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Title: The Old English Physiologus

Translator: Albert S. Cook

Author: Cynewulf

Translator: James Hall Pitman

Release date: December 30, 2004 [eBook #14529]
Most recently updated: December 19, 2020

Language: English, Old English

Credits: Produced by David Starner, Ben Beasley and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team


Yale Studies in English
Albert S. Cook, Editor
Old English Physiologus
Text and Prose Translation
Albert Stanburrough Cook
Professor of the English Language and Literature in Yale University
Verse Translation
James Hall Pitman
Fellow in English of Yale University
New Haven: Yale University Press
London: Humphrey Milford
Oxford University Press


The Old English Physiologus, or Bestiary, is a series of three brief poems, dealing with the mythical traits of a land-animal, a sea-beast, and a bird respectively, and deducing from them certain moral or religious lessons. These three creatures are selected from a much larger number treated in a work of the same name which was compiled at Alexandria before 140 B. C., originally in Greek, and afterwards translated into a variety of languages—into Latin before 431. The standard form of the Physiologus has 49 chapters, each dealing with a separate animal (sometimes imaginary) or other natural object, beginning with the lion, and ending with the ostrich; examples of these are the pelican, the eagle, the phoenix, the ant (cf. Prov. 6.6), the fox, the unicorn, and the salamander. In this standard text, the Old English poems are represented by chapters 16, 17, and 18, dealing in succession with the panther, a mythical sea-monster called the asp-turtle (usually denominated the whale), and the partridge. Of these three poems, the third is so fragmentary that little is left except eight lines of religious application, and four of exhortation by the poet, so that the outline of the poem, and especially the part descriptive of the partridge, must be conjecturally restored by reference to the treatment in the fuller versions, which are based upon Jer. 17. 11 (the texts drawn upon for the application in lines 5–11 are 2 Cor. 6. 17, 18; Isa. 55.7; Heb. 2. 10, 11).

It has been said: ‘With the exception of the Bible, there is perhaps no other book in all literature that has been more widely current in every cultivated tongue and among every class of people.’ Such currency might be illustrated from many English authors. Two passages from Elizabethan literature may serve as specimens—the one from Spenser, the other from Shakespeare. The former is from the Faerie Queene (1. 11.34):

At last she saw, where he upstarted brave
Out of the well, wherein he drenched lay;
As Eagle fresh out of the Ocean wave,
Where he hath left his plumes all hoary gray,
And deckt himselfe with feathers youthly gay,
Like Eyas hauke up mounts unto the skies,
His newly budded pineons to assay,
And marveiles at himselfe, still as he flies:
So new this new-borne knight to battell new did rise.

The other is from Hamlet (Laertes to the King):

To his good friends thus wide I’ll ope my arms;
And like the kind life-rendering pelican,
Repast them with my blood.[1]

However widely diffused, the symbolism exemplified by the Physiologus is peculiarly at home in the East. Thus Egypt symbolized the sun, with his death at night passing into a rebirth, by the phœnix, which, by a natural extension, came to signify the resurrection. And the Bible not only sends the sluggard to the ant, and bids men consider the lilies of the field, but with a large sweep commands (Job 12.7,8): ‘Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee; or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.’

The text as here printed is extracted from my edition, The Old English Elenc, Phœnix, and Physiologus (Yale University Press, 1919), where a critical apparatus may be found; here it may be sufficient to say that Italic letters in square brackets denote my emendations, and Roman letters those of previous editors. The translations have not hitherto been published, and no complete ones are extant in any language, save those contained in Thorpe’s edition of the Codex Exoniensis, which appeared in 1842. The long conjectural passage in the Partridge is due wholly to Mr. Pitman.

