position; Manessier was merely a story-teller; Gerbert offers few allusions, but we cannot tell where he began, and his end is a thing frustrated. There is nothing so remote from all ecclesiastical programme in the official order as the Lesser Chronicles, and the Parsifal of Wolfram--which renders to God all that can be offered in ethics--like another Cain, though not of necessity rejected, offering the fruits of the earth--and to the spiritual Cæsar seeming to deny nothing--if the Parsifal has an ulterior motive, it is not of the Celtic Church nor yet of the House of Anjou, about which methinks that it protests too much, either for the Provençal Guiot or the lord of Eschenbach. There remain therefore only the Greater Chronicles and outside the primary text in place, which happens to be last in time--here, for the hypothesis in question, a moment surrendered formally--I know that of God moveth the High History and the Galahad of the King of all.
I do not much care on what materials the makers of the Graal romances may be agreed to have worked, since it is clear that they imported therein a new spirit.
[paragraph continues] If any one should like still to say that Cadwaladr who went to Rome or Jerusalem is to be identified with Galahad who went to heaven, they can have it that way since they so please, understanding that, on my part, I may reserve my judgment. I know that the one has suffered a high change before he has passed into the other. I know that every literature has its antecedents in some other literature, and that every religion owes something to a religion that preceded it. Sometimes the consanguinity is close and sometimes it is very far away. Only those who affirm that the one accounts for the other, and this simply and only, seem to be a little unwise. Christianity arose within Jewry and doctrinally out of Jewry, but this fact only brings their generic difference into greater relief. So also the Graal literature rose up in the Celtic Church; its analogies are many therein; they are many also in folk-lore; but there are also as many ways in which the one, as we know it, does not account for the other, as we have it actually.
The Celtic Church has, however, assisted us to see one thing more plainly, though we know it on other considerations, namely, that in fine there is but a single quest, which is that of Galahad. We must make every allowance for the honest findings of scholars, for whom the Holy Graal, as it was and it is, has never spoken, for whom it is only a feeding-dish under a light cloud of imagery, and by whom it is thought perhaps in their hearts that the intervention of Christianity in the wild old pagan myth is on the whole rather regrettable. They turn naturally to those quarters whence issue the voices of purely natural life, and therefore they prefer Gawain and Perceval in his cruder forms, because these speak their own language. It is to be trusted, and this devoutly, that they will find more and more evidences for the maintenance of their particular view. Unmanifested now but still discerned darkly, if the true proto-Perceval should be at length found, that which went before the Peredur and the English metrical romance,
and if, as there is no doubt, it should be devoid of all elements belonging to Graal or quester, our case will be the better proved which is (1) the natural succession of the Galahad Quest after the Graal history in its longer recension; (2) the succession of Perceval in the sequence of Robert de Borron, but rather as the scion of a dubious legitimacy; (3) the introduction of the late prose Perceval le Gallois as a final act of transmutation in the Anglo-Norman cycle, which so far assists our case that it manifests the unfitness, realised at that period, of Perceval as he was known by the earlier texts; (4) the derivation of the Wolfram Parsifal in part from Celtic elements, in part from some which are, or may have been, Teutonic, but also with derivatives through Provence from Spain.