Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/217

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Reviews. 195

ceptions of which the Eucharistic Vessel is the centre and expression ; the drastic materiahsm with which the Grail is pre- sented in most works of the cycle is older than they, is character- istic of the Eucharistic Vessel as such, and not merely of the Eucharistic Vessel as Grail. The sacramental, Eucharistic, con- ceptions of Christianity are, largely he says in effect, a legacy from pre-existing mythology, of which the oldest form is preserved by the clay tablets of Babylonia ; the myth in which they have their root and from which they derive their sustenance is that ancient vision of a land of perpetual bliss and undying youth, of Paradise with its fruit and water of immortality, rejuvenation, and healing, of its inmates who enjoy, thanks to these miraculous foods, an existence which appeals to mankind at large as the summit of imaginable felicity. It is, he further urges, thanks to the essential kinship between "the mythical features and con- ceptions thus absorbed into and persisting within the body of organised Christianity, and the Celtic myths which supplied body and spirit to the romances worked into the Grail legend, that the fusion took place as readily and completely as it did.

Dr. Staerk's knowledge of the Celtic Elysium is wholly derived from my 1888 Studies, as he is unacquainted with the Voyage of Bran, in which I set forth with far greater detail the range, depth and variety of the Elysium conceptions in Celtic romance. His insistence upon the kinship between the magic realm to which the Grail quester penetrates, and the primeval Paradise which he regards as moulding the presentment of the Christian Eucharist, is all the more noteworthy.

It was, I confess, with no little amusement that, after noting how at the outset Dr. Staerk rebuked me for shutting my eyes to the essentially Christian character of the Grail, it dawned upon me as I followed his argument that he, even less than I, regarded it as Christian in the ordinary sense of the word, and derived it equally from pre-Christian myth. I know far too little of early Christian legend to criticise his contention that Christian sacra- mental conceptions do contain such a large proportion of earlier mythical elements, that the Eucharistic Vessel is, by nature, a talis- man producing food and material bliss. The evidence adduced strikes me as slight and unconvincing, the reasoning based upon it as loose and superficial. In any case I am more than ever impelled to put the question : Why, if the material, mythical

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