A Flora and Fauna of Symi

A personal guide to the wildlife of Symi and beyond

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Turtle Dove

June 8, 2014

Perhaps because of Biblical references (especially the well-known verse from the Song of Songs), its mournful voice, and the fact that it forms strong pair bonds, European Turtle Doves have become emblems of devoted love. In the New Testament, two turtle doves are mentioned to have been sacrificed for the Birth of Jesus. In Renaissance Europe, the European Turtle Dove was envisaged as the devoted partner of the Phoenix. Robert Chester's poem Love's Martyr is a sustained exploration of this symbolism. It was published along with other poems on the subject, including William Shakespeare's poem "The Phoenix and the Turtle" (where "turtle" refers to the turtle dove).

The Turtle Dove is featured in a number of folk songs about love and loss. One of these is a setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Turtle Doves also are featured in the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas", as the gift "my true love gives to me" on the second day of Christmas. If added cumulatively, by the end of the song, the recipient has been given 22.

Turtle doves appear in the title and lyrics of a spiritual from the Georgia Sea Islands.

In the Shaker hymn "In Yonder Valley", it is seen as a good omen and sign of growth that "The Turtledove is in our land".

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