Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Pelican
By Thomas Dekker (c. 1570–1632)
From Four Birds of Noah’s Ark

THE THIRD bird that I call out of Noah’s ark, is the pelican. The nature of the pelican is to peck her own bosom, and with the drops of her blood to feed her young ones; so in our prayers we must (in the love that we bear to God) beat at our breasts till (with the bleeding drops of a contrite and repentant heart) we have fed our souls with the nourishment of everlasting life. The pelican is content to yield up her own life to save others: so in our prayers, we must be willing to yield up all the pleasures of the world, and to kill all the desires of the body for the preservation of the soul. As Christ therefore suffered abuses before His death, and agonies at the time of His death (both of them being to the number principally of ten) so (because our pelican is a figure of Him in His passion) doth this third bird take ten flights; at every flight her wings bearing up a prayer, to defend us from those sins for which Christ died. The abuses and agonies which Christ put up and suffered (being in number ten) are these: First, the betraying of Him by one of His own servants: Secondly, the buffeting of Him, and scourging Him in the open hall by His own nation: Thirdly, His arraignment and condemnation, when nothing could be proved against Him: Fourthly, the compelling of Him to carry His own cross, when already He had undertaken to carry on His back all our sins: Fifthly, the nailing of Him to the tree of shame: Sixthly, the crowning of Him in scorn, with a crown of thorns: Seventhly, the hanging of two common thieves in His company: Eighthly, the giving of vinegar and gall to Him when He was thirsty: Ninthly, the sorrows of hell, which He felt when in the unspeakable anguish of His soul He was forced to cry, Eli, Eli, Lama Sabacthani. And lastly, the piercing of His glorious side with a spear. These are the ten wings with which Christ (our pelican) flew to His death. Now cast up your eyes and behold, and listen with your ears and hear, what ten notes our pelican maketh coming out of Noah’s ark.

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