Friday, October 15, 2010

Virgil

One of the great poets of all time, the Roman Virgil was born (named Publius Vergilius Maro) on October 15, 70BCE.  Virgil is best known for his Aeneid.  Aside from his linguistic skills, Virgil was also considered somewhat of a magus, as commented on in the notes to Walter Scott's "The Lay of the Last Minstrel", Canto VI:

'...The arts of subjecting the daemons were manifold; sometimes the fiends were actually swindled by the magicians, as in the case of the bargain betwixt one of their number and the poet Virgil. The classic reader will doubtless be curious to peruse this anecdote.


" Virgilius was at scole at Tolenton, where he stodyed dyligently, for he was of great understandynge. Upon a tyme, the scolers had lycense to go to play and sporte them in the fyldes, after the usaunce of the holde tyme. And there was also Virgilius therbye, also walkynge amonge the hylles alle about. It fortuned he spyed a great hole in the syde of a great hyll, wherein he went so depe, that he culde not see no more lyght; and then he went a lytell farther therin, and than he saw some lyght agayne, and than he went fourth streyghte, and within a lytyll wyle after he harde a voyce that called " Virgilius ! Virgilius !" and loked aboute, and he colde nat see no body. Than sayd he (i. e. the voice), " Virgilius, see ye not the lyttyll bourde lyinge bysyde you there markd with that word ?" Than answerd Virgilius, " I see that borde well anough." The voyce sayd, " Doo awaye that borde, and lette me out there atte." Than answered Virgilius to the voyce that was under the lytell borde, and sayd, " Who art thou that calles me so ?" Than answered the Devyll, " I am a devyll conjured out of the body of a certeyne man, and banysshed here tyll the day of judgemend, without that I be delyvered by the handes of men. Thus, Virgilius, I pray the, delyvere me out of this payn, and I shall shewe unto the many bokes of nygromancy, and how thou shalt come by it lyghtly, and know the practise therein, that no man in the scyence of negromancye shall passe the. And moreover, I shall shewe and enforme the so, that thou shalt have alle thy desyre, wherby mythinke it is a great gyfte for so lytyll a doynge. For ye may also thus all your power frendys helpe, and make ryche your ennemyes." Thorough that great promyse was Virgilius tempted; he badde the fynd show the bokes to him, that he might have and occupy them at his wyll, and so the fynde shewed hym. And than Virgilius pulled open a bourde, and there was a lytell hole, and therat wrang the devyll out lyke a yeel, and cam and stode by fore Virgilius lyke a bygge man; wherof Virgilius was astonied and marveyled greatly therof, that so great a man myght come out at so lytell a hole. Than sayd Virgilius, " Shulde ye well passe into the hole that ye cam out of?" " Yea, I shall well," sayd the devyll. " I holde the best plegge that I have that ye shall not do it." " Well," sayd the devyll, " therto I consent." And than the devyll wrange himselfe into the lytell hole ageyne; and as he was therein, Virgilius kyverd the hole ageyn with the bourde close, and so was the devyll begyled, and myght nat there come out agen, but abydeth shytte styll therin. Than called the devyll dredefully to Virgilius, and sayd, " What have ye done, Virgilius ?" Virgilius answerd, " Abyde there styll to your day apoynted ;" and fro thens forth abydeth he there. And so Virgilius became very connynge in the practyse of the blacke scyence."

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