When but a novice reader of Shakespeare, I remember a slight pang of disappointment at discovering that the “Turtle” in the title of his great metaphysical poem on ideal love, “The Phoenix and the Turtle”, referred to the turtle dove rather than the shelled chelonian. I suspect I had been hoping for some Lewis Carroll-style fantasy on mismatched animal partners.
Fortean Times, however, has restored my faith in the inevitability of the surreal. The review of Joseph Nigg’s book The Phoenix [ FT354:56] refers to Shakespeare’s poem as “The Phoenix and the Tortoise” which (unless there are tortoise doves out there) takes us well into the deliciously absurd territory of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” while adding a whole new level of arcane symbolism. Gail-Nina Anderson Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne