Studies on the legend of the Holy Grail/Chapter III

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Studies on the legend of the Holy Grail  (1888)  by Alfred Nutt
Chapter III


CHAPTER III.

The legend formed of two portions: Early History of Grail, Quest—Two forms of each portion distinguished—Grouping of the various versions—Alternative hypotheses of development—Their bearing upon the alleged Celtic origin of the Grail—Closer examination of the various accounts of the Grail: The first use made of it and its first possessor; its solace of Joseph; its properties and the effect produced by it; its name; its arrival in England; the Grail-keeper and his relationship to the Promised Knight—Three different stages in the development of the Queste—The work and the qualification of the Promised Knight—Conclusions: Priority over Early History of Quest—Chronological arrangement of the versions.

The information afforded by the summaries enables us to take a general view of the legend as a whole, and to attempt a more accurate chronological classification of its varying forms. It will have been seen that the legend is formed of two distinct portions: the one dealing with the origin and wanderings (Early History) of the Grail, the other with its Quest. The two portions are found combined in the Joseph and Didot-Perceval and in the Grand St. Graal and Queste considered each as one organic whole. Versions A, Chrestien and his continuators; C, Didot-Perceval taken by itself; D, Queste; F, Wolfram, and G, Perceval le Gallois, treat only of the Quest. Versions B, Metrical Joseph, and E, Grand St. Graal, only of the Early History. But in nearly all the the versions, no matter of which portion, references are to be found to the other, and when the versions are carefully examined, it is found that of each portion there exist two entirely different forms. Taking the Early History first, versions A, B, C, D, E, and G, in so far as they deal with it at all, relate much as follows: the Grail is the vessel which our Lord used at the Last Supper, which, given by Pilate to Joseph, served the latter to receive the blood flowing from the body of the dead Christ, sustained him miraculously during his captivity, was, after his release, used by him to test the faith of his followers, and was brought to England by Joseph (A, D, E), by Brons (B, C), and was finally confided by Joseph to his brother-in-law, Brons, to be kept until the coming of the latter's grandson (versions B and C), or was left in charge of Alain, son of Brons, from whom it passed to his brother Josue, in whose line it remained until the Good Knight should come (version E). But F, Wolfram makes the Grail a vessel of "lapsit exillit" (i.e., lapis herilis, or lapsus ex coelis, or lapis electrix), which, after the fall of the rebel angels, was given in charge to Titurel and his dynasty, and by them preserved in the Grail Castle, Montsalvatch, guarded by a sacred order of Knighthood whom it chooses itself. So far, therefore, as the Early History is concerned all the versions, save one, are in the main of the same class, the differences between them being, apparently, ones of development and not of origin.

Turning now to the Quest, two classes are likewise to be distinguished: in the first the hero is Perceval, in the second there are three heroes, Galahad, Perceval, and Bors, chief of whom is Galahad. To the first class belong versions A, Chrestien, etc., C, Didot-Perceval; F, Wolfram; and G, Perceval le Gallois; whilst D, Queste, alone of the versions which recount the Quest only, belongs to the other class. It is followed, however, by E, Grand St. Graal, in so far as the latter has any reference to the Quest. In the other Early History version, namely B, Metrical Joseph, the name of the hero who is to achieve the Quest is not mentioned, but the indications concerning him agree more closely with the march of the story in C, Didot-Perceval, than with those of D, Queste; it must therefore be ranged in the first class. The main incident in the versions of this class is the hero's visit to the castle of a sick king, his beholding there the Grail in company with other relics, his neglect on the first visit to ask the meaning of what he sees, his punishment, second visit to the Grail Castle, and attainment of his end, whether healing of the Sick King or winning of the Grail kingship. The two versions, H, Peredur, and I, Sir Perceval, which belong to the Grail cycle, though they do not mention the Grail, and although I, Sir Perceval, does not contain the above-mentioned incident, must likewise be placed in this class, as must also the Gawain episodes of Diu Crone. In the second class this main incident is missing, though several of its less important features are present in altogether different connection. The story in D, Queste, is largely made up of adventures tallying often detail for detail with those in the Early History version, E, Grand St. Graal, with which it shares similarity in the Quest form.

Whilst each portion of the legend exists in two forms, the great majority of versions in both cases belong to one form. Looking for the moment upon D and E as one whole, there is in both cases only one minority-version, viz., for the Early History, F, Wolfram, for the Quest D-E, Queste, Grand St. Graal. And each of these is only in a minority as far as one portion of the legend is concerned, D-E, agreeing with the majority in the Early History, and F in the Quest. Taking the average of all the versions there results what may be called the Joseph of Arimathea form as the type of the Early History; the Perceval form as the type of the Quest. As a rule, it may be confidently assumed that the larger number of versions represent an older form, an assumption strengthened so far as the Early History is concerned by the fact that the minority version, F, Wolfram, can historically be proved to be one of the latest in date of all the versions, and, so far as the Quest is concerned, by the following considerations:—The minority version, D-E, has three heroes, of whom Perceval is second in importance only to the chief hero, Galahad, indeed he occupies as large a space in the narrative. This position can be due only to his being the original achiever of the Quest. It is obviously inadmissible that seven or eight versions should have conspired to pick out one only, and that one the second, of the three heroes of the Queste, and should have made him the sole hero, whilst it is easy to understand that the author of D, Queste, dissatisfied for certain reasons with the older forms of the story, yet not daring to alter it so far as to entirely burke the original hero, should have taken the course he did.

Two alternative hypotheses now naturally suggest themselves. The two parts of the legend may really form one organic whole, although more frequently found asunder than combined, or the one part may be an explanatory and supplementary after-thought. If the first hypothesis be accepted, it is natural to look upon the Metrical Joseph and the Didot-Perceval as the first and last parts of a trilogy, which, as presenting the legend in its fullest and most orderly shape, has a claim to being the oldest form of the story, and the main, if not the only, source of all other versions. If, on the other hand, the second hypothesis be exact, if one part of the legend be later than the other, and has been artificially welded into one with it, that version in which this fusion is most perfect, instead of being the earliest is, with greater likelihood, one of the latest forms. How do these alternative hypotheses affect the special object of these studies—the investigation of the alleged Celtic element in the Grail romances? In this way. If the Early History be an integral part of the romance, the probabilities in favour of a purely Christian legendary origin for the Grail itself are immensely increased, and the utmost the Celtic partisan could hope to show was that a Christian legend had somehow or other been strongly influenced by Celtic popular traditions. But if the reverse be true the probabilities are at once in favour of the Christian legendary element being the intruding one, and the chief aim of the Celtic partisan will be to disengage the present versions of the Quest from the traces left upon them by the Early History, and to accumulate as many parallels as possible between the residuum and admittedly genuine Celtic tradition. It by no means follows, however, that the acceptance of the second hypothesis involves the acceptance of the Celtic origin of the Grail. The romance as we have it—Quest, Early History—may be the fusion of two elements, one of which, the Christian legendary, may claim all that is connected with the mystic vessel. Were it otherwise our task would be greatly simplified. For the mere fact that what may be called the non-Grail members of the cycle, i.e., H, Peredur, and I, Sir Perceval, know nothing of the Early History, gives no uncertain hint as to which portion of the romance is the original, and which the accretion. Two points have then to be investigated—the relationship one to the other of Early History and Quest; and, if the Quest is found to be the older portion, whether the Grail really belongs to it, or whether its presence in the various forms of the story as we now have them may not be due to the Early History. An examination of the various passages in which the Grail is mentioned will furnish material towards settling the first point. Such an examination may profitably omit all reference to Wolfram, to the prose Perceval le Gallois, from which little is apparently to be gained respecting the oldest forms of the legend, and to Heinrich von dem Türlin's version of the Gawain episodes. It must also neglect for the nonce the two non-Grail members of the cycle (the Mabinogi and Sir Perceval) as their testimony is either of little or of the highest value according as the Quest is or is not found to be the oldest portion of the romance. With these exceptions all the versions furnish elements of comparison, though little is to be got, as far as the point under discussion is concerned, from what is apparently the latest section of the Conte du Graal, Gerbert's poem.

