‘Dreamboats’ a Ballad by Margaret Atwood.


Sleep is the only rest we get;
It’s when we are at peace:
We do not have to mop the floor
And wipe away the grease.

We are not chased round the hall
and tumbled in the dirt
by every dimwit nobleman
Who wants a slice of skirt.

And when we sleep we like to dream;
We dream we are at sea,
We sail the waves in golden boats,
So happy , clean and free.

In dreams we are all beautiful
In glossy crimson dresses
We sleep with every man we love,
We shower them with kisses.

They fill our days with feasting
We fill our nights with song,
We take them in our golden boats
and drift the whole year long.

And all is mirth and kindness
There are no tears of pain;
For our decrees are merciful
Throughout our golden reign.

But when the morning wakes us up:
Once more we toil and slave,
And hoist our skirts at their command
For every prick and knave.”

From, Margaret Atwood‘s The Penelopiad. Published by Canongate, 2005.

The maids were bought or acquired for Penelope, and being of the slave class were companions to Telemachus from his infancy to his manhood (and their childhoods). 

The maids sing post-mortem tunes interspersed within the narration of Penelope’s tale. They were hung on Odysseus’ return from his adventures. Other maid- songs include a Sea Shanty; and an Idyll to mark Telemachus’ birth.

Poor Maids, always getting the shitty end of the stick!