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Photographer's Note

I was visiting old haunts this last weekend, and found myself on the River Thames, near Bourne End, and Old Thatch Cottage, one time home of Enid Blyton. The swans looked rather photogenic, and I was, weakly, intending to call this post, ‘A bird’s eye view’.

However I noticed when the image was on the screen the swan unfortunately had a nylon fishing line in its beak and around its neck and I fear the worst. If not poisoned by lead shot ( less likely these days as lead is frowned upon for this very reason ) it may well succumb to the tightening of the in-destructible nylon.

Thus, Swansong occurred to me instead.

So what is a swan song ?

This term derived from the ancient legend that, while they are mute during the rest of their lives, swans sing beautifully and mournfully just before they die.
The literary world rather liked the idea and authors often make reference :

Chaucer , in 'Parliament of Fowles':
The Ialous swan, ayens his deth that singeth.
( The jealous swan, sings before his death )

Shakespeare, ( the Swan of Avon ! ) wrote in 'The Merchant of Venice'
Portia: Let music sound while he doth make his choice; then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end, fading in music.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge reversed the idea in his poem, 'On a Volunteer Singer':
Swans sing before they die; ’twere no bad thing
Did certain persons die before they sing.

But they should have all saved their words; even as far back as the Romans keen observers knew it to be false :

Pliny the Elder in Natural History, AD 77:
Observation shows that the story that the dying swan sings is false.


'Swan-song' is now only figurative and used commonly to refer to performers embarking on 'farewell tours' or 'final performances'.

Famously, in the case of singer Nellie Melba, her swan song consisted of an eight year long string of 'final concerts' between 1920 and 1928. This led to the popular Australian phrase - 'more farewells than Nellie Melba'.

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Additional Photos by Martin Richter (MJR) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 250 W: 69 N: 761] (3360)
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