Friday, October 26, 2007

The phoenix

I'm reading the Travels of John Mandeville which was written in 1356 and became a best-seller. He was an English knight from St. Albans and travelled to the Holy Land, Egypt, India and China in the first half of the 14th century and the account he wrote of his adventures became the standard travel guide to the East for several hundred years. It's full of geographical and historical detail as well as local gossip and legend. Take this piece about Heliopolis in Egypt:
"In this city is a temple round like the Temple of Jerusalem. The priest of that temple has a book in which is written the birthdate of a bird that is called the Phoenix; and there is only one in all the world. And this bird lives for five hundred years, and at the end of every five hundredth year it comes to the temple and burns himself all to powder on the altar. And the priest of the temple, who from his book knew the time of the bird's coming, makes the altar ready and lays on it divers spices and sulphur vivum and twigs of the juniper tree, and other things that burn quickly. And then the bird comes and alights on the altar, and fans with his wings until the things mentioned be alight; and there he burns himself to ashes. On the morrow they find in the ashes as it were a worm; on the second day that worm has turned into a perfectly formed bird; and on the third day it flies away from that place to where it normally lives...This bird is often seen soaring about, when the weather is fair and clear; and men say there, when they see the bird soaring in the air, that there will be good, happy years, for it is a bird of Heaven. This bird is no greater than an eagle in body; he has on his head a crest like a peacock, but it is much greater than a peacock's. His neck is yellow, his back indigo; his wings are red and his tail is barred across with green and yellow and red. And in the sunlight he seems marvellously beautiful, for these are the colours that shine most fairly."

13 Comments:

Blogger Eurodog said...

Beautiful, WW.

8:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm going to have to save the hi'falutin' stuff until I've woken up..

Check this out instead..

http://www.chambersharrap.co.uk/chambers/features/wordwatch/index.shtml

One is reminded of those 'Damaris' knickers you mentioned some months past.. However, now that it is Autumn, surely we should form a private equity fund to takeover 'Damaris' and merge it with 'Damart', because I'm sure in this climate there must be a market for underwear which has the sex appeal of the former, with the thermal benefits of the latter..

Sorry to lower the tone, WW, but I know from past experience that even posh girls like a bit of rough occasionally..

9:14 am  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

I don't think I did mention Damaris knickers...Are you sure you're not thinking of my friend Claudia?

9:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Babe, I'd never heard of them until you did - I had to look the name up on Google ;-]

10:42 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Yes, beautiful, and eloquent, so vivid too. I imagine this wonderous bird is now extinct. But it can live on in our imagination.

10:44 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's that quote - not that you need to 'approve' this post - although it does make one realise that blogging 'ripples' can carry on traversing the pond for a very long way...

http://www.wifeinthenorth.com/2007/02/just-one-of-those-days.html

10:47 am  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

Ohhh...didn't think I'd written about them on my blog...I'm glad you're keeping a dossier of my comments for my biography!

10:53 am  
Blogger Eurodog said...

What in the world do Damaris knickers have to do with this? I too looked them up on google and the answer to my question is nothing. Or maybe I am plain stupid!

11:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Eurodog, I'm not a morning person, so I wasn't up to anything classical when I first got up today...

But remember serendipity and synchronicity rely on exploiting chance encounters and exploring random events...

2:11 pm  
Blogger kinglear said...

Well, I have two things to say about Damaris. The first is that at the prices they charge for tiny wispy bits of gauze they should be making a fortune. The second is, as a man, I can only thank you for pointing me in the right direction....
ww - is this not the chap that William Dalrymple wrote about in A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium?

3:30 pm  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

You may be right KL - I haven't read that

3:36 pm  
Blogger kinglear said...

Someone just introduced me to the works of Rumi - Persian poet a la Omar Khyamm - well worth a read.

7:59 am  
Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Fasbulous - and beautiful.

7:37 pm  

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