There is a disposition to think that the extension of Gautier broke off in the middle of a sentence, which was brought by the poet who followed him to its due point, and the narrative continues thereafter, in his hands remaining to the very end. This poet was Manessier. We have, however, to remember that at or about the alleged break there intervened another singer, who intended, almost certainly, to furnish an alternative or independent conclusion, the term of which may have been by possibility at the penultimate completed sentence of Gautier's version, wherein the Fisher King calls Perceval to enter within the fold of the house--
It would be in this case much the same ending as that of the Berne Perceval. Alternatively, there may have been some further extension which is not now extant, or Gerbert, on his own part, may have failed to complete as he proposed. I speak with considerable diffidence, because the only editor of the text has given such a vague account of that which preceded the interpolation and followed it that it is impossible to decide whether he has mistaken the line of Gautier, which is said to be the point of intervention, or whether the experiment of the Broken Sword is repeated a second time--with glaring inconsequence--and proves a failure, soon after it was resoldered in Gautier's text. Again, the welcome among his household by the Fisher King is repeated at the end in the one manuscript which gives--according to the editor--the narrative of Gerbert in extenso. There is, of course, another alternative which would exonerate
[paragraph continues] M. Potvin--the editor in question--and this is that the scribe of the codex brought in the Gerbert version at an arbitrary point without reference to that which went before and came after in the text of Gautier. The two poets are in any case of one mind as to the unfinished state of the Quest, and so also is Manessier, but the latter is of opinion evidently that Perceval has accomplished enough to have, on taking up the thread of the narrative, as much information concerning the Graal and Lance as he intends to provide under any circumstances whatever, together with so exhaustive a history of the Broken Sword that the hero shall be equipped fully for the undertaking which remains to be accomplished. I have said that Gautier is concerned more especially with the resoldering of this weapon, and it is out of the same talisman that Manessier obtains his keynote, or that which concerns himself in the palmary sense--namely, the vengeance-legend. It was the sword which inflicted the dolorous stroke and by fraud encompassed the destruction of the king's brother. It was the sword which wounded the king himself by a chance in which lurked a fatality, and his healing depended, as we know, on the visitation of tardy wrath and delayed justice upon him who used and misused the weapon. With the explanation of the Graal and the Lance we are already acquainted, but the inter-relation between the two Hallows is much closer in Manessier than it is in some other versions; as the Sacred Spear penetrated the side of Christ, the Graal was raised up to receive it, and the historic account which follows shows that the poet was acquainted with some early rendering of the Book of the Holy Graal which differed materially from the now extant form, as it knew nothing of the Second Joseph--the son of Joseph of Arimathæa, to whom such prominence is given in the later text. It was the elder or, for the early version, the only Joseph of the Graal, who brought the Hallows into Britain, who erected the Manor or Castle in which the King was now speaking to Perceval, and the speaker was of his own
lineage. If there were any comparative connection in the romances, it would follow that the Castle was Corbenic and that the king was Pelles; but as the latter is not certainly this personage, so in the former case there is. tolerable reason to suppose that the nameless House does not correspond to the mighty pile built of old by a converted pagan ruler, for which he was visited so heavily. After allowance has been made for several obvious disparities, it remains of no little importance that the early history of the Graal, so far as it is given in the Conte, is not that of Robert de Borron but of the putative Walter Map, and that in the sequence of texts as we have them the source of this Early History leads up to the Quest of Galahad and not to that of Perceval. Apart from the German cycle, for which there appear to be two sources--the one being in Northern French and the other in something so far untranslatable--the root-matter of Graal history was a text which corresponded of all things most closely with the metrical romance of De Borron. It was sometimes reflected through that medium and at others through the early form of the Book of the Holy Graal--and this history was one of Christian symbolism and religious legend, not one of folk-lore--by the elements of which it was contaminated in the course of development in romance.
Perceval, on the great night of his visit to the Graal Castle, heard other wonders than those of the Relics of the Passion and the Sword of wrath and vengeance. He heard that the maiden who carried the Graal was of royal lineage and so also was she who bore the salver, but the former was the King's daughter. He heard that the illuminated tree which he passed in his journey was the Tree of Enchantment, where the fairies assemble; for the powers of the height and the powers of the deep and the powers of the intermediate world encompassed the Graal Castle, that the times of enchantment, times of adventure, times of wonder might be illustrated by abundant pageants. He heard, in fine, of the Chapel and the
[paragraph continues] Black Hand, to which I have alluded as a tale of little meaning, wherein the Graal has no part, and there is no need to repeat the explanation here.
