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C. Virgil in the Basket and Virgil’s Revenge

C. Virgil in the Basket and Virgil’s Revenge

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Deutsche Vierteljahresschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 27

[1953], 182–206; and S. L. Smith, The Power of Women: A Topos in Medieval

Art and Literature [Philadelphia, 1995]) (JZ)

1. Guiraut de Calanson, Fadet joglar 24.142–44

(circa 1215–20)

Guiraut de Calanson (also known as Guirautz de Calansó) appears to have

frequented the courts of northern Spain (Castile and Aragon). He is often

termed a Gascon troubadour, but the basis for this assumption is only a vida

(an often fanciful ‘‘biography’’). He composed, all in Occitan, ten extant lyrics

and the Fadet joglar, a cross between a sirventes (satire and invective) and an

ensenhamen (moral instruction) that comprises 240 verses. The incipit, Fadet

joglar, is best translated as ‘‘Minstrel Fadet’’; the first element seems to be the

name—or stage name—of the minstrel, while joglar is the Occitan equivalent

of the French jongleur, the Latin ioculator, and the English juggler. In it Guiraut,

while castigating a singer for his ignorance, describes feats of Virgil that such a

joglar (professional entertainer) would be expected to know.

The last in this short list of feats would seem to refer to the motif of ‘‘Virgil’s

revenge,’’ which is probably attested here for the first time and appears next in

Image du monde (Image of the World) (see below, V.H). Usually this motif

followed an account of the humiliation (Virgil in the basket), and it is possible

that the episode of the basket is described ironically in the first item (with the

point being that in at least one instance Virgil did not know at first how to fend

for himself against a woman). The mention of an orchard points to the common motif of Virgil’s wonderful garden. The motif of Virgil’s fishpond may

have been a topos. In any event, it is also found in a text at the latest of the early

sixteenth century, Les faictz merveilleux de Virgille (The Marvelous Deeds of

Virgil) (VN 67; see V.U), and may have a basis in Neapolitan lore (VN


In his reference to Virgil the magician, Guiraut is typical of other troubadours. In the Purgatorio (6.75) Dante depicts an embrace between the Latin

poet Virgil and the Italian troubadour Sordello of Mantua (circa 1200–1269),

but the union is between two fellow Mantuans and perhaps between the two

preceding poetic traditions—Latin and Old Occitan—most prized by the

author of the Divine Comedy, rather than a reflection of any especially close

relationship between Sordello or any of the other troubadours and Virgil.

Although some of the Provenỗal poets show awareness of the Dido and

Aeneas story and the poet of Virgil’s name, references to the legendary Virgil

are more common. (Discussion: A. Roncaglia, ‘‘Les troubadours et Virgile,’’

in LMV 274–75; L. Rossi, ‘‘Noch einmal: Die Trobadors und Vergil,’’ Vox

C . V I R G I L I N T H E B A S K ET A N D V I R G I L’ S R E V E N G E


Romanica 49 [1989], 58–76) (Text: F. Pirot, Recherches sur les connaissances

littéraires des troubadours occitans et catalans des douzième et treizième siècles: Les

‘‘sirventes-ensenhamens’’ de Guerau de Cabrera, Guiraut de Calanson et Bertran de

Paris, Memorias de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona 14 [Barcelona, 1972], 572) (JZ)

. . . and of Virgil, how he knew how to protect himself against woman, and

of the orchard, and of the fishpond, and the fire that he knew how to extinguish. (JZ)

2. ‘‘Deeds of the Romans’’

Of the many stories that became associated with Virgil the magician, the one

that may have enjoyed the broadest di√usion relates a story of a love a√air that

was not to be. The story of Virgil in the basket relates how Virgil, after being

given an assignation by a woman he desired, was deliberately stranded for

public humiliation inside the basket he had hoped to use as an elevator to reach

his lady love. It is almost without exception paired with the story of ‘‘Virgil’s

Revenge,’’ in which the sage avenges himself by causing all the fires in Rome to

be extinguished, and the only way to rekindle them was to apply torches,

candles, and the like to the woman’s private parts.

