Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of Christ's manly Contest and Victory

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Gesta Romanorum Vol. II  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of Christ's manly Contest and Victory



In the reign of Cæsar there lived a noble and valiant knight, who once rode by a certain forest, and beheld a serpent engaging with a toad. (7) The latter obtained the mastery; which, when the knight saw, he assisted the serpent; and grievously wounding the toad, reduced it to seek safety in flight. But the conqueror was also affected by the toad's venom. The knight turned homeward, and for a long time lay sick of his wound. At last he made his will, and prepared himself for death. Now as he reclined near the fire, utterly hopeless of life, the serpent which he had preserved entered the apartment. When the knight saw it, he recollected that it was the same he had aided in its contest with the toad, and through which he was laid upon his bed incurable. "Do not molest it," said the knight, "I do not believe that it will harm me." The serpent glided towards him, and applying its tongue to the wound, sucked up the poison, till its mouth was quite full; and then hastening to the door, cast it out. It returned twice to the wound, and did as before, until the venom was exhausted. The knight commanded milk to be given to the serpent, which it instantly drank; and no sooner had it done so, than the toad from which the wound had been received, entered and again attacked the serpent, in revenge for its having healed the knight. The latter seeing this, said to his servants, "Without doubt, my friends, this is the toad which I wounded in defence of that serpent, and from which I derive all my infirmity. If it conquer, it will invade me; therefore, as ye love your master, kill it incontinently." The servants, obedient to the knight's command, attacked it with swords and clubs; while the serpent, as if to thank and ingratiate itself with his defender, twined around his feet, and then disappeared. The knight completely recovered his health.


My beloved, the emperor is God; the knight, Christ; the toad is the devil, and the serpent, man.

Note 7.Page 58.

"The stories, perhaps fabulous, of the serpent fighting with his inveterate enemy, the weasel, who eats rue before the attack begins; and of the serpent fighting with, and being killed by the spider, originate from Pliny, Nat. Hist. X. 84. XX. 13."—Warton