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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: August ::
The Phoenix and Turtle
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0498  Friday, 3 August 2007

From: 		Sid Lubow <
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Date: 		Thursday, 2 Aug 2007 00:17:48 EDT
Subject: 	The Phoenix and Turtle, 1599 or 1601

I did write that The Phoenix and Turtle was printed in 1599.  To avoid 
any irrelevant argument involving a couple of years more or less, Sean 
B. Palmer is absolutely right that I should have written 1601 as the 
date that The Phoenix and Turtle was printed.   I have studied the poem 
extensively and read too many critics' views on the matter, for some 
dated the poem 1595-1596 and others, such as Kenneth Muir, and Sean 
O'Loughlin dated it also in the mid-1590s. William Empson argued that 
Chester's entire volume must have been ready for publication prior to 
the War of the Theaters in 1599-1602, a time during which many of the 
contributing authors were feuding and unlikely to have cooperated in 
this venture. Thus Empson claimed 1598 or early 1599 as a likely 
composition date. However, dates aside, the poem took some "diligence of 
mind to make out all its meaning," according to Sidney Lanier, in 1879, 
a distinguished Romantic poet.

In 1875, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote: "I should like to have the Academy 
of Letters propose a prize for an essay on Shakespeare's poem, "Let the 
bird of loudest lay {1.1}, and the Threnos with which it closes; the aim 
of the essay being to explain, by a historical research into the poetic 
myths and tendencies of the age in which it was written, the frame and 
allusions of the poem....To unassisted readers, it would appear to be a 
lament on the death of a poet, and of his poetic mistress. But the poem 
is so quaint, and charming in diction, tone and allusions, and in its 
perfect metre and harmony, that I would gladly have the fullest 
illustration yet attainable. I consider this piece a good example of the 
rule, that there is a poetry for bards proper, as well as a poetry for 
the world of readers." Shakespearean Criticism, Vol.10, page 7.

I maintain that A Lover's Complaint is the prologue to the Sonnets as I 
maintain that The Phoenix and Turtle is its epilogue. In the same spirit 
of inquiry of Mr. Emerson, I welcome the group's opinions of the meaning 
of the poem and whether it is related to the Sonnets sequence, as John 
Kerrigan was the first to suggest that ALC was connected integrally to 
the Sonnets.

Respectfully,
Sid Lubow

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