The consideration of the second point will necessitate comparison of the various Quest forms among themselves, and the examination of numerous Celtic stories which present analogies with them.


The Grail: the first use made of it and its first Possessor.

We learn nothing from Chrestien respecting the early history of the Grail, nor is Gautier more communicative if the Mons MS. version be followed. The intercalation, A IIA, however, and Manessier give full details. According to the former:

. . . c'est icel Graal por voir
Que nostre Sires tant ama
Que de son saint sanc l'anora
Au jor que il fu en croix mis. (16-19)

According to the latter:

C'est li vassiaus, ce saciés-vous,
Ù ens li sains sans présious
Nostre Segnor fu recéus
Quant de la lance fu férus. (35,017-20)

We learn from the former that "Josep le fist fère" (v. 22), and that he used it to collect the blood that flowed from each foot of our Lord as He hung on the Cross (verses 30-39), whilst the latter leaves it uncertain who the first possessor was, and who held the Grail to receive our Lord's blood. The information given in versions B, is as might be expected, much fuller. B I, Metr. Jos., which calls it "un veissel mout gent," tells how Christ used it, He "feisoit son sacrement" in it; how it was found by a Jew, who delivered it up to Pilate, by whom it was given to Joseph, and by him used to receive the blood which bursts forth again from Christ's wounds when the body has been taken down from the Cross.—C, Didot-Perceval: Brons, after relating how Longis pierced the Lord's body as it hung on the Cross, says of the Grail, "en cest vessel gist le sanc que Joseph recueilli qui decoroit par terre" (p. 483).—E, Grand St. Graal: Joseph himself finds the vessel out of which Christ had eaten, takes it home, and when he has received the body from Pilate, fetches the vessel and collects in it all the blood flowing from the wound he can (I, pp. 23, 24). Curiously enough, the very MS. which gives this version has an illustration of Joseph sitting under the Cross and collecting the blood as it drops from the wounds in side and feet. Three different accounts of how the Grail came into Joseph's possession and to what use he put it thus exist:—

(1) The Grail is the vessel in which Christ's blood was received as He hung upon the Cross (Pseudo-Gautier, Manessier, Didot-Perceval, and an illustration in a MS. of the Grand St. Graal); Joseph had had it made (Pseudo-Gautier).
(2) The Grail is the vessel which had been used by Christ at the Last Supper. It is used as a receptacle for the blood of Christ after His body has been taken down from the Cross (Metr. Jos.).
(3) Same as No. 2, with minor alterations, such as that it was Joseph who found the holy vessel himself (Grand St. Graal).


The Grail: its Solace of Joseph.

Chrestien and Gautier are again silent, but from A IIA, Pseudo-Gautier, we learn that Joseph was wont to pray before the Grail, that he was, in consequence, imprisoned in a high tower by the Jews, delivered thence by the Lord, whereupon the Jews resolve to exile him with Nicodemus, and that sister of his who had a likeness of Christ (verses 60-110). Manessier, in the Mons MS. version, passes this over, but A IIIA, has the following important passage:—

En une charte orrible et lède
Fu mis Joseph sanz nul arreste;
............
XL ans ilecques estut
C'onques ne menja ne ne but;
Mais Damediex li envoioit
Le Saint Graal que il véoit
II foiées ou III le jor; (V. pp. 153-4.)

In the B versions this episode is one of capital importance. B I., Joseph is put into prison, because the Jews suspect him of having stolen away Christ's body. To him in the dungeon, "qui estoit horrible et obscure" (v. 703), appears Christ, who hands him the Grail, whereat he is surprised, as he had hidden it in a house where none knew of it (v. 860), and addresses him as follows:—

En ten povoir l'enseigne aras
De ma mort et la garderas
Et cil l'averunt à garder
A cui tu la voudras donner. (847-50)

These will be three—

Joseph, bien ce saras garder,
Que tu ne le doiz commander
Qu'a trois persones qui l'arunt.
Ou non dou Père le penrunt
Et dou Fil et dou Saint-Esprit (871-75)

The offices Joseph rendered to Christ's body were symbolical of the Sacrament: the sepulchre is the altar; the sheet in which the body was wrapped the corporal; the vessel in which the blood was received shall be called chalice; and by the patina upon which it rests is signified the tombstone (v. 901-912). Finally Christ promises Joseph that:—

Tout cil qui ten veissel verrunt,
En ma compeignie serunt;
De cuer arunt emplissement
Et joie pardurablement. (917-20)</poem>

The prose versions repeat this account in the main, but with some important additions, thus: B II, Cangé MS., adds after Christ's last words, "Lors li aprant Jhésu Christ tex paroles que jà nus conter ne retraire ne porroit, etc. (I, 227); when Christ hands the vessel to Joseph, "Tu tiens lou sanc as trois personnes en une déité, qui degota des plaies de la char au fil, etc. (I, 225-26); after the description of the Grail, "lou Graal c'est à dire sor lou caalice." . . In C, Didot-Perceval, the Holy Ghost, speaking to Brons, commands him to reveal to Perceval, "icelles paroles segroies qu'il (i.e., Christ) aprist à Joseph en la prison," which, adds the narrator, "je ne vous puis dire ne ne doi" (I, 483). E, Grand St. Graal: The Jews, angry at Joseph's having taken Christ's body down from the Cross, throw him into "la plu hideuse chartre qui onques fust veue" and when they hear of the Lord's resurrection propose to starve him; but Christ comes to him, brings him for comfort "la sainte esceuele que ostoie en sa maison a tot le sanc qu'il Auoit requelli," and comforted him much, and assured him that he should not die in prison but come out safe and sound, and his name be glorified. And Joseph "fu en la prison . . . . tant qu'il demoura xlii ans (pp. 25-26).[1] Here again are three distinct accounts:—
(1) That of Pseudo-Gautier, which merely mentions Joseph's devotions to the Grail, and does not connect that devotion with any solace during his captivity.
(2) That of the B versions, in which Christ Himself brings the holy vessel to the captive, and connects it with certain promises and recommendations which He makes to him; the vessel shall remain with his seed, but it is to be in charge of three persons, a symbol of the Trinity. The services rendered by Joseph to Christ's body are connected with the Mass. The late (prose) drafts of this version insist still more upon the sacramental nature of the Grail.
(3) The Grand St. Graal and Pseudo-Manessier introduce a fresh element—the Grail is the material means by which Joseph is sustained (forty years according to the one, forty-two years according to the other version) without food or drink.

