The Quest by Helene Dunkelblau

The story of the search for the Holy Grail has inspired seekers throughout the ages. Essentially part of the Western esoteric tradition, the Grail legend appears first in pre-Christian, pagan times where it is the Graal, the cup of plenty and regeneration, identified with the Goddess. Later, as a Christian image, it is the chalice that was used at the Last Supper, and the vessel in which Joseph of Arimathaea caught the blood of Christ's wounds. In Malory’s telling of the legend of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table go on a year-long quest to recover the Holy Grail after witnessing its brief but miraculous appearance at the Feast of Pentecost. And in more recent times, the search for the Holy Grail appears as the theme of Richard Wagner’s opera, Parsifal, and even as the subject of an Indiana Jones movie by Steven Spielberg.

To some, the Holy Grail may be an object of power and miracles. For others it is a sacred vessel connected with the search for truth, spiritual awakening and union with the Divine. But however we relate to it, the Holy Grail and the quest to find it is, as the great psychiatrist and writer Carl Jung saw it, a symbol of the modern spiritual journey and a powerful living image for today.

The Forest

In a sunset forest in a timeless land
A knight sits on a stone,
His senses filled with brown and green,
His heart enraptured and serene
In reveries of Home.

But playful fire, golden child,
Allows no peace profound,
And with her dance she calls his heart
Back to that hour in Camelot
At the feast of the Table Round.

The picture grows behind his eyes
Like a bud on a new spring tree,
His mind becomes a chamber bright
Imbued with squires, ladies, knights,
His voice echoes what he sees....

icon endruins church

H. Dunkelblau


The Hall

Ah yes, the hall of long ago
With Arthur's fare was filled,
But as we sang our songs of June
A phantom light embraced the room
And left us silent stilled.

Then watched we all as one by one
Each shutter made moon blind,
And at the threshold came to sight
A bearded, ancient, white-clad knight
With a red-robed youth behind.

The boy in red, good Galahad,
Whose virtue rivaled none,
Then fast did mount the Perilous Seat,
The Table Round was now complete,
The promised hour'd come!

As none could utter but a word
(These wonders claimed us all),
A voice, it seemed, of deepest might,
Volcanoed from the aged knight
And pierced the silent hall.


The Call

“Dear Sirs, you are the vessels
For King Arthur’s chivalrous brew,
All courage, truth and courtesy,
Compassion laced with loyalty
Enjoy their fruits in you.

“But mark me well as I thee tell
Of news all men shall hail,
The world will taste a sweeter wine
As offering for a Cup Sublime,
To fill the Holy Grail.

“For just as youthful squire strains
To shadow knightly ways,
So shall all deeds that you have done
Against the task that is to come
Seem nought but children’s play.

“So listen all, I sound the call
To undertake a Quest,
To gain the grace of Chalice Bright
By which we shall be blessed this night
But mind you of the test!


“For need you but one virtue bold
Upon this journey’s way,
The strength of a more subtle kind–
The willingness to leave behind
All fruits your life might gain.

“And think you not that you'll return
With treasure clasped in hand,
For this, the Quest you make alone,
Shall lead you to your Mystery Home,
‘Tis there the work will end.

“I warn you all who hear this call,
Think twice and make no haste,
No path is known by night or day,
No man has ever gone this way,
Now, mark the Perilous Place!”

Thus as the White One’s words were done,
Arose the lad in red,
Deep crimson filled all waiting eyes,
“The heart is where the answer lies”
Is all young Galahad said.

tiny figure


The Grail

At this, one curtain opened while
Soft moonsongs caroled clear,
And lo, as from some childhood dream,
There floating down a silken beam,
A Golden Cup appeared.

Enwrapped within a milky veil,
A bridal sight it was:
This moment wed eternity
As witness to God’s mystery,
Each heart beheld its love.

Alas, just for one instant
Could we fathom our life’s call,
The moment promised stranger things,
As Chalice borne on angel wings
Went circling round the hall.

