There isn’t really a Swan Knight in today’s post, but I was reminded of medieval chansons de geste when we walked down to the Severn River as it runs towards Worcester Cathedral, and saw:
Just a few romantic swans in this direction, gently emerging from the dreamy mist enveloping the Worcester Bridge.
My children are very familiar with the story of Oriant, Beatrice, the evil Matabrune, and Helias, who becomes the Swan Knight in one version of the story. (I don’t know if this link works, but an audio of the story is free on iTunes from Barefoot Books: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/barefoot-books-podcast-ipod/id361242548 — scroll down to #16, Knight of the Swan)
There was something mesmerizing about the shockingly white feathers against the dark river water. These are mute swans (note the orange bills), and they made a soft sort of chirping bark sound and wagged their tail feathers as they careened back and forth. (Really.)
Why the swan? We asked the guide inside the Cathedral — where we found heraldic and symbolic swans in various places — and the presence of swans in Worcester seemed to be a mystery to the guide as well. A Beauchamp lord — the family claimed kinship to the swan knight, somewhere in time’s mists — and his lady are buried, here, her head resting on a large black swan.
“So, as they stray’d, a swan they saw
Sail stately up and strong,
And by a silver chain she drew
A little boat along,
Whose streamer to the gentle breeze,
Long floating, flutter’d light,
Beneath whose crimson canopy
There lay reclined a knight.
“With arching crest and swelling breast
On sail’d the stately swan,
And lightly up the parting tide
The little boat came on.
And onward to the shore they drew,
And leapt to land the knight,
And down the stream the little boat
Fell soon beyond the sight.”