Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/214

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iq2 Rcvteivs.

reference to Eastern legend. My quarrel with the Russian scholar is that, interesting as are his parallels, they assist but slightly the interpretation of the cycle. He first deals with Borron's poem. Here, Joseph, thrown into prison by the Jews and there forgotten for forty years, is miraculously sustained by the Grail. Now this lengthened captivity without any visible means of sustenance is a prominent feature in those apocryphal texts which hitherto have been used to account for Borron's version, and has been generally regarded either as suggesting the food-producing powers of the Grail found in the French poem, or as facilitating the fusion of a Wondrous Vessel legend with that of Joseph. In Borron as in the apocryphal texts hitherto regarded as his source, Joseph becomes possessed of the holy vessel and uses it to collect Christ's blood before he is thrown into prison. Professor Wesselofsky gives at great length a story, interesting enough in its way, in which Joseph's captivity lasts a very short while, in which the holy blood is collected after the deliverance, fwf in a cup or dish but in a cloth. Further consideration of this and allied stories leads him to the conclusion that Grail was originally no cup or bowl, but a basket, the word being etymologically connected with crates through the forms cratalis, cratala. His parallel thus leaves out of account the most characteristic trait of the purely Christian portion of the legend (Joseph's sustenance in prison by the Grail), and his explanation assumes that the earliest Christian adapters of a wholly Christian legend so misunderstood it as to alter the central feature. This process of development is characterised as " natural."

The method of dealing with the proper names in Borron's poem is, if possible, even less convincing. A prominent figure is Joseph's brother-in-law, Brons or Hebron ; both forms occur, but the latter is the rarer, and is unknown to every other romance in which Brons appears. Yet it is this isolated variant which Professor Wesselofsky equates with a Syriac habra = companion, friend. There is no jot of evidence for the existence of any Syriac legend in which a brother-in-law of Joseph's appears, no jot of evidence that habra is ever used in Syriac as a proper name. Again Borron sends the Grail hosts westwards " es Vaus d'Avaron." Here too the form is isolated ,; all other writers of the cycle, even the very scribes who turned Borron's verse into prose, write Avalon. Yet as there is a Syriac word hevdrd =