Swallow Hirundo rustica, Hirondelle de cheminée.

7 occurrences (4 swallow, 2 swallows, 1 swallow's)

The swallows moved early from caves and natural shelters to human buildings and became the usual summer companions of men, especially before the widespread use of window glass.Their migratory behaviour gave way to various beliefs.

It is only by the end of the eighteenth century that scientists came to agree that swallows really did migrate in winter to warmer countries instead of going to the moon, as Charles Morton suggested in 1703, or burying themselves under water or hanging upside down in caves, as Aristotle, Izaak Walton and Dr Johnson believed. (THOMAS, p. 88).

On this theme, TILLEY (S1026) has the following proverb "Swallows, like false friends, fly upon the approach of winter". To illustrate Timon of Athens Shakespeare even used it twice, the first time without mentioning "swallow", by using a metonymy: "I am not of that feather to shake off / My friend when he must need me." (1 1 103-4). And then later, explicitly:


The swallow follows not summer more

willing than we your lordship.

TIMON (aside)

Nor more willingly leaves winter, such

summer birds are men.

(3 6 28-31)

Most of the other quotations are based on the proverb "As swift as a swallow" (TILLEY, S1023) such as: "Do you think me a swallow, an arrow, or a bullet? (2H4 4 3 32 p), where arrow echoes with swalllow to end up abruptly with bullet. In Titus Andronicus, swallow appears twice:

And I have horse will follow where the game

Makes way, and run like swallows o'er the plain.

(2 2 23-4)

(4 2 173) Now to the Goths, as swift as swallow flies,

With the two quotations next to one another "Goths" and "game" are interestingly associated, both are chased as swiftly as swallows, and the very words show similarities in sonority.

Shakespeare followed North's translations of Plutarch in having "Swallows [building] / In Cleopatra's sails their nests."(ANT 4 12 3):

The Admirall galley of Cleopatra, was called Antoniade, in the which there chaunced a marvellous ill signe. Swallowes had bred under the poope of her shippe, and there came others after them that drave away the first, and plucked downe their neasts. (Arden Antony and Cleopatra, appendix V, p. 261-2).

THOMAS (p. 76) explains that "In parts of England the robin and swallow were more or less sacred [...]. 'To rob a swallows nest', lamented a Jacobean preacher, 'is, from old beldames' catechisms, held a more fearful sacrilege than to steal a chalice out of a church'."

The variation in connotations is wide, Shakespeare makes full use of swallow's qualities, all of which were commonplaces at the time.