Texts : Physiologus

Theobaldus Physiologus

This version of the Physiologus is commonly attributed to Theobaldus Episcopus, who may have been an eleventh century abbot of Monte Cassino. There are 12 chapters. The Latin text (left column) and English translation (right column) are taken from Rendell (slightly modified).

1. De Leone / Of the Lion

Tres leo naturas et tres habet inde figuras
Quas ego Christe tibi bis seno carmine scripsi
Altera divini memorant animalia libri
De quibus apposui, que rursus mystica novi
Temptans diversis si possum scribere metris
Et numerum solidum complent animalia solum
Nam leo stans fortis super alta cacumina montis
Qualicunque via vallis descendit ad ima
Si venatorem per naris sentit odorem
Cauda cuncta linit, quae pes vestigia figit
Quatenus inde suum non posset cernere lustrum
Natus non vigilat dum sol se tercio girat
Sed rugitum dans pater eius resuscitat ipsum
Tunc quasi viviscit et sensus quinque capiscit
Et quotiens dormit nunquam sua lumina claudit
Sic tibi (qui celsi resides in culmine coeli)
Cum libuit tandem terrenam visere partem
Ut genus humanum relevares crimine lapsum
Non penitus notum fuit ulli demoniorum
Viscera Mariae tibi Christe fuere cubile
Et qui to genuit triduum post surgere fecit
Cum mortis vindex mortem crucis ipse subires
In nos custodes qui nullo tempore dormis
Pervigil ut pastor ne demat de grege raptor.

Three natures of lions have a mystical meaning.
These I have written to you, O Christ, in metrical verses.
Divine writings tell the tale of other creatures of nature,
Of which poems I have made, and again with a mystical meaning,
Writing of them, if I can, in verses of different metre,
These living creatures alone complete the full count of their number.
The lion stands in his might on the highest peak of the mountain,
By whatsoever road he descends to the depth of the valley,
If through his sense of smell he perceives the approach of a hunter,
He rubs out with his tail, all the marks which his feet may have printed,
So that none most skilled can tell what road he has travelled,
Cubs, new born, do not live until the sun three courses has finished,
Then with a roar the Lion arouses his cub from his slumbers,
When he begins to live, and gains all five of his senses,
Now whenever he sleeps his eyelids never are closed.
Thus to you, Christ, who dwell above the height of the heavens,
When to the earth you came at your will at the end of the ages,
That you might redeem all men, now in wickedness fallen,
It was not known at the time, to any one of the Demons,
That for you, Christ, your bed should be the womb of the Virgin,
That your Father would cause you to rise at the end of the third day,
And yourself would undergo death though of death the Avenger,
You of us men the Guard, whose eye never closes in slumber,
Shepherd, you guard your flock evermore from assault of the Demons.

2. De Aquila / Of the Eagle

Esse ferunt aquilam super omne volatile primam,
Quae se sic renovat quando senecta gravat.
Fons ubi sit quaerit qui nonquam currere desit,
Et super hunc coelo fitque propinqua Deo.
Tunc sibi sol ambas incendit fervidus alas,
Et minuit grandes, alleviatque graves.
Tunc quoque caligo consumitur igne propinquo
Quam confert oculis vita vetusta suis.
Mox ruit, et liquidis fontis se mergit in undis.
Utque cadit nido, sic nova fit subito.
Est autem rostrum quo carpitur esca retortum
Vix valet ex aliquo sumere pauca cibo.
Sed feriens petram, vel mordens ut solet escam
Atterit obliquum; sic capit inde cibum.
Est homo peccatis quae sunt ab origine matris
Qualis idem est aquila; sed renovatur ita.
Nubem transcendit, solisque incendia sentit,
Mundum cum pompis despiciendo suis.
Fit novus in Christo ter mersus gurgite vivo
De se: Sum vivus fons, ait ille pius.
Os terit obliquum per verba precantia Christum
Quod Christus petra sit, littera saepe tulit.
Jam novus est panis super omnia mella suavis:
Panis is est Christus, fit sine morte cibus.

No other bird, it is said, can pass the Eagle in flying,
Since he thus deals with himself, whenever age to him comes,
He seeks some flowing stream which never ceases its springing,
Goes from the stream to the sky, rising close up to the heat,
Then are his wings both dried in the burning heat of the sunbeam,
Lessened in size now the spread, less is the weight of the wings,
Then, too, the sight of his eyes is renewed in a wonderful manner,
Losing the dimness of age, cleared by the heat of the sun,
Now with a rush from the sky he descends to plunge in the waters,
Quick as the fall from the nest, so the renewal of youth.
Often so curved is the beak of the bird when he seizes his victim
Scarce is he able to tear pieces from some of his prey;
Striking the same on a rock, and gnawing the food as he tears it,
He rubs the curve of his beak thus on the rock and gets his food.
As is a man to his sins, which are from the source of his Mother,
Thus is the Eagle in kind, seeking his youth to renew.
Soaring above earth’s clouds and seeking the sun in the heavens,
Now despising the world, ever refusing its pomps.
He is made new in Christ, thrice plunged in the mystical fountain
Which ever flows from its source, clear and so living a stream,
Prayers of his mouth are heard, if asked of the Father for Christ’s sake.
Christ is indeed the Rock, so the Apostle has said.
New for us all is the bread, over all that is sweet, is the sweetest.
Christ in a word is the bread, and to all ages our food.

