I see the waves upon the shore,
Like light dissolved in star showers, thrown…
-Percy Bysshe Shelley (1818)
My soul is an enchanted boat,
Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing.
Shelley, Prometheus Unbound (1820), II.v, l.39
The mute swan, although ubiquitous in Britain, is always a graceful sight and provides an elegant focal point for the lake-side photographer. According to legend, the mute swan is mute through life until the moment before its death when it emits a beautiful song. This is the origin of the expression, “swan song”.
The silver Swan, who living had no note,
When Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
“Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes!
“More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise.
Orlando Gibbons, “The Silver Swan”, The First Set of Madrigals and Motets of Five Parts (1612)