according to Middle Age belief, are the elemental spirits of
air; so named by the Rosicrucians and Cabalists, from the Greek silphe (a butterfly or moth). (See Gnomes.)
Any mortal who has preserved inviolate chastity may enjoy intimate
familiarity with these gentle spirits. All coquettes at death become
sylphs, “and sport and flutter in the fields of air.”
Whoever, fair and chaste,
Rejects mankind, is by some sylph embraced.
Pope: Rape of the
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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