The first and only editor of this text put it forward as the original prose romance from which the poem was produced subsequently by some unknown hand, not so much writing ostensibly under the name of Robert de Borron as reflecting in rhymes and measures the actual words of the original. This view did not obtain at its period any special acceptance and has been long abandoned. The codex as it stands is an accurate rendering of the poem, plus certain variations and expansions, of which some are important to our purpose and must be recited briefly. But any literary or other distinction between the metrical story and its disposition in another vesture leaves the narrative untouched, both versions working from the same beginning to the same term, so that any general description of the Lesser Holy Graal would be superfluous in this place.
The circumstances under which certain secret words were communicated originally, their transit westward, and the scheme designed for their perpetuation, constitute the
mystery-in-chief of the metrical romance, and we have brought away from it an irresistible inference that these words were a formula of Eucharistic consecration. The negative proof is that they were not used by Joseph when he had occasion to appeal for guidance to the Divine Voice which spoke from within or about the Sacred Vessel, or when he separated the grain from the tares in his band of pilgrims. The proof which assumes some aspect of a positive kind is that wonderful analogy which the text indicates between the Sacrament of the Altar and the Vessel, with its antecedents and environments. But the Eucharistic character of the Secret Words is made much more explicit in the Lesser Holy Graal, for it is said, speaking of the Discourse in the tower: "Thereupon did Christ Jesus teach him those words which cannot be spoken or written, should any one wish to do so, except he have read the great book wherein they are recorded, and this is the secret which is uttered at the great sacrament performed over the Graal, that is to say, over the chalice, and I--Robert de Borron--do, for God's love, pray all those who shall hear this present book in the reading thereof that they ask no further herein concerning the said matter, for he who should try to say more might well lie concerning it, since more he could in nowise tell, and such falsehood would profit him nothing." That the Secret Words were therefore committed to writing follows from both versions, and the suggestion of the Lesser Holy Graal is that the Great Book was written by Joseph himself. The additional light which is gained concerning the Holy Vessel is (1) that it was the blessed and very object wherein Christ sacrificed; but this is less express than the words feisoit son sacrement, which I have quoted more than once from the poem; (2) on the other hand, the prose version makes it plainer than the poem that the Vessel brought by the Jew was given to Pilate after the death of Christ, or coincidently therewith, for which reason it could not have been used by the procurator to wash his hands before he pronounced
sentence; (3) the Vessel is described by Christ as la sénéfance de ma mort.
Among points left dubious in the poem we have seen that there is the question whether Joseph of Arimathæa remained where he was, not proceeding further westward than the point of separation determined for the whole company. It would follow in this case either that one legend concerning the evangelisation of Britain was unknown to Robert de Borron or that it was by him ignored. Now that which is left doubtful in the poem is carried into triple confusion by the prose version. One of its codices says that Joseph went into that country wherein he was born; another says that he departed and came to his term in the land whither he was sent by Jesus Christ, yet it seems to follow from this second text that the whole company was already in la bloie Bretagne and that Joseph had converted it newly to the belief in Jesus Christ.
It will serve no purpose of mine to enlarge upon minor debatable points which occur in the prose version, as, for example, on the doubt which it creates whether (a) the third keeper of the Graal will be the son of Brons, by which we should understand Alain; (b) whether he shall be the son of his son, as in the metrical romance; and (c) whether the triple guardianship, corresponding to the Holy Trinity, should be enumerated after Joseph has surrendered the symbol of his mission, which is the r fading of one codex and follows also from the metrical romance. It is sufficient to state in conclusion that as regards the second table, and the reason why it was established, the texts in verse and prose are both in agreement that whatever the needs of the company there was (a) no miracle in the multiplication of food; (b) only a spiritual refection; (c) the essence of which was to fill the participants with grace; (d) one proof being that the fish of Brons becomes wholly symbolical and figures continually at the service.