Tuesday, January 25, 2005


A few days ago I took Richard Barber's book The Holy Grail out from the library. Barber's book is an examination of the origin of the Grail legend, and I intend to say more about it in a future post. It's already had the immediate effect of leading me to finally read through Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th century romance Parzival (translated into English prose by A.T. Hatto). What I found somewhat surprised me.

There's not much of the 'Arthurian twilight' feel you get from Le Morte d'Arthur, much less from Tennyson or Charles Williams. Wolfram writes in a bright, bold style; he has a kind of jolly irony that sweeps his story along, dealing more with details of court and dress than the religious mysteries of the Grail. He's epigrammatic and sometimes enigmatic, chatty and tongue-in-cheek. It's the sort of work that reminds you of the brightness of the Middle Ages, the visual flair of heraldry and inconography, the surprisingly sophisticated awareness of human psychology.

All of which said, I still prefer Le Morte d'Arthur. Each to their own.

1 comment:

Kyle said...

Wee said, and very interesting to a non-student of medieval times. I will pass on the title ("Parziflage") to my father, who loves Wagner and appeciates humor of this type.