The great importance of the incident in the B versions is most remarkable when contrasted with the comparative indifference displayed by the other versions, and notably by the Grand St. Graal, which, at the first blush, looks so like a mere amplification of B, still more remarkable the agreement between the prose versions of B, with C, Didot-Perceval, respecting Christ's words to Joseph against B I, Metr. Jos. It is difficult to decide which of the two versions is the older; B I, after Christ's words, has the following important passage:—

Ge n'ose conter ne retreire,
Ne je 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:
Lá sunt li grant secré escrit
Qu'en numme le Graal et dit.

which may either have been the reason why the prose versions, followed by the Didot-Perceval, speak as they do about the secret words, or may be the versifier's excuse for giving those secret words themselves, i.e., the explanation of the mysteries of the Grail in its relation to the Sacrament, in which case the verse would be later than the prose forms.[2] Finally, it would seem that Pseudo-Manessier, A IIIA, and the Grand St. Graal drew their information one from the other or from a common source.


Properties and Effect of the Grail.

In Chrestien these seem to be of a purely physical nature; the Grail is borne uncovered through the hall at every meal (4,470-79), it feeds the Fisher King's father—

D'une seule oiste li sains horn
Quant en ce Greal li aporte
Sa vie sostient et conforte
Tant sainte cose est li Graaus. (7,796-99)

the most direct testimony in Chrestien to its sacred nature. In Gautier, likewise, the physical properties are insisted upon in the following passages:—

Lors vit parmi la sale aler
La rice Gréail ki servoit
Et mist le pain a grant esploit. (20,114-16)

Moult mangièrent à grant loisir;
Adonques véissiés servir
Le Gréail moult honestement. (20,142-43)

but in verses 28,078-81 a remarkable spiritual effect is attributed to it—

Car li diables ne deçoit
Nul homme ki le jor le voie,
Ne ne le met en male voie
Por faire pécié creminal.

In A IIA, Pseudo-Gautier, the physical side alone is insisted upon—

Et de quanqu'il lor ert mestiers
Les fornissoit à tel plenté
Com s'il n'eust néant cousté; (12-14)

Et li Graaux par tot aloit
Et pain et vin par tot portoit
Et autres mès a grant planté. (171-74)

Manessier makes no special reference to the properties of the Grail.

In the B versions it is the spiritual power of the Grail which is dwelt upon. Christ's words to Joseph have already been quoted (supra, p. 71), and the use which the latter puts the Grail to, and which is specially indicated to Joseph by the Holy Ghost, is in accordance with them. The Grail is to serve him as a touchstone to distinguish the sinners of his company—

Car il n'a à nul pecheour
Ne compaignie ne amour; (2,629-30)

whereas to those who have not defiled themselves with sin it brings

La douceur, l'accomplissement
De leur cueurs tout entièrement; (2,565-67)

so that according to them—

. . . . Cuers ne pourroit,
A pourpenser ne soufiroit
Le grant delit que nous avuns
Ne la grant joie en quoi nous suns. (2,609-12)

This testing power of the Grail is especially brought into play when the vessel is placed on the table in connection with the fish which Brons caught, and which won him the name of the Rich Fisher.

C, Didot-Perceval, has only one reference, "ne il ne covient mie en sa compagnie pechier" (I, 483), agreeing with B and with Gautier's lines 28,079-80.

In D, Queste, we revert to the physical gifts of the Grail. "And as soon as it entered the door of the hall the whole court was filled with perfumes . . . . and it proceeded to every place in the hall. And as it came before the tables it filled them with every kind of meat that a man would wish to have." When it comes in, "Every one looked at each other, and there was not one that could say a single word;" when it goes out, "Every one recovered his speech" (D II, pp. 442-43). There is no allusion to a gathering at which the Grail is used to test the state of grace of its devotees. E, Grand St. Graal, shows a curious mixture of the two ideas; the Grail feeds its worshippers, but only those who are "de sainte vie," to them it bring "toutes le boines viandes ke cuers d'omme pourroit penser," but "li pecheour n'auoient ke mangier." This version shows itself here, as in so many other passages, one of the latest in date, embodying and reconciling as it does the conceptions of the older versions—conceptions which it is difficult to derive, either from a common source or from one another. If it were not for the solitary phrase of Gautier's, lines 28,079, etc. (a passage which affords the strongest proof against the homogeneity of that part of the Conte du Graal which goes under Gautier's name), there would be an unbroken chain of testimony as to the food-giving power of the Grail on the part of the earlier A versions, supported by the Queste in opposition to the spiritual gifts insisted on by the B and E, Grand St. Graal, forms. It is in any case difficult to believe that if the writer of the Queste, with his strong tendency to mystic allegory, had had before him the highly spiritual presentment of the Grail-power found in B, he would have neglected it in favour of the materialistic description he uses. In one point this version differs from all others, the dumbness with which the Grail strikes those to whom it appears.[3]


Name of Grail.

Whilst the majority of versions afford no explanation of the name of the Grail, B and C attach a curious punning meaning to it, thus B I, Metr. Jos.:

Par droit Graal l'apelera;
Car nus le Graal ne verra,
Ce croi-je, qu'il ne li agrée; (2,659-61)

and C, Didot-Perceval, "Et por ce l'anpelon-nos Graal, qu'il agrée as prodes homes" (p. 483). E, Grand St. Graal, seems to follow these versions in Nasciens' words, "Car tout mi pense sont accompli, puis ke ie voi chou qui en toutes choses me plaist et m'agrée" (I, 212). Is such a punning explanation more consonant with the earliness or the lateness of the versions in which it is found? If the meaning of "Gréal" as cup or vessel was a perfectly well-established one, it is difficult to see why in the first treatment of the subject it should have been necessary to explain the word at all.


Arrival of the Grail in England.

Neither A I, Chrestien, nor A II, Gautier, give any indication how the Grail came to England; not until we come to A IIA, Pseudo-Gautier, do we learn anything on the subject. It is there related (v. 139-48) how Joseph and his companions take ship and sail till they come to the land promised Joseph by God—the White Isle, namely, a part of England; and how (v. 161-66) Joseph, finding that "sa vitaille li falloit," prays God to lend him that Grail in which he had collected the holy blood. The prayer is granted and the Grail appears and feeds the company. A III, Manessier, simply says that Joseph, after leaving Sarras, carried the Grail about with him, then in a singularly enigmatic passage (the Fisher King is speaking):—

Et, quant il furent départis,
Il s'en ala en son païs,
Et tout partout ù il aloit
La loi Jhésucrist essauçoit.
Puis vint en cest païs manoir,
Od lui le saint Gréal, por voir.
Josep qui en Dieu se fia
Icest païs édéfia. (35,123-30)

The B versions account is much more elaborate, and demands the most careful analysis. In B I, Metr. Jos., the first mention of the West is found in Christ's words to Joseph concerning his nephew, Alain, who is to keep the Grail, to take charge of his brothers and sisters, and

Puis s'en ira vers occident
Es plus loiteins lius que pourra; (3,100-01)

further that Petrus is likewise to go "ès vaus d'Avaron (3,123), it being added that—

Ces terres trestout vraiement
Se treient devers occident. (3,125-26)