After all these narratives, Perceval covenanted to visit the death of the King's brother on the person who accomplished it. On the morning following he took his leave, commending his host to God and refusing all invitations to tarry. Perhaps Manessier did not know what to do in order to retard, for the purpose of storytelling, the accomplishment of his Vengeance Quest. Alternatively, perhaps he regarded it as a point of honour to follow his precursors by giving an inordinate space to the adventures of Gawain, with whom he couples those of Saigremor, another knight of fame in Arthurian romance. In any case, there are various digressions at this point which account for one half of the poem. When the story returns ultimately to Perceval he was again in the Chapel which he had visited previously--that of the Black Hand, the extinguished candle and the corpse on the altar. He did battle with and expelled a demon, purified the place and slept therein. The next day he assisted three hermits to bury the body of the person whom the Black Hand had slain. All this notwithstanding--indeed, perhaps because of it--for a considerable part of his mission the powers of the deep attacked him. On one occasion the Accuser, in the form of a horse, endeavoured to carry him to hell, but he was saved by the sign of the Cross. Later on he arrived at that river which he had crossed originally, and there the demon sought once more to deceive him, assuming the guise of Blanchefleur coming to him in a wherry. But at the right moment another vessel appeared, with sails of samite, bearing a holy man, and Perceval took refuge therein.
It is evident that the story has reached that point when its proper term is on the threshold rather than in sight merely, and the various delays which intervene can be dealt with in a few words, if we omit miscellaneous
adventures which serve no important object, as they are nothing to do with the Graal. The most purposeful of all was the arrival of a messenger from Blanchefleur, who was again in peril, and so he paid his third visit to Beaurepaire, which he delivered duly and again departed from the lady, but this time in all chastity and reserve. She who had declared to him her love, now in the far past, she who expected to wed him, was destined to see him no more. The next most important episode was a stormy encounter with Hector of the Round Table, as a result of which both were destroyed nearly; but in the dark of the midnight there shone a great light about them, which was the Graal carried by an angel, and thereby they were again made whole. It follows, once more, that here, as in the Quest of Galahad, the Graal was going about, at least on occasion, and we have had an instance previously in connection with the wanderings of the Fisher King. Like all hallows the efficacy of which is transcendent and even of the absolute degree, there was no active ministry on the part thereof and nothing was done by the angel. He moved simply about them, holding the Precious Vessel, and their wounds, with the pains, left them. Doubtless after such manner was the company of the Blessed Joseph sustained and fed in the wilderness.
After this miraculous healing, Perceval, departing from Hector, as those who after great experiences have quenched all hatred in their heart, continued his way, as we may suppose, concerned now only with the accomplishment of his mission; and so in the fulness of time he reached that castle wherein there dwelt the knight who slew the brother of the Fisher King. Sorrow and outrage had the evil master of chivalry brought to his intended victim, and more even than that to the keeper of the Sacred Vessel. Why it had entailed such consequences nobody knows--perhaps also no one would care to speculate. The Graal had healed Perceval, and it had healed Hector, even in the absence of any desert on
his own part, for he was the unworthy kinsman of Lancelot; but its own custodian it could not cure of the wound which a mere accident had inflicted. After a long encounter, Perceval despatched the worker of this mischief and started on his return journey to the Graal Castle, carrying the head of the destroyer with him. His mission once accomplished, all the hard and doubtful roads ran behind the hoofs of Perceval's horse; all the hindrances were taken out of the way. Of that way he knew nothing probably, and there was no need that he should. To the right he went and the left, with a certain sense of questing; the moons of the magical summer waxed and waned above him; and all suddenly the Castle rose up before him. A herald on the walls without beheld his approach and hurried to the Master of the House, not so much with the news of his coming as of that which he bore slung from the front of his saddle; whereupon the Fisher King rose up healed--with a great cry. Perceval presented his terrible gift, and it was fixed on the summit of the tower belonging to that Castle which so far was a place of vengeance rather than of mercy. Thus finished the last and crowning adventure. Whether it was the implicit of Chrétien that the question properly put would have restored all things within and without the Castle we cannot say; perhaps it would only have led to the vengeance quest, but again we cannot say. There is nothing in Chrétien to make us infer that quest and in the Didot Perceval--the prose romance which corresponds in the French cycle most nearly to the first portion of the Conte del Graal--the whole mission is one of asking and receiving a true answer. The relationship between the King and the knight was now for the first time declared by one to another; the King appointed his lands to the hero, promising to make him King in succession at Pentecost--as one who devises to an heir, or perhaps as if he also were a priest having power to consecrate. To this, however, Perceval would not accede so long as his uncle was alive, and he was also
under covenant to visit the court of King Arthur, which he departed to fulfil accordingly. He was still there when a maiden arrived with the news that the Fisher King was dead, and that there was a vacancy of the royal office in the House of the Graal.
King Arthur accompanied Perceval to the Castle with all the chivalry of the Round Table--remaining a full month and being served daily by the Sacred Vessel. It does not appear who consecrated Perceval, whether this was effected, in the ordinary way, by a prelate of the church, or whether the office itself carried with it its own anointing. The text says only that he was crowned at the Feast of All Saints. After seven long years of reign in peace he bequeathed the lands in turn, and the official part of his royalty, to the King of Maronne, who had married the daughter of King Fisher; but the Hallows he did not bequeath. He retired into a hermitage, whither the Graal followed him. By a departure from tradition, he was consecrated acolyte, sub-deacon, deacon, and, in five years, he was ordained priest and sang Mass. Thereafter so did he serve God and so love Him that he was called at length from this world into the joy of Paradise. During the last period of his earthly life one codex says that he was fed only by the Holy Graal--that is to say, by the Eucharist.