3. De Colubro / Of the Snake

Jamque senex serpens novus esse gaudet
Atque jejunans macrum corpus perhorret
Pellis effeta tremit evacuata
Ossa cum nervis sola manent
Quaerit angustum lapidisque foramen
Vix movens se, veniensque tandem
Inde pertransit, spoliatque carnem pelle vetusta
Quoslibet rivos repetens aquarum
Ut sitim pellat evomit ante virus
In aquis ergo minus hunc timebis absque veneno
Sic virum quemquam sine veste spectet
Longius serpens ut ab igne recedit
Sed videns illum, qui fert amictum, surgit in illum
Quem vir ut vincat persequiturque multum
Colligens corpus, facit inde scutum
Verticis vero tenet usque curam, ne moriatur
Fonte que sacro semel es innovatus
Denuo si peccas nunc silicernus extas
Ergo sis semper imitator anguis dum veterascis
Sit cibus parcus: ut minuantur artus
Unde cum mandis, pauperis juvabis
Poeniteas defle, Domino quoque dic Miserere
Signat hinc collem lapidisque foramen
Signat et Christum petra, namque per ipsum
Fit novus quisquam capit atque vitam fine carentem
Cujus ad excelsum veniendo templum
Ut bibas sacrum beatumque verbum
Evomas primum quod habes in corde venenum
Cordi sunt irae magis angue nocivae
Et velut matres odium creantes
Cordi sunt rixae non bonae amicae invidiaeque
Corde conceptis furiis superbis
Et coaequales superosque contemnis
Plena sunt istis aliisque multis corda venenis
Corde manet fraus et cupiditas ubique
His quidem purus quasi veste nudus
Demones anguis tipicus fugabit
Noctis ut coecas reprimat tenebras orbita solis
Sed tamen magnas patiere pugnas
Usque dum vives, in agone vinces
Unde serpentem imitare prudens verticis autor
Vis novam vitam sine fine dignam
Semper illaesum caput est habendum
Hocque caput dico, quod habes in principe Christo.

Now when an old Snake is again seeking youth,
Fasting he views with horror his appearance,
Skin he must shed, and bones with their attachments
Only remain then.
He seeks some deep hole in the stony places,
Scarcely he moves then to a rocky crevice,
Slowly crawls through, and so from off his body he tears the old skin.
He seeks water in some place that will please him,
Quenching his thirst he first vomits his venom,
Therefore in water little need you fear him, reft of his poison.
Should the Snake now see some one who is naked,
He flies far off as if from fear of fire,
But if the man is one who wears his clothing, rises against him.
When the man seeks him wishing to destroy him
Close over his head in coils he winds his body,
He forms his shield thus, guarding against the danger, lest he be slaughtered.
If you have been plunged in the sacred fountain,
Should you then have sinned you are indeed infirm,
Therefore at once must imitate the Snake in seeking youth again.
Fasting you will grow less in size of body,
Eating less you will have some to feed the poor with,
Then again seek God in a prayer to ask Him pardon for sin done.
We mark thence this Rock, and the open crevice,
Note the Rock is Christ and that through His mercy
To a man, new made, by His grace is given life everlasting.
When you are coming to the Holy Temple,
That of Christ’s words you may be blessed receiver,
First from your heart, before you dare to enter, cast out the poison.
Worse than Snake’s poison in the heart are passions,
Which are there conceived as it were by a mother,
Here we find malice or an evil friendship, coupled with envy.
If you have thoughts which are conceived in pride,
And despise equals, also those above you,
Surely with these, and many other poisons hearts are indeed full.
In our Hearts lurk sins, avarice and treason,
As the Snake flies from some one who is naked,
So a man, sinless, puts to flight the devils,
Just as night’s shadows flee before the rising orb of the glad sun.
Long as your life lasts you will meet temptation,
But in Death’s hour a Conqueror you can yet be,
Thus you must strive to imitate the Snake in guarding his own head.
Should you seek new life which is everlasting,
You must guard its head ever against all danger,
We name our Head then that which Christ is truly head of the household.

4. De Formica / Of the Ant

Exemplum nobis praebet formica laboris,
Quando suo solitum portat in ore cibum
Inque suis factis res monstrat spirituales,
Quas quia Judaeus non amat, inde reus.
Ut valeat brumae fieri secura futurae,
Est calor, interea non requiescit ea.
Nosque laboremus, fratres, dum tempus habemus,
Securi fieri tempore judicii.
Haec frumenta legit, si comperit; hordea spernit:
Ipse novam legem colligo, non veterem.
Sed ne de pluviis aspersum germinet udis,
Aut ea non pereat, esse quod hinc nequeat,
Granum quodque legit, prudens formica bipertit;
Hoc est quod binas lex habet inde vias.
Quae terrena sonat, simul et coelestia monstrat;
Nunc mentem pascit, et modo corpus alit.
Nos uter ut repleat, famis ut formido recedat
Tempore judicii, quod simile est hiemi.

Now to us all by its work the Ant should afford an example,
Since all the food that it needs is carried home in its mouth,
And in its actions, to us often indicates spiritual matters,
Which since the Jew does not love, of these, he stands the accused.
Seeking for safety, against the frosts of the approaching winter,
As long as the earth has its heat, it never ceases to work,
Then brothers, while we have time, let us copy the Ant in its labours,
Lest at the end of all time we hear the doom of our Judge.
Seeking for grain, the Ant, if it finds any barley, rejects it,
Thus should a man try to find law which is new, not the old,
But lest the grain should sprout in the rain, when wetted with moisture
Then being useless for food, there should be nothing to eat,
Each prudent Ant divides in two parts all the grain it has gathered,
Thus showing clearly one law which in its way has two paths,
One which seems of the earth, yet is turning our thoughts towards heaven,
This now feeds the soul, yet too the body is fed,
Let this one be our guide, so thus we be guarded from famine,
At the last judgment of all. Surely our winter of time.

5. De Vulpe / Of the Fox

Plena dolis multis vocitatur subdola vulpis;
Hanc amat agricola quod rapit altilia
Sin habet illa famem quia desunt, invenit artem
Qua sibi cracantes prendere possit ayes.
In terram fusam se tendit atque supinam,
Et quasi mortua sit, flamina nulla trahit.
Cornix aut ater corvus putat esse cadaver,
Insidet ut comedat, morsibus excoriat.
Illa levis surgit, subitoque volatile sumit,
Dentibus et tristem reddit edendo vicem.
Unde tenet duplam quam prodest nosse figuram,
Est zabulo similis, par aliquando viris.
Mortuus est vere qui mortem fecit habere
Nos est dissimulat quod mala non faciat.
Cujus edit carnem quisquis rem fingit inanem,
Hoc est peccatum quodlibet atque malum.
Quem tunc deglutit, cum secum ad tartara ducit
Daemon ab insidiis vulpeculae similis.
Sic cum fraude viri sunt vulpis nomine digni,
Quale hoc omnes tempore sunt homines
Fantes ore bona, sed mala corde gerunt
Herodesque fuit qui Christum quaerere jussit:
Credere se simulans, perdere dissimulans.

Full of all cunning, the Fox is rightly called the deceitful,
Countrymen drive him away, since he comes stealing their fowls,
Thus wanting victims like these, being hungry he finds him a new way,
By which he hopes to ensnare some singing birds for his prey,
Supine, and crossing his legs, he stretches himself in a furrow,
Lying as if he were dead, scarce even drawing a breath,
Crows or some other birds now thinking they will find him a corpse,
Light on him hoping he is food, if not to peck him to death,
Quickly the Fox rises up, and suddenly seizes one flying,
Which to a sad death he gives, tearing it up with his teeth.
Two natures has the Fox, and these we have profit in learning,
Now like a devil he seems, now has the nature of man,
He is indeed of the dead, who also have caused us to have death,
Also pretends that he never does any evil to man,
Whose is the flesh that he eats, if a man is devoted to vain things,
These then to man are his sins, things of all kinds that are vain,
The devil devours him then, when he leads him with him to his downfall,
And with his numberless tricks, closely resembles the Fox.
Men, who practise deceits, are worthy the name of the Foxes,
All men at times are like this, ever inclined to deceive,
Speaking fair words with their mouths, but the thoughts of their hearts being evil,
Herod was just such a Fox, who while he was swearing to seek Christ,
Stating in Him his belief, hid the true wish to destroy.

6. De Cervo / Of the Stag

Cervus habere duas naturas atque figuras
Dicitur a Physio, cum docet inde, Logo.
Nam quosvis grandes cum naribus extrahit angues
De caveis terrae, de latebrisve petrae,
Quos vorat, et tetro mox fervescente veneno
Aestuat ad liquidas pergere fontis aquas.
Quas cum forte bibit, his plenus toxica vincit
Se juvenemque facit, cornua quando jacit.
Nos quoque compressi serpentis fraude maligni
Virus contrahimus, urimur et facibus.
Haec est luxuria, quam fert, odiumque vel ira,
Aut etiam nimia est aeris avaritia.
Ad fontem vivum debemus currere Christum,
Qui cum nos udat, sumpta venena fugat.
Et sumus his demptis juvenes, fractisque superbis,
Quae quasi cornua sunt, cum miseros feriunt,
Cornua sunt oneri, quae portant vertice cervi,
Sed non dedecori inde videntur heri.
Si fluvios sternant pariter, pariterque peragrant,
Longius et pergunt pascua quando petunt.
Portant suspensum gradientes ordine mentum,
Alter in alterius clunibus impositus.
Hunc retinent usum, si sint vel in ordine centum,
Sed qui praecedit fessus ad ima redit.
Sic se vertentes cuncti, mutuoque ferentes
Nunquam deficiunt, sicque viam peragunt.
Per tales mores alienos ferre labores
Cum pietate monent, atque juvare docent.
Sic lex est Christi nostri complenda magistri,
Cujus, qui faciet, pascua reperiet.

