19th Century Women's Poetry

Mary McNeil Fenollosa (fl. 1890s)

Mary McNeil was born in Mobile, Alabama. Little is known of her first spouse, whose surname was Scott, but her second spouse was E. F. Fenollosa. McNeil Fenollosa published Out of the Nest: A Flight of Verses in 1899. In 1890, she spent some time in Satsuma, and, as is evident from the poems below and many of her short stories, her work reflects her continuing fascination with Japan and its customs.

Flying Fish
Out where the sky and the sky-blue sea
Merge in a mist of sheen,
There started a vision of silver things,
A leap and a quiver, a flash of wings
The sky and the sea between.
Is it of birds from the blue above,
Or fish from the depths that be?
Or is it the ghosts
In silver hosts
Of birds that were drowned at sea?


Miyoko San
Snare me the soul of a dragon-fly,
The jewelled heart of a dew-tipped spray,
A star's quick eye,
Or the scarlet cry
Of a lonely wing on a dawn-lit bay.
Then add the gleam of a golden fan,
And I will paint you Miyoko San.
Find me the thought of a rose, at sight
Of her own pale face in a fawning stream,
The polished night
Of a crow's slow flight,
And the long, sweet grace of a willow's dream.
Then add the droop of a golden fan,
And I will paint you Miyoko San.

Lure me a lay from a sunbeam's throat,
The chant of bees in a perfumed lair,
Or a single note
Gone mad to float
To its own sweet death in the upper air.
Then add the click of a golden fan,
And I have painted Miyoko San.


A Drifting Petal
If I, athrist by a stream, should kneel
With never a blossom or bud in sight,
Till down on the theme of its liquid night
The moon-white tip of a sudden keel,
A fairy boat,
Should dawn and float
To my hand, as only the Gods deserve,
The cloud-like curve,
The loosened sheaf,
The ineffable pink of a lotus leaf,--
I should know, I should feel, that far away
On the dimpled rim of a brighter day
A though had blossomed, and shaken free
One sheath of its innermost soul for me.

When cherry flowers begin to blow
With Yuki's face beneath them,
The richest petals lose their glow,
And small buds hast to sheath them.
When blue wistaria hangs its head
And Yuki leans above it,
The swallow flits discomforted,--
With none to see or love it.

When lotus blossoms open wide,
And beckon men to dreaming,
My Yuki smiles,--and all their pride
Is but a perfumed seeming.

When snow is white on moat and tree
And crusts each bamboo feather,
My Yuki lifts her eyes to me,--
'T is all I know of weather.