I seem to be much with Swan People of late, drifting and winging between dream and myth. Yesterday I flew and swam, as swan and man, along a wild shore to high stony cliffs where a great swan's nest had been laid. I am going through my journals and books, gathering reports, turning some into drawings and drafts for a possible new book. I found a few paragraphs I published in a story titled "The Fifty-Ninth Swan" in Mysterious Realities. It evokes the sadness and the longing of the poet Yeats after his repeated rejection by Maud Gonne.
He is walking in the Seven Woods,
at Coole Park. He comes to the lake, and sees that the swans have left sky and
water and settled in a green meadow. Across the distance, they look like tufts
of sheep’s wool. He can get near to them, perhaps, by crossing a field of cows.
As he hoists myself over the stile, a red bull appears and challenges him, head
down, steaming and potent, warning him away from his harem. Then the bull gets
his scent and turns from him, shaking his rump, as if to say, You are no competition.
He knows already what the count will reveal. There are fifty-nine swans on the grass, as there were fifty-nine on the water yesterday. He could not identify the solitary swan until now. He watched a mated couple drive the lone swan away with sounds like muffled bugles. He sees the solitary swan struggle through the wet grass. Clumsily, working pinions, he tries to lift off the ground. Perhaps his feathers are wet. It seems so hard for him to get airborne. Finally he wings his way above the lake towards the fairy hills, graceless and unloved.
The poet flies with him, sharing his pain. Swans are not meant to live alone. They mate for life. I know the mate I would have if she would have me. In the stories I have gathered from the peasantry, and from old books, gods and heroes alike may turn into swans, or be forced to take their shapes under a curse. The love god Aengus, no less, must shapeshift into a swan to find and win the lady he desires, when she flies at Samhain in the company of swans, in their form, to be recognized by the golden chain round her neck.
He wills myself, climbing higher, into the clouds, to find her spirit in a place of brightness. He couples with her in midair. He falls on her as Zeus comes to Leda. He will make this more than fantasy by carrying the lovely spirit he makes his above the clouds down to the body she has given to a red brute of a man, so she make wake from his spell and leave his cattle field and come to the poet in the green meadow.
Text adapted from Mysterious Realities; Adventures of a Dream Traveler in the Imaginal Realm by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.
Art: "Swan and Shadow" from the Swan People cycle of drawings by Robert Moss