Two natures has the Stag, and two with a mystical meaning.
These nature’s history tells teaching a lesson in each,
Into his nostrils at times the Stag finding serpents attracts them,
Out of the caves in the earth, and from the cracks in the rocks,
Which he devours, and soon by the strength of their poison is heated,
He hastens then to a spring, knowing its waters are cool,
Here he greedily drinks, and the poison is quenched by the water,
Thus too he makes himself young, what time he casts off his horns,
We men too, when deceived by the tricks of the serpent of old time,
Gather poison from him, and with his fuel are burned,
These he offers to men such as luxury, hatred, or anger,
Also at times to us all, chiefly the lusts of the heart,
We should then run with all haste to Christ who is our living water,
Who when he cleanses our souls, drives all this poison away.
Now, if our sins are thus cleansed, we are once again youthful and happy,
Our sins in truth are like horns, making us burdened with care,
Heavy indeed are the horns which the Stags themselves carry on their heads,
But unlike to our sins, carry no shame to the Stags.
Swimming over rivers and travelling the earth in like manner they wander,
Covering great distances, whenever pastures they seek.
Stepping all in a line, they carry their chins very highly,
Each one bears on his back the chin of the Stag in his rear,
This is the order they keep, should the herd be in number some hundred,
Falling weary the first leaves, and takes place as the last,
So all changing in turn, and mutually helping each other,
None ever fails on the road, travelling the whole of the way,
In such a way as this each bears for another the burden,
This they do moved by love, teaching us, others to help,
Thus is the law of our Master Christ to us, proven in Nature,
They, who act thus, for reward, shall feed in pasturage green.

7. De Araneo / Of the Spider

Vermis aranea licet exiguus
Plurima fila nectit assiduus
Qui vivere solet his studiis
Texere quae solet artificitus
Sunt ea rethia musca tibi
Ut volitans capiaris ibi
Dulcis et utilis esca sibi
Huic placet illud opus tenue
Sed sibi nil valet, nam fragile
Quaelibet aura trahit in patulum
Rumpitur et cadit in nihilum
Hos sequitur homo vermiculos
Decipiendo suos inimicos
Quos comedit faciens miseros
Et placet sibi inde nimium
Quando nocere potest alium
Ille tamen vicium quandoque facit
Cum moritur quasi tela cadit
Quam modo dictus Aranea facit

Spiders are worms, we are led to believe,
Always employed in the threads that they weave,
He is accustomed to live in this snare,
Which as the builder he loves to prepare,
These are the nets which for thee Fly are made,
So that in flying you may be waylaid,
And by your sweet flesh his hunger be stayed,
Though in his weaving no labour he spares,
Gain to him there’s none on these feeble snares,
Carried away as the sport of the wind,
Broken they fall nor again come to mind,
Just like the Spiders, some men try to please,
Those of their foes, whom they wish to deceive,
These they first plunge into woes, then destroy,
And by these means, in their hearts, they get joy,
Sometimes with malice another they take,
Sometimes they do it for wickedness’ sake,
Sudden they die, and then all their nets fall,
Just as the Spiders’ to nothing at all.

8. De Ceto / Of the Whale

Est super omne pecus quod vivit in aequore cetus,
Monstrum grande satis, cum superexstat aquis.
Prospiciens illum, montem putat esse marinum,
Aut quod in Oceanum insula sit medium.
Hic si quando famem, quam fert saepissime grandem,
Alleviare velit, callidus os aperit.
Unde velut hamum se flatus reddit odoris
Ad se pisciculos ut trahat exiguos.
Exiguos tantum, quoniam comprendere magnum
Perfectumque nequit, sed nec in ore premit.
Piscis pisciculos claudit, conglutit et illos
Non sic, non sic jam sorbuit ille Jonam.
Si sit tempestas, cum vadit vel venit aestas,
Et pelagus fundum turbidat ille suum,
Continuo summas se tollit cetus ad undas:
Est promontorium cernere non modicum.
Hinc religare citam pro tempestate carinam
Nautae festinant, utque foris saliant.
Accendunt vigilem quern navis portitat ignem
Ut se calefaciant, aut comedenda coquant.
Ille focum sentit, tunc se fugiendo remergit
Unde prius venit, sicque carina perit.
Viribus est zabulus quasi cetus corpore magnus,
Ut monstrant magni quos facit ille magi.
Mentes cunctorum qui sunt ubique virorum
Esurit atque sitit, quosque potest perimit.
Sed modicos fidei trahit in dulcedine verbi,
Namque fide firmos non trahit ille viros.
In quo confidit quisque, vel spem sibi mittit,
Ad Stiga mox rapitur, sic quoque decipitur