A. S. C.
March 27, 1921.


The Panther

Monge sindongeond middangeard
unrīmu cynn,[þāra] þe wē æþelu ne magon
ryhte āreccannē rīm witan;
þæs wīde sindgeond wor[u]l[d] innan
5 fugla and dēorafoldhrērendras,
wornas widsceope,swā wæter bibūgeð
þisne beorhtan bōsm,brim grymetende,
sealtȳpa geswing.Wē bi sumum hȳrdon

wrǣtlīc[um] gecynd[e]wildra secgan,
10 fīrum frēamǣrne,feorlondum on,
eard weardian,ēðles nēotan,
æfter dūnscrafum.Is þæt dēor Pandher
bi noman hāten,þæs þe niþþa bear[n],

Of living creatures many are the kinds
Throughout the world—unnumbered, since no man
Can count their multitudes, nor rightly learn
The ways of their wild nature; wide they roam,
These beasts and birds, as far as ocean sets
A limit to the earth, embracing her
And all her sunny fields with salty seas
And toss of roaring billows.We have heard

From men of wider lore of one wild beast,
Wonderful dweller in a far-off land
Renowned of men, who loves his native glens
And dusky caverns. Him have wise men called

Many, yea numberless, are the tribes throughout the world whose natures we can not rightly expound nor their multitudes reckon, so immense are the swarms of birds and earth-treading animals wherever water, the roaring ocean, the surge of salt billows, encompasses the smiling bosom of earth.

We have heard about one marvelous kind of wild beast which inhabits, in lands far off, a domain renowned among men, rejoicing there in his home amid the mountain-caves. This beast is called panther, as the learned

wīsfæste weras,on gewritum cȳþa[ð]
15 bi þām ānstapan.Sē is ǣ[g]hwām frēond,

duguða ēstig,būtan dracan ānum;
þām hē in ealle tīdandwrāð leofaþ,
þurh yfla gehwylcþe hē geæfnan mæg.

Ðæt is wrǣtlīc dēor,wundrum scȳne,
20 hīwa gehwylces.Swā hæleð secgað,
gǣsthālge guman,þætte Iōsēphes
tunece wǣretelga gehwylces
blēom bregdende,þāra beorhtra gehwylc,
ǣghwæs ǣnlīcra,ōþrum līxte
25 dryhta bearnum,swā þæs dēores hīw,
blǣc, brigda gehwæs,beorhtra and scȳnra
wundrum līxeð,þætte wrǣtlīcra
ǣghwylc ōþrum,ǣnlīcra gīen
and fǣgerra,frætwum blīceð,
30 symle sellīcra.Hē hafað sundorgecynd,

The panther, and in books have told of him,
The solitary rover. He is kind,

A bounteous friend to every living thing
Save one alone, the dragon; but with him
The panther ever lives at enmity,
Employing every means within his power
To work him evil. Fair is he, full bright

And wonderful of hue. The holy scribes
Tell us how Joseph’s many-colored coat,
Gleaming with varying dyes of every shade,
Brilliant, resplendent, dazzled all men’s eyes
That looked upon it. So the panther’s hues
Shine altogether lovely, marvelous,
While each fair color in its beauty glows
Ever more rare and charming than the rest.

His wondrous character is mild, and free

among the children of men report in their books concerning that lonely wanderer.

He is a friend, bountiful in kindness, to every one save only the dragon; with him he always lives at enmity by means of every injury he can inflict.

He is a bewitching animal, marvelously beautiful with every color. Just as, according to men holy in spirit, Joseph’s coat was variegated with hues of every shade, each shining before the sons of men brighter and more perfect than another, so does the color of this beast blaze with every diversity, gleaming in wondrous wise so clear and fair that each tint is ever lovelier than the next, glows more enchanting in its splendor, more rare, more beauteous, and more strange.

He has a nature all his own, so gentle and so calm is

milde, gemetfæst.Hē is monþwǣre,
lufsum and lēoftæl:nele lāþes wiht
ǣ[ng]um geæfnanbūtan þām āttorsceaþan,
his fyrngeflitan,þe ic ǣr fore sægde.

