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Robert de Boron (also spelled in the manuscripts "Bouron", "Beron") was a French poet of the late 12th and early 13th centuries, originally from the village of Boron, in the arrondissement of Montbéliard. He was the author of a two surviving poems in octosyllabic verse, Joseph d'Arimathe and Merlin; Merlin survives only in fragments and in later prosification. The two are thought to have been part of a trilogy (or tetralogy) which also contained a verse Perceval, and possibly a Mort Artu (Death of Arthur). The "Didot Perceval", a retelling of the Percival story similar in style and content to Robert's other works, may be a prosification of the lost sections.
Robert de Boron is the first author to give the Holy Grail myth an explicitly Christian dimension. According to him, Joseph of Arimathea used the Grail (the Last supper vessel) to catch the last drops of blood from Jesus's body as he hung on the cross. Joseph's family brought the Grail to Avalon, identified with Glastonbury, where they guarded it until the rise of King Arthur and the coming of Perceval.
What we know of his life come from brief mentions in his poems. At one point in Joseph d'Arimathe, he applies to himself the title of meisters (medieval French for "clerk"); later he uses the title messires (medieval French for "knight"). At the end of the same poem, he mentions being in the service of Gautier of "Mont Belyal"; Pierre Le Gentil identifies this noble with one Gautier de Montbéliard (the Lord of Montfaucon), who left in 1202 to take part in the Fourth Crusade, and died in Palestine in 1212. Le Gentil also argues that the mention of Avalon shows that he wrote Joseph d'Arimathe after 1191, when the monks at Glastonbury claimed to have discovered the graves of King Arthur and Guinevere. His family is unknown, though the second author of the Prose Tristan claimed to be Robert's nephew, calling himself "Helie de Boron". This is taken more as an attempt to drop a famous name than a genuine accreditation, however.
Although Le Gentil describes him as a "poet endowed with boldness and piety but with mediocre talent", his version of the Grail myth was adopted by almost all of the later writers of the Matter of Britain.
Robert de Boron appears as the fictional character Boron in Umberto Eco's novel Baudolino.
- Pierre Le Gentil, "Chapter 19: The Work of Robert de Boron and the Didot Perceval", Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, A Collaborative History, (ed. R.S. Loomis). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959.
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