So detached and cool she is
No motion e’er betrays
The secret life within her soul
and the Anguish of her days.
She seems to look upon the world
With cold ironic eyes,
To spurn emotion’s fevered sway,
To scoff at tears and sighs.
But once a woman with a child
Passed by her on the street,
And once she heard from casual lips
A man’s name, bitter-sweet.
Such baffled yearning in her eyes,
Such pain upon her face!
I turned aside until the mask
Was slipped once more into place.*
Clarissa Scott Delany is best remembered for her poetry (though she had only published four poems, W.E.B. DuBois, Alice Dunbar Nelson, Countee Cullen and others lauded her work), but her 26 years of life (1901-1927) were highly industrious. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wellesley, she spent time in France and Germany researching race relations, published a piece about her experience, and taught at Dunbar High School in Washington DC prior to her marriage to Hubert Delany, a New York attorney. She collected statistical data as a social worker with the National Urban League and the Women’s City Club of New York.
*Delany, Clarissa Scott. The Mask. Caroling Dusk. Ed. Countee Cullen. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1927.143.
** Some information from the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, By Cary D. Wintz, Paul Finkelman