35 Symle, fylle fægen,þonne fōddor þigeð,
æfter þām gereordumræste sēceð,
dȳgle stōweunder dūnscrafum;
ðǣr se þēo[d]wigaþrēonihta fæc
swifeð on swe[o]fote,slǣpe gebiesga[d].
40 Þonne ellenrōfūp āstondeð,
þrymme gewelga[d],on þone þriddan dæg,
snēome of slǣpe.Swēghlēoþor cymeð,
wōþa wynsumast,þurh þæs wildres mūð;
æfter pære stefnestenc ūt cymeð
45 of þām wongstede—wynsumra stēam,
swēttra and swīþra,swæcca gehwylcum,
wyrta blōstmumand wudublēdum,
eallum æþelīcraeorþan frætw[um].

From all disturbing passion. Gracious, kind,
And full of love, he meditates no harm
But to that venomous foe, as I have told,
His ancient enemy. Once he has rejoiced

His heart with feasting, straight he finds a nook
Hidden among dim caves, his resting-place.
There three nights’ space, in deepest slumber wrapped,
The people’s champion lies. Then, stout of heart,
The third day he arises fresh from sleep,
Endowed with glory. From the creature’s mouth
Issues a melody of sweetest strains;
And close upon the voice a balmy scent
Fills all the place—an incense lovelier,
Sweeter, and abler to perfume the air,
Than any odor of an earthly flower
Or scent of woodland fruit, more excellent

it. Kind, attractive, and friendly, he has no thought of doing harm to any save the envenomed foe, his ancient adversary of whom I spoke.

When, delighting in a feast, he has partaken of food, ever at the end of the meal he betakes himself to his resting-place, a hidden retreat among the mountain-caves; there the champion of his race, overcome by sleep, abandons himself to slumber for the space of three nights. Then the dauntless one, replenished with vigor, straightway arises from sleep when the third day has come. A melody, the most ravishing of strains, flows from the wild beast’s mouth; and, following the music, there issues a fragrance from the place—a fume more transporting, sweet, and strong than any odor whatever, than blossoms of plants or fruits of the forest, choicer

Þonne of ceastrumand cynestōlum
50 and of burgsalumbeornþrēat monig
farað foldwegumfolca þrȳþum;
ēoredcystum,ofestum gefȳsde,
dareðlācende—dēor [s]wā some—
æfter þǣre stefneon þone stenc farað.

55 Swā is Dryhten God,drēama Rǣdend,
eallum ēaðmēdeōþrum gesceaftum,
duguða gehwylcre,būtan dracan ānum,
āttres ordfruman—þæt is se ealda fēond
þone hē gesǣldein sūsla grund,
60 and gefetradefȳrnum tēagum,
biþeahte þrēanȳdum;and þȳ þriddan dæge
of dīgle ārās,þæs þe hē dēað fore ūs
þrēo niht þolade,Þēoden engla,
sigora Sellend.Þæt wæs swēte stenc,
65 wlitig and wynsum,geond woruld ealle.
Siþþan tō þām swiccesōðfæste men,

Than all this world’s adornments. Then from town
And palace, then from castle-hall, come forth
Along the roads great troops of hurrying men—
The very beasts come also; all press on
Toward that sweet odor, when the voice is stilled.

Such as this creature is the Lord our God,
Giver of joys, to all creation kind,
To men benignant, save alone to him,
The dragon, author of all wickedness,
Satan, the ancient adversary whom,
Fettered with fire, shackled with dire constraint,
Into the pit of torments God cast down.
The third day Christ arose from out the grave,
For three nights having suffered death for us,
He, Lord of angels, he in whom alone
Is hope of overcoming. Far and wide
The tidings spread, like perfume fresh and sweet,
Through all the world. Then to that fragrance thronged

than aught that clothes the earth with beauty. Thereupon from cities, courts, and castle-halls many companies of heroes flock along the highways of earth; the wielders of the spear press forward in hurrying throngs to that perfume—and so also do animals—when once the music has ceased.

