An Analysis of ‘The Silver Swan’ by Anon

The silver swan, who living had no note,
When death approached unlocked her silent throat,
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more:
Farewell all joys, O death come close mine eyes,
More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.

‘The Silver Swan’ is almost a metaphorical poem which explores the themes of beauty, elegance, death, pride, fear and arrogance. In fact, we can substitute each of these themes as the subject of the poem and it would still be applicable and relevant. These are some of the key lessons I got from the poem:

  • Elegance, beauty or attractiveness doesn’t alway equal intelligence.
  • Death shouldn’t be the point of regret or courage or even bravery. It should be done in life.
  • Pride and arrogance can be rooted in no substance or talent. Almost an aesthetic rather than functionality.

Poetic Techniques

Oxymoron: In the first line, we have the word ‘living’ which is contrasted with death in the second line.

Contrast: In line four, we have the words ‘first and last’ in the same line which even extends further to ‘no more’. This illustrates the stages,  phases or rites of passage that the swan embarked on. Likewise, the strong comparison between geese and swans complements the line fools than wise.

My Reflection On The Piece

There are various lines which prompts questions and deep thought. For instance the line:

When death approached unlocked her silent throat

This emphasises a lesson (if you will) that on the verge of death shouldn’t be when you say/do the things that you have always wanted to do.

Another line which raises questions is:

Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more:

This begs the questions of why didn’t she sing before? Was it pride? Did she think she was too elegant to sing? I believe it could be a combination of different things such as fear, realisation or even a form of epiphany.

Please comment below on what you think the swan is a metaphor for?

Thank you for reading!



One response to “An Analysis of ‘The Silver Swan’ by Anon”

  1. Dear Ms. Williams,
    I so appreciate your analysis of this poem. Learning Ned Rorem’s setting of this poem and find it very helpful. Thank you🌹
    All the best.


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