The most obvious journey in the book is the quest for the Holy Grail, a holy cup with powers to grant eternal food, youth, and happiness. For most of the characters in the book, the Grail is no more than a seductive, distant goal, as they lack the spiritual purity and chivalric perfection necessary to attain it. Sir Galahad is the only one of the knights who manages to truly attain the Holy Grail, as he remains a chaste virgin, an honorable knight, and also a skilled fighter. A number of knights are deemed worthy enough to embark on a quest to seek the Grail, but only Percivale, Sir Bors, and Galahad are permitted to actually enjoy the fruits of the Grail, and only Galahad is worthy enough to actually see the spiritual mysteries that it holds.
For the rest of the knights, in the Holy Grail section and in others, journeys and quests are not entirely meant to achieve something specific—instead, they form a way of life for the knights. Every scene of feasting and quiet contentment at Arthur’s court is soon interrupted by the desire or necessity to undertake another journey or “adventure.” The knights may technically have their home around the Round Table, but their true home is on the streets and in the forests where they follow the commands of Arthur, pursue the code of chivalry, and also attempt to constantly test their own strength and skill. This image of the wandering errant knight pursuing adventures would, after Malory’s time and in no small part thanks to him, become a nostalgic ideal that many others would turn to in literature. This emphasis on journey as ethos, rather than a means to an end, can be picked up and reinterpreted even in a very different context than that of King Arthur’s court.
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Journeys and Quests Quotes in Le Morte d’Arthur
I took none heed to your words, for the more ye said the more ye angered me, and my wrath I wrecked upon them that I had do withal. And therefore all the missaying that ye missaid me furthered me in my battle, and caused me to think to show and prove myself at the end what I was; for peradventure though I had meat in King Arthur’s kitchen, yet I might have had meat enough in other places, but all that I did for to prove and assay my friends, and that shall be known another day; and whether that I be a gentleman born or none, I let you wit, fair damosel, I have done you gentleman’s service, and peradventure better service yet will I do or I depart from you.
Ah Gawaine, Gawaine, ye have betrayed me; for never shall my court be amended by you, but ye will never be sorry for me as I am for you. And therewith the tears began to run down his visage.
My sin and my wickedness have brought me unto great dishonour. For when I sought worldly adventures for worldly desires, I ever enchieved them and had the better in every place, and never was I discomfit in no quarrel, were it right or wrong. And now I take upon me the adventures of holy things, and now I see and understand that mine old sin hindereth me and shameth me, so that I had no power to stir nor speak when the holy blood appeared afore me.
He called to Galahad, and said to him: Come forth the servant of Jesu Christ, and thou shalt see that thou hast much desired to see. And then he began to tremble right hard when the deadly flesh began to hold the spiritual things. Then he held up his hands toward heaven and said: Lord, I thank thee, for now I see that that hath been my desire many a day. Now, blessed Lord, would I not longer live, if it might please thee, Lord.
Thou Sir Launcelot, there thou liest, that thou were never matched of earthly knight’s hand. And thou were the courteoust knight that ever bare shield. And thou were the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrad horse. And thou were the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman. And thou were the kindest man that ever struck with sword. And thou were the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights. And thou was the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies. And thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.