Even so the Lord God, the Giver of joy, is gracious to all creatures, to every order of them, save only the dragon, the source of venom, that ancient enemy whom he bound in the abyss of torments; shackling him with fiery fetters, and loading him with dire constraints, he arose from darkness on the third day after he, the Lord of angels, the Bestower of victory, had for three nights endured death on our behalf. That was a sweet perfume throughout the world, winsome and entrancing. Henceforth,

on healfa gehwone,hēapum þrungon
geond ealne ymbhwyrfteorþan scēat[a].
Swā se snottra gecwæðSanctus Paulus:
70 ‘Monigfealde sindgeond middangeard
gōd ungnȳðeþe ūs tō giefe dǣleð
and tō feorhnereFæder ælmihtig,
and se ānga Hyhtealra gesceafta
uppe ge niþre.’Þæt is æþele stenc.

From every side all men whose hearts were true,
Throughout the regions of the circled earth.
Thus spoke the wise St. Paul: ‘In all the world
His gifts are many, which he gives to us
For our salvation with unstinting hand,
Almighty Father, he, the only Hope
Of all in heaven or here below on earth.’
This is that noble fragrance, rare and sweet,
Which draws all men to seek it from afar.

through the whole extent of earth’s regions, righteous men have streamed in multitudes from every side to that fragrance. As said the wise St. Paul: ‘Manifold over the world are the lavish bounties which the Father almighty, the Hope of all creatures above and below, bestows on us as grace and salvation.’ That, too, is a sweet odor.

The Whale (Asp-Turtle)

Nū ic fitte gēnymb fisca cynn
wille wōðcræftewordum cȳþan
þurh mōdgemynd,bi þām miclan hwale.
Sē bið unwillumoft gemēted,
5 frēcne and fer[h]ðgrim,fareðlācendum,
niþþa gehwylcum;þām is noma cenned,
fyr[ge]nstrēama geflotan,Fastitocalon.

Is þæs hīw gelīchrēofum stāne,
swylce wōriebi wædes ōfre,
10 sondbeorgum ymbseald,sǣrȳrica mǣst,
swā þæt wēnaþwǣglīþende
þæt hȳ on ēalond sumēagum wlīten;
and þonne gehȳd[i]aðhēahstefn scipu
tō þām unlondeoncyrrāpum,
15 s[ǣ]laþ sǣmearassundes æt ende,

Now will I spur again my wit, and use
Poetic skill to weave words into song,
Telling of one among the race of fish,
The great asp-turtle. Men who sail the sea
Often unwillingly encounter him,
Dread preyer on mankind. His name we know,
The ocean-swimmer, Fastitocalon.

Dun, like rough stone in color, as he floats
He seems a heaving bank of reedy grass
Along the shore, with rolling dunes behind,
So that sea-wanderers deem their gaze has found
An island. Boldly then their high-prowed ships
They moor with cables to that shore, a land
That is no land. Still floating on the waves,
Their ocean-coursers curvet at the marge;

This time I will with poetic art rehearse, by means of words and wit, a poem about a kind of fish, the great sea-monster which is often unwillingly met, terrible and cruel-hearted to seafarers, yea, to every man; this swimmer of the ocean-streams is known as the asp-turtle.

His appearance is like that of a rough boulder, as if there were tossing by the shore a great ocean-reedbank begirt with sand-dunes, so that seamen imagine they are gazing upon an island, and moor their high-prowed ships with cables to that false land, make fast the ocean-coursers at the sea’s end, and, bold of heart, climb up

and þonne in þæt ēglondūp gewītað
collenfer[h]þe;cēolas stondað
bi staþe fæstestrēame biwunden.
Ðonne gewīciaðwērigfer[h]ðe,
20 faroðlācende,frēcnes ne wēnað.

On þām ēalondeǣled weccað,
hēah fyr ǣlað.Hæleþ bēoþ on wynnum,
rēonigmōde,ræste gel[y]ste.
Þonne gefēleðfācnes cræftig
25 þæt him þā fērend onfæste wuniaþ,
wīc weardiað,wedres on luste,
ðonne semningaon sealtne wǣg
mid þā nōþeniþer gewīteþ,
gārsecges gæst,grund gesēceð,
30 and þonne in dēaðseledrence bifæsteð
scipu mid scealcum.Swā bið scinn[en]a þēaw,

dēofla wīse,þæt hī droht[i]ende
þurh dyrne meahtduguðe beswīcað,
and on teosu tyhtaþtilra dǣda,
35 wēmað on willan,þæt hȳ wraþe sēcen,

The weary-hearted sailors mount the isle,
And, free from thought of peril, there abide.

