You know your day is going to be fun when early in the morning you are Googling images of dead swans. There are a rather disturbingly high number of dead swan images, by the way.

Only a week ago I posted that I was semi-closing the blog, doing my swan song, in the post Long, awkward pause. It seemed like a good idea at the time. As discussed, I have way too much drama going on in my life at the moment. But in this case of Schrödinger’s* swan, the bird is alive.

I had gotten into the habit of writing a semi-private journal every morning. It was posted in blog format. I miss that. As a journal, it covered different things than this very public blog does, but still both blogs serve similar purposes. I need this in my life. I need both in my life, but one is better than none, eh?

Anyone who has started to follow my blog because of one, specific post probably pretty quickly thinks, “WTF? This isn’t the type of posts I thought I’d be reading here!” God only knows what I’ll be on about next.

Today the thing I’m on about is dead swans, and lest you believe that I am an expert on defunct water fowl, I got curious as to the etymology of the phrase swan song, and so of course I Googled it. Google is the only way I learn anything these days. I will Google quantum mechanics soon (see below*).

The notion began way back when—in ancient Greece—where it was believed that swans, generally mute throughout their lives (an untruth as well), would sing a beautiful song right before dying. I suppose that assumes a natural and peaceful swanny death, and not from Artemis out with her bow. (That reference got me down another Google rabbit hole, to look up the myth of Leda. I knew it once, but couldn’t recall it just now. Ah, geez, my brain on Google is like a cat playing with a laser pointer dot.) Anyway, thinking swans sing before dying would appear to be the result of some ancient Greek and a little too much ouzo one night. Even the Romans knew the situation was bogus, as Pliny wrote: Observation shows that the story that the dying swan sings is false.

Even still, it does make for a good story; it’s a great image. Writers including Chaucer and Shakespeare have used it. Coleridge made a funny with it by writing: Swans sing before they die; ’twere no bad thing Did certain persons die before they sing. (And I resemble that remark.)

The current meaning of swan song first popped up in the 18th century. The figurative statement now refers to the last composition or performance given, such as a blogger describing their last post…

*One of these years I will study what Schrödinger was really talking about. I know the meme. I understand it started as a conversation between Schrödinger and Einstein. All I have to do is get a firm grasp of quantum mechanics. I figure that’ll take me a Tuesday.

The featured image is by Jan Weenix in 1716 and is cleverly titled Dead Swan. It is rather beautifully done, if you like paintings of dead animals.

2 Comments

  1. Good luck with the Quantum mechanics. I’ve just read half a page about Schrödinger and a bit about his cat and my brain is already frazzled. I’m just getting too old for that sort of thing. Wiki tells me he had an interesting personal life though…

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  2. Interesting info about the meaning of swan song. I never knew there was an Einstein and Schrodinger connection. Even more interesting. Waiting for your Tuesday update. Wink wink 😉

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