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The Phoenix


 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 pre-currer 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;
Phoenix 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 phoenix' 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 phoenix and the dove,
Co-supreme and stars of love;
As chorus to their tragic scene.


Beauty, truth, and rarity.
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos'd in cinders lie.

Death is now the phoenix' nest;
And the turtle's loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:--
'Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but 'tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

Crib Notes

Name: The High Priestess - The Virgin Queen

Dramatis Personae: The Virgin Queen; The Virgin Mary; the May Queen; Virgin Mother & Wife of the Nation; Defender of the Faith; Gloriana; Diana; Artemis; Venus; Astraea; Cynthia; Phoebe; Belphoebe;

 Semele; Aurora; Eliza/Dido; Pandora; The Faerie Queene; the Phoenix. Lucrece.

Roman à Clef: Queen Elizabeth I, House of Tudor.

Religious Station: Supreme Governor of the Church, Fidei Denfensor/Defender of the Faith, or, the literal Papess.

Astrology: Moon, Cancer, Virgo

ER's Zodiac Sign: Virgo

Hebrew Letter: BETH

 Text & Context: The Hebrew word Beth means "house", or "place". The High Priestess bore this house, protects it, and is its votress. Beth originates from the word "bread", the body, the staff of life - the distaff if you will. Notoriously frugal, she nonetheless supplies the dough, as in Ophelia's half-baked "They say the owl was a baker's daughter."  In the myth, a parsimonious baker's daughter halved a batch of bread which nonetheless swelled to such an enormous size she was transformed into an owl, symbol of wisdom and familiar of the virgin goddess Athena.

 The High Priestess places a surreptitious hand on The Rape of Lucrece, Shakespeare's second narrative poem and the second use of the authorial name. Here we may see a connection with the first narrative poem Venus and Adonis and so The Moon card. On one level, the poem can be said to be a rumination on didactic poetry which uses black and white characters to espouse platitudes [viz. Sidney's Arcadia] verses a naturalism which renders humans in 3 dimensions but can only add to the world's moral ambiguity. The poems' dialectic is the poet's: Shakespeare creates a psychologically real world which educates the ears of the listener to hear correctly what it has to say. After the violation, which happens under cover of night, Tarquin reflects on the artificiality of appearance, analogous to the artistry of a painting of Troy he views...

"much imaginary work was there; 
Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind, 
That for Achilles' image stood his spear, 
Griped in an armed hand; himself, behind, 
Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind: 
A hand, a foot, a face, a leg, a head, 
Stood for the whole to be imagined."

 A hand calls to mind Lavinia's rape, and her writing of the wrong. The spear calls to mind the unseen author. Whats more, "spear" here rhymes with "there", and so can be seen as "spare". Similarly "imagined" rhymed with "mind" evokes the hard Greek gyne seen in vagina and Regina, meaning "queen". 

  Lucrece's colours are explicitly red and white, as seen in the flag of England, the Tudor Rose, the May Pole, and the Venus & Adonis fritillary. ER was known to adore the May Day festival, herself often associated with the May Queen. The May Day Queen corresponds to Maid Marion, Robin Hood's Merry/Mary men, and the Virgin Mary. It may be of note that Maid Marion is the only woman in the Robin Hood myth - certainly the only woman Sherwood's Merry Men will entertain - and has three distinct personas: maiden in the castle, tomboy in the forest, and nunnery crone.  Paramour to the May Day Queen, Robin Hood corresponds to Robin Goodfellow, or Puck from Midsummer Night's Dream and so the ensuing Empress card. Under pressure from Protestants, Elizabeth came to ban many of the pagan rites of May Day and Midsummer, replacing them with imperially sanctioned celebrations.

 Lucrece mentions the Cedar Tree by name, home to the mythical Phoenix. The Phoenix symbolizes rebirth, the transmigration of the soul, and the ever-lasting [cf. "our ever-living poet"]. Known in medieval times as the royal bird, it resides in the sole Arabian Tree  in Heliopolis - often believed to be Heliopolis in Egypt but in actually the oracle and pilgrimage site Heliopolis in Phoenica. Situated near Tyre in biblical Caanan, the Heliopolis - or Baalbek - temple site was dedicated to the Heliopolitan Triad: Ba'al [Zeus], his consort Astart [Isis, Diana, mother of the Artemides], and their son Adon - the Greek Adonis. In Islamic mythology, the site was a palace of Solomon. Shakespeare has Henry VIII say of his daughter:

Nor shall this peace sleep with her; but as when
The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phoenix,
Her ashes new create another heir
As great in admiration as herself;
So shall she leave her blessedness to one,
When heaven shall call her from this cloud of darkness,
Who from the sacred ashes of her honour
Shall star-like rise as great in fame as she was,
And so stand fix'd.

