Le Morte D'Arthur
Strength and Skill Quotes Page 4
How we cite our quotes:
Than the kynge for grete favour made Tramtryste to be put in his doughtyrs award and kepyng, because she was a noble surgeon. And whan she had serched hym, she founde in the bottom of his wounde that therein was poyson, and so she healed hym in a whyle. (237.45-238.3)
Just as Trystram differs from other knights in Le Morte, there's more to Isode than just beauty and good manners. She's also a skilled healer. Later, she learns to harp from Trystram, becoming an excellent musician as well. It seems that these two are a well-matched pair.
Then she seyde all with wepynge chere, "A, Sir Launcelot, how youre grete doynge ys chonged sytthyn thys day in the morne!"
"Damesell, why sey ye so?"
"Sir, I say you sothe," seyde the damesell, "for ye were thys day in the morne the best knyght of the worlde; but who sholde sey so now, he sholde be a lyer, for there ys now one bettir than ye be." (501.24-30)
When Galahad arrives at Arthur's court, he pulls the sword marked for the "best knight in the world." As his ship comes in, Launcelot's goes out, because Galahad's arrival marks the beginning of the Grail Quest – a spiritual, rather than physical, battle. This is why the mysterious lady can now say that "there ys now one bettir than ye be," since Galahad is better than Launcelot in all things spiritual.
"A, Launcelot," seyde she, "as longe as ye were knyght of erthly knyghthode ye were the most mervayloust man of the worlde, and moste adventurest."
"Now," seyde the lady, "sitthen ye be sette amonge the knyghtis of hevynly adventures, if aventure falle [the contrary at that turnement,] have ye no mervayle; for that turnamente yestirday was but a tokenynge of Oure Lorde." (537.7-13)
It's clear by now that Launcelot's skills in combat just aren't getting him as far as they used to. Launcelot is surprised that he's just fought on the losing side in a tournament, but as the lady explains here, his loss is symbolic of his ultimate defeat in the Grail Quest. Launcelot's playing a different game now, and one for which he's ill-prepared since, unlike his son, he has devoted his life to Gwenyvere rather than to God.