Afar in earliest regions of the light
Where wide to eternal skies the vast gates stand
Greeting the vernal Sun, a blissful land
Not summer's frenzy fears, nor winter's spite.
Ample and fair a plain is nurtured thus.
Not ridged with h*lls nor scarred with chasms dread,
Yet at such height its gentle meads are spread As
dwindles many a peak most perilous.
In that same region leaved with deathless green—
Its victor-crown for all time's season won—A mighty
grove and sacred to the Sun
By deep-set forests guarded, lies unseen.
When pale Phaethon drove his fatal course
And heaven blazed, the flames here turned aside: This
land out-towered the huge earth-drowning tide
Whereof Prometheus' son survived the force.
And here nU wan disease nor feeble age,
Harsh death nor crime unspeakable comes near,
Nor envy comes, nor grief, nor bitter fear Nor
poverty, nor unrelenting rage.
Here sounds no growl of storm nor shriek of gale
Nor yet with frost the humid earth is sealed; No
fleece of cloud spreads dark above the field Nor
driving rain descends with eager flail:
But in the midst a spring that rises clear,
Transparent. sweet, the Well of Life 'tιs said,
Each moon brims over, through the grove to spread
Its bounteous flood, nor fails in all the year.
Here flourish loft= trees of changeless hue, Of
noble trunk, ripe fruits which do not fall: And
in this grove and in this forest tall
The Phoenix dwells, which dies to live anew.
The Sun her law, the Sun her worshiped lord.
No other task than so to live is hers:
Most true, most famed of Phoebus' followers,
Her deed and nature perfectly accord.
When dawn from pallid gold is reddening
To light the stars from hence, in those pure waves
The Phoenix then her body four times laves, And
four times drinks she of the living spring.
From thence her soaring pinions bear her straight
To that one tree which overtops the rest:
And eastward turning, in its leaf= crest
She sits, the Sun's first shining to await.
And when his radiance strikes the day's bright sill,
When his first splendor's gladsome beam outsprings,
Then what subl*mest h=mn of welcome rings In
wondrous music from the Phoenix' bill!
No nightingale nor yet the dying swan,
Nor flute nor harp that have on earth excelled
Can vie against that song unparalleled Which
gives the birth of day her benison.
When Phoebus' team, urged ever onward, gains
The open sky and shows the orb entire,
Three times she beats her wings, the lord of fire
Three times salutes, then silent she remains:
Save that by night and day the hours that run She
marks with sounds by man not understood: Priest of
the groves.* dread Guardian of the wood. She solely
knows the arcana of the Sun.
Ten centuries of life when she has told And
age-long t*me becomes a weariness, To win
again her years from that distress She flees
the grove, dear shelter from of old.
Seeking for life restored, she makes her way
From that high sacred plain to lower earth: She
who would gain the pr*ze of newer birth
Must seek it in these lands where death hold sway.
Upon swift wings to Syria now she glides—
Phoenicia named by her in ages spent
And through its trackless wastes she quests intent, And
wooded steeps where tranquil peace abides.
A stately palm her harbor she will make,
Of kind still counted hers in Hellene speech:
Into its leaves no harmful thing can reach, No
bird of rending claw, no sliding snake.
And now Aeolus locks all winds that blow In
skyey caverns, lest they wake the storm
Or from the south bring clouds of massy form To
hide the Sun and work the Phoenix woe.
And now a fragrant cradle-tomb she weaves
Wherein to die, wherein new life to find: Culling
from bounteous forests bud and rind, Assyrian
balsams, sweet Arabian leaves.
Such spice as Egypt, as the Indian shore Can
yield, with odorous gums of Saba blest And
cinnamon she gathers for her nest And scent
far-breathing of amomus' store.
Nor cassia nor acanthus fails to her
Nor sumptuous frankincense with falling tears:
Nor lacks she spikenard's tender downy ears
Companioned well with Panachaean myrrh.
Her nest adorned. her transient frame is laid
Within, reposing there her shrunken thews: Then
with her beak the fragrant herbs she strews Above,
around, in obsequies self-made.
Undoubting, to the balsams she confides
Her life, that theb the precious pledge protect:
The while her body by strange fever wrecked
Takes airy flame till only ash abides.
This ash she draws. as if by water's deed,
To form a welded mass coagulate
And in her death it holds to such a state
As shall fulfill the purpose of a seed.
From hence there comes a living thing, we hear,
Limbless, whose hue a milky wh*teness shows:
This greatly in a sudden season grows,
Become an egg, full-rounded as a sphere.
As bright-winged butterflies disclose their shapes
From husks thread-fastened to some rustic stone,
So in that egg the Phoenix to her own
True form is wrought, then from the shell escapes.
She takes no food that is accustomed here,
Her fledgling days no watchful guardian tends:
She only takes that nectar which descends,
Mysterious vapor, from the starr= sphere.
So strengthens she, so feeds her youthful age.
So dwells she in her aromatic nest
Until her wings in first full plumage dressed
Would seek anew their ancient heritage.
But first the shell that held her she must seek
And any fragment left of ash or bone, With
balsams blending all that was her own, A
careful globe to shape with pious beak.
This in her claws she takes when all is done,
To lay upon an altar known of yore
Whither her great plumes bear her, to the shore
Of Egypt, and the City of the Sun.
Into the city swiftly she takes wing
And swiftly through the temple's sacred space
And to the altar, where she rests. to place Upon
it her enbalsamed offering.
Wondrous to all beholders is the sight,
So fair, with such nobility replete:
At first as grain of ripe pomgarnets, sweet
Beneath their rind, appears her color bright.
As scarlet of the meadow-poppy shows
In flush of dawn on Flora's robe outspread. So
on the Phoenix' shoulders, breast and head And
on her back the lovely color glows.
Her splendid tail has metal's fulvous sheen
Rubied with purple spots that changeful blaze,
And on her wings the light illusive plays As Iris'
bow amid the heavens seen.
Emerald-tinged, her bill of lucent white
Gleams gem-like when its slender cusps she parts:
Her eyes great jacinths seem, and forth there darts
Between the twain a flame of living light.
A coronal of rays, in form as those
Of glorious Phoebus, round her head shine clear.
Her legs are golden-scaled: but yet appear Her
claws more exquisite. of deepest rose.
Somewhat her semblance does the peacock wear,
And Colchis' painted pheasant: with her size,
Ostrich that runs, or mighty roc that flies In lands
Arabian, hardly may compare.
Yet moves she not as birds large-bodied do
By heaviness condemned to slothful wings:
She to each movement joy and swiftness brings,
With grace majestic vet to human view.
All Egypt hither comes to feast its eyes,
The crowd extoll*ng loud a sight so brave:
Her shape on sacred marble they engrave,
The day with title new to solemnize.
And now with company of varied song,
Unbidden escort winged, she will away:
No bird there is that harbors thought of prey
And none knows fear in all that festal throng.
But when their plumes in purer breezes lift
Amid the higher airs, the attendant band
Drops back: she seeks alone her own true land,
She, blest. self-born, and by her own God's gift!
O happy Phoenix!—female, male. the twain
Or neither sex: no bond of love she would:
Her love is death, since death to her is good
And brings her joy, another life to gain.
Herself her sire and author of her breath,
Her heir. her fosterling, her guardian true:
HERSELF, YET OTHER: SELF AND NOT-SELF TOO—
Adept of endless life by dower of death]