Dec19

Twelve Days of Christmas “Seven Swans a-Swimming”

Posted by Kelly Kirkham

Celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas with Midphase as we count down to the 25th. Yesterday we covered the eight maids a-milking and for the seventh day of Christmas, we take a look at the myth behind the metaphorical swan song.

“The swan is white without spot, and it sings sweetly as it dies, that song ending its life.”

-Leonardo da Vinci

Midphase has gone holiday crazy with contests and deals, and now by counting The Twelve Days of Christmas. ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ carol has been a holiday steadfast for hundreds of years. Originally the English carol was created for children to easily remember specific details of their Catholic faith. Today it represents the beauty of a season of giving. Today, on the seventh day of Christmas, we take a look at Seven Swans a-Swimming.

The Twelve Days of Christmas were not the first nor the last to use the swan as a symbol.This beautiful and mysteriously silent creature has often been used to symbolize intuition and dreams. Many fables and myths include the swan, including the common phrase “Swan song.”

The phrase refers to a final gesture or performance given just before death. This originated as an ancient belief that swans sing a beautiful song moments before they take a permanent plunge into the heavenly pond after maintaining a life of silence.

Origins of the phrase have been long debated, but according to Greek mythology the swan was the sacred symbol dedicated to Apollo as a representation of harmony and beauty. One myth mentions Apollo flying across the sky on the back of his swan to the the land of Hyperboreans to spend the long winter months.

Another origin stems from Aesop’s fable of “The Swan Mistaken for a Goose”. The fable includes a tragic scene stating that, “The swan, who had been caught by mistake instead of the goose, began to sing as a prelude to its own demise. His voice was recognized and the song saved his life.”

In this beautiful tale the Swan’s song actually saved its life, but this is not the case in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Dying Swan” when he writes:

The wild swan’s death-hymn took the soul

Of that waste place with joy

Hidden in sorrow: at first to the ear

The warble was low, and full and clear;…

But anon her awful jubilant voice,

With a music strange and manifold,

In an effort to add a little cheer to this quite somber topic I will add a little light on the subject. The myth of the swan song is just that, a myth.

The Trumpeter Swan actually trumpets and honks all the time, not only when preceding death. You can hear its song here. Even the Mute Swan is known to call to mates and predators. The Mute Swan got its name for being less vocal than the Trumpeter Swan, not because it is actually mute. You can listen to the Mute Swan’s call here.

So before you spend the rest of your day sad for the singing swan in his final moments, I offer something to cheer you up:

What’s louder than a trumpeter swan?

A whooping crane!

(I know, I know. Worst joke ever. But what can I say? I’m a sucker for puns!)

Be sure to read all about the Six Geese a-Laying in tomorrow’s post for more bad jokes and our last stretch in The Twelve Days of Christmas at Midphase.com/blog!

 

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