Percival / Richard W. Rohlin
“Keep silent; do not look the fool!”
So the wise man said to me.
I obeyed and held my tongue
While a strange and solemn chanting rung
And tapers blazed like a thousand suns
In the house of the Fisher-king.
A young man came with a bloody lance,
And a maid with a plate of gold.
And a Virgin came with a golden Grail–
It was covered o’er with a silken veil–
And the candle light was shining, pale,
And the castle strange and cold.
She–the Virgin who bore the Grail–
Had a face I thought I’d seen.
Once, long before, in a city cold
I saw a minster, ruined and old,
Where a maiden wept in carven stone
At the foot of a gallows tree.
“Keep silent! Do not look the fool!”
So I did as I was told.
And the whole procession, strange and glad
Came slowly on, in samite clad,
While the smoke of incense caught the shafts
Of light like liquid gold.
I held my peace. My silent host
Watched me with meaning glance.
“It will come again,” it seemed to say,
“The Grail and the plate and the Holy Maid;
One more chance have you to say:
‘How serves this Grail and Lance?’”
So his silence spoke. It came again–
And the Grail shone forth with light.
Again there passed the bloody lance,
And the maidens in their stately dance,
Then through a door it seemed to pass–
And I thought I saw a Knight.
A handsome lord, pale with pain,
Was lying hurt upon a bed.
The Virgin from the gallows-tree
Wept beside his bleeding knees
While close at hand a stone stood free
And the hall was hung with red.
I thought some words were written there–
Carved upon the stone:
CORPUS CHRIS– then all was dark,
And I sat alone with a broken heart
In an empty house and a silent yard
While the West Wind softly moaned.
Richard W. Rohlin is a software developer, Germanic philologist, and Orthodox Christian living in Texas with his wife and children. His published works on Germanic poetry, the Inklings, and the Sacramental Imagination include The Digital Hervararkviða and a chapter in the recent anthology Amid Weeping There is Joy: Orthodox Perspectives on Tolkien’s Fantastic Realm. He is the co-host of the Amon Sul Podcast from Ancient Faith Radio, which examines the works of J.R.R. Tolkien from an Orthodox Christian perspective. He is also a regular contributor to The Symbolic World YouTube channel and blog, where he discusses and writes about medieval universal history and hagiography.
Percival: Copyright 2021 by Richard W. Rohlin. All rights reserved.
One thought on “Percival”
I especially like this line:
‘Where a maiden wept in carven stone
At the foot of a gallows tree.’
The Feminine weeps, the suffering Mother, Dolores – like weeping Rachel for the slaughter.
Thanks for this beautiful poem- beauty and the Woman hold the grail with the pearl. The damsel needs to wake up from her distress with the Knight by her side.
‘She–the Virgin who bore the Grail’
Really enjoy your work.