Over the years, I have thought a lot about femininity through the eyes of classical heroines like Ophelia, Penelope, and Helen of Troy.
As much as I admire the classical writers, I am disappointed that they often were unable to give their heroines a more satisfactory story. Sometimes I like to write poems from the point of view of women in these stories, giving them a more empowering or noble story line.
That is what I am trying to do in this poem with Penelope, which is based on the story of Penelope in the Odyssey.
In the morning I set sail;
And I know what they will say:
That I’m insane, base and mean—
That I’m unfit to be your queen.
They do not know what it is like
To look at you, Beloved King.
To see you lost in revery,
Gazing out into the sea.
I’ve watched you in the past few months,
Since returning home from Troy.
And in my mind I’ve lived our life,
All the years I’ve been your wife.
I saw Odysseus, the young man,
Touching me first under the stars.
Odysseus, husband, father, lord,
Sailing forth to Trojan War.
I wept and kissed your hand that day.
I vowed I’d wait for your return.
I raised your son; I waited, wove,
While suitors clutched my soul, our home. .
And then, at last, you did return.
We laughed again under the stars.
But now you’re gazing at the sea.
How I wish you would take me.
So in the morning I set sail,
Loving you still and all the while.
But I no longer sit and weave;
Now I must seek my destiny.
John William Waterhouse, Penelope and Suitors
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