Thursday, August 31, 2006

79. Halcyon Days

In Greek mythology, Alcyone was a demi-goddess, married to Ceyx, a king of Thessaly. She was the daughter of Aelous, King of the Winds. Her name itself meant Queen Who Wards Off Storms. Yet it was in a storm that she would face her greatest heartbreak.

Her love for her husband Ceyx was great and immeasurable, as the starlit heavens, and she was loathe to be ever parted from him, and him her. Yet there came a time when Ceyx had to make a long voyage across the sea, and Alcyone was much grieved to hear of this. She knew of the powerful winds that were upon the sea at that time of year, and pleaded Ceyx not to leave. Yet he was steadfast, for it was a journey he had to make. Then, she asked to be permitted to join him, for as long as they were together, they could endure anything.

This deeply moved Ceyx, but he would not risk her across such a long sea journey and parted that very night. And as fate would have it, scarcely had his voyage begun that the heavens opened and a fierce storm broke over the sea. The crew quivered with fear as they felt and saw the wrath of the gods, but Ceyx was unmoved and tranquil. His thoughts were only for his beloved Alcyone, and he rejoiced at her safety. And as the great waves broke upon his vessel, and as the waters closed upon him, her name was on his lips, and thus he perished and fell into the darkness yonder.

Alcyone was unaware of the tragedy that had befallen, and counted the days for the safe return of her husband. She prayed every day to the gods for his safe passage, and so touched was the goddess Juno by her plight that she made it known to her of her husband's dark fate, hoping that she would have peace at last.

But overcome with grief, Alcyone threw herself into the sea, for she would not live on without her love. Yet behold, the gods once again took pity upon her that as leapt into the seas, she was transformed into a halcyon bird, and united with her husband who was too transformed into the same bird.

And so their love endured, beyond death, and was everlasting so long as there were days left upon the world. And they bred on a floating nest when the waves of the sea came to be still for seven days in the winter, whence her father Aelous would rein in the wind and sea. And the calmness of sea during that time came to be known by sailors as halcyon days, and have since become regarded as days of peace and happiness, a symbol of tranquillity.

Thus for each of us, we have our own halcyon days, perhaps from those nostalgic summers of our youth, or those moments spent in the presence of our loved ones. They may or may not last, for such things are never meant too, but those memories will always remain till the end of days so long as we keep them in our hearts. J.M. Barrie, he who once wrote of a boy who would never grow up, once said that God gave us all memory so we would always have roses in December. And indeed, perhaps he's right.

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