E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Fionnuala, daughter of Lir, was transformed into a swan, and condemned to wander for many hundred years over the lakes and rivers of Ireland till the introduction of Christianity into that island. T. Moore has a poem entitled The Song of Fionnuala. (Irish Melodies, No. 11.)
The male swan is called a cob, the female a pen; a young swan is called a cygnet.
Swan. Erman says of the Cygnus olor, This bird, when wounded, pours forth its last breath in notes most beautifully clear and loud. (Travels in Siberia, translated by Cooley, vol. ii.)
Emilia says, I will play the swan, and die in music. (Othello, v. 2.)
What is that, mother? The swan, my love.
He is floating down to his native grove
Death darkens his eyes and unplumes his wings,
Yet the sweetest song is the last he sings.
Live so, my son, that when death shall come,
Swan-like and sweet, it may waft thee home.
Dr. G. Doane.
Swan. Mr. Nicol says of the Cygnus musicus that its note resembles the tones of a violin, though somewhat higher. Each note occurs after a long interval. The music presages a thaw in Iceland, and hence one of its great charms.
Swan. A nickname for a blackamoor. (See LUCUS A NON LUCENDO.)
Ethiopem vocamus cygnum.
Juvenal, viii. 32.
A black swan. A curiosity, a rara avis. The expression is borrowed from the well known verseRara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cycno.
What! is it my rara avis, my black swan?Sir Walter Scott: The Antiquary.