Greatest of all is the Whale, of the beasts which live in the waters,
Monster indeed he appears, swimming on top of the waves,
Looking at him one thinks, that there in the sea is a mountain,
Or that an island has formed, here in the midst of the sea,
He also sometimes his hunger (which worries him often most greatly),
Wishes at once to relieve, warm is his wide open mouth,
Whence he then sends forth breaths of odors as sweet as the flowers,
By which to him he attracts fishes of sizes quite small,
Small ones indeed, we must say, because any fishes of great size,
Nor full grown can he eat, nor can eject from his mouth,
All little fishes he gladly retains to guard against hunger,
Not in the way that he did, swallowing Jonah of old,
On the approach of a storm, or fearing the heat of the summer,
All of the herd quick depart, troubling the depths of the sea,
Often again the Whale, rising up to the top of the waters,
Just like an arm of the land, seems he to those on the sea,
Hasten the seamen to this, and tie their ship, fearing a tempest,
They having made it secure, jump from the ship to the shore,
They then Kindle a hot fire, which by them is carried on shipboard,
That they themselves may be warmed, while cooking quickly some food,
The Whale now feeling the heat, at once plunges under the waters,
Thence to the place whence he came. Thus ship and all are destroyed.
As is the Whale with his great bulk, so is the devil with all men,
Those, he has trained by his craft, men of great magic appear,
By him, through all the world the minds of all men are changed,
For them he hungers and thirsts, and when he can he destroys,
Those weak in faith he attracts, and with sweetness of words he entices
Those who are strong in the faith, over these casts he no spell,
Whoso confides in the devil, to whom all his hopes are entrusted,
Quickly is dragged down to hell. So sorely is he deceived.

9. De Sirenis et Homocentauro / Of the Siren and The Onocentaur

Sirenes sunt monstra maris resonantia magnis
Vocibus, et modulis cantus formantia multis,
Ad quas incauti veniunt saepissime nautae,
Quae faciunt sonitum nimia dulcedine vocum,
Et modo naufragium, modo dant mortale periclum;
Quod qui fugerunt hi tales esse tulerunt.
Ex umbilico constat pulcherrima virgo,
Quodque facit monstrum volucres sunt inde deorsum.
Est homocentaurus itidem natura biformis,
In quibus est asinus in humano corpore mistus.
Quamplures homines sic sunt nunc ore biformes,
Unum dicentes, aliud tibi mox facientes;
Qui foris, ut fantur, sic intus non operantur,
Utpote sunt multi qui de virtute locuti
Opibus indulgent. His o quam pulpita fulgent.

Sirens are born of the sea, and the strains of their marvellous voices
Often come to listening ears in many melodious measures,
Hearing these, sailors are lured into places of imminent danger,
Thereto enticed by the sound of voices so sweetly enchanting,
Thus by them not only ships, but also men’s lives are imperiled,
Those who have seen them will say, that the nature of them is as follows,
From the waist upwards they are shaped in the form of a beautiful virgin,
What makes the wonder so great, is from thence lower down they are like fish.
The Honocentaurs, it is said, are also creatures of two forms,
in which the form of an ass, with a man-like body, is mingled,
Many men are there in truth who are thus of two forms in their conduct,
Saying one thing to you now, but then at once doing another,
Outwardly saying one thing, but inwardly acting against it,
Since of this kind there are many, who, speaking the praises of virtue,
Are yet libertines in deed. Of the State, how they add to the lustre?

10. De Elephante / Of the Elephant

Corpore tam grandes apud indos sunt elephantes
Hi simul incedunt ut oves, dum pascua quaerunt
Aversi coiunt : dum sibi conveniunt
Atque semel pariunt, quamvis tot tempora vivunt
Hoc est trecentum, nec faciunt genitum
Ast unum generans, et per duo tempora gestans
Cum pant in magna (ne cadat) extat aqua
Non habet unde surgat: quia nunquam crura recurvat
Si quia forte ruit, hoc genetrix metuit
Dum vult pausare vel somno se recreare
Incumbit trunco arboris haut modico
Quam notat atque secat venator et obice celat
Clamque sedens spectat: dum requiem repetat
Dum venit incumbit, cumque ruente ruit
Sin homo non aderit gemit: et denique barrit
Tunc unus acurrit; qui relevare cupit
Sed nequit et fatagit; complorans tunc quoque barrit
Multi vel magni tunc veniunt alii
Cum nequeunt, omnes intendunt mittere voces
Ad quas it subitus parvulus ac minimus
Cujus et est mirum provisio sublevat illum
Et sic praedictas effugit insidias
Deque pilis hujus si sit sub domate fumus
Serpentes cedunt, quaeque venena ferunt
Sic homo primus Adam per lignum sic cecidit jam
Quem Moyses voluit tollere, non potuit 255
Post hunc prophetae voluerunt nec valuere
Ipsorum precibus venit ad hunc Dominus
Qui cum sit parvus, quoniam Deus est homo factus
Sic relevavit eum in comedendo reum
Cujus odor plenus de verbis silicet ejus
Sic cui rite venit, ille beatus erit
Omne quod est vicium fugiet de corde per ipsum
Causa dehinc leti nulla nocebit ei.

