The Phoenix and the Turtle

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


This enigmatic poem appeared in a 1601 poetry collection, and it is attributed to Shakespeare. The first five stanzas of this 67-line poem mention a funeral procession and list some birds; the next eight consist of an anthem regarding Reason being confounded by Love; and a final threnos laments the deaths. Speculation on an allegorical dimension is certainly invited, but attempts at plugging in Elizabeth and Essex haven’t proven convincing. Elizabeth was associated with the phoenix, though, and since the turtledove signifies fidelity and “truth,” consideration of Oxford makes sense.