in American Senator

Chapter 32 – “It Is a Long Way”

halcyon minutes

Arabella experiences “halcyon minutes” while Lord Rufford puts his arm around her waist and lets her rest her head on his shoulder.  “Halcyon” is usually used to mean “calm,” “restful,” or even “blissful” with romantic overtones.  However, Trollope is being clever here in that Arabella’s feelings are not romantic toward Lord Rufford himself but rather his money, power, and station.  The phrase “halcyon days” is much more common, used to describe the blissful first days of a budding romance.  Trollope’s humor here lies in activating both the irony of the romantic connotation of the word and the period of time it is usually associated with.  The notion comes from a story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses where Alcyone is so distraught over the death of her spouse Ceyx that she goes to the shore to commit suicide by throwing herself into the sea.  The gods take pity on her and change both her and the corpse of Ceyx into a type of bird that nests near the water during calm days, thus the English meaning of the word.  [CMC 2012]

Sources:  OED.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.410-748.