Thus by the great sages it is affirmed that the Phoenix dies, and then is born again when she draws nigh to her 500th year. In her life, she feeds not on herb or grain, but only on the tears of incense and ammonum; and nard and myyrh are her last winding sheet.
Dante’s Inferno XXIV line 97
Histories vol 2, (page 73 in some versions.)
There is another holy bird, called the Phoenix,
which I have never seen but in pictures. He rarely appears in Egypt - only
once in every 500 years, so they say in Heliopolis- and he is supposed
to comewhen his ( male) father dies. If the painter describes him truly,
his plumage is part golden and part red, and he is very like an eagle in
shape and size. They say that this bird comes from Arabia, bringing
the body of his father embalmed in myrrh to the temple of the sun, and
there he buries him. First he molds an egg of myrrh; then he puts his father
in the middle of it. Lastly, he covers up the body with myrrh. This is
what they say this bird does. But I do not believe them.
From John Milton, "Samson Agonistes"
Depressed and overthrown, as seemed,
Like that self-begotten bird,
in the Arabian woods embossed,
That knows no second or third,
And lay erstwhile a holocaust
From out her ashy womb now teemed,
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most
When most unactive deemed;
And, though her body die, her fame survives,
a secular bird, ages of lives.
( Secular, latin saecula, living through the
More on The Phoenix:
Symbolism of the Phoenix
Bulfinch's History of the Phoenix
The Phoenix in China
The Phoenix and Shakespeare
More information on the Phoenix:
Gareth Long's Encyclopedia of Monsters, Mythical Creatures and Fabulous Beasts- The Phoenix
by Arthur Christopher Benson
By feathers green, across Casbeen
The pilgrims track the Phoenix flown,
By gems he strew'd in waste and wood,
And jewell'd plumes at random thrown:
Till wandering far, by moon and star,
They stand beside the fruitful pyre,
Where breaking bright with sanguine light
The impulsive bird forgets his sire.
Those ashes shine like ruby wine,
Like bag of Tyrian murex spilt,
The claw, the jowl of the flying fowl
Are with the glorious anguish gilt.
So rare the light, so rich the sight,
Those pilgrim men, on profit bent,
Drop hands and eyes and merchandise,
And are with gazing most content.