Gower Bibliography

The Dying Swan – A Misunderstanding

McCulloch, Florence. "The Dying Swan – A Misunderstanding." Modern Language Notes 74 (1959), pp. 289-292.


McCulloch traces the image of the dying swan singing its song through a number of literary texts. Her starting point is Ovid's description in the Fasti of the swan that sings "when the cruel shaft (penna) has pierced his snowy brow." The medieval "encyclopedist" Brunetto Latini, in his Li Livres dou Tresor, misinterprets the word "penna" to mean "feather" (rather than "feathered shaft" or arrow) and so suggests that when death is imminent, one of the feathers of the swan's head is implanted in its brain, whereupon the bird begins its sweet song. Gower makes the same error in the CA, where he compares Dido's suicide to the swan that "For sorwe a fethere into hire brain / Sche schof" (4.107-08). [CvD]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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