Halcyon days: a close reading of a song by The Tea Party…

Halcyon is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a bird identified with the kingfisher and held in ancient legend to nest at sea about the time of the winter solstice and to calm the waves during incubation” (def. 1).

Sy Montgomery, a contributor at Encyclopedia Britannica writes of the kingfisher’s “courtship ritual”: “the male… offers fish to the female as she perches” (kingfisher).

In their song “Halcyon Days”, by the Tea Party, the refrain repeats the idea in the chorus:

now i see a light
shining from above
i think they’ve finally come
the halcyon days

So, what is the myth that informs this lyric? Which voice is being imitated? There is a rebirth out of the underworld as a wish yet fulfilled. The song’s stanzas have a drowning effect. It is out of the light shining in the chorus that the song lifts up out of the dragging down to imitate the effect of the Latin underworld.

“From Latin Alcyone, daughter of Aeolus and wife of Ceyx. When her husband died in a shipwreck, Alcyone threw herself into the sea whereupon the gods transformed them both into halcyon birds (kingfishers). When Alcyone made her nest on the beach, waves threatened to destroy it. Aeolus restrained his winds and kept them calm during
seven days in each year, so she could lay her eggs. These became known as the “halcyon days,” when storms do not occur” (halcyon days).

My best guess is that the song is from the perspective of Alcyone’s husband finally being drawn up, out of the underworld, to be reborn. The colloquialism “there are many fish in the sea” is repeated to men, but it would seem in this case of the myth that men are the fish that women catch. Does a man actually choose his woman? The choice seems to remain with the woman: whether or not she will dive into Homer’s sea, to find and rescue the right man for her.

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Notes

“halcyon days“. Wiktionary: A wiki-base Open Content dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 8th July 2015. Web 26 Aug. 2015.

“kingfisher.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Britannica Academic. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 26 Aug. 2015.

“Kingfisher.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kingfisher&gt;.

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