pulitzer prize for literature

Saying Goodbye To Summer

Technically, summer doesn’t end until September 22 at 10:49 a.m. But let’s face it: the start of school on Wednesday effectively put a fork in the lazy, hazy days we love. This weekend is summer’s swan song; Labor Day, its last hurrah.

So what exactly is a swan song? The term has been around for centuries, based on the legend that swans sing a beautiful song just before they die. Never mind that there’s no truth to it, as Pliny the Elder tried to point out in 77 AD. The idea proved irresistible to everyone from Chaucer (“The jealous swan, sings before his death”) to Led Zeppelin, which named its record label Swan Song Records.

Last hurrah, on the other hand, is a modern term, meaning “a final appearance or performance”. It comes from “The Last Hurrah” by Edwin O’Connor, published in 1956. The celebrated novel tells the story of Boston mayor Frank Skeffington and his unsuccessful reelection run against a young upstart. O’Connor was a Rhode Islander, a graduate of La Salle Academy, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1962.

Of course, the end of summer is neither swan song nor last hurrah. The seasons continue their eternal cycle, proving that “this old world must still be spinning ’round”, as James Taylor sings. So mark your calendar: summer returns next June 21 at 1:04 a.m.

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