It is considered that this translation, which is referable to the early part of the fifteenth century, was made from another codex than that which was used by Malory for the Morte d’Arthur, but it embodied material from the Book of the Holy Graal, which may mean that the anonymous author of the rendering was either the compiler
of a harmony or the simple translator of a manuscript corresponding to the texts followed by Dr. Furnivall in his edition of the Quest. At the same time, outside all evidences of mistranslation, the Welsh version of the Quest itself differs unquestionably in several particulars from all codices which are known to scholarship, and it seems quite certain that the variations are not those of invention. On the one hand, there is a certain slight attenuation of the mystic atmosphere, though the general features remain; for example, that enhanced knowledge of one another which is attributed to the knights who saw the Holy Vessel, under the veils thereof, at the King's table, is unmentioned in the Welsh text. Alternatively, there are other respects in which there is an added disposition to lean on the spiritual side of things, and this is manifested plainly in a few crucial cases. The Table of the Lord's Supper is described as that which fed the body and the soul with heavenly food, while the Graal itself is said to provide a spiritual nourishment, which is sent by the Holy Ghost to him who seeks in grace to sit at the table thereof. The close connection between the Sacred Vessel and the office of the Divine Spirit--which is so evident in the metrical romance of De Borron--is also apparent, and one who is on the quest is told that by falling into sin he will fail to see that Spirit, even as Lancelot failed. Outside those wanderings of the Holy Graal which are recorded in the French texts, there are references to its manifestation at sundry places in Logres--or there more especially, but not there to the exclusion of all other countries. Finally as to this part, I recognise a note of undeclared mystery as regards the House of the Hallows. There was the permanent shrine of the Holy Vessel, but whether it was visible always to those who dwelt within or at certain times and seasons is not apparent, and remains indeed doubtful on the evidence of all the literature. It is therefore open to question whether it was the daily nourishment of the House, or whether its varied ministry
was contingent on the arrival of a stranger who was prepared so far sufficiently that he was admitted within the gates. It was the latter probably, because Lancelot rested there for four days; but it was not until the fifth day, and then in the midst of the supper, that the Graal appeared and filled all with the meats most loved by them.
The Welsh Quest, like its prototype of Northern France, draws then from the Book of the Holy Graal, but not from one of those codices with which we have been made acquainted so far by the pains of scholarship. For example, the account of the Second Table is given with specific variations, though there is nothing to justify their enumeration in this place, except that the son of Joseph is said to have occupied the seat which corresponded to that of Christ, and no one ventured to take it after him. It was not so occupied in the parent historical text, and we know, of course, that the Siege Perilous in other presentations of the legend is that of Judas Iscariot.
What appears to be the Dolorous Stroke in the Welsh Quest is exceedingly involved, but the account is as follows: (a) King Lambor was father of the Lame King, and was at war with King Urlain, formerly a Saracen. (b) Lambor was forced to flight, and in doing so reached the seashore, where he found the Ship of Solomon. (c) He took up the Sword therein and smote Urlain, so that he and his horse were cut in two pieces. This occurred in England, and was the first blow that was ever given with the weapon. (d) The King who was slain is said to have been so holy that great vengeance was taken by God for that blow. (e) In neither kingdom for a long time was there found any fruit, everything being dried up, so that the land is called to this day the Decayed Kingdom. It will be seen that this is in direct contradiction to the particulars in the Book of the Holy Graal concerning the death of Lambor, the keeper at that time of the Sacred Vessel. It follows also that the story of Balyn and Balan was unknown to the Welsh translator.
The Lame King was the Uncle of Perceval, and so good was his manner of living that his like could not be found in the world. One day he was hunting, and came to the seashore, where he also found the ship. In spite of the warning written therein, he entered without fear, and drew the Sword partly from the scabbard. He was struck by a spear in the thigh, and was maimed from that time forward. In the French Quest of Galahad this episode is attributed to King Pelles.
As an illustration of general intention prevailing through the Welsh Quest, a hermit reminds Gawain that the dignity of knighthood was conferred upon him--among other things--for the defence of the Church, and as this specific statement is part only of the general atmosphere through which the romance moves, it is itself an eloquent comment on the alleged underlying hostility to official ecclesiasticism which is sometimes traced in the literature. The condition of Wales at the time of the Quest, as it is depicted in the Welsh text, is not an encouraging report regarding the last stronghold of the Celtic Church, but it is possible that the worst particulars are things which the translator has interpolated.