Noting the term "maiden" in connection here with phoenix, and remembering Maid Marion, mark the glyph for Virgo, dating back to Babylon, is the maiden -

 The symbol of the interrupted M, the mother waters of mem, may indicate wings, as those of Astraea. Mem, associated with the Death card, alludes to the rape of Kore and Proserpina in the underworld, as well as the first maiden, mother, and crone Eve and the fruits of her tree. The goddess of Greece, Rome, and aboriginal Britain was tripartite, the Beauty/Birth/Death sequence seen variously, as in Luna/Diana/Hecate, and the weird sisters triad of Moira/Ilythia/Callone in Plato's Symposium. As it happened, Edward de Vere had 3 very prominent Beths in his life: his first child Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, and his wife in later years Elizabeth Trentham. The loop similar to a vesica piscis at the bottom right of the mem is an upside-down O; this is the Hebrew letter ayin, signifying an eye, associated with the Tower card. The Tower card itself alludes to male agency as symbolized in the phallus, the Tower of Babel, Zeus' lightning bolt, and the goddess Athene born of Zeus' head. In these semiotics can be seen the caducean union of male and female embodied in Pallas Athena's Palladium: the rigid exoteric pillar entwined by her amorphous esoteric serpent. 

  As befits the various faces of The High Priestess, we may also see veiled allusions to ER in a number of Shakespeare's heroines. A direct reference to the goddess Diana in a text is an example, as is a name-saked character such as Diana in All's Well That Ends Well, or the "actual" goddess Diana in Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The name can hide in plain sight, as in Measure For Measure's Isabella, or be embedded, as in Bel-mont's Portia - wife of Brutus, himself an allusion to Brutus, King of the Britains. This Brutus links, via his grandfather Aeneas, to both the palladium of Pallas Athena brought from Troy to Rome and on to England, and to the Phoenician Dido, whose actual name was Eliza. Innogen, the wife of Brutus, is echoed in Imogen, as her father Cymbeline's conflict with the Rome of Augustus echoes the Ghibelines and Guelphs. Virgil and Dante, repeating the Cumaean Sybil, predicted the return of the Golden Age, when the Virgin of Justice Astraea inaugerated a sanctified Imperial reign known as the "Phoenix period".

 As the embodiment of Britain herself, Shakespeare plays comically on this metaphor in The Comedy of Errors' kitchen wench Nell. Played darkly, in obscure admonition, is the Scottish Macbeth, whose name means "son of Beth"But the real accomplishments of the Virgin Queen are manifold, vast, and far-reaching. She unified her country in a time of religious uncertainty. She prevailed over military threats in a time which commonly saw a woman's role as not much greater than a kitchen wench. She successfully steered through domestic turmoil, including the intrigues of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, and by failing to marry herself, retained sole command of her realm for half a century. The network of spies Walshingham and Burghley employed in the service of ER's empire was unprecedented, and was precursor to the mammoth espionage agencies nations commonly employ today. I use the word empire in the literal and figurative sense, because both - as John Dee made explicit - were undertaken and accomplished under ER's reign. The project of Nationhood, begun in a sense by her father's divorce from Rome, was carried on to fruition by Elizabeth. Through exploration, exposition, and cultivation, a unique British identity was forged. An identity noble and fit to match any on the world's stage. The divine line of transmission from Troy, through Brutus, to this Sceptred Isle, was made complete by ER. And Shakespeare himself was a facet of the queen's enterprise, specifically penning the British chronicle plays to provide the English people with their own history and a new-found sense of self. It was Shakespeare's genius, with his entire oeuvre, which transcended this task, and became its - and England's - pièce de résistance.

*Note: While based as much on their public persona, The High Priestess is one of three cards which also uniquely represent living people. This card then, along with these 2 other cards of the Major Arcana, form a triad - 

The High Priestess II The Virgin Queen; The Hierophant V William Shake-speareThe Chariot VII Lord Burghley;

The High Priestess II The Virgin Queen

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