fragment from the old Anglo-Saxon Poem:


In that wood a bird inhabits, wonderfully handsome, strong of wings, which is called Phoenix. There this creature unparalleled keeps her dwelling and, courageous of heart, her way of life; never shall death harm her in that pleasant plateau while the world remains. She is accustomed to observe the sun’s course and to address herself towards God’s candle, the brilliant gem, and eagerly to watch for when the noblest of stars comes up over the billowy sea, gleaming from the east, the ancient work of the Father ornately glinting, God’s radiant token. The stars are hidden, gone below the ocean in the western regions, obscured in the dawning, and the dark gloomy night departs. Then the bird, powerful in flight, exultant in her wings, gazes eagerly upon the main beneath the sky, across the water, until the lamp of the firmament comes gliding up from the east above the broad sea. As the noble bird, unchangingly beautiful, frequents the welling streams at the fountain-head, there the glory-blessed creature washes herself in the brook twelve times before the advent of the beacon, the candle of the firmament, and ever as often at each washing sips water cold as the sea from the pleasant well-springs. Then after splashing in the water, exalted in mood she betakes herself up into a tall tree from where she may most easily observe the journey on the eastern paths, when the taper of the firmament, a lamp of light, brightly glints over the tossing of the deep. The land is embellished, the world beautified, when across the expanse of the ocean the gem of heaven, of stars the most glorious, illumines the earth throughout the world.

As soon as the sun high overtops the salt streams then this shining grey bird goes from the tree, out of the grove, and swift on her wings she takes flight upon the air and makes melody and sings towards the firmament. Then so lovely is the bird’s articulation, so inspired her heart, ecstatically jubilant, she modulates her singing more wondrously, with clear voice, than ever a daughter of man heard below the heavens since the exalted King, Creator of glory, founded the world, the heaven and the earth. The harmony of the song is sweeter and more beautiful than all musical instruments and more delightful than every melody. Not trumpets, nor horns, nor the sound of the harp, nor the voice of any man on earth, nor the strain of the organ’s melody, nor the wings of the swan, nor any of the joys which the Lord created for men’s mirth in this mournful world may match that effusion. So she sings and makes melody, joyously enraptured, until the sun has sunk in the southern sky; then she falls silent and takes to listening. Intrepid, discerning in her contemplation, she upturns her head, and three times beats her swift-flighted wings; then the bird is silenced. Always, twelve times by day and by night, she marks the hours.

okay I’ve taken a few liberties, changed the gender but it is still a beautiful image.

The whole poem is available here:



6 thoughts on “I AM PHOENIX

    1. I would imagine it pre-dates christianity as an oral poem, but I’m not aware of a written version. i did study anglo-saxon poetry at university, but it was a long,long time ago


    2. Been reading up on it the anglo-saxon version comes from a latin version, which obviously infused the christian elements. I’m afraid the original version may be lost


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