30 Nov Perceval
In the midst of his adventures, Perceval ﬁnds himself in unknown territory. He rides all day without seeing anyone, and prays to God, ‘‘the King of Glory, his true Father,’’ that he might see his mother again. He comes to a swift river and, following the bank looking for a place to cross, he encounters two men in a boat, one of whom is ﬁshing. The ﬁsherman invites Perceval to lodge with him for the night, and gives him directions to his castle. Perceval ﬁnds the castle without problem. He is invited in, and the lord of the castle sits with him in the central hall, lit by a large ﬁre and with ‘‘light as bright as candles may furnish in a hall’’:
Two more attendants then entered, bearing in their hands candelabra of ﬁne gold inlaid with niello. Handsome indeed were the attendants carrying the candelabra. On each candelabrum ten candles, at the very least, were burning. Accompanying the attendants was a beautiful, gracious, and elegantly attired young lady holding between her two hands a graal. When she entered holding this graal, such brilliant illumination appeared that the candles lost their brightness just as the stars and the moon do with the appearance of the sun. Following her was another young lady holding a silver carving platter. The graal, which came ﬁrst, was of ﬁne pure gold, adorned with many kinds of precious jewels, the richest and most costly found on sea or land, those on the graal undoubtedly more valuable than any others. Exactly as the lance had done, the graal and the platter passed in front of the bed and went from one room into another. The youth watched them pass and dared not ask who was served from the graal, for always he took to heart the words of the wise and worthy man.
Next a table is set for Perceval (the ‘‘youth’’) and his host.
The ﬁrst course was a haunch of deer peppered and cooked in fat. There was no scarcity of clear wines of varied quality to drink from gold cups. An attendant who had brought out the peppered haunch carved it before them on the silver platter, and placed the slices on a large piece of ﬂat bread for the two men.
Meanwhile the graal passed before them again, and the youth did not ask who was served from the graal. He was afraid because of the worthy man, who had gently warned him against speaking too much, and, remembering this, had his heart always set on it. But he kept silent longer than was necessary. As each course was served, he saw the graal pass before them completely uncovered, but did not know who was served from it, and he would have liked to know. Yet he would deﬁnitely inquire of one of the court attendants, he said to himself, before his departure, although he would wait until morning, when he took leave of the lord and his entire household. The matter was thus postponed, and he set about drinking and eating.
The next morning, when Perceval awakes, he ﬁnds the castle entirely deserted: ‘‘Because he saw the drawbridge lowered, he thought that the attendants had gone into the forest to examine traps and snares. Having no wish to stay longer, he decided to follow them to learn if any of them would tell him, this not being indiscreet, why the lance was bleeding and where the graal was being carried’’
He sets off to follow their tracks, and comes upon a young woman under an oak tree lamenting and moaning the death of her lover, whose headless body she holds in her lap. Perceval stops to comfort and aid her, and as they speak she informs him that his host the previous night was the rich Fisher King: ‘‘He certainly showed you great honor by seating you next to him. And tell me now if, when you sat down beside him, you saw the lance with its bleeding tip, though no ﬂesh or vein be there.’’
‘‘If I saw it? Yes, on my word.’’
‘‘And did you ask why it bled?’’
‘‘I never spoke of it.’’
‘‘So help me God, know then that you behaved very badly. And did you see the graal?’’
‘‘And who held it?’
‘‘A young lady.’’
‘‘Whence did she come?’’
‘‘From a room. And she went into another, passing in front of me.’’
‘‘Did anyone walk ahead of the graal?’’
‘‘Two attendants, no one else.’’
‘‘And what did they hold in their hands?’’
‘‘Candelabra ﬁlled with candles.’’
‘‘And who came after the graal?’’
‘‘A young lady.’’
‘‘And what did she hold?’’
‘‘A silver platter.’’
‘‘Did you ask the people where they were going thus?’’
‘‘Not a word left my mouth.’’
‘‘So help me God, that is worse. What is your name, friend?’’ And the youth, ignorant of his name, had a sudden inspiration and replied that his name was Perceval the Welshman. He did not know whether or not he spoke the truth. And though he did not know, he spoke the truth. When the maiden heard him, she stood up opposite him and told him angrily:
‘‘Your name is changed, friend.’’
‘‘Perceval the pitiful! Oh, unfortunate Perceval, what a hapless man you were not to have asked these questions. . . . I am your ﬁrst cousin, and you are my ﬁrst cousin. I grieve no less for your misfortune in not learning what is done with the graal and to whom it is carried, than for your mother who is dead, or for this knight, whom I loved and cherished.’’