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NOTES

OS

CANTO VI.

iSAe wrought not by forbidden spell.—St. V. p. 173. Popular belief, though contrary to the doctrines of the church, made a favourable distinction betwixt magicians, and necromancers or wizards; the former were supposed to command the evil spirits, and the latter to serve, or at least to be in league and compact with, those enemies of mankind. 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 classical reader will doubtless be curious to peruse this anecdote.

"Virgilius was at scole at Tolenton, where he stodyed dyligently, for he was of great understaridynge. Upon a tyme, the scolers had lycense to go to play and sporte them in the fyldes, after the usance of the holde tyme. And there was also Virgilius therbye, also walkynge among the hylles alle about. v It fortuned he spyed a great hole in the syde of a great hyll, wherein he went so depe, that he culd not see no more lyght; and than he went a lytell farther therin, and than1 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 looked aboute, and he colde nat see no body. Than sayd he (i. e. the voice), " Virgilius, see ye not the lyttyll bourde lyiuge bysyde you there raarkd with that word?" Than answered 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 callest 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, delwere me out of this payn, and I shall shewe unto the many bokes of negromancye, 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, whereby 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 enemyes." Thorough that great promyse

was Virgilius tempted -T 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 before Virgilius lyke a bygge man; wherof Virgilius was astonied and marveyled greatly thereof, 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 devyl. "I holde the best plegge that I have, that ye shall not do it." "Well," sayd the devyll, " thereto I consent." And than the devyll wrange himselfe into the lytell hole ageyne; and as he was therein, Virgilius kyverd the hole ageyne with the bourde close, and so was the devyll begyled, and myght nat there come out agen, but abydeth shytte styll therein. Than called the devyll dredefully to Virgilius, and said, " What have ye done, Virgilius?" Virgilius answered, "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 black scyence."

This story may remind the reader of the Arabian tale of the Fisherman and the imprisoned Genie; and it is more than probable, that many of the marvels narrated in the life of Virgil are of oriental extraction. Among such I am disposed to reckon the following whimsical account of the foundation of

Naples, containing a curious theory concerning the origin of the earthquakes with which it is afflicted. Virgil, who was a

person of gallantry, had, it seems, carried off the daughter of

i

a certain Soldan, and was anxious to secure his prize.

"Than he thought in his mynde howe he myghte mareye hyr, and thought iti his mynde to founde in the middes of the see a fayer towne, with great landes belongynge to it; and so he dyd by his cunnynge, and called it Napells. And the fartdacyon of it was of egges, and in that towne of Napells he made a tower with iiii corners, and in the toppe he set an appell upon an yron yarde, and no man culde pull awaye that apell without he brake it; and thoroughe that yren set he a bolte, and in that bolte set he a egge. And he henge the apell by the stauke upon a cheyne, and so hangeth it styll. And when the egge styrreth, so shulde the towne of Napells quake; and whan the egge brake, than shulde the towne sinke. Whan he had made an ende, he lette call it Napells." This appears to have been an article of current belief during the middle ages, as appears from the statutes of the order Da Saint Esprit, au droit desir, instituted in 1352. A chapter of the knights is appointed to be held annually at the Castle of the Enchanted Egg, near the grotto of Virgil. MontfauCon, Vol. II. p. 329.

A merlin sat upon her zorist.—St. V. p. 173. A merlin, or sparrow-hawk, was usually carried by ladies of rank, as a falcon was, in time of peace, the constant attendant

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