Effectively we learn (v. 3,262, etc.) that Alain leads his brothers into strange lands. But the Grail remains behind, and in v. 3,353, etc., an angel declares it necessary that all the people should go to the West, that Brons should have the vessel, that he should go straight to the West, and that Petrus, after seeing the Grail safe in Brons' keeping, is to go likewise. Joseph follows the angel's command, and three days after he has committed the Grail to Brons' hands

Ainsi Joseph se demoura.
Li boens Pescherres s'en ala
(Dont furent puis meintes paroles
Contées, ki ne sunt pas foles)
En la terre lau il fu nez,
Et Joseph si est demourez. (3,455-60)

A puzzling passage, as it is difficult to be sure whether line 3,459 refers to the Fisher or to Joseph, a point of obvious importance, as in the latter case it would indicate that Joseph in this version does not go West. On turning to the prose versions, some remarkable variations are found in the corresponding passages; thus B II, Cangé MS. (I, 265) after relating how Brons finds wives for his children, adds, "Mais ancor estoit la crestientez moult tenue et moult novele en ce païs que l'an apeloit la bloe Bretaigne que Joseph avoit novellement convertie à la créance de Jhésu-Christ," words which would seem to indicate that the writer imagined Joseph and his company already in England. The corresponding passage to v. 3,445-60 runs thus: Ensinc se departirent, si s'en ala li riches peschierres dont maintes paroles furent puis, en la grant Bretaigne et ensinc remest Joseph et fina en la terre et ou païs où il fu envoiez de par Jhésu-Crist (275). B III, Didot MS, accentuates the punning reference to Avalon in the angel's message to Joseph, "Come li monde . . . . . va en avalant covient-il que toute ceste gent se retraie en occident" (p. 330). The final passage runs thus: "Eynsi se despartirent Joseph et Bron: et Joseph s'en ala en la terre et el pais où il fust nez et ampris la terre" (p. 332). Thus the testimony of these versions favours the application of v, 2,459 in Metr. Jos. to Joseph. From C, Didot-Perceval, we obtain an account similar in parts to that of the B versions, the most direct reference being in the speech of the hermit, Perceval's uncle, "Biaus niès, sachès que à la table là où Joseph fist et je meismes oïmes la voiz de saint esperit qui nos comenda venir en loingteines terres en occident, et comenda le riche péchéor mon père que il venist en cestes parties, là ou li soleil avaloit" (449-50), where the punning reference to Avalon is again prominent, and where, apparently, the passage of Joseph himself to England is not indicated. An entirely different form of the legend is found in D and E. In the former (D II, 450) it is briefly stated, "And afterwards it happened to Joseph, and Joseph his father, and a number of his family with them, to set out from the city of Sarras, and they came as far as Great Britain"; again, p. 467, Perceval's aunt relates how when Joseph of Arimathea came, and his son Joseph with him, to Great Britain, there came with them about 4,000 people, all of whom are fed by ten loaves, placed on the table, on the head of which is the Grail. E, Grand St. Graal, dwells specially upon Josephe; he is referred to in I, p. 22, as having passed "le lignage ioseph son père outre mer iusqu'en la bloie bertaigne qui ore a nom engleterre," and II, 123, etc., gives a full account of how the passage is effected; how the Grail-bearers are sent first, and supported through the water by its power; how, when Josephe takes off his shirt, and his father Joseph puts his foot upon it, it swells until it holds 250 persons. These two accounts agree better with that of A IIA, Pseudo-Gautier, than with any of the others; indeed, a passage in the latter (v. 125-29), which tells how Joseph committed the portrait of our Lord, made by Verrine, to the mercy of the sea, may have given the hint for the miraculous shirt story of the Grand St. Graal. In this version, too, as in D, Queste, we first hear of the passage to England, and then the Grail appears at the miraculous feeding of the travellers. The versions thus fall into two clearly-defined groups, Joseph being the Grail-bearer in the one, Brons in the latter. The latter class is represented by the Metrical Joseph and the Didot-Perceval alone, if we except the Berne MS. form of a portion of the Conte du Graal, which, in its finish, has obviously copied the Metrical Joseph. To the former class belong all the other versions. Nay, more, one of the prose forms of Borron's poems is interpolated, so as to countenance the Joseph-account of the bringing of the Grail to England. Moreover, Borron's account of the whole transaction is ambiguous and obscure; at first Alain is the destined hero, long passages being devoted to him, and the keeping of the mystic vessel being expressly reserved to him. Yet he leaves, quite quietly, nothing more being heard of him, and the same machinery of angelic messages is set in motion for Brons, to whom, henceforth, the chief rôle is assigned. Does not this show that there were from the outset two accounts of the evangelisation of Britain, one, attributing it to Joseph, of wider popularity, and followed solely by the majority of the romances, whilst Borron, who gave greater prominence to the other account, has maladroitly tried to fuse the two into one? In any case it would be remarkable were the legend of purely Christian origin, and were the Metrical Joseph its earliest form, and source of the other forms, that its testimony on such an important point should be contradicted by nearly every other version.

Do the foregoing facts throw any light upon the question whether the two sections of the romance are originally independent, and which is the earlier? It is the later forms of the Quest alone which mention Joseph. But if he be really the older of the two personages to whom, in the Early History, the evangelisation of Britain is attributed, this would of itself go a long way to proving that the two portions of the romance only came into contact at a late stage of their development, and that the Quest is the older. It is otherwise if Brons be looked upon as the original Grail-bringer; the same causes which led to his exclusion from the other versions of the Early History might have kept him out of most versions of the Quest, and his presence in one Quest version could be claimed as a proof of the homogeneity of the romance. For the present, it is sufficient to mark the fact that what may be called the Brons form of the Early History is in a minority.


The Grail-Keeper and his relationship to the Promised Knight.

In the A versions the Grail-keeper is the Fisher King, uncle to the hero of the Quest, Perceval. The relationship is first plainly put in Chrestien, where the hermit, speaking to Perceval of the Grail, says—

Cil qui l'en sert, il est mes frere
Ma sœur et soie fu ta mère,
Et del rice Pescéour croi
Que il est fius à celui roi
Qui del Graal servir se fait. (7,789-94)

The origin of his name is fully explained in the passage (v. 4,685-98), which tells of his being wounded in battle by a lance-thrust through his two thighs, of his sufferings, and of his only solace being fishing from a boat. How the Grail came into his possession C does not say. Gautier has no occasion to mention these facts, but from Manessier we learn that Joseph, having converted the land, died therein; that the Fisher King is of his seed, and that if God wills the Grail will never have its dwelling elsewhere than with him (35,130-36); that he, the Fisher King, had a brother, Goon Desert, treacherously slain by Partinal, who broke his sword in the murderous act. Goon's body and the fragments of the sword being brought by his niece to the Fisher King, he wounds himself with them, "parmi les gambes en traviers," and may not be healed until a knight should come to weld the fragments together and avenge his brother's death.

Pseudo-Gautier tells how Joseph, dying, prays that the Grail may remain with his descendants—

Si fist il, c'est verité fine,
Qu' après sa mort n'en ot sésine
Nus hom, tant fust de son lignage
Se il ne fu del haut parage.
Li riches Peschéor, por voir,
En fu estret et tuit si oir
Et des suens fu Greloguevaus
Ausi en réfu Percevaus. (183-90)

Manessier disagrees, it will have been noticed, with Chrestien respecting the cause of the Fisher King's wound, and neither he nor the other continuators of Chrestien make any mention of that enigmatic personage the Fisher King's father, so casually alluded to by Chrestien (v. 7,791-99). Perceval according to them is a direct descendant of Joseph, Brons being as entirely ignored here as in the transport of the Grail to England.