The earliest extant version of the story seems to appear in a thirteenthcentury manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, MS lat. 6186, fol. 149v).

Although the text begins by citing its source ‘‘in gestibus Romanorum’’ (in the

deeds of the Romans), the famous Gesta Romanorum had not yet been compiled. The next major appearance of the story is in Jans Enikel (see below, V.I).

Thereafter it finds a place in the dossiers of legends about Virgil in Image du

monde (Image of the World) (see below, V.H) and Jean d’Outremeuse (see

below, V.P). (Text: VN 372–73 n. 19; also included in EV 5.2, 487, no. 331,

where it is designated Vita Parisina II ) (JZ)

Legitur in gestibus Romanorum quod mirabilis prerogative specialis Virgilius, magice facultatis scientia circumspectus, Neronis tunc imperatoris

Romane urbis familiaris extitit; cujus filiam elegantis forme titulo resplendentem, sicut assolet, carnali concupiscentie stimulo precordialiter adamavit, qui, sine precibus inducens, ab ipsa diligentis instantie articulis impetravit ut prefata Neronis filia ei locum atque tempus prefigeret oportunum,

in quo prefatus magister virginis prescripte amplo desiderio fungeretur.

Cumque ferventi desiderio concitatus, tempore noctis ad ipsius virginis

habitaculum accessisset, accidit quod ipsa virgo, muliebris astutie imbuta

maliciis, nobilem magistrum suis vestimentis omnibus denudatum admitteret in cophino, ipsum in medio turris altissime usque ad effusionem solis


V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S

detinuit in suspenso; ita arte positus desistebat quod ascendere vel descendere sine mortis periculo non valeret.

Cujus facti per civitatem Romanam publica fama volans, fuit usque ad

imperatoris noticiam ventilata. Qui, ad iracundiam facto tam detestabili

provocatus intra se, quod facti malicia mortis sententia[m] merebatur, secundum approbatas consuetudines temporis et imperii, legaliter circumspexit. Qui licet in multis et experimentissimis esset culpis suis exigentibus

affligendus, ab ipso imperatore gratiam optinuit specialem, ut quo mortis

genere mallet mori sibi eidem contulit eligendum. Qui, minus grave mortis

periculum sibi eligendo assumens, in balneo tepentis aque sibi minui postulans [read ‘‘postulavit’’]. Quod [read ‘‘cum’’] secundum sue electionis sententiam in balneo constitutus [esset], magicis artibus suffragantibus, apud

civitatem Neapolitanam est translatus.

Ubi, ab angustia Neronis imperatoris libere conservatus, infra [read ‘‘intra’’] civitatem Romanam duxit ignem taliter extinguendum, quod nisi in

inferioribus virginis Neroniane reperiretur. Nullatenus valeret ignis remedium in civitate Romana aliter obtineri. Qui, videns summam maliciam

super hoc i[m]minere, verecundiam filialem duxit generaliter promulgandam ut ex communis necessitatis redimeretur incursu, et, vocatis populis

universis, eisdem generaliter intimabat ut quilibet ad filiam imperatoris

accederet, ignem in ejus inferioribus optenturas [read ‘‘obtenturus’’]. Qui

per fallacia hominis incantantis ignem in illis partibus invenerunt.

It is read in the deeds of the Romans that Virgil, who was extraordinary for his

marvelous talent and distinguished by his knowledge of magic power, was a

close friend of Nero, then emperor of the city Rome. Virgil, pierced to the

heart by the goad of fleshly desire, fell in love, as is wont to happen, with the

emperor’s daughter, who shone with the glory of graceful beauty. By persuading without entreaties, he obtained from Nero’s daughter through thoroughly

persistent phrases that she would stipulate for him a convenient place and time

in which Master Virgil should enjoy fully his desire for the young woman. But

when, aroused with hot desire, he approached by night the dwelling of the

young woman, it happened that the young woman, steeped in the evils of

womanly cleverness, had the noble master, stripped of all his clothing, enter a

basket. She kept him dangling in the middle of the very high tower until the

sunlight was pouring forth. Placed by her craft in this way, he held back,

because he could not go up or down except at the peril of death.

