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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.

Of all the Quest romances this is the most confused and aimless. It professes to be written by Josephus at the bidding of an angel. It tells of the good knight descended by his mother from Joseph d'Abarimacie, who kept the lance wherewith Christ was pierced, and the Holiest Vessel in which His blood was gathered. On his father's side the good knight was descended from Nicodemus; his mother's brother was the Fisher King, King Pelles, and the King of Castle Deadly. In his youth he came to the Court of the Rich Fisher, but omitted to ask whom one served with the Holiest Grail, whence wars ensued and the King fell into sickness. Afterwards both Gawain and Lancelot came to the Grail Castle. Gawain first to the Castle of Enquiry, where the sword is preserved wherewith John the Baptist was beheaded. Gawain is silent in the Grail Castle, where he beholds Grail and lance. Lancelot may not see the Grail on account of his sinful love to Guinevere. The Fisher King dies, and his land is seized by his brother, King of Castle Deadly, who is a heathen; Perceval's struggle against him, his victory and winning of the Grail Castle are told at great length. He is visited by Arthur, Lancelot, and Gawain. Arthur beholds the five mysterious transformations of the Grail, ' about which may no man speak, for the secrets of the sacrament shall no man dig. close save God give him power thereto.' The story does not end here, but tells of many other adventures of Perceval, who finally sails away on a ship with white sail on which is figured a red lion, 'never has man learnt what became of him.' This story, -written in Latin (from which it was translated into French), was found in the island Avallon, in a holy house of God on the shores of the Moor adventurous, where Arthur and Guinevere are buried.

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.

These differences in tone and feeling, not to be fully appreciated save by those who read the original text, would alone suffice to negative the hypothesis that the two sets of romances are the dissevered halves of a homogeneous whole, or variant versions of a common original theme. The distinction between them is far more deeply seated.

Quelle: The Legends of The Holy Grail, Alfred Nutt, London 1902, S. 34ff