An Ancient Gesture

Original Text: 

Millay, Edna St. Vincent.  Mine the Harvest.  1954.

1I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
2Penelope did this too.
3And more than once: you can’t keep weaving all day
4And undoing it all through the night;
5Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
6And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
7And your husband has been gone, and you don’t know where, for years,
8Suddenly you burst into tears;
9There is simply nothing else to do.
10And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
11This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
12In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
13Ulysses did this too.
14But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied
15To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.
16He learned it from Penelope …
17Penelope, who really cried.
Publication Start Year: 
1949
Publication Notes: 

The Ladies’ Home Journal. vol. 66 (1949).

RPO poem Editors: 
Marc R Plamondon
RPO Edition: 
2018
Rhyme: