These were hard-headed men of affairs - men who would not lightly embark on joyous ventures, or seek for an ideal San Grail; nor were the popes, doomed to the Babylonian captivity for seventy long years at Avignon, able to call down the spark from on high which should consume all earthly ambitions in one great act of sacrifice.
This was the Holy Grail for a spy!
Tricked into a liaison with the Fisher King's daughter Elaine, he becomes the father of Galahad, the Grail winner, and, as a result of the queen's jealous anger at his relations with the lady, goes mad, and remains an exile from the court for some years.
Wagner's next and last work was Parsifal, based upon the legend of the Holy Grail, as set forth, not in the legend of the Morte d'Arthur, but in the versions of Chrestien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach and other less-known works.
But it is much more likely that Wagner would then have found his artistic difficulties too formidable to let the ideas descend to us from Walhalla and the Hall of the Grail at all.
Its harmonic style is, except in the Grail music, even more abstruse than in Tristan; and the intense quiet of the action is far removed from the forces which in that tumultuous tragedy carry the listener through every difficulty.
In his letters to his friend Mathilde Wesendonck, it appears that while he was composing Tristan he already had the inspiration of working out the identification of Kundry, the messenger of the Grail, with the temptress who, under the spell of Klingsor, seduces the knights of the Grail; and he had, moreover, thought out the impressively obscure suggestion that she was Herodias, condemned like the wandering Jew to live till the Saviour's second coming.
The noble poem Lucretius, one of the greatest of Tennyson's versified monographs, appeared in May 1868, and in this year The Holy Grail was at last finished; it was published in 1869, together with three other idyls belonging to the Arthurian epic, and various miscellaneous lyrics, besides Lucretius.
A noticeable feature of the story is the uncertainty as to the hero's parentage; the mother is always a lady of rank, a queen in her own right, or sister of kings (as a rule of the Grail kings); but the father's rank varies, he is never a king, more often merely a valiant knight, and in no instance does he appear to be of equal rank with his wife.
The connexion of the story with Arthur and his court brought about a speedy and more important development, the precise steps of which are not yet clear: Perceval became the hero of the Grail quest, in this ousting Gawain, to whom the adventure originally belonged, and the Perceval became merged in the Grail tradition.
Of the Perceval-Grail romances the oldest from the point of view of manuscript preservation is the Perceval or Conte del Graal of Chretien de Troyes.
He gives an introduction, in which the adventures of the father, here a prince of Anjou, are related; a conclusion, in which the Swan-Knight, Lohengrin, is made Parzival's son; he represents the inhabitants of the Grail castle as Templars (Templeisen); and makes the Grail itself a stone.
It is certain that Gerbert knew, and used, a Perceval which, if not Kiot's poem, must have been closely akin to it; as he too makes the Swan-Knight a descendant of the Grail hero.
The probability seems to be that the earliest Perceval-Grail romance was composed at Fescamp, and was coincident with the transformation, under the influence of the Saint-Sang legend, of the originally Pagan talisman known as the Grail into a Christian relic, and that this romance was more or less at the root of all subsequent versions.
Later, however, stories which certainly derive from an early non-Grail tradition are introduced, and there are references which imply a knowledge of the prose Lancelot and of Chretien's poem.
The Perceval story is an admirable folk-tale, the Grail problem is the most fascinating problem of medieval literature; the two combined form a romance of quite unique charm and interest.
In the versions more closely connected with the Grail story the name of the chosen knight appears on his seat, and there is one vacant place, the Siege perilous, eventually to be filled by the Grail winner.
Recent grail researches have made it most probable that that mysterious talisman was originally the vessel of the ritual feast held in honour of a deity of vegetation, - Adonis, or another; if the Round Table also, as Dr Mott suggests, derives from a similar source, we have a link between these two notable features of Arthurian tradition, and an additional piece of evidence in support of the view that behind the Arthur of romance there lie not only memories of an historic British chieftain, but distinct traces of a mythological and beneficent hero.
22 a noted, rides on purely chivalric ventures, such as aiding distressed damsels, seeking the Grail, &c. His expeditions are all more or less warlike.
