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The Deeds of Wiprecht

Lion Core

Meanwhile, men gave a speech about Wiprecht, declaring that he was a man of most extraordinary honesty, and that this had become obvious to everyone on this expedition through sure tests. Then the emperor said that he himself wanted to test this more surely. He ordered him to be recalled with speed, as if he had incompletely indicated the reasoning for his decision [i.e., to send him to Verona]. There was a lion shut up in a certain house there. To test Wiprecht’s steadfastness, the emperor ordered it let out. Released, the lion roared. The whole crowd of people present fled to safer places. Wiprecht entered, unaware of what was happening. When the lion was set loose against him, he was warned only by the Czech youth, who put him on guard. Wiprecht, seeing it rushing toward him unexpectedly, strove to take his sword quickly from his sword-bearer. But when Wiprecht seized him by the hand, he threw himself steadfastly toward the lion for the sake of his unarmed lord. However, Wiprecht bore this act indignantly. Trusting more in his own strength than that of another, he restrained the miles and-—wondrous to say!—approached the lion with his fist. The lion, his mane disordered, soon turned away from him.
Next, Wiprecht approached the emperor and inquired why he had been recalled.
But after Wiprecht interrogated him more diligently, the emperor finally revealed to him that he had been recalled to prove his fortitude and steadfastness. Then Wiprecht also sought the truth of the matter from the bishops and the rest of the princes. When they had related the same, he immediately requested permission to return home with his men. But the emperor deferred granting this. When the emperor, more stubbornly, would not be persuaded by his request, Wiprecht resolved now to part ways from them. 'I judge,' he said, 'that for my labours and my injuries I have merited good compensation from you'—speaking to the king—'for whom I have endured great dangers. Lo, what sorts of benefices do I receive, I who—for the advantage of the whole kingdom—ran into costs in all my affairs, and especially risks to my own life and my men? I call all these princes to witness that I crossed the summit of the Alps first before everyone; that I stood out among your leading men as a champion in securing the well-being and victory of you and your men; and that I—with my men—am the principal author of everything that you accomplished successfully on this Italian expedition. If it is lawful to be said: I stood out as the one who set the tune. I think it’s enough that I uselessly squandered great labour and great expense, and have even lost milites. Therefore I will return, ready to serve others now, not you. For them it will be seen as enough to test my steadfastness in their time of need, not to expose my life to the mockery of wild animals. Indeed I was thinking it sufficient that I offered you an acceptable spectacle, when I raged with my arms and strength in the slaughter of your enemies. But it seemed more spectacular that I be demolished by the teeth of beasts!' With these and similar words, Wiprecht raved without control against the emperor, since he was energetic, passionate, unconquerable, spirited, and proud in arms. Then Wiprecht departed from him, causing fear even in the emperor on account of his high spirits. Since the emperor hoped to be able to draw Wiprecht back to him without any blandishments or promises of benefices, he judged it a better idea to appease him and soften his inflexibility of mind through other people, to whose words he might be better disposed. They therefore followed Wiprecht and spoke with persuasive words. Although he was reluctant for a long time, they finally bent the high-spirited manFinally, the emperor advanced to meet Wiprecht on his return and confessed that he had carelessly done wrong against a man so useful and most loyal to him and to the whole kingdom.

Analysis