Public report of this event flew through the city of Rome and was bruited

about until it reached the attention of the emperor. He, prompted to anger

C . V I R G I L I N T H E B A S K ET A N D V I R G I L’ S R E V E N G E


within himself at so loathsome an event, considered in legal terms, according

to the established customs of the time and empire, that the wickedness of the

deed merited the death sentence. Although Virgil was to be tormented in

many well-tested ways because his crimes so demanded, he obtained from the

emperor himself the special boon that [Nero] granted him to choose in what

manner he preferred to die. Taking for himself in his choice the least oppressive

peril of death, Virgil asked to be bled in a bath of warm water. When according

to his preferred manner of execution he was set in a bath, he was conveyed to

the city of Naples through the aid of magic craft.

There, kept safe in freedom from the hostility of Emperor Nero toward

him, he caused fire to be extinguished within the city of Rome in such a way

that it could not be found except in the lower parts of Nero’s young daughter.

In no other way could a remedy for the lack of fire be found in the city of

Rome. Nero, seeing that the highest evil loomed over this, caused the shame of

his daughter to be made public knowledge so that the city could be relieved

from the assault on common need and, having called together all the people,

revealed to them as a group that whoever approached the emperor’s daughter

would acquire fire in her lower parts. Through the deceits of the man’s enchantments, they found fire in those parts. (JZ)

3. Juan Ruiz

(fourteenth century)

The following excerpt of nine stanzas from Juan Ruiz’s Libro de buen amor

(Book of Good Love) contains the most detailed compendium in Old Spanish

of medieval legends about Virgil and by the most important Castilian poet of

the fourteenth century. It is wrought as a narrative exemplum against lechery,

but the outcome and lesson of Virgil’s enchantment are not completely clear.

The general gist seems to be that the gleaming sheet of copper prompted the

woman to give herself to him (perhaps because she mistook it for a more

precious metal such as gold, or perhaps because she also thought it was resin,

which was used for cosmetic purposes). (Discussion: F. Lecoy, Recherches sur

le ‘‘Libro de buen amor’’ de Juan Ruiz [Paris, 1938], 168–71; J. Dagenais, ‘‘ ‘Il

nostro maggior Musa’: Juan Ruiz and the Medieval Virgil,’’ in Medieval Iberia:

Essays on the History and Literature of Medieval Spain, ed. D. J. Kagay and J. T.

Snow, Ibérica 25 [New York, 1997], 143–57) (Text: Juan Ruiz, Arcipreste de

Hita, Libro de buen amor, ed. A. Blecua [Madrid, 1996]) (LG)

[260] Five noble cities were burned and destroyed because of lust, three

for their wicked deeds, two not by their own fault, but by their neighbors’:

‘‘through such bad neighbors inheritances are lost.’’

[261] I do not want you nearby, nor should you come to me in such haste.


V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S

Virgil the sage, as the book says, was deceived by a woman when she

dangled him in a basket and made him think she was hoisting him to her

tower to have his way.

[262] She dishonored him and made such mockery of his pleas that the

great enchanter repaid her with an evil trick; the light of every candle he

enchanted, and every fire as well, and all there were in Rome at once they


[263] None of the Romans, to their misfortune, not even the most powerful being, could keep a fire lit unless it was kindled in the natural organs of

that vile woman; no other lasted.

[264] If fire was passed from one to another, or between candles, it died

off at once; and they all came to her; there they rekindled it as if in a large,

sparkling flame. Thus Virgil avenged his dishonor and complaint.

[265] After such a dishonor, such great embarrassment (all to sate his lust

for that woman), Virgil lifted his spell over fire, that wood once more could

burn, and he performed another marvel, such as no man could ever dream.

[266] The entire bed of the river in the city of Rome, the Tiber, with

waters aplenty, fed by so many, its bed he turned to copper, more resplendent than resin. Thus your lust could women tame.

[267] Once he had sinned with her, she felt scorned. She had a winding

stairway built, planted with sharp knives, that in the ascent up the stairs

Virgil could meet his end.

