Pseudopod 270: A Revelation of Cormorants

A Revelation of Cormorants

by Mark Valentine

Cormorant, from the Latin for “sea-raven”. The Tudors saw the bird as a symbol for gluttony: Shakespeare refers to hungry Time as a cormorant. It may have gained this reputation because of its proficiency at catching fish. Milton, however, invested the bird with a dark glamour: he likened Lucifer sitting in the Tree of Life to a cormorant, no doubt because of the bird’s habit of standing with its black wings spread out to dry. The satanic image stuck. The occultist and poet Ludovic Horne wrote of his “Cormorant days/dark and sleek”. The atheist essayist Llewellyn Powys refers to the birds as “satanic saints” in Parian niches on the chalk cliffs of Dorset, but he celebrated them too as manifesting the ecstasy of the moment, as they plunge into the sea after the silver-scaled fish of their dreams. Conan Doyle alludes to an untold Sherlock Holmes case of “The Lighthouse Keeper and the Trained Cormorant”. Isherwood cites them in a nonsense poem. Folklore about them is much barer than the literary record.


About the Author

Mark Valentine

Mark Valentine has written a biography of the Welsh author and mystic Arthur Machen (Seren, 1990) and TIME, A FALCONER (Tartarus Press, 2011), a study of the diplomat and fantasist ‘Sarban’. His stories of an aesthetical occult detective were recently brought together in THE COLLECTED CONNOISSEUR (Tartarus Press, 2010). He edits Wormwood, a journal of the literature of the fantastic, supernatural and decadent. Mark’s latest project is a book of short stories, SECRET EUROPE (Ex Occidente Press), due in early 2012, jointly with fellow author John Howard.

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About the Narrator

Ian Stuart

Ian Stuart is a writer/performer living in York. He has done work for the BBC and Manx Radio, as well as audiobooks, historical guides and promotional videos. He is also a storyteller/guide for The Ghost Trail of York, taking tourists round the city and telling them some of its darker secrets. You can read more about his poetry and his dog, Digby, on his blog, The Top Banana. If you wish to contact Ian about voiceover work of any kind , you can get in touch with him on Twitter at @yorkwriter99. His greatest boast is that he is the father of a famous son.

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