Huge indeed in their bulk are the Elephants born in the Indies,
These then well might you think equal to mountains in height,
Moving at times in a flock like sheep when seeking for pasture.
Turned back to back they unite, when in this act they agree.
Only one birth they achieve, though the years of their life are so many,
Numbering three centuries. Nor do they quickly increase,
Only one born at a time, which is carried two years by the mother.
Lest she fall bringing forth young, she stands in waters quite deep,
Since, from the form of her legs, rising up again never is easy,
Hence, any chance of a fall, is much feared by the mother.
When it desires to sleep, or recover by slumber when wearied,
It finds a fairly large tree, against which it leans its great bulk,
This tree the hunter observes, then cutting half through it, remains there,
Hidden, he then keeps his watch, till when the beast seeks its sleep,
Thinking its safety secure in the usual shade of its own tree,
Comes there, and leaning thereon, falls with the fall of the tree.
If the man should not be there, it will groan long and lastly will trumpet,
Elephants, many and great, quickly then come to its help,
This one, unable to raise, they all join in trumpeting loudly,
Suddenly comes to their aid, one of them smallest of all,
Of whom, it is strange to relate, its instinct now raises the fallen,
Who, in this manner, escapes snares, which the hunter has laid.
If, from the hairs of this beast, dense smoke can be raised in a dwelling,
Snakes and all poisonous things living there, leave it in haste.
Thus Adam first of the race was the cause of man’s fall in the garden,
Whom Moses wishing to raise, all of his efforts were vain,
After him prophets desired to do the same work, but they could not,
Then to men’s aid came the Christ. Himself the answer to prayers,
Who being humble and small, since God took the shape of the human,
Thus He lifted men up, making Himself the accused,
Sweet is the perfume of Christ, undoubtedly full to His promise,
One coming rightly to Him, he will be blest in his deed.
All that is wicked and vile will fly from the Heart which receives Him,
Henceforward no cause of death will then be hurtful to him.

11. De Turture / Of the Turtledove

Turtur inane nescit amare
Nam semel uni junta marito
Semper adhæret, cum simul ipso
Nocte dieque juncta manebit
Absque marito nemo videbit
Sed viduata si caret ipso
Non tamen ultro nubit amico
Sola volabit, sola sedebit
Et quasi vivum corde tenebit
Operiensque casta manebit
Sic anima extat quaeque fidelis
Facta virili foedere felix
Namque maritus est sibi Christus
Cum sua de se pectora replet
Si bene vivit semper adhæret
Non alienum quaerit amicum
Quamlibet orcus sumpserit illum
Quem superesse credit in aethera
Inde futurum spectat eundem
Ut microcosmum judicet omnem.

Doves like the turtle never vainly love,
Mated to one love, clings to him ever,
Always is with him, whatever befall,
By day, or by night, never leaves him at all,
None will ever see her from him far apart,
Deep as she may feel the pain of her heart
Reft of him, no mate shares her lone nest,
Lone is her day’s flight, lone is her night’s rest,
Living, his image in her heart reigns,
Keeping herself hid, chaste she remains.
Thus the soul stands fast faithful for ever,
Blessed in the strong bond failing it never,
Christ is its true Spouse also its dear Lord,
When the heart is truly full filled with Christ’s word,
Those living near Him live well to life’s end,
Having Him always, never want a true friend,
Although it is said Christ descends into Hell,
That soul which knows Him in heaven to dwell,
Holds itself waiting His coming to share,
And for the judgment itself does prepare.

12. De Panthere / Of the Panther

Est quadrupes panther, quo non pulchrior alter
Qui magis ex albo conspergitur orbiculato
Diversis pastus venalibus et saciatus
Se recepit dormitque cavo prostratus in antro
Post triduum surgit, tunc vero denique rugit
Exit odor talis de guttere tamque suavis
Qui virtute sua suparabit aromata cuncta
Ad quem mox tendit quae vocem bestia sentit
Sic imitatur eum flatus dulcidine plenum
Sic faciunt omnes, soli panthera dracones
Cum sonat ant fugiunt, aut segnes corpora fiunt
In caveisque latent, nec longo tempore patent
Est autem Christus panther alegorice dictus
Qui superest homines forma collatus ad omnes
Et satur ille fuit, qui tot (quot vult) sibi sumpsit
Somnum tunc cepit, cum nos monendo redemit
Rugitum misit postquam de morte revixit
Coelos ascendens, qui regnat cum patre praesens
Quem gentes cunctae si sint credendo sequntae
Qui fugit atque latet, nec in ipso tempore patet
Serpens antiquus (qui nobis est inimicus)
Namque palam nullos audet clam fallere multos
Quos cum defendat, qui soecla per omnia regnat.

No other beast of the earth in beauty excels the Panther,
Having a coat which is white, but sprinkled with numberless round spots,
After his hunting is done, well filled with the food he has taken,
He quickly finds a lone cave, and stretches himself in a deep sleep,
Sleeping thus three days he lies, then rising he roars with a loud voice,
When from his throat comes a breath of a fragrance so sweet in its nature,
That by its strength it overcomes, and of all other scents is the sweetest,
Thus at the sound of his voice all the beasts of the wild are attracted,
Since ever following him is an air that is laden with sweetness,
So do the beasts of all kinds. While the dragons alone in their terror,
Fly or become as the dead, on hearing the voice of the Panther,
Hide in the caves of the earth, and do not appear for a long time.
Christ in a mystical sense is said to resemble the Panther,
Who when compared in form to all men so greatly excels them,
He was content when He drew to Himself all those who were willing,
Then for a time He lay in a sleep, when by death He redeemed us,
To all the world He sent forth a sound, when He rose from death’s slumber,
Rising from earth He reigns evermore with His Father in heaven,
Whom all the tribes of the earth, if they truly believe in Him follow,
One only flies and lies hid, whose deeds are never done in the open,
That deadly serpent of old, who to mortals was ever a foeman,
Openly leads none astray, but in secret he many beguiles,
These also may He defend, who from age to age reigns for ever.

