Listening to: Dead souls cry
Reading: Ancient texts for space and time
Watching: spirits float
The basilisk appears in the Bible in Isaiah 14:29 in the prophet's exhortation to the Philistines reading, "Do not rejoice, whole country of Philistia, because the rod that beat you has broken, since the serpent's stock can still produce a basilisk, and the offspring of that will be a flying dragon." The King James version of the Bible states "out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent."
In Psalm 91:13: "super aspidem et basiliscum calcabis conculcabis leonem et draconem" in the Latin Vulgate, literally "You will tread on the lion and the dragon,/the asp and the basilisk you will trample under foot," translated in the King James Version as: Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet," the basilisk appears in the Latin Vulgate, though not most English translations, which gave rise to its inclusion in the subject in Early Medieval art of Christ treading on the beasts.
In William Shakespeare's Richard III, a widow, on hearing compliments on her eyes from her husband's brother and murderer, retorts that she wishes they were those of a basilisk, that she might kill him. In Act II, Scene 4 of Shakespeare's Cymbeline, a character says about a ring, "It is a basilisk unto mine eye, Kills me to look on't."
Similarly, Samuel Richardson wrote in his famous novel Clarissa; or the history of a young lady: "If my eyes would carry with them the execution which the eyes of the basilisk are said to do, I would make it my first business to see this creature." Another famous reference to the basilisk is found in John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera" (Act II, Air XXV):
Man may escape from Rope and Gun;
Nay, some have out liv'd the Doctor's Pill;
Who takes a Woman must be undone,
That Basilisk is sure to kill".
Jonathan Swift alluded to the basilisk in a poem:
See how she rears her head,
And rolls about her dreadful eyes,
To drive all virtue out, or look it dead!
'Twas sure this basilisk sent Temple thence …
Alexander Pope also wrote that "The smiling infant in his hand shall take/ The crested basilisk and speckled snake" (Messiah, lines 81–82). In the chapter XVI of The Zadig, Voltaire mentions a basilisk, "an Animal, that will not suffer itself to be touch'd by a Man". Percy Bysshe Shelley in his "Ode to Naples" alludes to the basilisk:
Be thou like the imperial basilisk,
Killing thy foe with unapparent wounds!
Gaze on oppression, till at that dread risk,
Aghast she pass from the earth's disk.
Fear not, but gaze,- for freemen mightier grow,
And slaves more feeble, gazing on their foe.
Shelley also refers to the basilisk in his poem "Queen Mab:"
"'Those deserts of immeasurable sand,
Whose age-collected fervors scarce allowed
Where the shrill chirp of the green lizard's love
Broke on the sultry silentness alone,
Now teem with countless rills and shady woods,
Cornfields and pastures and white cottages;
And where the startled wilderness beheld
A savage conqueror stained in kindred blood,
A tigress sating with the flesh of lambs
The unnatural famine of her toothless cubs,
Whilst shouts and howlings through the desert rang, -
Sloping and smooth the daisy-spangled lawn,
Offering sweet incense to the sunrise, smiles
To see a babe before his mother's door,
Sharing his morning's meal
with the green and golden basilisk
That comes to lick his feet." --Part VIII
Charles Dickens uses the Basilisk to describe Mrs. Varden's eternally angry and hideous housemaid, Miggs, in Barnaby Rudge: "But to be quiet with such a basilisk before him was impossible. If he looked another way, it was worse to feel that she was rubbing her cheek, or twitching her ear, or winking her eye, or making all kinds of extraordinary shapes with her nose, than to see her do it."