The Shepherd's Hut: Poems
THE SWANS ON OUR LAKE
The diet of swans is mainly vegetarian: pondweed, stonewort and wigeon grass, sea arrow, salt marsh and eel grass, club rush, milfoil and green algae. But they occasionally indulge in tadpole and mollusc.
Sometimes you see one fold its leg upon its back to adjust body temperature, rather as an elephant’s ear absorbs the heat of the sun. They sleep standing on one leg or afloat with head tucked under wing.
The ungentlemanly behaviour depicted in the story of Leda is uncharacteristic: they mate for life and know the meaning of grief. Some bereaved swans stay alone for the rest of their lives while others take flight and rejoin their flock.
The other myth is true: when they lie dying they breathe their only song, a long low honk as air vacates their lungs.
They are said to be loyal servants of the queen.