Numerous parallels exist between the Arthurian and early Irish heroic cycles, notably the Fenian or Ossianic. This Fenian cycle is very closely connected with the Tuatha de Danaan, the Celtic deities of vegetation and increase; recent research has shown that two notable features of the Arthurian story, the Round Table and the Grail, can be most reasonably accounted for as survivals of this Nature worship, and were probably parts of the legend from the first.
28 became "contaminated " by the legend of St Joseph of Arimathaea and the Holy Grail, and took the form given in Roger of Wendover and Matthew Paris.
In the treasury of the cathedral is a magnificent silver monstrance dating from 1553, and an octagonal bowl, the Sacro Catino, brought from Caesarea in 1101, which corresponds to the descriptions given of the Holy Grail, and was long regarded as an emerald of matchless value, but was found when broken at Paris, whither it had been carried by Napoleon I., to be only a remarkable piece of ancient glass.
THE HOLY GRAIL, the famous talisman of Arthurian romance, the object of quest on the part of the knights of the Round Table.
Students of the original romances are aware that there is in these texts an extraordinary diversity of statement as to the nature and origin of the Grail, and that it is extremely difficult to determine the precise value of these differing versions.'
Broadly speaking the Grail romances have been divided into two main classes: (I) those dealing with the search for the Grail, the Quest, and (2) those relating to its early history.
These latter appear to be dependent on the former, for whereas we may have a Quest romance without any insistence on the previous history of the Grail, that history is never found without some allusion to the hero who is destined to bring the quest to its successful termination.
The most important and interesting group is that connected with Perceval, and he was regarded as the original Grail hero, Gawain being, as it were, his understudy.
Here the Grail is a food-providing, self-acting talisman, the precise nature of which is not specified; it is designated as the "rich" Grail, and serves the king and his court sans serjant et sans seneschal, the butlers providing the guests with wine.
In another version, given at an earlier point of the same continuation, but apparently deriving from a later source, the Grail is borne in procession by a weeping maiden, and is called the "holy" Grail, but no details as to its history or character are given.
The Grail is here surrounded with the atmosphere of awe and reverence familiar to us through the 1 The etymology of the 0.
Graal or greal, of which "grail" is an adaptation, has been much discussed.
Here the Grail is wrought of gold richly set with precious stones; it is carried in solemn procession, and the light issuing from it extinguishes that of the candles.
In the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach, the ultimate source of which is identical with that of Chretien, on the contrary, the Grail is represented as a precious stone, brought to earth by angels, and committed to the guardianship of the Grail king and his descendants.
It is guarded by a body of chosen knights, or templars, and acts alike as a life and youth preserving talisman - no man may die within eight days of beholding it, and the maiden who bears it retains perennial youth - and an oracle choosing its own servants, and indicating whom the Grail king shall wed.
The discrepancy between this and the other Grail romances is most startling.
In the first we have the precise history of the Grail, how it was the dish of the Last Supper, confided by our Lord to the care of Joseph, whom he miraculously visited in the prison to which he had been committed by the Jews.
In the Perlesvaus the Grail is the same, but the working out of the scheme is much more complex; a son of Joseph of Arimathea, Josephe, is introduced, and we find a spiritual knighthood similar to that used so effectively in the Parzival.
Hence the invention of Galahad, son to Lancelot by the Grail king's daughter; predestined by his lineage to achieve the quest, foredoomed, the quest achieved, to vanish, a sacrifice to his father's fame, which, enhanced by connexion with the Grailwinner, could not risk eclipse by his presence.
Here the Grail, the chalice of the Last Supper, is at the same time, as in the Gawain stories, self-acting and food-supplying.
He is said to have caused the Grail to be made for the purpose of receiving the holy blood.
Another continuation by Gerbert, interpolated between those of Wauchier and Manessier, relates how the Grail was brought to Britain by Perceval's mother in the companionship of Joseph.
It will be seen that with the exception of the Grand Saint Graal, which has now been practically converted into an introduction to the Quete, no two versions agree with each other; indeed, with the exception of the oldest Gawain-Grail visit, that due to Bleheris, they do not agree with themselves, but all show, more or less, the influence of different and discordant versions.
Numerous attempts have been made to solve these problems, and to construct a theory of the origin of the Grail story, but so far the difficulty has been to find an hypothesis which would admit of the practically simultaneous existence of apparently contradictory features.
