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Penelope

"O faithful eyes, day after day as I see and know you—unswerving, faithful, and beautiful—going about your ordinary work unnoticed, I have noticed—I do not forget you.

I know the truth, the tenderness, the courage; I know the longings hidden there.

Go right on. Have good faith yet—keep that your unseen treasure untainted.

Many will bless you. To many yet, though no word be spoken, your face shall shine as a lamp.

It shall be remembered, and that which you have desired—in silence shall come abundantly to you.” —Edward Carpenter

All day long, close to the busy haunts of life, a maiden sat at her loom. The gold and silver threads glinted through her rosy fingers, and the silken strands of rare and beautiful colors blended as they passed from her hands into a web of dazzling beauty. And while the maiden worked her eyes would often look out over the blue, blue sea—away to where the pink-tipped clouds bent down to kiss the silver crests of the dancing waves.

Sometimes when the sun was shining very brightly, causing a sheen to spread over the waters, she would pause a moment and drop the shuttle to shade her eyes with her hand; and now and then she would half rise in her eagerness, as though she at last caught sight of something she had watched and waited for so long, only to sigh and once more take up her shuttle.

And while she waited she worked, and her web grew in beauty every day.

Other weavers there were, some of them beautiful to look at as their golden hair floated in every passing breeze, and their laughing eyes wandered from face to face.

“Look at Penelope,” they would say, as they laughed merrily; “she never stops to dance upon the green-sward or weave;the blush-red rose into her hair. Foolish Penelope!”

But Penelope only smiled, and went on with her weaving.

The princes of the land often came to watch the maidens, and right glad were they to throw aside the shuttle and leave their weaving to join in the merry dance, or wander away under the greenwood trees to pluck the trailing honeysuckle and the deep red rose to make garlands Wherewith to deck themselves and their lovers.

But Penelope went on with her weaving.

One day a young prince passed by. He saw the sunbeams dance in and out with the golden threads as they passed through her fingers, and he also saw that the maiden was very fair to look upon, and he wondered why—when all her sister maidens had gone to the woods or the green-sward with their lovers—this maid sat alone weaving. And as he gazed upon her beauty he greatly desired it, and stayed his steps by her side. Then she started and looked up. He saw how deep were the blue eyes that looked into his, and he said, “Why not with thy sisters, fair one?” And she said, “My name is Penelope—I am one who waits.” Then he spake very tenderly as he bent over her. “For whom art thou waiting, Penelope?” And she said, “I am waiting for Love.” Then he laughed outright. “Thou fool, there is no such thing as thou waitest for; it exists only in dreams and in the wild imaginings of such simple minds as thine. Waste not thy days; it will never come to thee.” He came closer to her, and she felt his hot breath upon her face. “Come with me, maiden; I am the real, the abiding; I will fill thy days with bliss, and make thee supremely glad.” Then did the heart of Penelope beat painfully, and she cried, "Who art thou?” And he answered, ”Men call me ‘The Lust of the Flesh.’ ”But Penelope hid her face in her hands and cried, “Be gone, be gone! I will not come with thee.”

A maiden came past; she went with swiftly flying feet, her nut-brown tresses floating behind her, and her silken robe glistening in the golden sunlight. Roses crowned her hair, and the trailing honey-suckle twined in and out among the precious stones that hung from her neck, and her hands were full of flowers.

“Penelope, Penelope,” she cried, “come here; leave thou thy loom and away with me. See how the flowers bloom! Dost thou not smell the perfume? Hearken to the music and the beat of many feet upon the green-sward! Penelope, Penelope, come on, come on! ”

“Who art thou?” asked the maiden. “My name is Pleasure I pour delights into the heart, and my presence is like new wine in the veins. Come with me, Penelope; haste thee, for I must away.”

“Nay, nay, go thy Way,” cried Penelope; “I go not with thee, lest he for whom I watch and wait come and find me not.”

“For whom dost thou wait day after day, Penelope, while thy sisters dance on the green-sward and make merry with their lovers?”

“I Wait for Love,” answered the maiden.

Then Pleasure laughed long and loudly, and the echo of her laugh came back from cliff and cave and greenwood tree, hollow and mocking.

“Weave on, thou fool,” cried Pleasure. “Thou waitest for a phantom, a shadow; it never was or never will be.”

But Penelope looked out to sea, and shaded her eyes with her hand. The waves danced in the sunlight, and the little white clouds came down to kiss them, and floated back again into the blue. She saw nothing else.

“Ho, ho, maiden fair! why sittest all alone weaving, when each maiden has found a mate upon the green-sward or under the spreading trees of the forest? ” And a knight in costly armor reined in his fiery steed and stood beside the maiden as she wove the gold and silver threads into her web of beauty.

“I am Penelope, sir, and I wait all the day long for him who will one day come and call for me.”

“What is his name, maiden?”

And the maiden answered, “His name is Love."

“Poor maid I” said the knight, “and art thou so deluded? Knowest thou not that Love is dead? He died long, long ago. Thy sisters know it, and see, they grasp the living, the real, the tangible. Come with me, maiden. Leave thy endless web. My name is Wealth. I am king of all men. I will cover thee with jewels, and robe thee with the finest silk. Thou shalt dwell in marble palaces, and servants and slaves shall do thy bidding. Come away with me, fair one. See, there is room on my faithful steed for two.”

But Penelope only shook her head and looked out to sea.

“Foolish Penelope! Mad Penelope! ” the maidens said as they passed her. “Why dost thou not take what is offered thee? He whom thou waitest for will never come."

But Penelope made answer, “ I will wait for Love. Go ye your ways.”

Penelope, arise! There is a speck far, far out at sea! Shade now thine eyes with thine hands and look, for it is coming nearer and nearer to the shore! Come forth now, Penelope, for his keel has touched the sand, and he stands looking for thee, and he cries, “I have come for one who waits, and has waited long for me. Where is she?”

And his voice is low and sweet and strong, and when the maiden hears it she hesitates no longer, but, rising from her loom, she goes forth to meet him with joy, saying to him, ”I am Penelope!”

They walked together hand in hand along the sea-shore, for they had much to tell each other. And as they walked with the great Light of Love upon their faces, and the pure joy of Love welling up within their hearts, the Lust of the Flesh passed by, and lo! his limbs tottered and his palsied hands shook as they grasped the staff he leaned upon.

Behind him came Pleasure. Her silken robe was torn and bedraggled, the flowers in her hair were withered and dead, her jewels dim and colorless, and her head drooped as she Walked.

After them came wealth—or he who was one time called so—and lo! he walked in rags, his feet were torn and bleeding, and he beat his hand upon his bosom, crying aloud.

Love drew Penelope very near to him.

She smiled, and said, “I am so glad I waited!”

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Lily L. Allen

  • Born on December 30th, 1867 at Burrishoole, Eire
  • Wife of author James Allen
  • Wrote many books of her own

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