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Swan Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Dying Swan by Alfred Tennyson
  2. The Swan of Loch Oich by Eliza Gookin Thornton
  3. The Wild Swan by Isaac McLellan
  4. The Wild Swan (1896 version) by Isaac McLellan

A Swan Poem

  1. The Dying Swan

    by Alfred Tennyson

    The plain was grassy, wild and bare,
    Wide, wild, and open to the air,
    Which had built up everywhere
    An under-roof of doleful gray.
    With an inner voice the river ran,
    Adown it floated a dying swan,
    And loudly did lament.
    It was the middle of the day.
    Ever the weary wind went on,
    And took the reed-tops as it went.

    Some blue peaks in the distance rose,
    And white against the cold-white sky,
    Shone out their crowning snows.
    One willow over the river wept,
    And shook the wave as the wind did sigh;
    Above in the wind was the swallow,
    Chasing itself at its own wild will,
    And far thro' the marish green and still
    The tangled water-courses slept,
    Shot over with purple, and green, and yellow.

    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;
    And floating about the under-sky,
    Prevailing in weakness, the coronach stole
    Sometimes afar, and sometimes anear;
    But anon her awful jubilant voice,
    With a music strange and manifold,
    Flow'd forth on a carol free and bold;
    As when a mighty people rejoice
    With shawms, and with cymbals, and harps of gold,
    And the tumult of their acclaim is roll'd
    Thro' the open gates of the city afar,
    To the shepherd who watcheth the evening star.
    And the creeping mosses and clambering weeds,
    And the willow-branches hoar and dank,
    And the wavy swell of the soughing reeds,
    And the wave-worn horns of the echoing bank,
    And the silvery marish-flowers that throng
    The desolate creeks and pools among,
    Were flooded over with eddying song.

  2. The Swan of Loch Oich

    by Eliza Gookin Thornton

    Beautiful Bird of the Scottish lake,
    With plumage pure as the white snow-flake,
    With neck of pride and a wing of grace,
    And lofty air as of royal race—
    Beautiful Bird! may you long abide,
    And grace Loch Oich in your lonely pride.

    Bright was the breast of the Lake I ween,
    Its crystal wave and its sapphire sheen,
    And bright its border of shrub and tree,
    And thistle bloom in its fragraiicy,
    When to thy side thy fair mate prest,
    Or skimmed the loch with her tintless breast.

    But she is not!—and still to thee,
    Are the sunny wave and the shadowing tree,
    The mossy brink and the thistle flower
    Dear as they were in that blessed hour?
    What is the spell on thy pinion thrown
    That binds thee here, fair Bird, alone?

    Does the vision bright of thy peerless bride
    Still skim the lake and press thy side?
    And haunt the nook in the fir-tree's shade?
    And press the moss in the sunny glade?
    And has earth nothing to thee so fair
    As the gentle spirit that lingers there?

    Oh! 'tis a wondrous wizard spell!
    The human bosom its face can tell
    The heart forsaken hath felt like thine,
    A mystic web with its fibres twine,
    Constraining it still in scenes to stay,
    Whence all it treasured had passed away.

    Bird of Loch Oich! 'tis well, 'tis well,
    You yield your wing to the viewless spell;
    Oh who would seek with a stranger eye,
    For blooming shores and a brilliant sky,
    And range the earth for the hopeless art
    To find a home for a broken heart!

    So would I linger, though all alone,
    Where hallowed love its light has thrown,
    And heath and streamlet and tree and flower,
    Are linked in thought with a happy hour;
    Home of my heart, those scenes should be
    As thy Loch Oich, true Bird, to thee.

  3. The Wild Swan

    by Isaac McLellan

    (Cygnus Americanus)

    Ah, whence dost thou come, O bird of wide-spread wing?
    From what remotest shore dost thou wondrous tidings bring?
    'Mid the Northland's Arctic ice, what woes hast thou beheld,
    Where the gales o'er shipwreck'd crews their savage requiem knell'd.

    In thy century of life, o'er the drifting, whelming snows,
    Hath the shadow of thy pinions swept o'er the grinding floes,
    Where by the Pfeffer River, or King William's Islet plain,
    The bones of Franklin's men in ghostly rest have lain!
    Perchance the flitting shade of thy hovering wings did fall
    On that desolate, gray cairn where repose the dust of Hall;
    Perchance by Lena's flood, in bleak Siberian land,
    Thou saw'st the lost De Long and all his dying band!
    O'er Baffin's Baj', o'er Bellot's Strait, perchance hath been thy flight,
    Or over shores of Labrador in tempest and in night,
    Where the Indian lurk'd in ambush, with rifle and with spear,
    Or Esquimau in light canoe, to stop thy swift career.
    Mayhap o'er Rocky Mounts, o'er the bleak Sierra's space,
    High up in empty air, hath been thy tireless race;
    Thou hast hover'd o'er Pike's Peak, whose granitic boulders rise
    In majesty supreme—cliffs soaring to the skies!
    O'er Yosemite's green vale, where Capitain's white cone
    O'er mountain range and mighty woods uproars its royal throne,
    Hath been thy flight, and thou hast paus'd where Merced's waters pour:
    One sheeted ghost of snowy foam, along its garden shore.
    For there the wildfowl swarm,—the swan, the duck, the crane,
    The pelican and gray geese, that browse the grassy plain,
    Where range the bear and puma, the antelope and deer;
    Far o'er that sportsmen's paradise, hath been thy free career.
    Thy flocks we've watch'd at Barnegat, and Currituck's great Sound,
    A league-long line of gleamy plumes, like snows o'er winter ground;
    Now, whither dost thou tend? Perchance to Southern clime,
    Where calm lagoons are girdled in with orange and the lime.

  4. The Wild Swan

    by Isaac McLellan. McLellan wrote two poems by this title. The following is his 1896 version.

    Far dost thou come, O bird of noblest form,
    From stormy regions of the Arctic home;
    From icy floes where walrus herds resort,
    And the black seal-flocks tumble in the foam:
    Where prowls the white bear o'er the icy fields,
    And rise the snow huts of the Esquimaux;
    Swart tribes are they who dare the frothy surf,
    Pursuing victims with the spear and bow.

    There o'er the drifting, far extending snows
    The shadows of thy wings sweep o'er the floes.

    In Western realms thy race is nigh extinct,
    Realms where thy flocks once fill'd the air of yore,
    Haunting the lakes and rivers in great flocks,
    The great bayous and unfrequented shore;
    But now, alas! thy swarming files forsake
    Those ancient haunts in river, bog and lake!

    In ages past thy beauty charm'd the world.
    Great nobles, where their shapely barks were built,
    Would seek perfection in thy perfect shape,
    Modeled with skill, resplendent with their gilt.
    In such fair bark went Cleopatra forth
    To conquer Antony and rule the earth.

    Far off in Southern haunt, in broad lagoon,
    In sunny isles, grand archipelagos
    Where the white sands with crystal shells are strewn,
    And each green glade with golden fruitage glows;
    Where soars the palm-trees and magnolias rise,
    And gorgeous flowerets shine like brilliant skies.
    There 'mid perennial blooms thy home shall be
    Thy snowy pinions sweep o'er shore and sea.

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