Saturday, January 21, 2012

Phoenix III & IV

When the wind lies still, the weather will be fair and
the holy gem of the heavens will shine so clear,
the clouds shall disperse, the raging waters will stand still,
every storm will be calmed under the skies,
the warm weather-candle sparkles from the south,
giving light to the hosts of men on earth,
then that bird begins to build in the boughs, to prepare a nest.
There will be a great need that he be allowed to turn hastily then
towards life, to assume a younger spirit through the surge of mind.
Then the sweetest herbs are gathered from far and near,
winsome and wooded fruits too, all brought to that bird’s abode,
every one with a noble scent, the most delightful herbs,
which the Glory-King, the Father of Every Beginning,
created across the earth as a blessing for the kindred of men,
sweet under the skies. (182-99a)

There that bird bears bright ornaments within the tree.
There the wild fowl builds his house in the wilderness
over that high tree, lovely and fair, and dwells there
himself in that sun-filled room, and surrounds himself without,
body and feather in that leafy shade, on every side
with blessed scents and the earth’s most noble blossoms.
He sits there eager for a journey. When the gem of the skies
in a summer season, hottest with the sun, shines across the shadows
and performs its destiny, surveying the world,
then the bird’s house becomes heated by the glowing sky.
The herbs are warmed, the house of desire steams
with sweet fragrance, then in flames that bird burns
through the grip of the fire amid its nest. (199b-215)

The pyre will be kindled. Then the torch engulfs
the life-dreary house, the fierce one hurries,
the fallow flame feeds upon it and the Phoenix burns,
wise with passing years. Then the fire consumes
the loaned life-house—it shall go traveling,
the fated soul-hoard, when flesh and bone
are lighted by the corpse-fire. (216-222a)

Nevertheless the spirit soon comes for him,
renewed after the appointed time, after those ashes
begin to lock together after the flame’s wrack,
contracting into a ball. Then the brightest nest
will be purified, the brave house burned out
by the pyre—the body will grow cool,
the bone-vessel broken, and the flames die down.
Then in the fire something like an apple
soon is found in the ashes, and from that grows
a worm, wonderfully fair, as if led forth
out of an egg, glorious from the shell.
Then it grows in the shadows, so that it first
appears like an eagle’s chick, a fair bird in the making.
Then further still, it flourishes in delight
so that it bears something like the form of an old eagle,
and after that, adorned with feathers such as he was
at the start, blossoming brightly. (222b-240a)

Then his flesh becomes whole, soon made afresh,
sundered from his sins—somewhat similarly,
just as a man brings home the fruits of the earth
at harvest-time for his sustenance, a joyful meal,
before the winter comes, in the ripe season,
lest the rain’s shower spoil them under the sky.
There they find a support, the joy of food-taking
when the frost and snow covers the earth
with its overwhelming power and winter-weeds.
From those fruits shall the fortunate weal of men
soon be led forth through the nature of grain,
whose pure seeds were sown before.
Then the sun’s gleam in the springtime, the sign of life,
awakens the world’s treasures, so that those fruits
are again born by their own nature, the adornments of the earth. (240b-57a)

So the fowl, aged after its years, renewed in youth,
becomes clothed in flesh. He eats no food at all,
meat on this earth, except the bit of nectar he tastes,
which often falls in the midst of the night.
By this means the proud bird feeds his flesh,
until he soon seek his own lands, his ancient home. (257b-64)


Then the bird, proud in feathers, will grow amidst the herbs.
His spirit will be new and young, full of grace,
when he gathers his limb-crafty body from the earth,
that which the flame had destroyed before,
the remains of the fire, cunningly collected
the moldering bones after the pyre’s cruel grasp
and then he soon brings together bone and cinder,
the remains of the pyre, and then that dead corpse
is adorned with herbs, fairly ornamented.
Then he soon becomes eager to seek his own home.
Then he grasps the fire’s leavings with his feet,
seizing them with his talons, and soon his homeland,
his sun-bright abode, he seeks delightfully,
that blessed native country. All is renewed,
the soul and the feather-home, just as he was at the start,
when first God made him in that noble plain, triumph-fast. (265-82a)

The Phoenix brings his own bones to that place,
those that the torch’s surging enwrapped before
by the pyre in that sheltering stead, and the ashes besides.
Then battle-brave he buries all together, bone and cinder,
on that island. He is renewed by the sign of the sun,
when the light of the skies, the gladdest of gems,
joy of noble stars, up over the spear-waves, gleams from the east. (282b-90)

That fowl is fair of hue from the front
flecked with various colors about his breast before.
His head is green behind, wondrously varied
and blended with purple. Then is his tail fairly
colored, some brown, some red, some with black spots,
cunningly covered. Those wings are white at the back,
and the neck green below and above, and the beak
shines like glass or gemstone, his jaws sparkles
within and without. The nature of his eye is piercing
and much like the hue of a stone, a merry gem
when it is set into a golden vessel by the skill of smiths. (290-304)

About its neck, just like a ring of sunlight,
is set the brightest bracelet of feathers.
Wonderful is the belly beneath, wondrously fair,
bright and brilliant. His crest overhead
is fitted with ornaments over the bird’s back.
His legs are covered with scales, the fallow feet.
The fowl is absolutely unique in its hue,
much like the peacock, grown up in joys,
of which the book tells us. He is not slothful
nor wanton, heavy nor sluggish like some birds,
which slowly flap their wings through the breeze,
but he is nimble and quick and so light,
lovely and delightful, marked out with glory.
Eternal is that noble who gives his that blessing! (305-19)

Then he seeks to go to the plains, his old home,
from this native ground. As the fowl flies, it appears
to the people, to many men throughout middle-earth,
then they assemble from the south and the north,
from east and west, in a band on horseback,
they travel far and near in a host of people
where they behold the gift of the Shaper
fair in that fowl, just as he established him at the start,
the Truth-King of Victories, the best of his species,
more lovely in adornments than the kindred of birds. (320-30)

Then men marvel across the earth at its beauty and form,
reveal it in writing, marking it by hand in marble stone,
the day and the season when it was revealed to the multitude,
swift-flighted in adornments. Then the kindred of birds
thronged in crowds on every side, flying in from the far-ways,
praising him in song, glorifying the proud one
with mighty voices, and so that holy bird is surrounded
by a ring, flying on the breeze. The Phoenix is in the middle,
encircled by a throng. The people gaze upon him,
looking at him in wonder, how that joyous band
worthies the wild one, one throng after the other,
proclaiming craftily and adoring him for their king,
the most loved of chiefs, led among delights,
the noble to his home, until that solitary bird flies away,
swift of feathers, so that he cannot be followed by them,
the exultant multitude, when the joy of the many
seeks his homeland from the ground of this earth. (331-49)

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