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The lovely Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, the

Greek god of the wind, and her mother was either


Enarete or Aegiale. She was the devoted wife of
Ceyx, King of Trachis, in central Greece. Ceyx
ruled his kingdom with justice and in peace.
Alcyone and Ceyx were admired by gods and
mortals alike for their great physical beauty, as well
as the profound love they had for each other. They
were so happy in their marriage that they used to
often playfully call one another Zeus and Hera. This
infuriated the chief of the gods who regarded it an
audacity. Zeus waited for the proper time to punish
the arrogant couple who dared to make themselves
comparable to gods.

Ceyx, son of Esophorous, the morning star, ruled,


without force or shedding blood, his face filled with
his fathers radiance. At that time he was sad and
unlike his normal self, mourning the loss of his
brother, Daedalion. . .

and sobs interrupting her loving reproaches, she


said:

Alcyone: What sin of mine has turned your mind to


this, dear one? Can you now leave me behind,
without a thought? Does it please you now to travel
far? Am I dearer to you, away from you? The waters
scare me, and the somber face of the deep: and
lately I saw wrecked timbers on the shore, and I
have often read the names on empty tombs. But if
no prayers can alter your purpose, dear one,
husband, if you are so fixed on going, take me with
you, also! Then we shall be storm-tossed together,
and at least I shall know what I fear, together we
shall bear whatever comes, together we shall be
borne over the waters.

Ceyx: No, Alcyone, you must not come with me.


The sea is too dangerous! I do not wish to lose you
as well.

The separation of Ceyx and Alcyone


Ceyx, troubled by hearts anxiety, was preparing to
go and consult the sacred oracle of Apollo, at
Claros, that reveals human affairs. Nevertheless,
before he set out, he discussed it with his faithful
Alcyone.

Ceyx: My dear, I have decided to consult the oracle


of Apollo at Carlos in Ionia. I am determined to sail
the seas alone.

She felt a chill, immediately, deep in her marrow,


her face grew boxwood-pale, and her cheeks were
drenched in flowing tears. Three times she tried to
speak, three times her face was wet with weeping,

Alcyone: Do not allow your mind to acquire false


confidence, because Aeolus, is your father-in-law,
who keeps the strong winds imprisoned, and, when
he wishes, calms the sea. When once the winds are
released and hold sway over the waters, nothing can
oppose them: every country, every ocean is exposed
to them. The more I know of them, the more I
consider them to be feared. Please, take me with
you!

The star-born husband was moved by the daughter


of Aeoluss words and tears: there was no less love
in himself. But he would not relinquish his planned
sea-journey, nor did he want to put Alcyone in peril.

His anxious heart tried to comfort her, with many


words, yet, despite that, he could not win his case.
He added this further solace, the only one that
moved his lover:

With Ceyx still seeking reasons for delay, the young


crew, double-ranked, pulled on the oars, with deepchested strokes, and cut the water with their
rhythmic blows.

Ceyx: Every delay will seem long to us indeed, but


I swear to you by my fathers light, to return to you
as long as the fates allow it, before the moon has
twice completed her circle.

She raised her wet eyes, and leaning forward could


see her husband standing on the curved afterdeck,
waving his hand, and she returned the signal. When
he was further from shore, and she could no longer
recognize his features, she followed the fleeting
ship with her gaze, while she could. When even that
was too far off to be seen, she still could see the
topsails unfurling from the masthead.

Alcyone: Fine then. My hopes had been revived by


these promises of return. But please, be careful.

Ceyx: Thank you, Alcyone. I love you.

When no sails could be seen, with heavy heart, she


sought out the empty bedroom, and threw herself on
the bed. The room and the bed provoked more tears
and reminded her of her absent half.

Alcyone: I love you too.


The Tempest
Ceyx immediately ordered the ship to be dragged
down the slipway, launched into the sea, and fitted
out with her gear.

Alcyone, seeing this, as if she foresaw what was to


come, shuddered again, and she gave way to a flood
of tears. She hugged him, and, in wretched misery,
said a last

Zeus, the chief god, decided this was an opportune


time to punish the couple for their sacrilege.

Zeus: Poor Alcyone, left all alone. I wonder what


would happen if I tried to disturb the seas that her
husband, Ceyx, is sailing on. Would it finally stop
all the rumors of them being the new Hera and Zeus
of their land? Ha!

Alcyone: Farewell, I will miss you.

Ceyx: I promise you, I will come back. *kiss*

He launched a thunderbolt that raised a furious


hurricane engulfing the ship which began to sink.

