Le Chevalier au Cygne

16 Nov

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.

From the other direction, a full-frontal swan assault team.

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.)

A beautiful swan statue, a gift from the German city of Kleve, overlooks both the riverside walk and the swans themselves.  In the right background, you can see the Cathedral Tower.

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.”


11 Responses to “Le Chevalier au Cygne”

  1. Zazzy November 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Absolutely beautiful! It’s really hard to say anything else. Your photos are gorgeous and – don’t know how to say it – they feel like a fantasy? Like crossing over into another world.

    • Monique November 17, 2012 at 8:48 am #

      When the world looks like it does in these photos at 10am on a normal Thursday mid-morning, it’s hard not to feel like the world is a fantasy!

  2. Anonymous November 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    Magical, my friend.

  3. Aubrey Price Pettyjohn November 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    Magical, my friend.

  4. Sarah November 16, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    Magical indeed. What a treasure you’re creating here.

    • Monique November 17, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      Hmmmm. But there is another part of my brain screaming ‘to hell with these misty swans, get me some sunshine and sandy beaches stat’ Winter is a very mixed bag of magic. 8)

      • Sarah November 17, 2012 at 9:28 am #

        Yes, well, when you read over this blog from your hot and sunny deck in a Merry Land, you will see you have created a wonderful treasure from your travels abroad. I would take cold and misty any day over sunshine and beaches, so this post speaks especially to my soul. I’d rather get my rays from a crackling fire than a ball of burning gases. Even though you miss the sun, you are clearly making the very, very best out of misty swans, m’Lady.


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