And there upon each plate appeared
The feast each man desired:
A gift for every appetite,
The food to savor all one’s life,
The sustenance of Fire.


Now, as we watched this wondering,
The Grail, it fled our sight,
All flowers grieve the setting sun,
And thus did we the Golden One,
We mourned the common light.

We called out for the Hoary Host,
No answer came from him,
And thus like sand in swirling sea,
The warnings of his augury
Dissolved into the din.

And in the end our table
Topped with every man’s delight,
Helped not the searching spirit’s faith
But beckoned all to satiate
More worldly appetites.

For lacking that Sweet Mystery
To feed our soul’s reward,
All hearts turned to the solid prize:
To grasp such gifts before our eyes,
And one bold knight stepped forward.


The Answer

Sir Gawain unto King Arthur cried,
“This quest I shall not fail,
Within one hundred days and one
My lord, this work, it shall be done,
I'll win the Holy Grail!”

A hundred voices followed his
And then one hundred more,
Until the vow proclaimed by all
The morrow did leave Arthur’s hall
A sullen corridor.

And yes, I went down on my knee
Along with all the rest,
But not for glory, fame or gold,
Nor any treasure I might hold
Would I withstand the test.


For lost within the sea of vows
That crashed from wall to wall,
I fell consumed by silent fire
That melted every life’s desire:
For One would I leave all.

My heart had heard its call to ride,
My mind had clutched its sign,
My soul it sought no other sight
Than that which summoned it that night,
The Inner Quest was mine!

And so with Galahad and Gawain
With Bors and Lancelot,
With Percival and many more
I walked out of familiar doors
Towards the Home that I knew not.




H. Dunkelblau



The Journey

Thus I went wand’ring through the years
On paths both strange and new,
In castle, court, in wood and glen,
Up snow-topped peaks and down again
I sought my treasure true.

And though I heard ten thousand words
Wherever I did ride,
Deep hidden in a peace profound
My heart unearthed a silent sound
And this became my guide.

Far from the waking worldly noise
A voice would call to me,
From oceans deep within my soul
Off whisper waves a sound would roll
The hymn, “Eternity.”

And thus my days were fixed upon
One simple sacred song,
Yet oft would I think of the rest,
My brave companions on the Quest,
Of them I learned ‘ere long.

For wind, it whispered woeful words
Of Lancelot’s demise,
A lustful life cannot, it seems,
Embrace for long the hallowed dream,
It faded from his eyes.



In white relief I watched while clouds
Carved out a hero’s tale:
Three hearts emblazoned by the sun
Upon the Ship of Solomon
To Sarras did set sail.

And in that hidden holy place
Both Bors and Percival,
For action brave and motive pure
Did reap a rightful rich reward—
They glimpsed the Holy Grail.

But it was gallant Galahad,
Whose soul knew not one flaw,
Who bathed within celestial light,
As he consumed the sacred sight
That all hearts hunger for.

And as for Gawain and all the rest
Whose lives with self were stained,
Within one hundred days and one,
Their epic eagerly begun,
A tragedy became.

Then it was said, “The Quest is dead!”
Yet ling’ring here am I,
For long as one heart sweetly sings
When brushed by soaring Spirit’s wings,
The Quest, it cannot die!

H. Dunkelblau

The Quest

At last the dreams of long ago
All slowly drift away,
And gather in a ghostly mount
To sink into the twilight ground
Where ancient memories lay.

And as the chill voice of the wind
Drowns out flames once so high,
The man, as from the deepest sleep
Awakes, and lifts his eyes to meet
A star-celebrating sky.

In a moonlight forest in an endless land
A knight prepares his rest,
He’s looking toward tomorrow’s sun,
He knows his journey’s just begun,
Going Homeward on the Quest.

Helene Dunkelblau, Ph.D. teaches English as a Second Language at Queensborough Community College, the City University of New York. She is the facilitator of the Contemplative Practice in Education Network at Queensborough.