[268] He found out what she had done because of his spell, and he never

went to her again, no longer desired her; thus because of lust the world is

truly scorned and people are dejected. (LG)

4. Giovanni Sercambi


Giovanni Sercambi was born in Lucca. After beginning a career in politics, he

turned to writing. In his final years he wrote his Novelliere, a collection of 155

tales in the Tuscan dialect of Italian, influenced by Boccaccio (see above,

II.C.19, II.G.8, III.E.11, and V.A.11). The individual tales bear titles that

bring out their similarities, often superficial, to exempla used in preaching.

(Text: Giovanni Sercambi, Il novelliere, ed. L. Rossi, 3 vols., I Novellieri italiani 9 [Rome, 1974], 1:279–82, exemplo 48) (JZ)

On Proper Love and Just Revenge. About Virgil, when he was caught hanging

in the middle of a wall, for love of a daughter of the emperor who was named Hypsipyle.

Before Christ became incarnate in the Virgin Mary, there was in Rome an

emperor named Hadrian, who had a daughter of his, a grown maiden, named

Hypsipyle, whom the emperor kept in a very beautiful tower by night and

C . V I R G I L I N T H E B A S K ET A N D V I R G I L’ S R E V E N G E


sometimes by day, whenever she did not go out from home, as on rare

occasions she went strolling through Rome.

It happened that at that time the poet Virgil was driven out of Mantua.

Virgil, a poet and great master in the art of necromancy, arrived in Rome and

remained there for a long time. Seeing Hypsipyle one day and taking a fancy

to her (it was the month of May), he fell in love with her to the extent that he

could not wait long to tell Hypsipyle the boon he wished from her. After

many words, Hypsipyle, to trick him, responded that she was content to

yield to Virgil’s desire, but that she saw only one way in which he could

come to her and that it was very tiring, and yet she thought that it could be

done. The way was as follows: that after she had sought permission from her

father to have drawn up into the tower a basket of roses, Virgil would have

to enter that basket of roses, and she would pull him up, and they would

take their pleasure. Afterward he would return by the same means. This is

the sort of response she gave to Virgil.

Virgil, whom love for her had blinded, was content and said that he was

ready to enter the basket, and she pulled him up. With the business arranged,

Virgil entered the basket covered with roses. False Hypsipyle pulled Virgil

up to the middle of the tower and then left him hanging there all night long

until midday.

Virgil, seeing himself deceived and not seeing himself going either up or

down for a long time, in desperation wanted many times to get out of the

basket and let himself fall; but he strengthened his heart with the thought of

avenging himself in due course for the foul play done him by Hypsipyle, and

he refrained from getting out of the basket.

To wicked Hypsipyle, after she had made Virgil suffer more than sixteen

hours, it seemed time to shame him. She sent for her father, the emperor, and

when he came, she said: ‘‘O father dearest, avenge me of the shame that a

wicked man wished to do me.’’ The emperor said: ‘‘Who has been so bold as

to wish to shame the emperor’s daughter?’’ Hypsipyle said: ‘‘Father dearest,

after you gave me permission to pull up a basket of roses into the tower, a

Virgil from Mantua tricked the man who brought the roses, entered into the

basket, and I had him pulled up, covered as he was with roses. And since I

saw that it weighed a lot and since I considered that roses ought not to

weigh so much, I went to the window of the tower when it had been pulled

up midway, and I saw Virgil. Seeing that, I stopped the rope so that you

could see him, father, and do him the punishment he deserves.’’

The emperor, going to the window, saw Virgil, and at once he made him

go down and put him in prison, and after much deliberation it was decided


V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S

that Virgil should die. The day came when Virgil was supposed to die, and

the death sentence had been made known to him. Virgil had been led to the

place of execution when suddenly with one of his magic tricks he had a

basin full of water brought to him by a member of his retinue, he put his face

in it, and he said: ‘‘Who wishes to find Virgil, let him go to Naples to seek

him.’’And at once he was taken by evil spirits and put in Naples.

