The Phoenix
  Back to lines 208 - 310

 

311 This bird is in every way unique of appearance, nearest in likeness to the peacock, blissfully mature, of which writings speak. He is not laggard nor slothful of purpose, lethargic nor ponderous, like certain birds which flap slowly on their wings through the air, but he is brisk and swift and extremely lightsome, lovely and pleasant, marked out for heaven. Everlasting is the Prince who bestows on it that bounty.
 
320 When he sets out from this earth to seek the expanses of his ancient dwelling-place, as the bird flies he reveals himself to the nations, to the multitudes of men throughout the world. Then they gather from south and north, from east and west, in flocks; from far and near they journey in troops of peoples to where they gaze upon the Creator's beauteous gifts in the bird, according as the true King of victories in the beginning ordained for him a rarer nature and fairer embellishments beyond the family of birds. Then people throughout the earth wonder at his form and stature, and their writings proclaim it and they depict it by hand in marble, when the day and the hour reveal to the nations the ornate beauties of the swift-flighted bird.
       
335 Then the family of birds throng in flocks on every side; from far-flung ways they draw near. With song they praise and with loud voices glorify the brave one, and in a circle surround the holy bird in his flight aloft; in the midst is the phoenix, thronged about with crowds. The nations gaze on and in amazement marvel how the devoted company, one multitude after another, do homage to the wild bird, vigorously proclaim and glorify as king the cherished lord, and escort in raptures the prince to his dwelling-place, until the lone being flies away, swift upon his wings, so that the jubilant company cannot keep up with him. Then the delight of the peoples departs this earth to seek his homeland.
         
 
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350 So, after a time of death, the blessed one goes back to his ancient home, that lovely land. The birds, mournful of mood, turn from the hero of the ordeal back to their abode; the princely one then remains, youthful, in his habitations. God alone, the King almighty, knows what his gender is, female or male; no one of humankind knows it, only the ordaining Lord alone, how miraculous are the circumstances, the admirable dispensation of old, concerning this bird's birth.
       
361 There the blessed creature is allowed to enjoy his abode, the springing streams in the woodlands, and to dwell in the plateau until a thousand years are run. Then comes the ending of his life; the pyre engulfs him with his kindled fire. Yet, wondrously awakened, he miraculously returns to life. Therefore he does not agonize, moping, over death and painful dissolution, for he knows that after the fury of the flame there is renewed existence, life after extinction, when he is regenerated again from ashes in the shape of a bird and grows young afresh beneath heaven's canopy. He is himself both his own son and dear father, and always too the inheritor again of his own old remnants. The mighty Lord of mankind granted him that he should so wondrously become again the same that he was before, clothed about with plumage, though fire carry him off.
       
381 So each of the blessed chooses for himself, through dark death, that everlasting life after painful exile, so that after his lifetime he may enjoy God's favours among unending joys and ever after dwell in glory as guerdon for his works. The nature of this bird betokens much similitude to those elect servants of Christ in earth's habitations, how through the Father's aid they maintain during this perilous time here below the heavens a radiant happiness, and lay up for themselves sublime prosperity in the celestial homeland.
       
393 We have learned that the Almighty wrought man and woman through his faculty for wondrous things and established them in the finest of earth's regions, which the sons of men call Paradise. There was not any blessing lacking to them there - while they were willing to keep the word of the Everlasting, the Holy One's dictate - in that new state of happiness. There envy injured them, the spite of the old enemy who proferred them food, the fruit of the tree, so that foolishly they both partook of the apple against the permission of God and tasted the forbidden fruit.