Phocine… pavonine… leporine…
~ Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Before its bath in the cauldron, the newt’s eye served a more mundane function: it was a newt’s eye. Extracted from their customary settings and placed in special combinations, words too are magic. Sentences become spells. In the cauldron are no solids, nature is fluid, shapes shift. The most mundane words find themselves in league moment to moment with the seal, the peacock, the hare.
According to a local tradition, an ordinary hen’s egg, if it is kept warm in the human armpit during the whole of Lent, hatches out on Easter Day and reveals a manikin three inches high, who at once prostrates himself before his foster-father and swears eternal obedience to him.
~ Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Traveller’s Tree
He says his name is Himmelfarb, if you can believe it. Endearing at first, the constant bowing is starting to bug. Every time I look at him he falls to his knees and taps his forehead to the table. “Dear God,” he asked me last night, “how should I live? What would you have me do? I only want to be your image and will in everything.” But the thimbleful of scotch I gave him was a mistake, and he was nearly pressed flat when the hardcover Montaigne closed up on him. My armpit is still sore.