The Myth in Poetry

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Taking one of the oldest and well known mythological stories and relating it to a specifically modern context takes a good deal of both courage and technique on the part of the poet. In order for the poem to succeed, it must deal with the myth in a manner that is true to the original but also completely relevant to the modern subject matter of the poet…

Introduction


of uncertainty and decides to spend her time in making a funeral robe for her husband's father. She weaves the robe all day long but then unravels it at night (Atwood, 2005). Thus she is involved in a task that she will not finish because of her own actions. The myth has come to represent the futile process of waiting for something or someone who will never return, as well as the procrastination involved with many people who constantly start things but never finish them.
The conversational tone of this poem, written in free verse continues with the suggestion that "you can't keep weaving all day/ And undoing it all through the night;/ Your arms get tired" (emphasis added). Millay takes a distinctly modern and realistic perspective upon the old myth. Thus she has wiped her eyes with her apron, a natural action that is not included within the myth as it has been handed down, but which Penelope would surely have done had she been a real person.
This attempt at making both Penelope and the narrator of the poem real is essential to its meaning. The repetition of "and" at the beginning of the next two lines shows the process of near despair within the waiting woman. It is as if the poem's speed increases as she starts to pour out the sadness of her position. ...
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