Ceyx realized that the end had come for him and,
before he got drowned, he prayed to the gods to
allow his body be washed ashore so as to enable his
beloved Alcyone to perform the funeral rites. As
Ceyx gasped his last breath, his father Esophorous,
the morning star, watched helplessly, shrouding his
face with clouds, unable to leave the heavens and
rescue his son.

Ceyx: Help me! Father, please help me!


Esophorous. Please rescue me! Aeolus, please!
Anyone. . . please. . . my dearest Alcyone. . .
Alcyone. . . Alcyone. . . I hope the waves will carry
my body to your sight. . . and I will be able to see
you once more. . .

Far off, until the waves themselves murmur it, See,


a black arc of water breaks over the heart of the sea,
and the bursting wave buries his drowning head.

She piously offers incense to all the gods, but


worships mostly at Heras temple, coming to the
altars for a man who is no more, hoping her
husband is safe, and returning to her, preferring her
above any other woman. Of all her prayers, only
this could be granted.

Alcyone: My gracious goddess, Hera. I pray to you,


the greatest mother of women and marriage. Please
guide my Ceyx, for he has been gone for too long. I
am already missing his presence and love.

The goddess could no longer bear these appeals for


one who was dead, and, to free her altar from those
inauspicious hands, she said:

Hera: Iris, most faithful carrier of my words, go


quickly to the heavy halls of Hypnos, and order him
to send Alcyone a dream-figure in the shape of her
dead Ceyx, to tell her his true fate.

The House of Sleep

Meanwhile, Alcyone, Aeoluss daughter, counts the


nights, unaware of this great misfortune, quickly
weaving clothes for him to wear, and for herself, for
when he returns, and she promises herself the
homecoming that will not be.

Alcyone: I wonder when my beloved husband will


come back. It has been days since he has gone. I
hope that my Ceyx is alright. What if he--- No,
Alcyone, he is not dead. He promised to reurn.

As she spoke, Iris donned her thousand-colored


robe, and, tracing her watery bow on the sky, she
searched out, as ordered, the palace of that king, hid
under cloud.

There is a deeply cut cave, a hollow mountain, near


the Cimmerian country, the house and sanctuary of
drowsy Hypnos.

When the Iris entered and, with her hands, brushed


aside the dreams in her way, the sacred place shone
with the light of her robes. The god, hardly able to
lift his eyes heavy with sleep, again and again,

falling back, striking his nodding chin on his chest,


at last shook himself free of his own influence, and
resting on an elbow asked her (for he knew her)

Morpheus: yes, my father. I must obey your orders.

And relaxing again into sweet drowsiness, his head


drooped, and he settled into his deep bed.
Hypnos: Tell me, Iris, the personification of the
rainbow and the messenger of the gods, what has
brought you to my palace?

Iris: Sleep, gentlest of the gods, the spirits peace,


care flies from: who soothes the body wearied with
toil, and readies it for fresh labors: Sleep, order a
likeness, that mirrors his true form, and let it go, the
image of King Ceyx, to Alcyone, in Trachin of
Hercules, and depict a phantasm of the wreck. This,
Hera commands.

After she had completed her commission, Iris


departed no longer able to withstand the power of
sleep, and, feeling the drowsiness steal over her
body, she fled, and recrossed the arch by which she
had lately come.

From a throng of a thousand sons, his father roused


Morpheus, a master craftsman and simulator of
human forms.

Hypnos: Morpheus, my son and master craftsman


and simulator of human forms, come forth. No one
else is as clever at expressing the movement, the
features, and the sound of speech other than you.
You can depict the clothes and the usual accents.
You alone can imitate human beings. You must
carry out the command of Iris, daughter of
Thaumas.

Morpheus goes to Alcyone in the form of Ceyx

Flying through the shadows on noiseless wings,


Morpheus, after a short delay, comes to the
Haemonian city. Shedding his wings, he takes the
shape of Ceyx, pallid like the dead, and naked, and
stands before his unfortunate wifes bed. He appears
with sodden beard, and seawater dripping from his
matted hair. Then he bends over her pillow, with
tears streaming down his face, and says:

Morpheus (in the form of Ceyx): My poor wife, do


you know your Ceyx, or has my face altered in
death? Look at me: you will recognize me, and find
for a husband, a husbands shade! Your prayers have
brought me no help, Alcyone! I am dead! Do not
hold out false hopes of my return! My lips, calling
helplessly on your name, drank the waves. I myself,
drowned, as you see me before you, tell my fate.
Get up, act, shed tears, wear mourning: do not let
me go down unwept to Tartaruss void.

