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 mak’st
With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,
‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.
Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phœnix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.
So they lov’d, 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 phœnix’ 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 threne
To the phœnix and the dove,
Co-supremes and stars of love,
As chorus to their tragic scene.
Shakespeare’s poem here presents us with a mystery as to the identity of the turtle dove (the turtle) and the dove (a white one, not like the turtle dove, both pictured below).
Many years ago, a literary critic interpreted this poem as a secret nod to Shakespeare’s hidden Catholicism, which most modern critics agree upon as the true religion of the Bard. Many other critics recently have agreed with this interpretation.
Anne Line from Essex was brutally martyred for aiding a priest and trying to help him escape. Her story is found here in the Catholic Encyclopaedia online.
She was the daughter of William Heigham of Dunmow, Essex, a gentleman of means and an ardent Calvinist, and when she and her brother announced their intention of becoming Catholics both were disowned and disinherited. Anne married Roger Line, a convert like herself, and shortly after their marriage he was apprehended for attending Mass. After a brief confinement he was released and permitted to go into exile in Flanders, where he died in 1594. When Father John Gerard established a house of refuge for priests in London, Mrs. Line was placed in charge. After Father Gerard’s escape from the Tower in 1597, as the authorities were beginning to suspect her assistance, she removed to another house, which she made a rallying point for neighbouring Catholics. On Candlemas Day, 1601, Father Francis Page, S.J. was about to celebrate Mass in her apartments, when priest-catchers broke into the rooms. Father Page quickly unvested, and mingled with the others, but the altar prepared for the ceremony was all the evidence needed for the arrest of Mrs. Line. She was tried at the Old Bailey 26 Feb., 1601, and indicted under the Act of 27 Eliz. for harbouring a priest, though this could not be proved. The next day she was led to the gallows, and bravely proclaiming her faith, achieved the martyrdom for which she had prayed. Her fate was shared by two priests, [Bl.] Mark Barkworth, O.S.B., and Roger Filcock, S.J., who were executed at the same time.
Roger Filcock had long been Mrs. Line’s friend and frequently her confessor. Entering the English College at Reims in 1588, he was sent with the others in 1590 to colonize the seminary of St. Albans at Valladolid, and, after completing his course there, was ordained and sent on the English mission. Father Garnett kept him on probation for two years to try his mettle before admitting him to the Society of Jesus, and finding him zealous and brave, finally allowed him to enter. He was just about to cross to the Continent for his novitiate when he was arrested on suspicion of being a priest and executed after a travesty of a trial.
MORRIS, Life of Fr. John Gerard; CHALLONER, Memoirs, I, 396; FOLEY, Records S.J. I, 405; VII, 254; Douay Diaries, p. 219, 280; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. Rutland Coll. Belvoir Castle, I, 370; GILLOW, Bibl. Dict. Eng. Cath.
Apparently, the poem is about the mystic love of Christ for His martyrs, as well as the love and persecution of Anne and her husband, Roger, who was banished to France. Anne was hung, drawn and quartered on February 27th, 1601. Two priests died next to her. Her last words were said loudly enough to be heard by many people.
“I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand.”
JMJ, Pray for us.
God is good,