The Holy Grail

The cup which Jesus used before he died,
That sacred cup we call the Holy Grail,
Was borne across the sea in later years
To England’s shores and kept in surety.

Its blessed presence was a unique grace
And comfort for the people of this land,
But then its vision was withdrawn from sight
Because of evil times and evil men.

Its whereabouts were lost and darkness fell
Upon the land while wildest legends spread
Of visions, apparitions, spells and dreams,
Of demons, magic and of mystery.

Deep in the valleys of unfolding time,
Beyond the Hills of Doubt lay Camelot.
Its towers rose above the forest oaks,
Its spires and banners caught the morning sun.

Inside the walls, around their warrior king,
The knights and scholars gathered, each one pledged
To help the weak, to mortify the proud
And right and love, defend and glorify.

Within the great hall of the castle stood
A table round, elaborately carved,
Each seat belonging to a warrior knight,
Bearing his name and painted with his arms.

One seat alone no name nor legend bore
Save “Perilous”, bespoken for a knight
As yet unknown, outshining all his peers
In godliness of life and chivalry.

Now on the Holy Feast of Pentecost,
As Arthur and his men in council sat,
Wise Merlin came into the castle hall
Leading a youth unknown to all the knights.

They bowed before the King and then the youth,
Without a hint of hesitation, took
The empty place at Arthur’s table round
And made his own the seat called Perilous.

Old Merlin broke their silence of surprise:
“This is the worthy knight, my noble lords,
For whom this seat was meant. In him the past,
The future and all knightly virtues meet.”

So came Sir Galahad to Camelot.
As champion of the weak and of the poor,
In all he said and did, he showed indeed
He was the worthiest of Arthur’s knights.

All human virtues flourished in his wake
And set a pattern for Mankind to see,
Like banners, richly sewn in silk and gold,
Rally and hearten, beckon and inspire.

Now when the year its cycle had achieved
And snow lay on the towers of Camelot,
Arthur convened his knights and sat with them
And talked of battles past and glories won.

The King was happy in this company
And little guessed that this would be the last
And final meeting of his table round,
Founded by him so many years before.

High in the shadows of the oak-beam roof,
A minute point of brilliant light appeared,
which slowly grew in size and floated down
Towards the table and the gathered knights.

Like falling snow upon the fields outside,
Silence descended on the castle hall,
Till everything within and everyone
Were bathed in light and all-pervading peace.

An image grew within the burning light,
The shrouded outline of a golden cup
Swathed in white silk, which all those watching knew
To be a vision of the Holy Grail.

“O Precious Cup! 0 Blessed Mystery!
Allow our eyes to see, our hands to hold
Your sacred form from which Our Saviour drank
The night on which He gave Himself to die.”

So prayed the knights, each one with fervent hope,
Yet fearful that the gift might not be his,
For each one knew the prize would be denied
To all except the truly pure in heart.

The brilliance faded and the vision died.
There in the stillness of the darkened hall
King Arthur’s knights, each lost to time and place,
Kept holy vigil through the winter night.

When morning came and sunlight on the snow
Shone through the windows to announce the day,
Gawain approached the King and made this plea
On bended knee before the gathered knights:

“My Lord, when first I came to Camelot,
I swore to serve you loyally and long.
This have I done with joy and faithfully,
Finding therein my challenge and ideal.

But last night’s vision of the Sacred Cup
Has stirred my soul and sired a nobler cause.
The time has come for me to venture far
To search for and to find the Holy Grail.”

Arthur’s heart sank as one by one his knights,
Including Lancelot and Galahad,
Professed the same desire and sought to leave
The noble service of their Lord the King.

“My heart is heavy when I hear you speak,
For last night’s vision of the Holy Grail
And your desire to leave signal the end
Of this our great fraternal company.

And yet I know that brotherhoods must die
As moons and nations prosper and then wane,
And each man in the end, without support,
Must his own goal and his salvation find.

Go forth upon your quest and persevere,
Our Gentle Saviour guide you on your way!
Although you journey far from Camelot,
Do not forget the fellowship we shared!”

When finally the time for parting come,
Armed with their hope and zeal, the knights rode out
Across the bridge which spanned the frozen moat
Beneath the mighty walls of Camelot.

Beyond they stopped, looked back and with a bow
To Arthur standing on the other side,
Spurred on their horses, galloped and were gone,
Soon lost to sight among the drifts of snow.

Many set out that day but few returned
To tell the King the outcome of their quest.
The paths of searching many detours take
And seldom come full circle in the end.

Percival, Lancelot and Galahad
Each went his separate way from Camelot,
Down steep ravines and over torrents wild,
Through briars and swamplands, dragon fens and fells.