When the emperor heard of this, he marveled at Virgil’s escape; and Virgil

did not let much time pass before he sought to revenge himself for the deceit

done him by Hypsipyle. By magic he soon caused that in Rome fire could not

be found, brought by any means, or made. Seeing this, the emperor was

entreated by the people about it. They said: ‘‘We are perishing, and we are

compelled to leave Rome if we do not wish to die.’’ The emperor did not

know what the cause of this circumstance was, and he made no reply.

Virgil, who knows everything, sent the message to the emperor that fire

would never be found in Rome except the fire that could be taken from the

bottom of his daughter, Hypsipyle. He made known that if anyone kindled a

fire for another, both his own and the one he kindled would be extinguished.

The emperor, seeing the plight of the Roman people, considered the

shame of his daughter to be of secondary importance and decreed that she

should stay in the public square with her bottom uncovered and raised up

nude. And who wanted some fire should go with cotton wool, cloth, or tow

and place it at the bottom of Hypsipyle, and presently it would be set on fire.

And in this way it happened that everyone in Rome, male and female, saw

the bottom of Hypsipyle because she did not want Virgil to see it. And thus

she and the emperor were shamed more than any people ever. (JZ)

5. Virgilessrímur

Although the conventional modern title Virgilessrímur (alternatively, Virgílius

rímur) could be translated roughly by cognates as ‘‘Virgil Rhymes,’’ in its final

stanza the poem refers to itself as Glettudiktar (The Poem of Pranks). Rímur

represented a popular genre of stanzaic epic poetry in medieval Icelandic,

employing both end-rhyme and alliteration, as well as extended, and often

opaque, metaphors. In this translation, these metaphors are glossed in square

brackets. Often rímur are long enough to be divided into cantos or fits (known

as rímnaflokkar). Virgilessrímur comprises two such cantos, to which internal

reference is made at the beginning of the second.

As with most other rímur, this poem is of uncertain date; most authorities

place its composition in the period 1300–1450. The two manuscripts in which

it is preserved (Stockholm, Kungliga Biblioteket [Sveriges Nationalbibliotek],

C . V I R G I L I N T H E B A S K ET A N D V I R G I L’ S R E V E N G E


cod. Holm 22, 4o and cod. Holm 23, 4o) date to the late 1500s. Unconnected to

this work is the later Icelandic Virgilíussaga (Virgil Saga), a 1676 translation of a

Dutch text (see below, V.U).

In general, critics dwell on Virgilessrímur only long enough to give a précis

of the poem and comment on its various literary shortcomings. This negative

view may result from the poem’s violent sexual imagery, but here Virgilessrímur

exploits the frequent medieval collocation of fire and female genitalia in the

punishment of adulterers. Virgilessrímur displays a number of unusual and interesting features, including Virgiles’s being drawn up on a rope without a

basket, a precious belt secured from him by the princess, his falling to the

ground, and the need for bellows to kindle the flame in the woman’s genitalia.

Apparently borrowed from the fabliau of Aristotle and Phyllis is the noblewoman’s wild ride on Virgiles, who transforms himself into a horse at her

request. Last but not least, the poem is atypical among treatments of Virgil in

the basket and Virgil’s revenge in emphasizing explicitly that its protagonist,

here designated as Virgiles, is indeed the great poet. (Discussion: B. K.

êúrúlfsson, Rớmur fyrir 1600, Safn Frổđafjelagsins um Ísland og Íslendinga 9

[Copenhagen, 1934], 4, 236, 267, 330–32; VN 162–63; J. Benediktsson, ‘‘Vergil: Island og Norge,’’ in Kulturhistorisk leksikon for nordisk middelalder fra

vikingetid til reformasjonstid, ed. J. Brøndsted et al. [Copenhagen, 1956–78,

rept. 1982], 19: cols. 654–59; R. Simek, Lexikon der altnordischen Literatur,

Kroners Taschenausgabe 490 [Stuttgart, 1987]) (Text: F. Jónsson, ed., Rímnasafn: Samling af de ỉldste islandske rimer, Samfund til Udgivelse af gammel

nordisk Litteratur: Skrifter 35 [Copenhagen, 1905–22], 843–58) (GS and


Canto I

[1] It’s hard for men to make poetry: the poet must fall silent; although I

compose about a land-of-thorns [woman], it helps not at all.

