The Swan: White Is the True Nature

Book Title: Beschouwing der wereld : bestaande in hondert konstige figuuren, met godlyke spreuken en stichtelyke verzen / door Jan Luiken.

Author: Luiken, Jan, 1649-1712

Image Title: The Swan: White Is the True Nature

Scripture Reference:

Description: A man and a woman look at a white swan and its reflection in the water and two young grey swans; several other swans can be seen under the trees. The Dutch artist and poet Jan Luiken (1649–1712) was responsible for drawing this emblem and composed the poem that accompanies it. The etching was executed by Jan Luiken or his son Casper Luiken (1672–1708) who adapted this image from one used in an earlier work, which may be found in the Digital Image Archive under the call number 1699Weig. The attendant scripture text is Psalm 51:2, 7.

Motto: Change, Elevates a thing.

The Water-bird, born in the nest on the bank,
Appears in its Youth in grey from head to foot;
Thus it matures, and becomes large:
But is, before long, like snow; a pure white Swan.
Look at thyself, O Youth on the world’s luxurious streams,
In hateful sinful grey, come of age:
Already tall and old enough, to don that garment,
Change thine attire, and dress in white.
That noble whiteness, from the Soul’s Salvation of virtue,
Pleasing in God’s eye, and a joy to the Angels,
Then shall the King of the heavenly Palace,
Let thee in the Pleasure garden of the Blessed Paradise,
Swim on the Chrystal of the clear water-brooks,
Along fragrant borders, that stretch pleasantly away;
Never to be hungry, as there thy desire finds,
What thy mind loves to be satisfied with:
And never shall a hand prepare thee as its food,
But eternally, eternally shall thy life enjoy itself.
Pick then the first feather, so that it drifts away
And a more agreeable plumage covers thy entire body;
For outside this state, thou dost displease,
Worthy eyes, that saw thine ugliness.
As the Swan in grey, does not resemble a true Swan,
So man resembles no man, until he achieves virtue.

(Translation by Josephine V. Brown, with editorial assistance from William G. Stryker)

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