Tchaikovsky “Swan Lake” arr. Hermes Trismeg For the best listening quality, please click on the link below to download the mp3
Swan Lake - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (11.6 MiB)
Image by helenablomqvist.com
I’m looking at a picture, a lovely and idyllic picture of a peaceful scene. It’s a quiet lake. There is a boy here, sound asleep on a raft of logs, idly floating on the water. Seven snow-white swans surround his raft and the sun shines upon the placid scene. I think you’ll agree that there is no more beautiful bird than the swan. Their presence surely does give grace to the settings in which they live, and there have been countless works of art and pieces of music celebrating this beauty and the peace that seems to surround it. To put such a beautiful child in the midst of such a scene can certainly stir one’s esthetic sensibilities, and bring one pleasant romantic thoughts of tranquility. What a lovely picture this is!
Don’t be fooled, however: that is not the tale I have to tell. I do not have a dreamy and pleasant story to share with you. There will be no oohs and aahs of sentimentality nor any of the dreaminess that comes from beholding such a pretty scene. Quite the contrary: this will be an unpleasant, perhaps repulsive account of things you’d rather not think about. Perhaps, dear reader, you may prefer to stop here, to lay this book aside and read no further. I won’t be offended, for, you see, I don’t really want to write any more. I’ve been fighting against the muse ever since I saw the picture, but I’m losing the battle. I have to tell the tale, and so …
Henry and Jeanne Atkinson and their son Bobby were on a family vacation that year, with a whole month free. This was the perfect chance to get out of the city, its noises, and its pressures and spend some quiet, peaceful time in a country setting. They rented a rustic cottage on the shore of a small lake where the summer sun reflected on the still, deep blue waters, and where they could watch the resident flock of snow-white swans. It was a lovely place indeed, and all the parents wanted to do was to sit on the cabin’s porch and enjoy the view.
Bobby loved the place as much as they did. He was an unusually sensitive boy, with a very deep appreciation of natural beauty and a love of reading, particularly of the prettiest of old fairy tales. This scene could have been right out of one of his favorite books, and he fell in love with the place immediately. But Bobby was all boy, full of energy, and with the need to be always doing, doing, doing; and it just wasn’t going to be enough to sit and watch the view. He needed to be active. Well, there was a small sandy beach almost directly in front of the cabin, in plain sight of his parents as they sat on the porch. What could be safer? Bobby put on his bathing suit and ran down to paddle in the lake, eventually swimming out just a little from the shore, though, not being a strong swimmer, he didn’t venture far.
When they’d been there a few days, he found something. Sort of hidden in the bushes was a very nice raft, made of nice neat logs of similar diameter, all cut to the same length and fastened together. Bobby dragged it out of the bushes and into the water. It floated very nicely indeed. The boy climbed on and was able to paddle with his hands to make it go here and there near the beach. He was having a grand time, and, boy, were his daydreams rich and colorful.
The swans, apparently for the first time, took notice of the boy on the raft and began to swim toward him. (Well, here is an ooh and an aah. I guess I didn’t avoid them entirely after all.) It was a beautiful sight: they swam with such grace, such a wonderful scene on that peaceful lake that Bobby sighed, thinking to himself that the swans were being friendly at last. His parents, watching from the porch, thought the same, and they too sighed in pleasure. Bobby contentedly fell asleep in the sun.
Now, the Atkinsons did not understand swans. Few really do. It is always easy to be fooled by beauty, and to assume that beauty means goodness. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it hides the deepest evil. As St. Paul once wrote to the Corinthians, “…Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” Swans are beautiful, but swans are not nice. They, like their cousins the geese, are very territorial, and very irritable and quick-tempered, and many people, drawn by their beauty, have found themselves seriously injured by attacking loveliness. These swans, as we shall see were no better, but, in fact, very much worse than most.
The picture before me, taken from the porch by Mr. Atkinson, though beautiful, is very troubling. Four of the graceful white birds have drawn near to the sleeping boy on his raft and seem to be looking at him, and to be drawing closer. The more I look at them, the less friendly they appear. It doesn’t give me a good feeling, and it shouldn’t.
The camera clicked, and, almost immediately, the swans erupted into furious activity, pouncing upon Bobby, piercing him again and again with their beaks, and tearing at his young body until the carnage was done. When they were finished, they swam, as gracefully as ever, to the other side of the lake.
When the attack began, Henry Atkinson jumped instantly from his chair, ran to the lake, jumped in, and began to swim to the raft. Too late. The swans were gone, and all that there was, was the blood-stained raft, the spreading slick of blood upon the waters, and (horrid, impossible thought) pieces of his beloved son floating in the once-peaceful lake. Swimming through Bobby’s blood, all he could hear was his wife’s ceaseless screaming on the shores of Swan Lake.