From Ritual to Romance by Jessie L Weston, part of the Mythos / Bollingen series, a 1993 paperback from Princeton University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“Acknowledged by T.S. Eliot as crucial to understanding ‘The Waste Land,’ Jessie Weston’s book has continued to attract readers interested in ancient religion, myth, and especially Arthurian legend. Here she reinterprets the saga of the Grail by exploring the legend’s Gnostic roots.
Drawing from J.G. Frazer, who studied ancient nature cults that associated the physical condition of the king with the productivity of the land, Weston considers how the legend of the Grail related to fertility rites—with the lance and the cup serving as a sexual symbols. She traces its origins to a Gnostic text that served as a link between ancient vegetation cults and the Celts and Christians who elaborated on the story. Conceiving of the grail saga as a literary outgrowth of ancient ritual, she seeks a Gnostic Christian interpretation that unites the quest for fertility with the striving for mystical oneness with God.” — back cover
“I tired not of the tigress limbs and lips—
Only, my soul was weary of itself,
Being so impotent, who only sips
The dewdrops from the flower-cup of an elf,
Not comprehending the mysterious sea
Of black swift waters that can drink it up,
Not trusting life to its own ecstasy,
Not mixing poison with the loving-cup.
I, maker of mad rhymes, the reaper she!
We lingered by a day upon the lawn.” [via]
“What meets mine ear,
That every nerve and bone of me cries halt?
What is this cold that nips me at the throat?
This shiver in my blood? this icy note
Of awe within my agonising brain?
Neither of shame, nor love, nor fear, nor pain,
Nor anything? Has love no antidote,
Courage no buckler? Hark! it comes again.
Friend, hast thou heard the wailing of the damned?
Friend, hast thou listened when a murderer shammed
Pale smiles amid his fellows as they spoke
Low of his crime: his fear is like to choke
His palsied throat. How, if Hell’s gate were slammed
This very hour upon thy womanfolk?
Conceive, I charge thee! Brace thy spirit up
To drink at that imagination’s cup!
Then, shriek, and pass! For thou shalt understand
A little of the pressure of the hand
That crushed me now.” [via]
“One far above the heavens crowned alone,
Immitigable, intangible, a maid,
Incomprehensible, divine, unknown,
Who loves your love, and to high God hath said:
‘To me these songs are made!’
So in a little from the silent Hell
Rises a spectre, disanointed now,
Who bears a cup of poison terrible,
The seal of God upon his blasted brow,
To whom His angels bow.” [via]