The Latin Y and B Versions

This English translation of the Latin Physiologus is taken from Curley, who says: "The present translation is based on the two editions of 1the Latin Physiologus prepared by Francis Carmody, the y-version and the b-version. I have relied primarily on the y-version since it is generally agreed to be the closer of the two to the Greek original. Whenever important additions or variations are supplied by the b-version, however, I have translated them and put them in square brackets".

II. On the Antelope

There is an animal called the antelope, so exceedingly alert that the hunter is unable to approach him. He has long horns in the shape of a saw so that he is able to cut through thick, high trees and fell them to the ground. If he is thirsty, however, he goes to the terrible Euphrates River and drinks. Near the river there are herecine (as they are called in Greek), that is, shrubs with thin branches; and he comes up to that herecine shrub frisking about and is ensnared in its branches. Then he cries out, wishing to escape, and is unable to do so for he has been ensnared. Hearing him, the hunter will come and slay him. O citizen whose commonwealth is heavenly [Phil 3:20], confiding in the two horns of might abstain from acts of slander and pleasure, inimical desire and the pomp of the world; the powers of the angels will rejoice for you, for the two horns are the two Testaments. But watch that you are not held by this most delicate herecine, that is, by the little shrub which covers you at just the right moment. Watch that you are not held in its snare, for the wicked hunter (that is, the devil) will slay you. The wise man, however, flees wine and women [cf. Ecclesiasticus 19: 2 and Hos. 4: 11].

VI. On the Pelican

David says in Psalm 101, "I am like the pelican in loneliness" [Ps. 102: 7]. Physiologus says of the pelican that it is an exceeding lover of its young. If the pelican brings forth young and the little ones grow, they take to striking their parents in the face. The parents, however, hitting back kill their young ones and then, moved by compassion, they weep over them for three days, lamenting over those whom they killed. On the third day, their mother strikes her side and spills her own blood over their dead bodies (that is, of the chicks) and the blood itself awakens them from death. Thus did our Lord speaking through Isaiah say, "I have brought forth sons and have lifted them up, but they have scorned me" [Is. 1: 2]. The Maker of every creature brought us forth and we struck him. How did we strike him? Because we served the creature rather than the creator [cf. Rom. 1: 25]. The Lord ascended the height of the cross and the impious ones struck his side and opened it and blood and water came forth for eternal life [cf. John 19: 34 and 6: 55], blood because it is said, "Taking the chalice he gave .thanks" [Matt. 26: 27 and Lk. 22:17], and water because of the baptism of repentance [Mk. 1: 4 and Lk. 3: 3]. The Lord said, "They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water," and so on [Jer. 2:13]. Physiologus, therefore, spoke well of the pelican.

IX. On the Phoenix

The Savior said in the Gospel, "I have the power to lay down my life, and I have the power to take it again" [John 10:18]. And the Jews were angered by his words. There is a species of bird in the land of India which is called the phoenix, which enters the wood of Lebanon after five hundred years and bathes his two wings in the fragrance. He then signals to the priest of Heliopolis (that is, the city named Heliopolis) during the new month, that is, Adar, which in Greek is called Farmuti or Phamenoth. When the priest has been signaled, he goes in to the altar and heaps it with brushwood. Then the bird enters Heliopolis laden with fragrance and mounts the altar, where he ignites the fire and burns himself up. The next day then the priest examines the altar and finds a worm in the ashes. On the second day, however, he finds a tiny birdling. On the third day he finds a huge eagle which taking flight greets the priest and goes off to his former abode. If this species of bird has the power to kill himself in such a manner as to raise himself up, how foolish are those men who grow angry at the words of the Savior, "I have the power to lay down my life, and I have the power to take it again" [John 10: 18]. The phoenix represents the person of the Savior since, descending from the heavens, he left his two wings full of good odors (that is, his best words) so that we, holding forth the labors of our hand, might return the pleasant spiritual odor to him in good works. Physiologus, therefore, speaks well of the phoenix.