The earliest form of the Grail story, the Gawain- Bleheris version, exhibits a marked affinity with the characteristic features of the Adonis or Tammuz worship; we have a castle on the sea-shore, a dead body on a bier, the identity of which is never revealed, mourned over with solemn rites; a wasted country, whose desolation is mysteriously connected with the dead man, and which is restored to fruitfulness when the quester asks the meaning of the marvels he beholds (the two features of the weeping women and the wasted land being retained in versions where they have no significance); finally the mysterious food-providing, self-acting talisman of a common feast - one and all of these features may be explained as survivals of the Adonis ritual.
Professor Martin long since suggested that a key to the problems of the Arthurian cycle was to be found in a nature myth: Professor Rhys regards Arthur as an agricultural hero; Dr Lewis Mott has pointed out the correspondence between the so-called Round Table sites and the ritual of nature worship; but it is only with the discovery of the existence of Bleheris as reputed authority for Arthurian tradition, and the consequent recognition that the Grail story connected with his name is the earliest form of the legend, that we have secured a solid basis for such theories.
Perceval (Parzival, Parsifal), the Welsh Peredur, " the seeker of the basin," the most intimately connected with the quest of the Grail (q.v.).
The value and interest of the Perceval romances stand very high, not alone for their intrinsic merit, though that is considerable - Chretien's Perceval, though not his best poem, is a favourable specimen of his work, and von Eschenbach's Parzival, though less elegant in style, is by far the most humanly interesting, and at the same time, most deeply spiritual, of the Grail romances - but also for the interest of the subject matter.
The immediate source of this version is the poem of Wolfram von Eschenbach, though the Grail, of course, is represented in the form of the Christian relic, not as the jewel talisman of the Parzival; but the psychological reading of the hero's character, the distinctive note of von Eschenbach's version, has been adapted by Wagner with marvellous skill, and his picture of the hero's mental and spiritual development, from extreme simplicity to the wisdom born of perfect charity, is most striking and impressive.
There is good ground for believing that as Grail quester and winner, Gawain preceded alike Perceval and Galahad, and that the solution of the mysterious Grail problem is to be sought rather in the tales connected with the older hero than in those devoted to the glorification of the younger knights.
When the source of the name was forgotten its meaning was not unnaturally misinterpreted, and gained for Gawain the reputation of a facile morality, which was exaggerated by the pious compilers of the later Grail romances into persistent and aggravated wrong-doing; at the same time it is to be noted that Gawain is never like Tristan and Lancelot, the hero of an illicit connexion maintained under circumstances of falsehood and treachery.
Gawain, however, belonged to the pre-Christian stage of Grail tradition, and it is not surprising that writers, bent on spiritual edification, found him somewhat of a stumbling-block.
Xvii.; "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," "Sir Gawain at the Grail Castle" and "Sir Gawain and the Lady of Lys," vols.
As authority Thomas cites a certain Breri, who has now been identified with the Bleheris quoted as authority for the Grail and Gawain stories, and the Bledhericus referred to by Giraldus Cambrensis as famosus ille fabulator.
In the conclusion to Chretien's poem, composed by Manessier some fifty years later, the Grail is said to have followed Joseph to Britain, how, is not explained.
Urged by the duke of Argyll, Tennyson now turned his attention to the theme of the Holy Grail, though he progressed with it but fitfully and slowly.
Recent discoveries have made it practically certain that there existed, prior to the extant romances, a collection of short episodic poems, devoted to the glorification of Arthur's famous nephew and his immediate kin (his brother Ghaeris, or Gareth, and his son Guinglain), the authorship of which was attributed to a Welshman, Bleheris; fragments of this collection have been preserved to us alike in the first continuation of Chretien de Troyes Perceval, due to Wauchier de Denain, and in our vernacular Gawain poems. Among these "Bleheris" poems was one dealing with Gawain's adventures at the Grail castle,where the Grail is represented as non-Christian, and present s features strongly reminiscent of the ancient Nature mysteries.
When the founding of the Round Table is ascribed to Merlin it is generally in close connexion with the Grail legend, forming the last of a series of three, founded in honour of the Trinity - the first being the table of the Last Supper, the second that of the Grail, established by Joseph of Arimathea, The number of knights whom the table will seat varies; it might seat twelve or fifty or a hundred and fifty; nowhere, save in Layamon, do we find a practically unlimited power of accommodation.