In the B versions the Grail-keeper is Brons, and the Promised Knight is his son or grandson, for a close examination again shows that two varying accounts have been embodied in one narrative. In the passage where the Holy Ghost, speaking to Joseph, tells him of the empty place to be left at the table he is to make, the following lines occur:—

Cil lius estre empliz ne pourra
Devant qu' Enygeus avera
Un enfant de Bron sen mari,
Que tu et ta suer amez si;
Et quant li enfès sera nez,
La sera ses lius assenez; (2,531-37)

followed closely by the prose versions: B II, Cangé MSS., "ne icil leux ne pourra estre ampliz tant que le filz Bron et Anysgeus ne l'accomplisse" (I, 254); B III, Didot MS., "Cist leus ne porra mie estre ampliz devant ce que li fist Bron l'ampleisse" (I, 316). But afterwards a fresh account appears; in the second message of the Holy Ghost, Joseph is told:

Que cist luis empliz ne sera
Devant que li tierz hons venra
Qui descendra de ten lignage
Et istera de ten parage,
Et Hebruns le doit engenrer
Et Enygeus ta sueur porter;
Et cil qui de sen fil istra,
Cest liu méismes emplira. (2,789-96)

In the corresponding passages both B II and III have the following significant addition, "et I. autre (i.e., place) avoc cestui qui el nom de cestui sera fondé" (I, 261), "raemplira ce leu et I. autre qui en leu decestu isera fondez" (I, 322), which effectually disposes of M. Hucher's attempt (I, 254, note) to harmonise the two accounts by the remark that in the first one "il ne s'agit pas de la Table ronde où c'est Perceval qui remplit le lieu vide." Henceforth the legend follows the second account. To Alain, son of Brons, is revealed that

. . . de lui doit oissir
Un oir malle, qui doit venir. (3,091-92)

Petrus is to wait for "le fil Alein," Brons is to wait for "le fil sen fil," and when he is come to give him the vessel and Grail (3,363-67). B II, Cangé MS., again makes a characteristic addition to the promise to Alain "et si li di que de lui doit issir un oirs masles, à cui la grace de mon veissel doit repairier" (I, 267).

C, Didot-Perceval, follows the second account of B. Perceval is son to Alain li Gros, grandson to Brons, the rich Fisher King, "et cil rois péchéors est en grant enfermetez, quar il est vieil home et plains de maladies" (I, 418), and nephew to the hermit, "un des fiz Bron et frère Alein" (I, 448), though curiously enough when he tells Brons that he knows him to be father of his father, the latter addresses him as "bieaux niès" (I, 483). In any case whether B and C do or do not afford proof of a nearer relationship than that of grandson and grandfather between the Grail-keeper and the achiever of the Quest, the chronology which bridges over 400 years in two generations is equally fantastic.

In D, Queste, no less than three different accounts are to be distinguished, corresponding certainly to three stages in the development of this version due to the influence of other versions of the legend. The earliest is that preserved in D II, the Welsh translation of a now lost French original. The Promised Knight is Galahad, son of Lancelot, grandson, on the mother's side, of King Pelles (ch. iv). The Grail is kept at the court of King Peleur (ch. lxvii), the name of which is apparently Corbenic (ch. lxiv). The Lame King is mentioned by Perceval's sister (ch. xlix), as a son of King Lambar, who fought with King Urlain and slew him, and in consequence of that blow the country was wasted; afterwards (ch. l.) his lameness is set down to his folly in attempting to draw the magic sword, for which, though there was not in Christendom a better man than he, he was wounded with a spear through the thigh. She also speaks of him here as her uncle. The Grail quest is not connected in any way with the healing of this Lame King. In the text printed by Furnivall, Galahad is first introduced as Lancelot's son and Pelles' grandson, but when he comes to Arthur's court he bids his returning companion, "salues moi tous chiaus del saint hostel et mon oncle le roi pelles et mon aioul le riche peschéour." Guinevere's ladies, according to this version, prophesy that Galahad will heal the Lame King. A long account, missing in D I, is given by the hermit to Lancelot of his ancestry as follows (p. 120):—Celidoine, son of Nasciens, had nine descendants, Warpus, Crestiens, Alain li Gros, Helyas, Jonaans, Lancelot, Ban, Lancelot himself, Galahad, in whom Christ will bathe himself entirely. Perceval is son of a King Pellehem (p. 182). The Lame King is Pelles, "que l'on apièle lo roi mehaignié" (p. 188); he is at Corbenic when Lancelot comes there. When Galahad and his companions arrive at his court a sick man wearing a crown is brought in, who blesses Galahad as his deliverer. After the appearance of the Grail, Galahad heals him by touching his wound with the spear. The third account, from the version of the Queste printed with the Lancelot and the Mort Artur in 1488, at Rouen, by Gaillard le Bourgeois,[4] makes Galahad send greetings to the Fisher King and to his grandfather, King Pelles; it adds to Perceval's sister's account of how Pelles was wounded, the words, "he was Galahad's grandfather;"[5] it adds to the account of Lancelot's visit to the Grail Castle, the words, "this was Castle Corbenic, where the Holy Grail was kept." Before discussing these differences it is advisable to see what the Grand St. Graal says on these points. Here Alain, the Fisher King, son of Brons, is a virgin, and when Josephe commits the Grail to his care he empowers him to leave it to whom he likes (II, 360-39.) In accordance with this Alain leaves the Grail to his brother Josue, with the title of Fisher King. Josue's descendants are Aminadap, Catheloys, Manaal, Lambor (who was wounded by Bruillans with Solomon's sword, whence arose such a fierce war that the whole land was laid desert).[6] Pelleans, wounded in battle in the ankle, whence he had the name Lame King, Pelles, upon whose daughter Lancelot begets Galahad, who is thus, on the mother's side, ninth in descent from Brons, brother to Joseph. Galahad's descent is likewise given from Celidoine, son of Nasciens, as follows: Marpus, Nasciens, Alains li Gros, Ysaies, Jonans, Lancelot, Bans, Lancelot, Galahad, who in thus counting Celidoine is tenth in descent from Nasciens, Joseph's companion, (vol. ii, ch. xxxix.) So far the story is fairly consistent, although there is a difference of one generation between father's and mother's genealogy. But ch. 17, in a very important passage, introduces a different account. The angel is expounding to Josephe and Nasciens the marvels of the lance; to Josephe he says, "de cheste lance dont tu as este ferus; ne sera iamis ferus ke vns seus hom. Et chil sera rois, et descendra de ton lignaige, si serra li daerrains des boins. Chil en sera ferus parmi les cuisses ambedeus," and will not be healed till the Good Knight come, "et chil . . serra li daerrains hom del lignaige nascien. Et tout ausi com nasciens a este li premiers hom qui les meruelles du graal a veues; autresi sera chil li daerrains qui les verra.[7] Car che dist li urais crucefis. 'Au premier home du precieus lignaige, et au daerrain, ai iou deuise à demonstrer mes meruelles.' Et si dist enchore après. 'Sour le premier et sour le daerrain de mes menistres nouuiaus qui sont enoint et sacre a mon plaisir, espanderai iou la venianche de la lanche auentureuse' (I, 216-17), i.e., the last of Josephe's line shall be the only man wounded by the lance, the last of Nasciens' line shall be the deliverer. But according to Galahad's genealogy, given above, it is not the last of Josephe's line (represented by his cousin Josue) who is the Wounded King, for Galahad himself is as much the last in descent from Josephe as from Nasciens, and even if we take the words to apply only to the direct male descendants of Josue, there is still a discrepancy, as not Pelles, but Pelleant, his father, is the "roi mehaigniés." If the Wounded King were really the last of Josephe's line, i.e., Pelles, Galahad would be his grandson, as Perceval is to Brons. Taking the two versions D. and E. together, some idea may be gathered from them of the way in which the legend has grown, and of the shifts to which the later harmonisers were put in their attempts to reconcile divergent accounts. In the first draft of the Queste, Galahad has nothing to do with the Lame King, the latter remains Perceval's uncle, the very relationship obtaining in Chrestien. Galahad has supplanted Perceval, but has not stepped into the place entirely. The second draft of the Queste endeavours to remedy this by clumsily introducing the Lame King and his healing, missing in the first draft, into the great Grail scene at the end, an idea foreign to the original author of the Queste, who, having broken with Perceval as chief hero, also broke with the distinctive Quest incident as far as the chief hero is concerned. But a strange blunder is committed; the second draft, anxious to make Galahad's grandfather both Fisher and Lame King, actually speaks of Pelles as Galahad's uncle, in direct contradiction to its own indication. The third draft corrects this mistake, and tries by different explanatory interpolations to confirm the relationship of Galahad to the Lame King, and the identity of his castle with the Grail Castle. The author of the Grand St. Graal now appears on the scene, appropriates the story about King Lambar, father to the Lame King, Perceval's uncle, makes him an ancestor of Galahad, and gives a name to his son, Pelleant (which name creeps back into the second draft of the Queste as that of Perceval's father), and thus derives Galahad on the mother's side from Brons, although it escapes him that he thus gives the lie to the prophecy which he puts in the angel's mouth, that it is the last of Josephe's seed who is to be lamed by the lance, and that he has not given his Lambor fictitious ancestors enough to equalize the genealogies.

