The moral, I suppose, would be that the first requirements for a heroic career are the knightly virtues of loyalty, temperance, and courage. The loyalty in this case is of two degrees or commitments: first, to the chosen adventure, but then, also, to the ideals of the order of knighthood. Now, this second commitment seems to put Gawain's way in opposition to the way of the Buddha, who when ordered by the Lord of Duty to perform the social duties proper to his caste, simply ignored the command, and that night achieved illumination as well as release from rebirth. Gawain is a European and, like Odysseus, who remained true to the earth and returned from the Island of the Sun to his marriage with Penelope, he has accepted, as the commitment of his life, not release from but loyalty to the values of life in this world. And yet, as we have just seen, whether following the middle way of the Buddha or the middle way of Gawain, the passage to fulfillment lies between the perils of desire and fear.
As you set out on your journey to Ithaca, pray that your journey be a long one, filled with adventure, filled with discovery. Laestrygonians and Cyclopes, the angry Poseidon--do not fear them: you'll never find such things on your wayunless your sight is set high, unless a rareexcitement stirs your spirit and your body. The Laestrygonians and Cyclopes, the savage Poseidon--you won't meet themso long as you do not admit them to your soul, as long as your soul does not set them before you. Pray that your road is a long one. May there be many summer morningswhen with what pleasure, with what joy, you enter harbors never seen before. May you stop at Phoenician stations of trade to buy fine things, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, and voluptuous perfumes of every kind--buy as many voluptuous perfumes as you can. And may you go to many Egyptian citiesto learn and learn from those who know. Always keep Ithaca in your mind. You are destined to arrive there. But don't hurry your journey at all. Far better if it takes many years, and if you are old when you anchor at the island, rich with all you have gained on the way, not expecting that Ithaca will give you wealth. Ithaca has given you a beautiful journey. Without her you would never have set out. She has no more left to give you. And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not mocked you. As wise as you have become, so filled with experience, you will have understood what these Ithacas signify.