Swan Song is a horror novel by American novelist Robert R. It is a work of post-apocalyptic fiction describing the aftermath of a nuclear war that provokes an evolution in humankind. Swan Song won the Bram Stoker award tied with Misery. The novel begins with nuclear war breaking out between the submarine fleets of the U. The President , wracked with guilt over his role in the carnage, prepares to input a series of codes into a computer for the activation of an unknown device known only as "Talons". Seconds before the activation process can be completed, a burning Greyhound bus , sent flying by the shock waves of the nuclear blasts below, smashes through the Airborne Command Post and causes it to crash.
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The phrase refers to an ancient belief that swans sing a beautiful song just before their death, having been silent or alternatively, not so musical during most of their lifetime. This belief, whose basis in actuality is long-debated, had become proverbial in ancient Greece by the 5th to the 3rd century BC and was reiterated many times in later Western poetry and art. In Greek mythology , the swan was a bird consecrated to Apollo , and it was therefore considered a symbol of harmony and beauty and its limited capabilities as a singer were sublimated to those of songbirds. Aesop 's fable of " The Swan and the Goose " incorporates the swan song legend as saving its life when it was caught by mistake instead of the goose but was recognized by its song. In that play, Clytemnestra compares the dead Cassandra to a swan who has "sung her last final lament". Plato 's Phaedo 84d records Socrates saying that, although swans sing in early life, they do not do so as beautifully as before they die. Furthermore, Aristotle noted in his History of Animals b that swans "are musical, and sing chiefly at the approach of death".
A swan song is a final composition or performance, given before dying or retirement. Te term swan song originates from the legend that, while they are mute during the rest of their lives, swans sing beautifully and mournfully just before they die. This isn't actually the case - swans, even the inaccurately named Mute Swans, have a variety of vocal sounds and they don't sing before they die. Nevertheless, poetic imagery proved to be more attractive than scientific method and many poets and playwrights made use of the fable long after Pliny's observations. Chaucer included this line in the poem Parliament of Fowles :. The Ialous swan, ayens his deth that singeth. Portia : Let music sound while he doth make his choice; then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end, fading in music.