The Phoenix and the Turtle is an allegorical poem about the death of ideal love. It is widely considered to be one of William Shakespeare’s most obscure works.
The Phoenix and the Turtle
Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.
But thou shrieking harbinger,
Foul precurrer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever’s end,
To this troop come thou not near.
From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather’d king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.
Let the priest in surplice-white
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.
And thou treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender makest
With the breath thou givest and takest,
‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.
Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead:
Phoenix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.
So they loved, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.
Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
‘Twixt the turtle and his queen:
But in them it were a wonder.
So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix’ sight;
Either was the other’s mine.
Property was thus appall’d,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature’s double name
Neither two nor one was call’d.
Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together;
To themselves yet either neither,
Simple were so well compounded,
That it cried, ‘How true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none,
If what parts can so remain.’
Whereupon it made this throne
To the phoenix and the dove,
Co-supremes and stars of love,
As chorus to their tragic scene.