A Book of Myths

Page: 72

Greatly relieved, he hastened home, and was well content until, on the spot where his secret lay buried, rushes grew up. And when the winds blew through them, the rushes whispered for all those who passed by to hear: “King Midas has ass’s ears! King Midas has ass’s ears!” Those who listen very carefully to what the green rushes in marshy places whisper as the wind passes through them, may hear the same thing to this day. And those who hear the whisper of the rushes may, perhaps, give a pitying thought to Midas—the tragic comedian of mythology.

[Pg 144]


“St. Martin’s summer, halcyon days.”

King Henry VI, i. 2, 131.

“Halcyon days”—how often is the expression made use of, how seldom do its users realise from whence they have borrowed it.

“These were halcyon days,” says the old man, and his memory wanders back to a time when for him

“All the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen.”

Yet the story of Halcyone is one best to be understood by the heavy-hearted woman who wanders along the bleak sea-beach and strains her weary eyes for the brown sail of the fishing-boat that will never more return.

Over the kingdom of Thessaly, in the days of long ago, there reigned a king whose name was Ceyx, son of Hesperus, the Day Star, and almost as radiant in grace and beauty as was his father. His wife was the fair Halcyone, daughter of Æolus, ruler of the winds, and most perfectly did this king and queen love one another. Their happiness was unmarred until there came a day when Ceyx had to mourn for the loss of a brother. Following close on the heels of this disaster came direful [Pg 145] prodigies which led Ceyx to fear that in some way he must have incurred the hostility of the gods. To him there was no way in which to discover wherein lay his fault, and to make atonement for it, but by going to consult the oracle of Apollo at Claros, in Ionia. When he told Halcyone what he must do, she knew well that she must not try to turn him from his solemn purpose, yet there hung over her heart a black shadow of fear and of evil foreboding that no loving words of assurance could drive away. Most piteously she begged him to take her with him, but the king knew too well the dangers of the treacherous Ægean Sea to risk on it the life of the woman that he loved so well.

“I promise,” he said, “by the rays of my Father the Day Star, that if fate permits I will return before the moon shall have twice rounded her orb.”

Down by the shore the sailors of King Ceyx awaited his coming, and when with passionately tender love he and Halcyone had taken farewell of each other, the rowers sat down on the benches and dipped their long oars into the water.