'The Venusburg Legend' by Maistre Antoine Gaget (1530) was the source for William Morris' 'Hill of Venus' in his 'Earthly Paradise'. It tells of 'a certain young man, who by strange adventure, fell into the power of Venus, and who, repenting of his life with her, was fain to return to the world and amend all, but might not.' The young man's name is Walter, and must gain forgiveness for his sins from the Pope himself. But, because his sin is so great, the Pope proclaims Walter as likely to be absolved as his own staff turning into a flower (which it later does).
According to Fortunee de Lisle, the drawings for this subject were executed before Morris' poem had actually been written. Burne-Jones made 20 drawings in all for this story (the finished versions are in the Ashmolean Museum). These designs are final tracing states, or advanced stages in the working out of this composition. They have not been drawn over on the reverse. De Lisle dates the designs for this subject 1867-68. This design probably illustrates these lines:
"And fast the tears fell down from many a one,
And rose a quavering song, for they were come
Unto the threshold of that mighty Rome".