Elated, on the sands they build a fire,
A mounting blaze. There, light of heart, they sit—
No more discouraged—eager for sweet rest.
Then when the crafty fiend perceives that men,
Encamped upon him, making their abode,
Enjoy the gentle weather, suddenly
Under the salty waves he plunges down,
Straight to the bottom deep he drags his prey;
He, guest of ocean, in his watery haunts
Drowns ships and men, and fast imprisons them
Within the halls of death. Such is the way

Of demons, devils’ wiles: to hide their power,
And stealthily inveigle heedless men,
Inciting them against all worthy deeds,
And luring them to seek for help and comfort

on that island; the vessels stand by the beach, enringed by the flood. The weary-hearted sailors then encamp, dreaming not of peril.

On the island they start a fire, kindle a mounting flame. The dispirited heroes, eager for repose, are flushed with joy. Now when the cunning plotter feels that the seamen are firmly established upon him, and have settled down to enjoy the weather, the guest of ocean sinks without warning into the salt wave with his prey (?), and makes for the bottom, thus whelming ships and men in that abode of death.

Such is the way of demons, the wont of devils: they spend their lives in outwitting men by their secret power, inciting them to the corruption of good deeds, misguiding

frōfre tō fēondum,oþþæt hy fæste ðǣr
æt þām wǣrloganwīc gecēosað.
Þonne þæt gecnāweðof cwicsūsle
flāh fēond gemāh,þætte fīra gehwylc
40 hæleþa cynneson his hringe biþ
fæste gefēged,hē him feorgbona,
þurh slīþen searo,siþþan weorþeð,
wloncum and hēanumþe his willan hēr
firenum fremmað;mid þām hē fǣringa,
45 heoloþhelme biþeaht,helle sēceð,
gōda gēasne,grundlēasne wylm
under mistglōme,swā se micla hwæl
se þe bisenceðsǣlīþende
eorlas and ȳðmearas.Hē hafað ōþre gecynd,

50 wæterþisa wlonc,wrǣtlīcran gīen.
Þonne hine on holmehunger bysgað,
and þone āglǣcanǣtes lysteþ,
ðonne se mereweardmūð ontȳneð,

From unsuspected foes, until at last
They choose a dwelling with the faithless one.
Then, when the fiend, by crafty malice stirred,
From where hell’s torments bind him fast, perceives
That men are firmly set in his domain,
With treachery unspeakable he hastes
To snare and to destroy the lives of those,
Both proud and lowly, who in sin perform
His will on earth. Donning the mystic helm
Of darkness, with his prey he speeds to hell,
The place devoid of good—all misty gloom,
Where broods a sullen lake, black, bottomless,
Just as the monster, Fastitocalon,
Destroys seafarers, overwhelming men
And staunch-built ships. Another trait he has,

This proud sea-swimmer, still more marvelous.
When hunger grips the monster on the deep,
Making him long for food, his gaping mouth
The ocean-warder opens, stretching wide

them at will so that they seek help and support from fiends, until they end by making their fixed abode with the betrayer. When, from out his living torture, the crafty, malicious enemy perceives that any one is firmly settled within his domain, he proceeds, by his malignant wiles, to become the slayer of that man, be he rich or poor, who sinfully does his will; and, covered by his cap of darkness, suddenly betakes himself with them to hell, where naught of good is found, a bottomless abyss shrouded in misty gloom—like that monster which engulfs the ocean-traversing men and ships.'

