19th Century Women's Poetry

Ednah Proctor Clarke Hayes (b.1870s)

Born in New York City, Ednah Proctor Clarke lived most of her youth in Washington, D.C. The poet Edna Dean Proctor was her cousin. Clarke published An Opal: Verses by Ednah Proctor Clarke in 1897. Two years later, she married Dr. Henry L. Hayes, and they settled in the Hawaiian Islands.

The Deathless
What charlatans in this later day
Beat the gates of Art!
Each with his trick of speech or brush,--
Forgetting, that apart
From all the brawling of an age,
Its feverish fantasy,
She waits, who only unto Time
The soul of Art sets free!

God's handmaid Beauty,--whose touch rounds
A dewdrop or a world,--
God-sprung when first through Chaos' night
The morning wings unfurled;

Beauty,--who still the secret gives
Whispered the ages through--
Recurrent as the flush of dawn,
Essential as the dew.

O babblers of some surer guide!--
Knowledge goes changing by;
Caprice may bloom its little hour,
And creeds are born and die;

Still Melos on her worshippers
Looks with calm-lidded eyes;
Still Helen, though Troy sleeps in dust,
Smiles through the centuries;

Still she who gleaned on Judah's plain
Love in her sheaves doth bind;
Still, down the glades of Arden, dance
The feet of Rosalind.

[AA; 1897]

The Dancer
Skin creamy as the furled magnolia bud
That stabs the dusky shadows of her hair;
Great startled eyes, and sudden-pulsing blood
Staining her cheek and throat and shoulder bare.

(Ah Manuelita!
Lita Pepita!
List the cachucha!
Dance! dance!)
Swaying she stands, the while one rounded arm
Draws her mantilla's folds in shy disguise,
Till in the music's subtle, quickening charm
Her tranced soul forgets the alien eyes.
Fades the swift flush, save from the rose-soft mouth,
And all the conquering memories of Spain
Fling wide her veil; the vintage of the South
Leaps in her heart, and laughs through every vein!

(Ah Manuelita!
Star of Cordova!
Passion and innocence!
Dance! dance!)
Gone from her gaze the stage, the mimicry:
You painted scene? It is Cordova's walls!
The eager trumpets ring to revelry--
The banderillero cries--the toro falls!
The vision thrills to heart, to eyes, to lips;
Her castanets click out in conscious pride;
Curved throat, arched foot, and lissome-swaying hips,
The music sweeps her in its swirling tide.

Love and denial, mockery and desire,
A fountain tossing in its moody play,
Tempest of sunshine, cloud, and dew, and fire,
Dancing in joyance to the jocund day!

(Ah Manuelita!
Till the moon swoons in mist!
Till the stars dim and die!
Dance! dance!)
Soft! through the music steals a yearning strain,--
Now distant viols grieve down the drowsy night,--
Her fluttering feet are poised; then drift again,
Luring in languor, dreamy with delight.

(Ah Manuelita!
Witch of the winged feet!
Lead on to dream or death!
Dance! dance!)
Hushed in her heart are raptures and alarms;
Falling, as water falleth, to her knees,
She spreads the drifted foam-wreath of her arms;
The music dies in whispered ecstacies.
[AA; 1897]