The swans on the lake

For the dverse prompt. One of my favourite songs is She moved through the fair. This is a humble hommage.


As the swans in the evening move over the lake,

I watch and I listen to dusky life wake,

And I think that I see you beyond on the road,

But the sunlight is failing and the day has grown old.


I watch as the evening star wakes in the east,

And the sky turns from eggshell to deep ocean blue,

And I watch and I listen to the fox as he slips

Into the tree shadows, he reminds me of you.


As the swans on the lake settle down to their rest,

And the stars cluster brightly from the east to the west,

I turn my steps homeward with a stone in my heart,

And your words ringing softly, “This is where we part.”


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

69 thoughts on “The swans on the lake”

  1. Such a gorgeous track and a wonderful poem to match it, Jane. When we lived in Ireland, we used to go to ‘sessions’ and sing along to songs like this. I love the Chieftains and Van the man. I particularly love the lines:
    ‘But the sunlight is failing and the day has grown old’;
    ‘And the sky turns from eggshell to deep ocean blue’;
    ‘I turn my steps homeward with a stone in my heart,
    And your words ringing softly, “This is where we part.”’

    1. I’m glad you like it Kim. I wrote it in a few minutes, without any hesitations or changes. It’s the melody that brought the words after it. The Irish songs are so beautifully sad, it’s impossible not to be moved.

  2. Such a gorgeous poem – one of your best. Excellent music choice as well. A few winters ago, we had several migrating swans land on the small pond here and stay for a month – apparently one was sick and they will not leave one alone – it was beautiful watching them.

  3. It’s grim sad stuff but then we love sentimentality and a chance to feel sorry for ourselves. Go back a generation and we have ‘ There’s an Old Mill by the Stream Nelly Dean’ . For the more refined ‘ Then I can shed a tear unused to flow , for precious friends hid in deaths dateless night.’

    1. That’s true, we do love a good weep. But sadness isn’t the same as sentimentality. Sadness and longing are human conditions, part of our emotional make up. Sentimentality implies artificiality, excess, and insincerity. I would never describe “She moves through the fair” as sentimental. Nor do I think there is true beauty in sentimentality. The difference between a Woolworth’s print and a Rembrandt.

      1. Not at all, when I see trite verses on a well cared for gravestone I do not pass judgement on the mourners . Likewise I’m quite happy to see the enjoyment many get from a Woolworths print even if they have never heard of Rembrandt. I don’t look down on a man who reads the Sun and hold in high esteem a Times reader. Sentimentality is a human condition and I often wallow in it along with my fellow humans.

      2. I didn’t say anything about passing judgement. In any case, your examples are of reactions to reproductions of sentimentality not the creation of them. They are human reactions. I cry at Lassie type films with everybody else, but the film maker is not in tears. The film is a manipulation of our emotions. Likewise the trite messages in greetings cards or the weeping child in the Woolworth’s prints. The reactions of the people who buy them are sincere, but for the artist or poet they are contrived, with the precise aim of tugging at the heart strings.

  4. There is no such thing as true beauty it’s like true religion a false idea , beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Have you forgotten Princess Diana and the funeral and how the general public loved the spectacle , it was beautiful to those moved by it and tears were shed in there millions.
    All life’s aspects play on our emotions that’s what to live means, I don’t believe popular poets or song writers set out to manipulate. Manipulation has a sinister feel about it I would suspect politicians may well engage in such activities and of course advertisers.

    1. True beauty meaning there’s also a false beauty? Everything in nature is beautiful, but not everything we produce to emulate it. I don’t remember Diana because I wasn’t in the UK and didn’t have a TV anyway, but I’m not sure how that serves the point you’re making. It was a mass outpourings of grief for someone not personally known to any of the grievers. It’s a phenomenon similar to any mass movement and to be used with moderation.
      I agree that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but beauty is not the same as art. I know there are two arguments, but I tend to agree that there are rules to art (all forms) and they have to be learned. Art isn’t up to personal appreciation. It can be judged on different aspects, can be flawed, near perfect, technically perfect but lacking in form, etc etc. I wouldn’t dare criticise a piece of music because I don’t know enough about how to hear it.
      Manipulation is intrinsically unpleasant because it’s a con. Not necessarily sinister or criminal, but tear-jerkers, in music, film, painting of literature are using the emotions to the receiver to sell something.

  5. I am so enjoying the experience of writing a comment as I listen your music. Beautiful!
    It was also easy to imagine your poem being sung to the same tune. I especially love the last two lines.

      1. I wonder if it isn’t that there’s a rhythm and a set of images that slip into place without me having to think about it. Could become like writing by numbers. Kick me if I start to repeat myself 🙂

  6. You wove a beautiful thing here out of the swans movement. I love the juxtaposition of soft words and the stone in the heart at the close. Delicious. This is a song I have listened too for many a year but not this version funnily enough. No one can come close to Sandy Denny for me.

    1. I’ve always liked Anne Briggs singing it, but thought I’d have a male voice for a change. I didn’t know the Fairport Convention version. Denny does have a good voice. I don’t much like the backing though.

  7. Thanks for the link. Not sure how I missed this little fox of a poem. I really like how it swells and softens along with the tempo and the successions of musical tone in the song.

    I was heavily influenced by Celtic melody in my early songwriting on my classical guitar. I lived the despairing and mournful lyrics married with soulful musicianship and skill.

    I might post some of the lyrics this weekend.

    Thanks for the reminder of the bed that lies between Beauty and Sadness

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