We are thus led back to the relationship of uncle and nephew as the earliest subsisting between the Grail King and the achiever of the Quest, and we find in those versions which supplant Perceval by Galahad a story told of the former's great uncle, King Lambar, by no means unlike that told of his uncle in the A versions, and that there, as here, the cause of the woe brought upon the hero's family is one of the magic talismans which the hero is in quest of and by means of which he is to achieve his quest. We further notice that in so far as the Early History influences the Quest forms, it is the later versions in which its influence is apparent, and it is the Joseph, not the Brons form, which exercises this influence. Not until we come to the Grand St. Graal, an obvious and bold attempt to embody previous versions in one harmonious whole, does the Brons form make itself felt.


Work of the Promised Knight.

In Chrestien we can only guess at what the results of the successful achievement of the Quest would have been by the reproaches addressed to the hero upon the failure of his first visits to the Grail Castle; he would have mended all things, and—

Le bon roi ki est mehaigniés;
Que tous eust regaengniés
Ses membres, et tière tenist,
Et si grans bien en avenist; (4,763-67)

many evils will flow from his failure, and the cause of it is the sin he has committed in leaving his mother, who thereupon died of grief (4,768-71); again the Loathly Damsel reproaches him that the Rich King would have been healed of his wound, he would have kept in peace his land, which he never may again, for now

Dames en perdront lor maris
Tières en seront essilies,
Et pucièles deconsellies;
Orfenes, veves en remanront
Et maint Chevalier en morront. (6,056-60)

Gautier de Doulens gives a vivid description of the effect of Gawain's partially successful visit to the Grail King; the character of the landscape changes at once—

N'estoit pas plus que mienuis,
Le soir devant, que Dex avoit
Rendu issi com il devoit
As aiges lor cors el païs;
Et tout li bos, ce m'est avis,
Refurent en verdor trové,
Si tos com il ot demandé
Por coi si sainnoit en l'anstier
La lance; si devoit puplier
Li règnes; mais plus ne pupla
Por tant que plus ne demanda. (20,344-55)

All the country folk both bless and curse Gawain.

Sire, mors nous as et garis,
Tu dois estre liés et maris;
Car grant aise nos as doné,
S'en devons tout mercier Dé;
Et si te devons moult hair
Pour con que nel vosis öir
Le Greail, por coi il servoit,
Ne de la joie ki devoit
Là venir ne poroit nus dire,
Si en doit avoir duel et ire. (20,357-66)

In Manessier, when Perceval has finally accomplished the Quest by the slaying of Partinal, and has come for the third time to the Grail Castle (though even then he only reaches it after long wanderings and lights upon it by chance), news whereof is brought to the King;—

Li rois, à grant joie et grant feste
Est maintenant salis en piés
Et se senti sain et haitiés. (44,622-24)

Perceval is crowned King after his uncle's death, and reigns for seven years.

Thus, in the A versions, the healing of the Maimed King, and the consequent restoration to fertility and prosperity of his land, such are the tasks to be achieved by the hero of the Quest. In the B versions an entirely different series of conceptions is met with. Brons, the Fisher King, is to wait for his grandson, and to hand him the vessel which he received from Joseph. When this is done the meaning of the Trinity is to be known—[8]

Lors sera la senefiance
Accomplie et la demonstrance
De la benoite Trinité,
Qu'avons en trois parz devisée. (3,371-74)

Besides this, the Promised Knight is to visit Petrus, who may not pass away till he comes, and from whom he is to learn the power of the vessel, and the fate of Moys (v. 3,127-36). Finally, when he comes he is to fill the empty seat, and to find Moys, of whom it is said—

De lui plus ne pallera-on
Ne en fable ne en chançon,
Devant que cil revenra
Qui li liu vuit raemplira:
Cil-méismes le doit trouver. (2,815-19)

Here the only indication which can possibly be tortured into a hint of the waiting of a sick king for his deliverer is the reference to Petrus. It is not a little remarkable that when the latter is leaving for England, he asks for the prayers of the company that he may not fall into sin, and lose the love of God (v. 3320-35) Does this presuppose a version in which he does sin, and is consequently punished by disease, from which only the Promised Knight may heal him?