This proud tosser of the waves has another and still more wonderful trait. When hunger plagues him on the deep, and the monster longs for food, this haunter of the sea opens his mouth, and sets his lips agape;

wīde weleras;cymeð wynsum stenc
55 of his innoþe,þætte ōþre þurh þone,
sǣfisca cynn,beswicen weorðaþ.
Swimmað sundhwateþǣr se swēta stenc
ūt gewīt[e]ð.Hī þǣr in farað,
unware weorude,oþþæt se wīda ceafl
60 gefylled bið;þonne fǣringa
ymbe þā herehūþehlemmeð tōgædre
grimme gōman.Swā biþ gumena gehwām

se þe oftost hisunwærlīce,
on þās lǣnan tīd,līf biscēawað:
65 lǣteð hine beswīcanþurh swētne stenc,
lēasne willan,þæt hē biþ leahtrum fāh
wið Wuldorcyning.Him se āwyrgda ongēan
æfter hinsīþehelle ontȳneð,
þām þe lēaslīcelīces wynne
70 ofer ferh[ð]gereahtfremedon on unrǣd.
Þonne se fǣcnain þām fæstenne
gebrōht hafað,bealwes cræftig,

His monstrous lips; and from his cavernous maw
Sends an entrancing odor. This sweet scent,
Deceiving other fishes, lures them on
In swiftly moving schools toward that fell place
Whence comes the perfume. There, unwary host,
They enter in, until the yawning mouth
Is filled to overflowing, when, at once,
Trapping their prey, the fearful jaws snap shut.

So, in this fleeting earthly time, each man
Who orders heedlessly his mortal life
Lets a sweet odor, some beguiling wish,
Entice him, so that in the eyes of God,
The King of glory, his iniquities
Make him abhorrent. After death for him
The all-accursed devil opens hell—
Opens for all who in their folly here
Let pleasures of the body overcome
Their spirits’ guidance. When the wily fiend
Into his hold beside the fiery lake

whereupon there issues a ravishing perfume from his inwards, by which other kinds of fish are beguiled. With lively motions they swim to where the sweet odor comes forth, and there enter in, a heedless host, until the wide gorge is full; then, in one instant, he snaps his fierce jaws together about the swarming prey.

Thus it is with any one who, in this fleeting time, full oft neglects to take heed to his life, and allows himself to be enticed by sweet fragrance, a lying lure, so that he becomes hostile to the King of glory by reason of his sins. The accursed one will, when they die, throw wide the doors of hell to those who, in their folly, have wrought the treacherous delights of the body, contrary to the wise guidance of the soul. When the deceiver, skilful in wrongdoing, hath brought into that fastness,

æt þām [ā]dwylme,þā þe him on cleofiað,
gyltum gehrodene,and ǣr georne his
75 in hira līfdagumlārum hȳrdon,
þonne he þā grimmangōman bihlemmeð,
æfter feorhcwale,fæste tōgædre,
helle hlinduru.Nāgon hwyrft nē swice,
ūtsīþ ǣfre,þā [þe] þǣr in cumað,
80 þon mā þe þā fiscas,faraðlācende,
of þæs hwæles fengehweorfan mōtan.

Forþon is eallinga . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

dryhtna Dryhtne, and ā dēoflum wiðsace
85 wordum and weorcum,þæt wē Wuldorcyning
gesēon mōton.Uton ā sibbe tō him,
on þās hwīlnan tīd,hǣlu sēcan,
þæt wē mid swā lēofnein lofe mōtan
tō wīdan feorewuldres nēotan.

With evil craft has led those erring ones
Who cleave to him, sore laden with their sins,
Those who in earthly life have hearkened well
To his instruction, after death close shut
He snaps those woful jaws, the gates of hell.
Whoever enters there has no relief,
Nor may he any more escape his doom
And thence depart, than can the swimming fish
Elude the monster. Therefore it is [best

And[2]] altogether [right for each of us
To serve and honor God,[2]] the Lord of lords,
And always in our every word and deed
To combat devils, that we may at last
Behold the King of glory. In this time
Of transitory things, then, let us seek
Peace and salvation from him, that we may
Rejoice for ever in so dear a Lord,
And praise his glory everlastingly.

the lake of fire, those that cleave to him and are laden with guilt, such as had eagerly followed his teachings in the days of their life, he then, after their death, snaps tight together his fierce jaws, the gates of hell. They who enter there have neither relief nor escape, no means of flight, any more than the fishes that swim the sea can escape from the clutch of the monster.

