Socrates - Plato Phaedo - Swans
Type of Spiritual Experience
The symbolism of the swan
A description of the experience
And Simmias said: “Socrates, I will tell you the truth. For some time each of us has been in doubt and has been egging the other on and urging him to ask a question, because we wish to hear your answer, but hesitate to trouble you, for fear that it may be disagreeable to you in your present misfortune.”
And when he heard is, he laughed gently and said: “Ah, [84e] Simmias! I should have hard work to persuade other people that I do not regard my present situation as a misfortune, when I cannot even make you believe it, .... you seem to think I am inferior in prophetic power to the swans who sing at other times also, but when they feel that they are to die, sing most and best in their joy that they are to go to the god whose servants they are.
But men, because of their own fear of death, misrepresent the swans and say that they sing for sorrow, in mourning for their own death. They do not consider that no bird sings when it is hungry or cold or has any other trouble; no, not even the nightingale or the swallow or the hoopoe which are said to sing in lamentation.
I do not believe they sing for grief, nor do the swans; [85b] but since they are Apollo's birds, I believe they have prophetic vision, and because they have foreknowledge of the blessings in the other world they sing and rejoice on that day more than ever before.
And I think that I am myself a fellow-servant of the swans; and am consecrated to the same God and have received from our master a gift of prophecy no whit inferior to theirs, and that I go out from life with as little sorrow as they.