[2] First of all, we’ll depart the learning-strand and launch the ship-ofBerling [poetry]; there’s a master in the southern lands, to whom learned

clerks do homage.

[3] In making the ship-of-Vestri [verse], I have done my utmost and

chosen the best material about the wise carriage-of-rings [woman] and the

steerer-of-the-meeting-of-swords [man].

[4] Virgiles was the name of a verse-smith, he was the leader of wise

clerks; the man was keen on studying, as it says in many books.

[5] He has known clerks throughout the wide world and made them

change their evil ways; with glory he parted from all of those he encountered

in foreign countries.


V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S

[6] To many, articulate scholarship turns obscure when they are filled

with love; I want to relate an adventure about such a man.

[7] Many a goddess-of-necklaces [woman] did he gladden; mostly giving

in to his desire, each one opened up for love if he asked for a fuck.

[8] A king ruled a huge palace, everything was going his way; a glorious

pine-of-finery [woman] had he, a daughter he raised in honor.

[9] The ruler invited Virgiles to his home, [asked him] to accept a great

feast, where with both honor and gold his fortune might unfold.

[10] Next to the Niblung [king] he sits in the palace, there is plenty of

the white wine; the adorned guardian-pine [woman] he was very keen on


[11] Virgiles said to the ruler: ‘‘Very fine is the prince’s daughter; eager am

I to meet the blonde linden-of-red-rings [woman].

[12] ‘‘I do not forbid [to you] the bearer-of-necklaces [woman], and the

two of you may meet; there you will hear wise words, for she is full of


[13] He rushed to the women’s bower, the clever lady to meet: ‘‘Master, go

to the wise one and sit down,’’ says the powerful woman [her maid].

[14] Book-learning and all kinds of tricks they both—so I’ve heard—

could discuss; no other fir-of-riches [woman] had he found of this kind.

[15] ‘‘The maid is wise,’’ said Virgiles. ‘‘I want to take you in my arms, for

that [purpose] I was eager to come hither, few things need to be taught

to you.’’

[16] The dearest bearer-of-finery [woman] responded: ‘‘A fool you can be

called, if you speak these words more often, for you shall hardly thrive.’’

[17] At that Virgiles departed, wishing to hear no more—that is how

I heard his anger and sorrow grew—of this divine midwife’s [woman’s]


[18] The fertility-god-of-weapon-tips [man] came another day to find

the fir-of-riches [woman]; the earlier visit was of little use, so he asked

about this:

[19] ‘‘Now listen, land-of-rings [woman], to how this must proceed: either you respect my longings, or you’ll catch the greatest grief.

[20] ‘‘If you, maiden, want to resist me, I’ll have to use some tricks; then

the shame will be on you, if we must go about it that way.

[21] ‘‘If you submit to my will, and do it nicely, your might will not

diminish, and no one will hear about it.’’

[22] The bride answers and her cheeks blanch, she knew more tricks: ‘‘I

will gladly do what you want, if no one will hear about it.’’

C . V I R G I L I N T H E B A S K ET A N D V I R G I L’ S R E V E N G E


[23] Surely Virgiles cheered [at this]. He was like so many others, the

god-of-swords [man or penis] quivered in anticipation of the dark night

to come.

[24] The sun moves off the mountains, went into the long sea; by generous leave the leader allowed Virgiles to depart.

[25] Shortly and secretly he sneaks away to seek the lofty bower; for me,

it is trouble enough to get together with my love somehow.

[26] The master went out in the darkness, just like any other innocent

fellow, finds that which hardens his sorrow, where a rope, plaited like cable,

is hanging.

[27] The rope he winds silently around himself and then tugs at the end

of it; the maids then drag him up, those who know how to twist virtues.

