Clarissa Scott Delany
By Emma Martin

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Clarissa Scott Delany ("Ethos")


Clarissa Scott Delany was born in 1901 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Although she died at the young age of twenty-six, Delany still contributed to the Harlem Renaissance by publishing poetry and journal articles into the newspaper Opportunity. After her young years in Alabama, she was sent to New England where she graduated from Wellesley College in 1923. She participated in many extracurricular activities and was a well-rounded student ("Delany").

During Delany's years at Wellesley, she attended meetings of the Boston Literary Guild, and she soon began writing. Speakers were featured each week, and these speakers gave Delany inspiration and gave shape to her views on art and literature. As a woman of color and with her writing talents, she quickly became associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Delany was only able to publish four poems, as her life was cut tragically short. However, she made an impact with her writing because she channeled intense emotion into her work, and often used common Harlem Renaissance themes. Delany's poems were extremely emotional and intense, which portrays strong messages such as perseverance and hope ("Delany").

Poetry Analysis

The Mask
So detached and cool she is
No motion e’er betrays
The secret life within her soul,
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 in place.

Clarissa Scott Delany wrote emotion-filled poems. She included themes of the Harlem Renaissance into her poems, such as equal rights, especially for women ("Delany"). In this poem, Delany portrays the emotions of a woman, possibly African American. The woman discussed in the poem is likely to be African American because Delany strongly supported equal rights for all. Being African American herself, she was likely to take their point of view during the Harlem Renaissance.

The poem discusses the "mask" that all people wear at some point in their lives. However, in the context it was written, it is most likely portraying black women of that time period and their struggles with society. Women in general in that time period were looked down upon, and by stating the woman of the poem was "So detached and cool" (1), it shows that the woman had to be strong and not let society affect her negatively. The symbolic "mask" of the poem is a similar concept. The woman did not allow herself to show emotion and was strong behind her "mask": "To spurn emotion's fevered sway" (7). The figurative mask symbolized being strong and persevering, and though sometimes she faltered, as shown in the last two lines of the poem, the woman always began again and the mask was "slipped once more into place" (16).

Sources Cited:

"Clarissa M. Scott Delany - The Black Renaissance in Washington, DC." DC Library Labs | . N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. <>.
"Welcome to Ethos Online." Redirect to Wellesley College web site. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. <>.