Perceval le Gallois.
- The third romance will be known to many English
readers, thanks to Dr. Sebastian Evans' exquisite English version, styled
the High History of the Holy Grail. It is also known as the Perlesvaus,
but it will be convenient to designate it by the title given it by its
first editor, M. Oh. Potvin, Perceval le Gallois. It is in prose,
and was written for a certain John, Lord of Nesle in Flanders, who was
living in the year 1225.
A special feature of this romance is the insistence upon Perceval's virginity. It is as marked a feature in his case as is that of Galahad in the Quête.
The difference in tone and sentiment between these romances and those
of the first class is so marked as to make the reader feel he has been
transported to another world. The chivalric is here subordinated to the
Christian ascetic element. True, the hero's prowess is insisted upon in
set conventional terms, but the centre of interest is shifted from his
personality and from the feats and ventures by which it is manifested
to the symbolic machinery of the precious vessel and its accompaniments.
Contrast the two romances in which the spiritual element avowedly dominates:
Wolfram's Parzival and the Quête del St. Graal. In
the former the personalty of the hero is the main thing ; we follow the
ripening, strengthening, ennobling development of a genuine man, one who
suffers and sins, but who also loves and endures, is staunch and true,
and who, purified by the discipline of suffering, attains at last the
summit of usefulness and happiness. This man is a knight, a man of the
world, as it was conceived of by the author's generation, sharing in the
feelings and sentiments common to his class; his knightly struggles and
ventures have an interest for their narrator independent of any symbolic
significance. In the Quête, on the other hand, the hero,
a shadowy perfection at the outset, remains throughout a shadowy perfection,
a bloodless and unreal creature, as fit when he first appears upon the
scene as when he quits it to accomplish a quest, purposeless inasmuch
as it only removes him from a world in which he has neither part nor share.
The driving power of the romance is supplied by its fierce insistence
upon the supreme excellence of celibacy and by the fervour of its sacramental
symbolism. All else is indifferent or hateful to the author.
Quelle: The Legends of The Holy Grail, Alfred Nutt, London 1902, S. 34ff