[28] Halfway up they dragged the master, great is the anger of women,

‘‘Let him wait there,’’ said the carriage-of-rings [woman], ‘‘until the sun

shines bright in the pellucid heavens.’’

[29] He stroked the rope and rattled the bower. What has the gentlewoman in mind? One can hear foolery and laughter up there, forgotten now

were all graces.

[30] Quickly he removed his belt and tied it to the twisted rope, little

nearer was he then to the ground, [yet] some tricks he had to perform.

[31] The tip he held with both hands, jerks it up and down for a long

time; the plaited braid came free; muck and rubble are underneath.

[32] The fall was such that his foot broke, a cut he got on his hand; I

would curse the valkyrie-of-rings [woman], if I were to get something like

that from a woman.

[33] The artful one pulls up the line, silently the board-of-snakes

[woman] does that; his belt was adorned with gold, and there was plenty in

his pouch.

[34] He is strong enough then to go home to the loft where the lads slept;

‘‘I’ve been jumping on the street and hurt myself badly.’’

[35] He lay down in bed and had splints on his leg; the hard-ring-ofsorrow [anxiety] presses against his heart, the man is deprived of joy.

[36] The man then visits doctors without much delay; they order the limb

to be tied up, the cut on the hand heals nicely.

[37] Even though he had hale legs and usable shoulder-girders [arms],

the warrior lies day and night, sad sorrows has he.

[38] The queen sent a maid for this [purpose]: ‘‘About this you shall ask,

you shall get the wise Virgiles, I want to see him.’’

[39] The maid speaks to the tree-of-necklaces [man]: ‘‘ ‘Grief can only


V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S

cause harm’—go to meet the land-of-rings [woman], she will pardon you


[40] Virgiles jumped swiftly to his feet and put on his scarlet finery; he

was glad from the bottom of his heart, [and] cast aside grief and sorrow.

[41] He hastened to the chamber to meet the bright lady; ‘‘Have you been

in great distress?’’ the woman asked.

[42] ‘‘I will give you all my love—you are the best of clerks—if you would

grant me this: change immediately into a horse.’’

[43] ‘‘I don’t know why you ask for this, you gentle-gaited goddess-ofrings [woman]’’; the verse-smith turned himself into a horse, I’ve heard the

lady was quite shocked.

[44] She bridled the eager horse and cinched tight the fine saddle; spurs

she had fastened to her feet, [for] the woman is keen on riding.

[45] The spurs were fashioned with sharp goads to pierce the [animal’s]

flanks; the maiden galloped off on the saddle-blanket-hart [horse], [and] the

hills swelled with her hard riding.

[46] On over lava and hard ravines rides the silk-goddess [woman]; often

the snow reached up to the saddle-blanket, frequently a ditch was explored.

[47] The virgin rode on the rocks such that sparks sprang up; hooves

cracked on the lava, the horse’s frog was hurt on the stone.

[48] The spur hit the head hard, warm blood flowed from the wounds; the

spurs slice the sides sharply, nary a dry spot’s to be seen on the groin.

[49] All day at high speed the willow-of-riches [woman] rides; the whip

often hardens on the sides, the last thing she wants is to tarry.

[50] The day was coming to an end when the lady rode to visit her hall;

the virgin had to slow down the ride, it became much easier to stay seated.

[51] The lady pulled the saddle off the steed and lifted the bit over its

forehead: ‘‘Run, son-of-the-mighty-one [man], instead of embracing me.’’

[52] Virgiles was battered and breathless and could hardly walk; in that

fashion, the wise lady has often conquered clever heroes.

[53] He crawls home to the lofty room, lies down in bed. The first part of

the Fjölnir’s-wine [poem] will now rest for a while.

Canto II

[1] Earlier [in the first canto] the fine ship of Austri [poetry] arrived at the

lands of verse; this work will be considered of high quality if its smithing is

of that sort.

[2] I was told that the headdress-field [woman] deprived the hero of

grace; thus most quickly does one become weary, all plans come to an end.

C . V I R G I L I N T H E B A S K ET A N D V I R G I L’ S R E V E N G E


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C. Virgil in the Basket and Virgil’s Revenge

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