William Shakespeare, The Phoenix and the Turtle (1601)

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)  


This is a part of a collection of works by William Shakespeare.


The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, ed. with a glossary by W.J. Craig M.A. (London: Oxford University Press, 1916).

See the complete volume in HTML and facs. PDF.




Let the bird of loudest lay,

On the sole Arabian tree,

Herald sad and trumpet be,

To whose sound chaste wings obey.  4

But thou shrieking harbinger,

Foul precurrer of the fiend,

Augur of the fever’s end,

To this troop come thou not near.  8

From this session interdict

Every fowl of tyrant wing,

Save the eagle, feather’d king:

Keep the obsequy so strict.  12

Let the priest in surplice white

That defunctive music can,

Be the death-divining swan,

Lest the requiem lack his right.  16

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.  20

Here the anthem doth commence:

Love and constancy is dead;

Phœnix and the turtle fled

In a mutual flame from hence.  24

So they lov’d, as love in twain

Had the essence but in one;

Two distincts, division none:

Number there in love was slain.  28

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;

Distance, and no space was seen

’Twixt the turtle and his queen:

But in them it were a wonder.  32

So between them love did shine,

That the turtle saw his right

Flaming in the phœnix’ sight;

Either was the other’s mine.  36

Property was thus appall’d,

That the self was not the same;

Single nature’s double name

Neither two nor one was call’d.  40

Reason, in itself confounded,

Saw division grow together;

To themselves yet either neither,

Simple were so well compounded,  44

That it cried, ‘How true a twain

Seemeth this concordant one!

Love hath reason, reason none,

If what parts can so remain.’  48

Whereupon it made this threne

To the phœnix and the dove,

Co-supremes and stars of love,

As chorus to their tragic scene.  52


Beauty, truth, and rarity

Grace in all simplicity,

Here enclos’d in cinders lie.  55

Death is now the phœnix’ nest;

And the turtle’s loyal breast

To eternity doth rest,  58

Leaving no posterity:

’Twas not their infirmity,

It was married chastity.  61

Truth may seem, but cannot be;

Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;

Truth and beauty buried be.  64

To this urn let those repair

That are either true or fair;

For these dead birds sigh a prayer.  67