We have now seen that the Rich Fisherman, King and Warden of the Graal, was healed as the consequence of the Quest, or that, this failing, a provision was made for his successor after some other manner. Now, this is the penultimate stage of the mystery regarded as a whole, and the one question which still remains to be answered is--what became of the Graal? Subject to characteristic variations which are particular to each text, it will be found--as I have said--that the several romances follow or forecast one general process, suggesting a prevailing secret intention, and it is for this intention that my study will have to account. At the moment the external answer to the problem above propounded, resting on the evidence of the documents, is an example of variation--which tends, however, to one term; this term is that either the Holy Graal and the other Hallows of the Passion were removed altogether or they were taken into
deeper concealment. The specific testimonies are as follows. After the death of King Fisher, Perceval inherits his kingdom--in the Conte del Graal--and he reigns for seven years. He appoints his successor, who does not become the Warden of the Hallows, and he passes himself into the seclusion of a hermitage, where he remains for ten years, having been ordained a priest. The Graal follows him, and he is at length assumed into the joy of Paradise, since which time the Sacred Vessel and the other precious objects have never been beheld so openly. As a rider to this, it is added that no doubt they were taken to heaven, which is an argument from the unworthiness of the world. In the Didot Perceval the Knight of the Quest and a certain hermit, who is a character of importance in the Lesser Chronicles, become the guardians of the Graal, and the prophet Merlin also abides with them. Merlin, in fine, goes away, seeking a deeper seclusion, and neither he nor the Graal are heard of subsequently. The inference is that the Graal remains in the asylum of the Holy House, under the charge, of its wardens. The Longer Prose Perceval, after a faithful picture of the Questing Knight in loneliness and rapture, surviving all his kindred, says that a secret voice commanded him to divide the Hallows among a certain company of hermits, after which a mystic ship anchors by the Castle, and Perceval, taking his leave of all those who still remained about him, entered that vessel and was carried far over the sea, "nor never thereafter did no earthly man know what became of him, nor doeth the history speak of him more." In the Great Prose Quest the most holy companions--Galahad, Perceval and Bors--are conveyed in the ship mystic of Solomon to a place in the East, named Sarras; the Hallows with which they are charged are the Sacred Vessel and the Lance, together with the Sword of David, wherewith Galahad is girded. For a certain allotted period of days that are sad, consecrated and strange, the companions watch over the Hallows in the city of Sarras;
and then the call comes to Galahad. "There with he kneled doune to fore the table, and made his prayers, and thenne sodenly his soule departed to Jhesu Crist and a grete multitude of angels bare his soule up to Heuen, that the two felawes myghte wel behold hit. Also the two felawes sawe come from heven an hand, but they sawe not the body. And thenne hit cam ryght to the vessel, and took it and the spere and soo bare hit up to heuen. Sythen was ther neuer man soo hardy to saye that he had sene the Sancgreal." In the German cycle, the Parsifal of Wolfram leaves the Graal where it was always since its first manifestation, but the Titurel of Albrecht von Scharfenberg--a text which is so late that it is excluded generally from the canon of the literature--narrates the rise and growth of an evil time, wherein, for its better protection, Parsifal and the chivalry of the Graal, bearing the Blessed Palladium, go forth from Mont Salvatch into the far East, where is the kingdom of Prester John, and there it may remain to this day--most surely in another kingdom which is not of this world. After these high memorials it is almost unnecessary to speak of the Quest in Heinrich, at the term of which the Graal and the ghostly company dissolve before the eyes of the Questing Knight, and thenceforth the tongue of man cannot show forth the mysteries.
Seeing now that the great sacraments do not pass away, it must follow that in the removal of the Holy Graal, as it is narrated in the texts, we are in the presence of another mystery of intention which appears the most obscure of all. The cloud that dwelt on the sanctuary, the inhibition which was on the world without, the hurt almost past healing which overtook the hereditary keeper, are ample evidence in themselves that evil had entered into the holy place, despite all the warrants which it held and all the Graces and Hallows which dwelt therein. With one curious exception, the Keeper was, in fine, healed; the enchantment was also removed; and the achievement of the last Warden, at least in some
instances, must have been designed, after a certain manner and within a certain measure, to substitute a greater glory for the cloud on the secret sanctuary. All this notwithstanding, the end of the great quests, the term of the whole mystery, was simply the removal thereof. It occurs in each romance under different circumstances, and it was not, as we shall learn more fully, always of an absolute kind. In the Conte del Graal it is said--and we have seen previously--that it was taken away, possibly to heaven; in the Didot Perceval it was seen no more; in the Longer Prose Perceval it was distributed, so far as we can tell, with the other Hallows, to certain hermits, and it ceased simply to manifest; in Wolfram the whole question is left open in perpetuity, for at the close of the poem the keeper remains alive; in the Titurel of Albrecht von Scharfenberg the Vessel was carried eastward into the dubious realm of Prester John, and there apparently it remains; in the Quest of Galahad it is assumed by Heaven itself, and the last keeper followed; but, in spite of this, the lost recension, as represented, faithfully or otherwise, by the Welsh Quest, says that though it was not seen so openly, it was seen once by Sir Gawain, the least prepared and least warranted of all the Graal seekers, whose quest, moreover, was for the most part rather accidental than intended.
Speaking now from the mystic standpoint, the removal of the Holy Graal has in a certain sense the characteristics of an obscure vengeance. The destruction of the external order would appear to have been decreed. The Graal is carried away and its custodians are translated. The removal certifies the withdrawal of an object which we know, mystically speaking, is never taken away, though it is always hidden from the unworthy. In respect of its imputed removal, it is taken thither where it belongs; it is the same story as that of the Lost Word in Masonry. It is that which in departing hence draws after it all that belongs thereto. In other words, it goes before the cohort of election as the Pillars of Fire
and Cloud before Israel in the Wilderness. The root and essence of the matter can be put shortly in these words: The Graal was not taken away, but it went to its own place, which is that of every man.
The Galahad Quest closes the canon of the literature. Other romances have said that the Sacred Vessel was not seen so openly, or that it was heard of no more, or that it had passed into concealment, and so forth; but this crowning legend carries it into complete transcendence, amidst appropriate ceremonial, though otherwise it leaves the Arthurian sacrament sufficiently unfinished. That is to say, it is still to be communicated for the last time to the whole world on the return of Arthur. The Graal is in hiding, like Arthur; but the Graal is, like Arthur, to return. Meanwhile, the chivalry of the world is broken, and the kingdom is destroyed. The master of all chivalry has received in his turn a dolorous stroke and is removed through a mist of enchantment, under dubious wardens, to the land of the setting sun, even into an exile of the ages. But he also is to be, in fine, healed and to return, though at what time we know not, for centuries pass as days, within the certain knowledge of Ogier the Dane. So much as this may perhaps be hazarded on the point of time, namely, that the King's rendering shall be when the King's dark barge, sailing westward, like the lighter craft of Hiawatha, shall meet with the Graal, which set forth eastward, since the Graal must heal the King, and these shall meet truly when justice and mercy kiss. The Graal is not therefore lost, but gone before.
Of such are the mysteries of the Graal, considered in their manifestation and considered also in their removal. I have passed through many houses of initiation in literature, but I know of nothing in suggestion and allusion to compare with the House of the Graal.