On turning to C, a totally distinct account of what the Quest achiever is to do presents itself. He seats himself, it is true, in the empty seat, but it goes nigh with him that he suffers the fate of Moys, from which he is only preserved by the great goodness of his father, Alain (p. 427). He does not find Moys; Petrus is not once mentioned by name, nor does Perceval visit anyone who may not die till he come, and from whom he learns the power of the vessel, saving always the Fisher King, for the references to whom see supra, p. 83. This Fisher King is "veil home et plains de maladies, ne il n'aura james santé devant un chevalier que yà à la Table ronde aserra, sera prodons vers Deu et vers sainte eglise et ait fait tant d'armes que il soit le plus alosez del monde. Et lors vendra à la maison au riche roi péchéor et quant il aura demandé de quoi li Graus sert, tantost sera li roi gariz de de sa'nfermeté et cherront li enchentement de Bretaigne et sera la prophétic accomplie" (p. 419). Again, p. 427 "li riches rois péchéors est chéuz en grant maladie et en grant enfermeté, ne il peust morir devant que uns de XXX chevalier, qui ci sunt asis, ait tant fait d'armes et de chevalerie qu'il soit li mieudres chevalier del monde." Again, p. 427, "Et quant il (i.e., the Fisher King) sera gariz, si ira, dedanz li III jorz, de vie à mort, et baillera à celui chevalier, le vesseau et li aprendra le segroites paroles qui li aprist Joseph; et lors ampliz de la grace du Sainct Esprit et cherront li enchentement de la Bretaigne et les afaires." Again, when Perceval has come for the second time to the Fisher King's, and has asked the question and learnt the secret words, he remained there "et moult fust prodons et chéirent les enchentement de la terre de Bretaigne et par tout le monde." Here, then, are the Sick King, the mysterious question, the healing, and the effect upon the land (note how the enchantments of Britain are insisted upon), as in the A versions. The only points of contact with B are that Brons is like Petrus in not being able to die till Perceval come, and that his infirmity seems to be ascribed mainly to his age, and not to a wound, which at first sight seems to agree better with the vague indications of B than with the positive statement of A.

Two accounts, each fairly definite and consistent, are thus forthcoming respecting the object of the Quest, the one represented by A and C, the other by B. What light is thrown upon the matter by the remaining versions, and which of these two accounts do they support? Neither from the Queste, D, nor from the Grand St. Graal, E, can any clear conception of the Quest be gathered. Both have a great deal to say about the adventures and the wonders of the Grail, but absolutely nothing comes of the achievement so far as the Grail itself, or as Galahad and his two companions are concerned. It goes to the East, they with it, they become hermits and die. But in proportion as the main object of the Quest becomes less definite, the number of secondary objects increases. In D, Queste, Galahad is to achieve the adventure of the Seat Perillous (ch. iii, iv); he is to wear the shield left by Joseph to Mordrains (ch. x); he is to release from life Mordrains himself, struck with blindness for approaching too near the Grail (ch. xxiii); he (according to the second draft of the Queste), is to release King Pelles (his grandfather, according to draft 3), wounded through both ankles for trying to draw the sword; he is to release Simei, burning in a fiery grave for that he once sinned against Joseph of Arimathea (ch. lxvi). To this sufficiently long list the Grand St. Graal adds the resoldering of the sword broken by Joseph—"Ha espée, iamais ne sera resaudée deuant ke chil te tenra qui les hautes auentures del Saint Graal devra asoumir" (II, 264); the delivery of Moys from out the furnace where he burns, not for always "ains trouuera enchore merchi et pardon. Mais che qu'il a mesfait, espanira il en tel manière qu'il en sera en fu iusc' a tant ke li boines chiualiers uenra (II, 277). Moys likewise speaks of Galahad as one who "achieura les auentures de la grant bertaigne" (II, 279-80). Finally, Pelleans wounded (mehaigniés de ii cuisses) "en vne bataille de rome" is to be released, "il ne peut garir de la plaie deuant ke galaad, li tres boins chiualers, le vint visiter. Mais lors sans faille gari il" (II, p. 373).

The Queste knows nothing of Petrus, but in the Grand St. Graal he turns up at the end in the same casual way as Brons, and converts King Luces (II, 3356-3), i.e. is thus brought into connection with Geoffrey of Monmouth's form of the conversion of Britain legend.

The foregoing statement confirms all that has previously been urged as to the lateness of both Queste and Grand St. Graal. The author of the former again shows himself a daring, but not over skilful, adapter of older legends, the author of the latter an unintelligent compiler, whose sole aim it is to lengthen out his story by the introduction of every incident he can lay his hands upon. But although late, they may nevertheless throw light upon the question which, of the two strongly differentiated accounts of the object of the Grail quest which have been noted, has the better claim to be looked upon as the older one. The Conte du Graal and the Didot-Perceval agree, as has been seen, against the Metrical Joseph, in making the main object of the Grail-seeker the healing of a maimed or the release from life of a supernaturally old King. This motif, it is not too much to say, is the pivot upon which in the Conte du Graal all turns; in the Metrical Joseph it is barely hinted at.

The Queste, if looked at closely, is found to bear witness to the Conte du Graal form. As is seen from the summary (supra, p. 41, Inc. 12) it has the very incident upon which so much stress is laid in Chrestien's poem, the visit to the Sick King, the omitted question, the consequent misfortune. True, all this has been transferred from the original hero, Perceval, to the father of the new hero Galahad, and, true, the final object which the Queste proposes, in so far as it proposes any definite object, to its Grail-seeker is of a different character. But the fact that this object is not stated in the same way as in the Metrical Joseph, whilst that found in the Conte du Graal is embodied though in a different connexion, points unmistakably to what may be called the healing motif as the older one. Here, again, the Metrical Joseph is in a minority, and it is not even followed by that very version, the Didot-Perceval, which has been ascribed to the same author, and claimed as an integral portion of the same trilogy.[9]


Qualifications of the Promised Knight.

Neither Chrestien, Gautier, nor Manessier lay any stress upon special qualifications in the quest-hero for the achievement of his task. In Chrestien, as already stated, (supra, p. 87), it is exclusively the sin of which Perceval has been guilty in leaving his mother which prevents his achieving the Quest at his first visit to the Grail Castle (v. 4,768-71 and 7,766-74), whilst the continuator make no attempt at any explanation of the hero's repeated failures. Not until Gerbert does a fresh motif show itself in the poem, but then it is a remarkable one; if Perceval has been hitherto unable to attain the goal he has so long striven for, it is because he has been unfaithful to his first love, Blanchefleur (VI, p. 182); he must return and wed her before he is fit to learn the full secret of the Grail.[10]

The other Quest versions are on this point in striking contrast to Chrestien. The words of C, Didot-Perceval, have already been noted, (supra, p. 89). Again the damsel, reproaching the hero after his first failure, addresses him thus:—"Mès je sai bien por quoi tu l'ás perdu, por ceque tu ni es pas si sage ne si vaillant, ne n'as pas fet tant d'armes; ne n'ies si prodons que tu doies avoir le sanc nostre (sire) en guarde" (p. 467).

It is significant to note in this connection that it is only after Perceval has overcome all the best knights of the Round Table, including Gawain (the companion hero, as will be shown later, of the oldest form of the story), and thereby approved himself the best knight of the world, that Merlin appears and directs him to the Grail Castle.[11] The talk about Holy Church would seem to be an addition, and the original ideal a purely physical one.

In the Queste the qualification of the hero has become the main feature of the legend, the pivot upon which everything turns. The one thing necessary is that the hero should be a virgin, and the story is one long glorification of the supreme virtue of chastity. Yet even here the warlike deeds of Galahad are dwelt upon in a way that points to a different ideal. Traces, though slight ones, may be found in C, Didot-Perceval, of the importance attached to the chastity of the hero; thus his hermit uncle admonishes him, "ne vous chaille de gésir aveuc fame, quar cest un peché luxurious et bien sachiez, que la pichié que vous avez fait, vous ont neu à trover la maison Bron," and in the adventure with the damsel of the hound, although he had (p. 440) solicited her favours, and she had promised them if he brought her the head of the white stag, yet (p. 470) when he returns to her and she offers herself to him, he pleads his quest as a reason for not even passing one night with her. In Gautier de Doulens, on the contrary, everything passes in accordance with the orthodox custom of the day—when knights were as punctual in demanding as ladies scrupulous in granting the fulfilment of such bargains. But here, again, references to chastity seem to be additions, and rather unskilful ones, whilst in the Queste they are the vital spirit of the story.

