Mary McNeill Scott

To a Portrait of a Japanese Princess (1894)

Fragile, waxen dream of woman,
Cold, inscrutable, unhuman!
Ivory skin too dense for veining.
Hair as deepest shade remaining,
Tiny lips gold-tipped with silence,
Sealed to girlhood’s gay beguilance.

I can dream that men may love thee;
But will all their loving move thee?
Can a heart sincere and tender
Beat beneath that garment’s splendor?
Rich with gold the gorgeous sheathing
Cold above thy quiet breathing.

Thou art made of dew and shimmer
Of the moon where snow-crests glimmer,
Wrought of pure and scentless flowers,
Stilled with hush of starlit hours.
Deep the natal mystery gleaming
’Neath thine eyelids’ heavy dreaming.


Mary McNeill Scott (1865-1954) was the second wife of Ernest Fenollosa, the link between Fenollosa’s manuscripts and Ezra Pound, and the author of several successful novels, including two set in Japan, The Breath of the Gods (1905) and The Dragon Painter (1906), as well as Blossoms from a Japanese Garden: A Book of Child Verses (1913). ‘To a Portrait’ appeared in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine 53 (1894), p. 280.

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