In this scene from La Nef's "Perceval: La Quete Du Graal", Perceval asks his mother to get him something to eat... for he is leaving her, to follow a roving band of knights.
The opera is worked around an old Irish ballad, "The Star of the County Down." It is a rollicking piece when it is done as a folk song; but La Nef is probably right to think of it as something older. The tune is simple, and beautiful, and has probably lived long past the time that men can remember where its fountainhead lays.
Here is the folk song:
And here the opera's version:
Sir Perceval is originally the knight who finds the Holy Grail. In later versions it was Galahad, Lancelot's son, who did: a perfect knight, without flaw inside or out. We have lately discussed how Galahad borders on blasphemy; but Sir Perceval has no such troubles. He is full of flaws, and misunderstanding, but at last brings the quest to a close. "You have wars you hardly win, and souls you hardly save."
In Sir Thomas Malory's version, Perceval's sister is the exemplar of true virtue. She readily lays down her life to save a wicked lady who has preserved herself only by slaughtering maidens to drink their blood: but so little cares Perceval's sister for this world that she gives her blood freely, to save even a wicked life. I reflect on how such spiritual generosity might prepare one well for the next world, but poorly serves this one. Such kindness to the cruel and the wicked only empowers them. It is better to strike them down: the Bible says that God reserves vengeance to himself, but perhaps he might forgive us. What otherwise are we for, and what chivalry, and what justice?
Perhaps only to be forgiven; but, by God, to be forgiven for something.