The Twelve Days of Christmas – Day 7 – Seven Swans-a-Swimming

On The Seventh Day of Christmas – Seven Swans-a-Swimming

Swan with Cygnets

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

The Swan is the most graceful of birds. Imagine being given Seven Swans-a-swimming as a Christmas gift

Swans, genus Cygnus, are birds of the family Anatidae, which also include geese and ducks. There are six to seven species of swan in the genus Cygnus. The swans are the largest members of the the duck family and are among the largest flying birds. Their wing spans can be up to 3 metres(10 feet).

The Northern Hemisphere species of swan has pure white plumage, but the Southern Hemiphere species are mixed black and white.       

The Australian Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) is completely black except for white flight feathers on its wings. The Swan River which flows through the centre of Perth, my home town and the capital of Western Australia, derived its name from the fact that black swans were found swimming on the river by the early settlers. The Black Swan is the State emblem and has pride of place on the State Flag.

Black Swan (Google Images)

Swans like Geese, are usually monogomous and mate for life, though ” divorce” sometimes occurs, particularly following nesting failure. The number of eggs in a clutch varies from three to eight. While the chicks of white swans are white, those of black swans are light grey in colour.

Swans are almost entirely herbiverous, although they may eat small amounts of acquatic animals. They feed in water and on land. In water they feed on roots, tubers, stems and leaves of acquatic plants and submeged roots. They appear most humerous when feeding, for they up-end themselves with their bottoms in the air, a process known as “dabbling”.

The Swan – a Source of Inspiration

The Swan has been the inspiration for writers, poets,  musicians and choreographers.

I guess there would be very people who had not heard of  Hans Christian Anderson, the famous Danish writer of fairy-tales. Two of his stories were, “The Wild Swans” penned in 1838, which tells of eleven handsome princes who were turned into swans by their wicked step-mother and “The Ugly Duckling” written in 1844, which relates a case of mistaken identity; a so called ugly duckling which became a beautiful Swan.

There is another German fairy tale from The Brother’s Grimm, called the “Six Swans”.

Did you learn any poems, as a young person, writtten by the famous 19th century Anglo-Irish poet, William B Yeats. One of his well known poems is “The Swans at Coole”

Maybe poetry is not your “thing”. How then about Music?

“The Swan” from “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Seans is a most beautiful solo piece for the cello. The quote below is a most interesting one about this piece of music.

” Because he wanted to be considered a composer of serious, substantial music, Camille Saint-Saens suppressed his “Carnival of the Animals” shortly after its premiere, in 1886, disallowing any execution of the suite and publishing only one movement, “The Swan”, in his lifetime. And while that movement is a welcome addition to pieces written for the cello, the whole “zoological fantasy” is a most successful example of humourously themed music in the classical repertory and has become, with full right, one of the composer’s most popular works”. (Lindoro Rossini)

Are you a lover of Classical Ballet as I am ? Then, in my opinion, nothing can surpass Tchaikovsky’s first ballet, “Swan Lake”. It  is considered by many to be one of the greatest classical ballets of all time. It is partially based on an ancient German legend, which tells the  story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’curse. Its romance and beauty has allowed this classic ballet to mesmorize audiences for more than 100 years. One of the greatest performances recorded was that by Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev

Although Swan Lake was Tchaikovsky’s first ballet score, the first production in Moscow wasn’t well-received. Although several versions exist, most ballet companies stage the ballet according to the choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov for their St. Petersburg performance of 1895.”

Counting the Queen’s Swans.

Did you known that there is an annual event held on the River Thames in England, known as “Swan Upping” ? This five day event dates back to medieval times,  when a royal decree stated that all unmarked “mute Swans” in the United kingdom were the property of the Monarchy. Although Queen Elizabeth, retains the right to claim all the country’s mute swans, she exercises that right only on the Thames.

A person is appointed as the “Queen’s Swan Marker”. His duty is to conduct an annual census of the river’s newborn cygnets.
On the appointed day, with a swan feather in his cap, along with other officials and a retinue of oarsmen dressed in scarlet he travels for 79 miles up the Thames from the town of Eton below Windsor Castle.
At one point in their journey, the swan uppers traditionally stand at attention in their replica Victorian skiffs and shout a salute — “to Her Majesty the Queen, Seigneur of the Swans.”
This ritual was first documented in the 12th century, when swan meat was a popular dish at medieval feasts. The Monarchy laid claim to the swans which were valuable food comodity. Henry VIII reportedly enjoyed swan at his dinner table. There was a time when to kill one of the Royal swans was punishable with death.
In our politically correct society, I don’t think eating swans would be acceptable.
Don’t you agree, that to  receive  Seven Swans-a-Swimming would be a unique Christmas gift?
Doctor  Bill
Other Posts in The Series:
The Twelve Days of Christmas
The Twelve days of Christmas Day 1

The Twelve Days of Christmas Day 2

The Twelve Days of Christmas Day 3

The Twelve Days of Christmas Day 4

The Twelve Days of Christmas Day 5
The Twelfth Day of Christmas Day 6
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