XXVI. On the Other Nature of the Wild Ass and the Monkey

There is another nature to the wild ass, as the wise one said, since he is found in regal houses, and on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Famenoth people know from the wild ass that it is the equinox. Indeed, if the beast brays twelve times, the king and his palace know the equinox (ysemaria in Greek) is at hand. It is the equinox also if the monkey makes water seven times. [Physiologus says of the wild ass that, on the twentyfifth day of the month of Famenoth or March, he brays twelve times in the night and again in the day. By this is known that it is the equinox of day or night. And they know the time, hour by hour, by the braying of the ass once per hour. The wild ass represents the devil since, when he knows that night and day are equal (that is, when the devil perceives that those walking in the shade and shadow of death have turned lately to the living Lord and equal the faith of the patriarchs and prophets as night equals day), then he brays day and night, hour by hour, seeking the food which he has lost. Now the wild ass brays only when receiving food, as Job said, "Never without cause does the wild ass bray but only when wanting fodder" [cf. Job 6: 5]. Similarly, the apostle Peter says of the devil, "Our adversary prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" [I Peter 5 :8]. The monkey represents the very person of the devil since he has a beginning but has no end (that is, a tail). In the beginning, the devil was one of the archangels, but his end has not been found. [He has no tail since, just as he perished in the beginning in heaven, so also will he perish utterly at last, as Paul, the herald of truth, said, "The Lord Jesus will slay him with the wrath of his mouth" [II Thes. 2: 8].] It is fitting also that, in addition to not having a tail, the monkey lacks beauty also. And he is quite ugly in the region where he lacks a tail. Just so the devil has no good end. Physiologus, therefore, spoke well.

XVI. On the Hedgehog

The hedgehog does not quite have the appearance of a ball as he is full of quills. Physiologus said of the hedgehog that he climbs up to the .grape on the vine and then throws down the berries (that is, the grapes) onto the ground. Then he rolls himself over on them, fastening the fruit of the vine to his quills, and carries it off to his young and discards the plucked stalk. And you, 0 Christian, refrain from busying yourself about everything and stand watch over your spiritual vineyard from which you stock your spiritual cellar. Make a cache in the halls of God the King, in the holy tribunal of Christ, and you will receive eternal life. [Do not let concern for this world and the pleasure of temporal goods preoccupy you, for then the prickly devil, scattering all your spiritual fruits, will pierce them with his quills and make you food for the beasts. Your soul will become bare, empty and barren like a tendril without fruit. After this you will cry out, "My own vineyard I have not kept" [5. of S. 1: 6], as the scripture of the Song of Songs bears witness.] In such a way have you allowed that most wicked spirit to climb up to your place, and he has scattered your abstinence. Thus he has deceived you with the barbs of death in order to divide your plunder among hostile powers. Rightly, therefore, did Physiologus compare the ways of animals to spiritual matters.

XXXIV. On the Ant-lion

In Job, Eliphaz King of the Temanites says of the antlion, "He perished because he had no food" [Job 4: 11]. His father has the face of a lion and eats flesh, while his mother has the face of an ant and feeds on plants. If she brings forth an ant-lion, it perishes because it has two natures, the face of a lion and the fore and rear parts of an ant. Because of the mother's nature, it cannot feed on flesh nor can it eat plants because of the father's nature. It perishes, therefore, because it has no food. So it is with each person: "The man of deceitful heart is confused in all his ways" [Jas. 1: 8]. It is not proper, therefore, to follow two paths, 0 man of double mind, even in prayer to be a sinner following two paths. It is written wisely, "Let it be with you yes or no" [Matt. 5:37]·

XLII. On the Ostrich

There is an animal called the ostrich which the Greeks call 1 the struthiocamelus and the Latins the struthio. Jeremiah the Prophet says of this animal, "Even the ostrich in the heavens knows her own time" [Jer. 8: 7]. Physiologus says that this bird is like a vulture. Although she has wings, she does not fly like other birds; she has feet like those of a camel, and hence the Greeks call her the sparrow-camel. When her time comes for laying eggs, this animal raises her eyes to the heavens to see if that star called Virgilia is rising, for she does not deposit her eggs in the ground until that star rises. Job says of that star, "[He is wise in heart and mighty in strength] who made Virgilia, the north and the right and the storehouses of the south" [Job 9: 9]. Now in its own time Virgilia arises in summer around the month of June when the crops flourish. Then, when the ostrich sees that Virgilia has risen in the heavens, she digs a hole in the desert ground, deposits her eggs, and covers them with sand. Once having departed that place, however, she immediately forgets it and does not return to her eggs, for this animal is by nature forgetful. Hence, she produces eggs in summer and covers them with sand, which hatches the chicks as the mother might do sitting on her eggs. The tranquility of the season and the temperateness of the air seem to be more perfectly suited than the mother for the task, so that when the summer is hot the sand incubates the eggs and hatches the chicks. Thus, if the ostrich knows her own time and raises her eyes to heaven and forgets her young, how much more fitting is it for us to know our time, to forget earthly things and pursue heavenly things and to raise the eyes of our hearts? The Apostle says, "Forgetting what lies behind, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call" [Phil. 3: 13-14]. And the Lord says in the Gospel, "He who loves father and mother or children more than me is not worthy of me" [Matt. 10:37]. And to the one who excused himself on account of the burial of his father he said, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead" [Matt. 8: 22].]

Samples of various non-Latin scripts.

The Physiologus was translated into several non-Latin languages using various scripts and alphabets.

Arabic script of the Physiologus

Ethiopean script of the Physiologus

Greek script of the Physiologus

Syriac script of the Physiologus