Mute swans of Europe, their song is legendary,
so rare their voice, when poets sang that singing
they spoke not of the tone nor cadences
but of the final utterance of the dying.
Just once I’ve nursed a car-struck swan through dying;
so faint it was, it had no power to raise
its head above the gravel, nor voice for song.
More full-fledged cygnet, though, than swan, and black
not white; yet still I doubt those northern fancies.
The swans I’ve known and lived near were sociable,
protective of their young (I saw one chase a dog,
and surely those red bills on whippy necks
would concentrate a wallop). Of nights they’d gather
on the boatshed’s landing, talk through the dark.
Lullabied by gentle gabble I’d fall asleep
and hear it when I surfaced in small hours.