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An Ancient Gesture
I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.

And more than once: you can't keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years.

Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.


And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
Ulysses did this too.

But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.

He learned it from Penelope.
.
.

Penelope, who really cried.
Written by: Edna St Vincent Millay