All manner of temptation strewed their paths
And lured them to the very edge of Hope,
Beyond whose bounds, as on some ancient chart,
Lies bottomless Terra Incognita.

Such tribulations did the three endure
But in the end their paths from night emerged
To lead them safely from the valley mists
To sunlit uplands and to restful groves.

There did their ways converge and with great joy
The three knights met again and journeyed on,
Sharing the stories of their trials and deeds,
Delighting in each other’s company.

They came at nightfall to a hermit’s cave,
Where they found shelter and a bracken bed
Beside the old man’s fire and talked with him
Of Camelot and of the Holy Grail.

At break of day he led them to a hill
From where they saw the morning sun arise,
Touching the forests and the sleeping plains,
Waking the distant mountains with its light.

“Beyond those hills,” he said, “lies Carbonek,
Enchanted castle where your treasure lies;
Approach with humble and with prayerful hearts,
The proud and wicked find no comfort there.”

All day they travelled on. When twilight came
The castle’s keep stood out against the sky
And strange lights flickered from its highest walls,
Guiding them safely through the rising mists.

But when at last they reached the castle gate,
No watchman challenged them, no lantern shone
Nor fire burned within the castle hall
To bid the weary welcome for the night.

Here all was darkness, silence and decay
And owls possessed the castle’s crumbling walls.
How could the Holy Grail be hidden here
In such a dismal and unworthy place?

Dispirited, the three knights fell asleep
And in his restless dreaming each one saw
The castle as it was and, in its midst,
A chapel glowing with a mystic light.

This each one knew to be his journey’s goal,
The resting place wherein the Holy Grail,
That sacred treasure lost for centuries,
Lay safe though hidden from all mortal gaze.

When morning broke and daylight filled the ruins,
A chapel was revealed beside the keep
With finely carved oak door and straw-thatch roof,
The only part intact of Carbonek.

From walls and ceiling painted saints looked down
And praying angels knelt in golden rows;
Green rushes strewed the floor and, tapers lit,
The altar stood bedecked as if for Mass.

The chapel drew them in as though a spell
Compelled their actions and their very thoughts,
Filling with awe and sweet expectancy
The inner chancels of their minds and hearts.

Above the altar in a ring of light
The Holy Cup appeared, faintly at first
And shrouded with a veil of whitest silk,
Borne at each corner by angelic hands.

The vision grew in strength and clarity,
The light intensifying till their eyes
Could scarcely bear its penetrating beams
And falling to their knees the three knights prayed:

“O Precious Cup, O Blessed Mystery,
Allow our eyes to see, our hands to hold
Your sacred form from which Our Saviour drank
The night on which He gave Himself to die.”

In answer to their prayer, the Holy Grail
Descended to the altar and appeared
Without its veil, its majesty revealed,
Brilliant and burning as the noonday sun.

With eyes averted from its blinding glare,
Sir Galahad’s companions, arms outstretched,
Ventured to touch the Cup and felt its rim,
Cool as spring water to their burning hands.

For one brief moment in the flow of time,
They walked along the shores of Galilee
And with the crowds they heard the Master speak
And of His sacred garments touched the hem.

But Galahad himself endured the light.
With eyes uplifted to the Holy Cup,
He held it steadfastly within his gaze
And took its bowl between his upturned hands.

Its beams reflected from his shining face
Until he was enveloped in its light.
Merging together in a holy joy
The bearer and the Cup became as one.

Aroused as from a sleep, the other knights
Upon the altar steps found Galahad,
His soul departing from its earthly cage
As free and joyful as a rising lark.

Holding the Grail, his spirit soared aloft
And as the knights in awe and wonder watched,
The brilliance faded and the vision died
And Cup and Galahad passed out of sight.

With joy and sadness mingling in their hearts
They buried him against the chapel wall
And then, their goal achieved, they started out
Upon the long road back to Camelot.

If somewhere in the land of future time
You chance upon the ruins of Carbonek,
Below the chapel, on its western side,
A stone you’ll find with this inscription carved:

“Here lies, O Gentle Reader, GALAHAD,
The Bearer of Christ’s Cup and noblest knight
Who ever sat at Arthur’s Table Round,
His Quest has ended, yours has but begun.”



Camelot-2Deep in the valleys of unfolding time,
Beyond the hills of doubt lay Camelot.
Its towers rose above the forest oaks,
Its spires and banners caught the morning sun.
Inside the walls, around the warrior king,
The knights and scholars gathered,
each one pledged
To help the weak, to mortify the proud
And right and love, defend and glorify.