Therefore is it by all means [best for every one of us to serve[2]] the Lord of lords, and strive against devils with words and works, that so we may come to behold the King of glory. Let us ever, now in this fleeting time, seek from him grace and salvation, that so with the Beloved we may in worship enjoy the bliss of heaven for evermore.

The Partridge[3]

Hȳrde ic secgan gēnbi sumum fugle
wundorlīcne[5] . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
þæt word þe gecwæðwuldres Ealdor:
5 ‘In swā hwylce tiidswā gē mid trēowe tō mē
on hyge hweorfað,and gē hellfirena
sweartra geswīcað,swā ic symle tō ēow
mid siblufansōna gecyrre
þurh milde mōd;gē bēoð mē siþþan

About another creature have I heard
A wondrous [tale.] [There is] a bird [men call
The partridge. Strange is she, unlike all birds
In field or wood who brood upon their eggs,
Hatching their young. The partridge lays no eggs,
Nor builds a dwelling; but instead, she steals
The well-wrought nests of others. There she sits,
Warming a stranger brood, until at last
The eggs are hatched. But when the stolen chicks
Are fledged, they straightway fly away to seek
Their proper kin, and leave the partridge there
Forsaken. In such wise the devil works
To steal the souls of those whose youthful minds
Or foolish hearts in vain resist his wiles.
But when they reach maturer age, they see
They are true children of the Lord of lords.
Then they desert the lying fiend, and seek
Their rightful Father, who with open arms
Receives them, as he long since promised them.[7]]

Fair is that word the Lord of glory spoke:
‘In such time as you turn with faithful hearts
To me, and put away your hellish sins,
Abominable to me, then will I turn
To you in love for ever, for my heart
Is mild and gracious. Thenceforth you shall be

So, too, I have heard tell a wondrous [tale[4]] about a certain bird.[5] … fair the word[6] spoken by the King of glory: ‘At whatsoever time ye turn to me with faith in your soul, and forsake the black iniquities of hell, I will turn straightway to you with love, in the gentleness of my heart; and thenceforth ye shall be reckoned to

10 torhte, tīrēadge,talade and rīmde,
beorhte gebrōþoron bearna stǣl.’

Uton wē þȳ geornorGode ōliccan,
firene fēogan,friþes earnian,
duguðe tō Dryhtne,þenden ūs dæg scīne,
15 þæt swā æþelneeardwīca cyst
in wuldres wlitewunian mōtan.


Refulgent, glorious, numbered with the host
Of heaven, and, instead of children, called
Bright brethren of the Lord.’ Let us by this

Be taught to please God better, hating sin,
And strive to earn salvation from the Lord,
His full deliverance, so long as day
Shall shine upon us, that we may at last
Inhabit heavenly mansions, nobler far
Than earthly dwellings, gloriously bright.


me as glorious and renowned, as my illustrious brethren, yea, in the place of children.’

Let us therefore propitiate God with all zeal, abhor evil, and gain forgiveness and salvation from the Lord while for us the day still shines, so that thus we may, in glorious beauty, inhabit a dwelling excellent beyond compare. Finit.

Footnote 1: Alfred de Musset, in La Nuit de Mai, develops the image of the pelican through nearly thirty lines.
Footnote 2: Conjecturally supplied.
Footnote 3: The partridge (like the cuckoo) broods the eggs of other birds. When they are hatched and grown, they fly off to their true parents. So men may turn from the devil, who has wrongfully gained possession of them, to their heavenly Father, who will receive them as his children.
Footnote 4: Conjecturally supplied.
Footnote 5: Gap in the manuscript, probably of considerable length.
Footnote 6: Cf. 2 Cor. 6. 17, 18; Isa. 55. 7; Heb. 2. 10, 11.
Footnote 7: Conjecturally supplied, on the basis of other versions.