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William Shakespeare
1564 - 1616



Phœnix and Turtle,
Roman wallpainting

T h e  P h œ n i x
a n d  t h e  T u r t l e

Written perhaps 1586,
first published 1601


Let the bird of lowdest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herauld sad and trumpet be:
To whose sound, chast wings obay.

But thou, shriking harbinger,
Foule precurrer of the fiend,
Augour of the fevers end,
To this troupe come thou not neere.

From this Session interdict
Every foule of tyrant wing,
Save the Eagle feath'red King,
Keepe the obsequie so strict.

Let the Priest in Surples white,
That defunctive Musicke can,
Be the death-devining Swan,
Lest the Requiem lacke his right.

And thou treble dated Crow,
That thy sable gender mak'st,
With the breath thou giv'st and tak'st,
Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the Antheme doth commence,
Love and Constancie is dead,
Phœnix and the Turtle fled
In a mutuall flame from hence.

So they lov'd as love in twaine
Had the essence but in one,
Two distincts, Division none,
Number there in love was slaine.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance and no space was seene,
Twixt the Turtle and his Queen;
But in them it were a wonder.

So betweene them Love did shine,
That the Turtle saw his right
Flaming in the Phœnix sight;
Either was the others mine.

Propertie was thus appalled,
That the selfe was not the same:
Single Natures double name,
Neither two nor one was called.

Reason in it selfe confounded,
Saw Division grow together,
To themselves yet either neither,
Simple were so well compounded,

That it cried, how true a twaine
Seemeth this concordant one,
Love hath Reason, Reason none,
If what parts, can so remaine.

Whereupon it made this Threne,
To the Phœnix and the Dove,
Co-supremes and starres of Love,
As Chorus to their Tragique Scene.


Beautie, Truth, and Raritie,
Grace in all simplicitie,
Here enclosde, in cinders lie.

Death is now the Phœnix nest,
And the Turtles loyall brest,
To eternitie doth rest.

Leaving no posteritie,
Twas not their infirmitie,
It was married Chastitie.

Truth may seeme, but cannot be,
Beautie bragge, but tis not she,
Truth and Beautie buried be.

To this urne let those repaire,
That are either true or faire,
For these dead Birds, sigh a prayer.

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