Morpheus spoke these words in a voice she would


believe to be her husbands (the tears that he wept
also seemed real tears) and his hands revealed
Ceyxs gestures. Alcyone groaned, tearfully, stirring
her arms in sleep, and seeking his body, grasped
only air, and cried out:

cruelly than the sea, if I should try to live on, and


fight to overcome my sorrow!
Alcyone: Ceyx? Ceyx! Wait for me! Where do you
vanish? We will go together. Wait for me, as I have
waited for you! Do not leave me once more!

Roused by her own voice, and her husbands image,


she started up out of sleep. First she gazed round to
see if he was still there, the one she had just seen. At
the sound of her cry the servants had brought a
lamp. Not finding him anywhere, she struck her
face with her hands, tore her clothes from her
breasts, and beat at the breasts themselves. She did
not wait to loosen her hair, but tore at it, and
shouted at her maid, who asked the cause of her
grief:

Maid: Lovely Alcyone, what has happened to you?


Look at your dress, my fair lady.

Alcyone: I am nothing, left with nothing! This


Alcyone you speak of is dead! She has died together
with her Ceyx. Be done with soothing words! He is
wrecked: I saw him, I knew him, I stretched out my
hands towards him as he vanished, eager to hold
him back. It was a shadow, yet it was my husbands
true shadow, made manifest and she tried to find a
trace of his footprints.

Grief choked further words, and lamentation took


their place wholly, and sighs drawn from a stricken
heart.

Morning had broken. She went out of the house


towards the shore, sadly seeking the place where
she had watched him depart. And while she stayed
there, and while she was saying:

Alcyone: Here he loosed the rope, on this strand he


kissed me as he left--

And while she recalled the significant actions by


their locations, and looked seawards, she saw in the
flowing waves what looked like a body, unsure at
first what it was: after the tide had brought it a little
nearer, though it was some way off, it was clearly a
body. She did not know whose it was, but was
moved by the omen of this shipwrecked man, and as
if she wept for the unknown dead, she cried out:

Alcyone: Its him! O, is it like this, dear husband, is


it like this, wretched one, you return to me?
And together tearing at cheeks, and hair, and clothes
she stretched out her trembling hands to Ceyx.

Alcyone: This is what I feared, with my divining


mind, this: and I begged you not to leave me,
chasing the winds. But, for certain, I should have
desired you to take me with you, since you were
going to your death. How good it would have been
to have gone with you: then no part of my life
would have lacked your presence, nor would we be
separated by death. My mind would treat me more

A breakwater built by the waves, broke the initial


force of the sea, and weakened the onrush of the
tide.

Alcyone: I love you, Ceyx. How dare you leave me


all alone. But our love will never fail, right? I love
you, please come back to me. Come back to me
once more. Please do not leave me ever again.

The gods on Olympus were profoundly affected by


the tragic fate of Alcyone and Ceyx, as well as their
wonderful love for one other which not even the
frosty hands of death could extinguish. In order to
atone for his rash action that was responsible for
this tragedy, Zeus transformed the couple into the
Halcyon birds (kingfisher).

Hera: Zeus, look at those two. Are you still mad at


them? They value their love more than we value
ours! How dare you cause the tragic death of Ceyx!

Zeus: Fine, Hera. Since they have shown us the


worth of their love, I will transform their
appearance. I will reincarnate their souls and turn
them into Halcyon birds-- birds that have the power
to calm the wind and the waves while nested on the
sea during the winter solstice.

Though it was amazing that she could do so, she


leapt onto it: she flew, and, beating the soft air on

new-found wings, a sorrowing bird, she skimmed


the surface of the waves.

As she flew, her plaintive voice came from a slender


beak, like someone grieving and full of sorrows.
When she reached the mute and bloodless corpse,
she clasped the dear limbs with her new wings and
kissed the cold lips in vain with her hard beak.

People doubted whether Ceyx felt this, or merely


seemed to raise his face by a movement of the
waves, but he did feel it: and at last through the
gods pity, both were changed to birds, the halcyons.
Though they suffered the same fate, their love
remained as well: and their bonds were not
weakened, by their feathered form. They mate and
rear their young, and Alcyone broods on her nest,
for seven calm days in the wintertime, floating on
the waters surface. Then the waves are stilled:
Aeolus imprisons the winds and forbids their
roaming, and controls his grandsons waves.