Third May Blog. 16-5-15.
The photograph of swan and signets at dusk, was taken by The River Thames, at Maidenhead , Berkshire, England, by my nephew Russel Steward. Thank you for the permission to use.
Oh, mother dear, you protect us
Within the oncoming night.
Your white wing feathers cover us,
Until we see the dawn light.
Save us from foxes or weasels,
Or rats that swim in the pond,
For they are harbingers of sorrow
For mother swans and their brood.
Yet she will protect and deliver
Our bodies, from harm, near and far.
She teaches us how to grow older,
So we can fly up to the stars.
Our father will seek out a nest site
For mother to safely rear
A gaggle of signets, this summer,
So that we will be full swans, next year.
Copyright Evelyn J. Steward. May, 2015.
All swans here belong to the Queen. An old tradition. Later this sumner, special men will go out on the waters of the River Thames, catch the halfgrown signets in a ceremony called Swan Upping. These men have uniforms, depending which group they belong to, and ‘ring’ the youngsters. I am not certain, but I think they use flat-bottomed punts to get the job done.
We in England do have some old-fashioned quirky ways. If you think about it, some of our ancient dances and dancers are a bit on the quirky side too. Like Morris Dancers, with bells tied around their legs and ankles, ribbons across chests, sticks they clack together. Often, a dancer is ‘the horse’ which has a circular ‘skirt’ and is somewhat threatening, all in fun, of course.
Then there is clog dancing, kept alive, even today in various parts of the country. Of course, we do not miss out Wassailing, near the end of the year or on New Years Eve, where people gather in old orchards, drink cider, dip bread into the cider and then hang the bread on the oldest tree. The remains of the cider is tipped over the roots to ensure a good harvest the following year. Who knows, it may do some good?
I am sure that in various parts of our country, traditions have been kept alive through the centuries, or revived, possibly some have come down from cultures that invaded us, bringing their traditions with them. Some of our own traditions may be much, much older. ‘Tis said that our islands were once joined to the European mainland, where the North Sea now resides. It is certain that fishing vessels often trawl up dinosaur bones in their nets. Most dinosaurs lived on land!!! Ergo, there was once a vast trek of land between England/Scotland and what is now France/Germany/ The Netherlands etc.
i did see a t.v. programme couple or so years ago which says that a tsunami was the problem up around Scandinavia, possibly originating from what we now know as the USA, causing tidal waves to sweep out into the Atlantic and around the lower regions of this piece of land, becoming what w know as The North Sea, cutting off the Europen mainland and ending in the English Channel, so making of us, islands. I am not pisitive is this is what really happened, millennia ago, only passing on information I took in about the programme. Dredging up dinosaur bones is not proof. The oceanic tides ebb and flow, move proverbial mountains. But the conclusions by the scientists seem to have a good base for deduction, wouldn’t you think?
To end this blog, and give the founder of the photograph some proper recognition, I shall try to write about the swan that swims in rivers and lakes in these islands, the Mute Swan.
The Mute Swan swims in our rivers,
She and her mate, in the streams.
Lakeland will find them serenely, stately,
Paddling the canals, and in dreams.
The white swan of Europe is pristine,
In Australia, her feathers are black.
Is this Antipodean heritage,
A ‘sport’, or an English throwback?
Black feathered beaks are a red hue,
Whilst our Mutes are an orangey sheen,
With black knobs on top of their beaks,
The Cobb’s one is larger than the Penn’s.
A pair find each other when younger
And mating for life, seems their way.
Year after year they breed signets
All grey, ’till they moult, move away.
The old pair they build up the nesting,
Where winter has ravaged the fronds,
To mate and lay eggs in the springtime,
On rivers, canal edge and ponds.
A few little signets then follow,
So cute in their dullish grey garb,
Little webbed feet go a’paddling,
Midst minnows, and frogspawn and carp.
Soon in amongst the tall rushes,
Like Anderson’s childrens’ tale,
Their feathers grow out like their parents,
All gleaming white, far they sail.
For signets, as said in the trilling,
Are ugly, ’til one day comes by,
Their grey down moults, superceded
By glistening white feathers to fly.
Copyright Evelyn J. Steward. May, 2015.
Just a bit of whimsy, folks. Be careful out there today.