What results from the foregoing is much as follows:—

The Perceval form of the Quest is certainly the older of the two, and underlies in reality the Galahad form. When cleared from the admixture of Christian mystic elements it appears as a coherent and straightforward story, in which nothing necessarily presupposes the Early History. The influence of the latter is, however, distinctly traceable. As far as Chrestien himself is concerned, nothing can be asserted with certainty as to the origin, extent, and nature of that influence; in the case of his continuators it can be definitely referred to that form of the Early History which is represented by the Queste and the Grand St. Graal (save in the solitary instance of the Berne fragment of Gautier de Doulens). The later in date the sections of the Conte du Graal, the more strongly marked is the influence of the Early History, and pari passu the increasing prominence given to the Christian mystic side of the Grail.

Of the Early History two forms can be distinguished. In the one, Joseph and the group of persons whom he converts in the East are made the means of bringing Christianity to Britain. The Grail is dwelt upon almost solely in its most material aspect. This form is closely connected with the Galahad Quest, and its chronology has been elaborately framed to correctly bridge over the difference in time between the Apostolic and Arthurian ages. It has also affected, as remarked above, the later versions of the Perceval Quest. The second or Brons form knows nothing of the companions of Joseph, who is only indirectly the means of the conversion of Britain, the real evangelists being kinsmen of his who bear decided Celtic names. These kinsmen are related as grandfather and father (or simply father or uncle), to a hero whose exploits are to be dealt with in a sequel. There is strong insistence upon the spiritual character of the Grail, which is obviously intended to play an important part in the promised sequel. No traces of this form are to be found in any version (saving always the above-mentioned fragment of Gautier), until we come to the Grand St. Graal, with which such portions as do not conflict with the Joseph form are embodied.

The Didot-Perceval, although formally in contact with the Brons Early History, is not really the sequel announced in that work. It differs profoundly from it in the most essential feature of the story, the nature of the task laid upon the hero. Upon examination this appears to be of the same nature as that of the Conte du Graal, with a seasoning of the Christian mystic element. It was, however, intended for a sequel to the Metrical Joseph, a fact which may be taken as a proof that Borron never completed his plan of a Joseph-Merlin-Grail trilogy of which we possess the first two parts.

The first of the two points marked for investigation at the outset of this chapter may thus be considered settled. The Quest is originally independent of and older than the Early History. And although in no instance can the versions of the former be said to be entirely free from the influence of the latter, yet in the older forms the traces are such as to be easily separated from the primitive elements of the story.

The versions which have been examined may now be arranged in the following order:—

(1) Chrestien's portion of the Conte du Graal. The oldest form of the Perceval Quest, but presupposing an Early History.
(2) Gautier de Doulens followed Chrestien, in all probability, almost immediately. Even less can be gathered from him than from Chrestien respecting the earliest form of the Early History, but this is probably represented by
(3) Pseudo-Gautier, which in all likelihood gives the outline of the work made use of by Queste and Grand St. Graal. Pseudo-Gautier is almost certainly some years later than Gautier, as the Berne MS. scribe found it necessary to seek for information in
(4) Borron's poem, probably written towards the end of the twelfth century, but which for some reason remained unknown for a time, although it afterwards, as evidenced by the number of MSS., became popular. There is every reason to believe that Borron knew nothing of any other Early History. His work, as we have it, is abridged and arranged. Meanwhile
(5) Queste had appeared. The author probably used the same Early History as Pseudo-Gautier. He knew the Conte du Graal, and wrote in opposition to it with a view to edification. He certainly knew nothing of Borron's poem, or he could not have failed, with his strong mystical tendencies, to dwell upon the spiritual and symbolic character of the Grail.
(6) The Grand St. Graal, an earlier draft of the work, now known under that title. Probably an enlarged version of the hypothetical original Early History; wanting all the latter portions relating to Brons and his group, which were added to it when Borron's poem became known. This work must have appeared before 1204 (in which year it is referred to by Helinandus), and, as Chrestien wrote his poem about 1189-90, it follows that at least half-a-dozen works belonging to the Grail cycle came out in the last twelve years of the twelfth century.
(7) Manessier and
(8) Gerbert brought out independent endings to the Conte du Graal from 1216 to 1225. It was probably shortly after this time that Borron's poem became known, and that it was incorporated with the Grand St. Graal, which assumed the shape under which it has come down to us.
(9) The Didot-Perceval is probably the latest in date of all the members of the cycle.

Before proceeding to examine our second point, which is whether the Grail itself really belongs to the original form of the Quest, or has been introduced into the Quest versions from the Early History, it will be advisable to summarise the opinions and researches of previous investigators. Light will thus be thrown upon many points of interest which have not received special examination in these pages. A theory of the origin and development of the cycle, which is in many respects directly opposed to the conclusions we have reached, will also be fully set forth, and an opportunity will thus be given for testing by adverse criticism the soundness of our method of investigation, and of the results to which it has led us.


  1. It is forty-two years, according to D. Queste (p. 119), after the Passion that Joseph comes to Sarras.
  2. It is plain that B I is abridged in the passage dealt with, from the following fact: Joseph (v. 2,448, etc.) praying to Christ for help, reminds Him of His command, that when he (Joseph) wanted help he should come "devant ce veissel precieus Où est votre sans glorieus." Now Christ's words to Joseph in the prison say nothing whatever about any such recommendation; but E, Grand St. Graal, does contain a scene between our Lord and Joseph, in which the latter is bidden, "Et quant tu vauras à moi parler si ouuerras l'arche en quel lieu que tu soies" (I, 38-39) from which the conclusion may be drawn that B I represents an abridged and garbled form of the prototype of E.
  3. In the Mabinogi of Branwen, the daughter of Llyr, the warriors cast into the cauldron of renovation come forth on the morrow fighting men as good as they were before, except that they are not able to speak (Mab., p. 381).
  4. The version summarised by Birch-Hirschfeld.
  5. Curiously enough this very text here prints Urban as the name of the Maimed King; Urban is the antagonist of Lambar, the father of the Maimed King in the original draft of the Queste, and his mention in this place in the 1488 text seems due to a misprint. In the episode there is a direct conflict of testimony between the first and second drafts, Lambar slaving Urlain in the former, Urlain Lambar in the latter.
  6. This account agrees with that of the second draft of the Queste, in which Urlain slays Lambar.
  7. Only one beholder of the Quest is alluded to, although in the Queste, from which the Grand St. Graal drew its account, three behold the wonders of the Grail.
  8. This, of course, belongs to the second of the two accounts we have found in the poem respecting the Promised Knight, the one which makes him the grandson and not the son merely of Brons.
  9. The object of the Quest according to Heinrich von dem Türlin will be found dealt with in Chapter VII.
  10. This is one of a remarkable series of points of contact between Gerbert and Wolfram von Eschenbach.
  11. It almost looks as if the author of C were following here a version in which the hero only has to go once to the Grail Castle; nothing is said about Perceval's first unsuccessful visit, and Merlin addresses Perceval as if he were telling him for the first time about matters concerning which he must be already fully instructed.