The Phoenix
  Back to lines 120 - 207


208 When in the season of summer the sun at its hottest, gem of the firmament, shines upon the gloom and fulfils its appointed task and scans the world, then his house becomes heated by virtue of the clear firmament. The herbs grow warm; the abode of his choosing exhales fragrant odours. Then in the heat the bird burns along with his nest in the grip of the fire.
216 The pyre is kindled. The flame engulfs the house of the bloodied creature; fierce, it races on; yellow flame devours and burns the phoenix, old with years long gone. Then fire devours the ephemeral body; the life, the spirit of the dying bird is on its way when the flame of the funeral pyre incinerates flesh and bone.
222 Yet after a space of time, life returns to him anew, when the cinders, congealed into a ball, begin to join together again after the fury of the flame. When that most resplendent of nests, the brave bird's dwelling, is clean reduced by the blaze; and the corpse the fragmented bone-frame, is grown cool and the conflagration subsides, then out of the pyre, among the ashes, the likeness of an apple is afterwards discovered, from which a worm develops, wonderfully handsome, as though it had hatched out of eggs, gleaming out of the shell. Then in a shady place he develops, so that he becomes like an eagle's chick, a handsome fledgling. Still further then he blissfully burgeons until he is alike in features to an adult eagle, and after this he is adorned with feathers just as he was in the beginning, brought radiantly to fulfilment. At that time the flesh is born again, wholly renewed and dissevered from sins.
242 In somewhat the same way as people carry home for food the fruits of the earth, pleasant nourishment, in autumn at reaping-time, before winter's advent, lest the pelting of rain destroy them below the clouds, wherein they find sustenance, the joy of eating, when frost and snow with overwhelming might bedeck the earth in wintry vestments, from which fruits the abundant prosperity of men shall sprout forth again according to the nature of the corn which is first sown as pure seed, when the gleam of the sun, the sign of life, in spring brings forth the world's wealth, so that according to their proper nature these fruits are born again, the adornments of the earth; so this bird, old according to its years, is young and clothed in flesh anew. No provender does he eat, no food on earth, except he tastes a portion of the honey-dew which often distils upon the midnight, by which the courageous bird nurtures his being until he seeks again his ancient dwelling, his own homeland.
265 When in amongst the herbs he is grown into a bird exultant in his wings his life is renewed - young and full of grace, then out of the dust he gathers up his body strong of limb which fire once disfigured, the residue of cremation, meticulously assembles the bones fragmented as a consequence of the fury of the blaze and then brings bones and cinders, the residue of the funeral pyre, together again, and then rolls up that plunder from the slain, handsomely adorned, in herbs. Then he is impelled to seek again his own homeland.
276 Then in his feet he grips the fire's residue and clasps it in his claws and seeks again in ecstasies his home, a dwelling radiant with sunlight, his blessed native land. The whole of him, vital being and feather coat, is made new just as he was at the beginning when God, the immutably triumphant, first established him upon that noble plateau. There he brings his own bones which once the billowing of fire engulfed with flame upon the funeral mound, and the ashes too. Then the bird strong in adversity buries bones and cinders all together in that land of rivers. The symbol of the sun is his anew when the sky's luminary, of jewels the most brilliant, paragon among the noble stars, gleams out from the east up over the ocean.
291 The bird is handsome of colouring at the front, tinted with shimmering hues in his forepart about the breast. His head is green behind, exquisitely variegated and shot with purple. Then the tail is handsomely pied, part burnished, part purple, part intricately set about with glittering spots. The wings are white to the rearward, and the throat, downward and upward, green, and the bill, the beautiful beak, inside and out, gleams like glass or a gem. The mien of his eye is unflinching, in aspect most like a stone, a brilliant gem, when by the ingenuity of the craftsmen it is set in a foil of gold. About the neck, like a circlet of sunlight, there is a most resplendent ring woven from feathers. The belly below is exquisite, wondrously handsome, bright and beautiful. The shield above, across the bird's back, is ornately yoked. The shanks and the tawny feet are grown over with scales.