Whether in their agreement or variation, the details of the story do not call to be scheduled here, but there are a few points which may be noted with all brevity. Galahad is described as the foster-child of the abbey where Lancelot finds him, and he is commanded to watch his arms prior to receiving knighthood. He is introduced at the Court of King Arthur as the desired Knight descended from the line of the prophet David and Joseph of Arimathæa: on him rest all the adventures and wonders of Great Britain and all countries. He is called the son of the daughter of King Pelles, but the later story speaks invariably of the Graal Castle as that of King Pelour, whom I should identify as the maimed and abdicated Keeper who was healed by Galahad in the French version, of which, however, there is no mention in. the Welsh Quest. The manifested festival of the
[paragraph continues] Graal in the hall of Arthur is heralded by an unknown messenger--a lady vested in white on a white palfrey, who gives warning concerning its advent, and this is found also in Malory's version, but he follows a defective text, for in him the prophecy is uttered after the event itself. So great are the delicacies at the table, by the provision of the Sacred Vessel, so much are they dwelt on in the Welsh version, that the resolution of the knights in respect of the coming Quest has the aspect of material appetite, and they resolve not to rest till they can eat at another table where they will be fed as rarely. According to Gawain, there is no such place on earth except the Court of King Peleur. When the Quest is thus undertaken Galahad says nothing. All this is an accident of aspect, for elsewhere it is stated (a) that no one shall see the Holy Graal except through the gate which is called Confession, and this is obviously the gate of the Eucharist; (b) that the final return of Bors was designed to exhibit the spirituality of that good which at the last end of things was lost by so many on account of their sins.
The time comes when Galahad swears upon the relics with the others to maintain the Quest, and, apart from this position--which has not been understood by scholarship--there are episodes and intimations which seem intended to show that the natural child of the sanctuary was not permitted to know all--though he had that which was implied in his heirship--until, in common with the others, he undertook the great enterprise. The Knights proceeded on their journey weeping and in great sorrow--that is to say, with failing hearts, foreboding the discounselling of so many and all the disaster coming after: Euntes ibant et flebant.
There is one reference to Eleazar, the son of King Pelles, and one to a Knight named Argus, who, by an unthinkable confusion, is said to be the son of Helayne, as if this daughter of the House had married or begotten subsequently. The hermit Nasciens, whose identity is so important for the Book of the Holy Graal, is described
as the son-in-law of Evalach, instead of his brother by marriage, as he appears in the extant text. He is found; on one occasion by Gawain in a very poor cell or hermitage, with a small chapel attached.
When the questing Knights arrive at the Graal Castle, it is not said that they see either Pelles or Peleur, nor are these or Eleazar present at the manifestation of the Holy Graal. The maiden who remains in the text of Malory is also bidden to depart, following in this respect the chief French manuscripts. He who comes down from Heaven as the first Bishop of Christendom is distinguished rightly from Joseph of Arimathæa, and is therefore the second Joseph. When he celebrates the secret mass of the Graal, he takes out a wafer from the Vessel, which shows that it was used as a ciborium. In the divine discourse thereafter, it is said by Christ that many a good man has come to the Castle through the grace of the Holy Ghost. As regards the nine mysterious Knights who are not to accompany the three on their journey to Sarras, the parting of those with these takes place amidst great brotherhood, and each of them says who he is, but the nine are not named in the text. Galahad asks them to salute Arthur if they go to his Court, and they reply that they shall do so gladly, but they do not say that they will go. Probably they went back by another way into their own countries.
Now, these are the chief points which I promised to set forth; and there is one thing more only--that the Spear was not taken to Sarras, nor was it removed to Heaven with the Sacred Vessel. In conclusion as to the Quest of Galahad, the presence of that maiden who was niece of King Pelles at the great vision of the Graal seems without authority in extant French texts; it is therefore peculiar to Malory and the version which he followed. If it were possible to trace the variations of the Quest through developments of the Tristram cycle, we should meet with very curious details, but they are not necessary to our subject.