Friday, July 30, 2004

The Allegrezza ficcione, Part 5 - an aside on Paracelsus

In a previously un-
ascribed text unearthed
by Umberto Allegrezza
in the library of
the University of Padua
& which he convincingly
demonstrated through
internal evidence, the
commonality of subject matter
& consistencies of style
to be part of De Lapide
Philosophorum, Paracelsus
uses a hen's egg
as the perfect metaphor
for the quest to transmutate
base metals into gold. The
shell, he writes, is
translucent when seen
from inside. Broken &
dropped into the molten
mix in the alembic
it aggregates & separates
the dross. Within, within,
the pure white sac of
albumen resembles the state
in which the alchemist
must be to carry out his
task. The yolk enclosed
is the object of desire. Then
comes the final paragraph,
the part that caused
this manuscript to be
consigned to an adespota
of anonymity. I prefer, he
writes, to have my eggs
soft-boiled for just two
minutes, with the water
stirred thrice with the tail-
feather of a peacock. Broken
open & served on bread,
with salt & a drop of
laudanum added to the
mix. Western travellers might
find worcestershire sauce
more easily available than
the tincture – but each is
equally appetising. In honour
of those monks who say
I am engaged in the work
of the devil, I will call
the dish Eggs Benedictine.

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