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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Pelican
Bestiaries and Lapidaries
Guillaume le Clerc de Normandie (Thirteenth Century)
 
THE PELICAN is a wonderful bird which dwells in the region about the river Nile. The written history 1 tells us that there are two kinds,—those which dwell in the river and eat nothing but fish, and those which dwell in the desert and eat only insects and worms. There is a wonderful thing about the pelican, for never did mother-sheep love her lamb as the pelican loves its young. When the young are born, the parent bird devotes all his care and thought to nourishing them. But the young birds are ungrateful, and when they have grown strong and self-reliant they peck at their father’s face, and he, enraged at their wickedness, kills them all.  1
  On the third day the father comes to them, deeply moved with pity and sorrow. With his beak he pierces his own side, until the blood flows forth. With the blood he brings back life into the body of his young. 2  2
 
Note 1. The reference here is probably to the ‘Liber de Bestiis et Aliis Rebus’ of Hugo de St. Victor. [back]
Note 2. There are many allusions in literature to this story. Cf. Shakespeare,—
  “Like the kind life-rendering pelican,
Repast them with my blood.”
—‘Hamlet,’ iv. 5.    
  “Those pelican daughters.”—Lear, iii. 4. Cf. also the beautiful metaphor of Alfred de Musset, in his ‘Nuit de Mai.’ [back]
 
 
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