Now, the Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.
The white swan – with its long, graceful neck – is among the most beautiful of birds. The swan is mostly silent through its life. It floats quietly on the water, unable to sing sweet songs like most other birds.
In ancient times, however, people believed that the swan was given a special gift of song at the end of its life. They believed a swan sings a most beautiful song...just before it dies.
The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates talked of this two thousand three hundred years ago. Socrates explained that the swan was singing because it was happy. The bird was happy because it was going to serve the Greek God Apollo. Swans were holy to Apollo, the god of poetry and song.
The story of the swan’s last song found a place in the works of other writers, including the early English writers Chaucer and Shakespeare.
And, the expression swan song has long been a part of the English language. At first, swan song meant the last work of a poet, musician or writer. Now, it means the final effort of any person. Someone’s swan song usually is also considered that person’s finest work.
A political expression with a similar meaning is the last hurrah. The expression may be used to describe a politician’s last campaign, his final attempt to win the cheers and votes of the people. The last hurrah also can mean the last acts of a politician, before his term in office ends.
Writer Edwin O’Connor made the expression popular in nineteen fifty-six. He wrote a book about the final years in the political life of a long-time mayor of Boston, Massachusetts. He called his book, The Last Hurrah.
Some language experts say the expression came from a name given to noisy supporters of Andrew Jackson...America’s seventh president. They cheered hurrah so loudly for Andy Jackson during his presidential campaign that they became known as the hurrah boys.
Jackson’s hurrah boys also played a part in the election to choose the next president. Jackson’s choice was his vice president, Martin VanBuren.
A newspaper of the time reported that VanBuren was elected president, in its words: "...by the hurrah boys, and those who knew just enough to shout hurrah for Jackson." So, President Jackson really heard his last hurrahs in the campaign of another candidate, the man who would replace him in the White House.
英语中历来有天鹅之歌、绝唱（swan song）这一词语。最初，绝唱用来指诗人、音乐家或者作家绝笔之著 。现在，它可以指代任何人最后的成绩 。某个人的“绝唱”通常也被认为是这个人最杰出的作品 。
1956年，作家埃德温•奥康纳使得这一表达得以广泛流行。他写了一本书，记录了长期作为马萨诸塞州波士顿市市长最后的政治生涯 。这本书的书名就是《最后的欢呼》 。
当时的一家报纸在报道范布伦获选时这么写道：“... 范布伦通过“欢呼者”以及那些就想为杰克逊欢呼的人（成功当选总统）。” 杰克逊总统确实是在另一位候选人的竞选中听到了对他的最后欢呼声，而这位候选人将取代他入主白宫 。