Anna Hempstead Branch

Anna Hempstead Branch Poems

To-day I saw the shop-girl go
Down gay Broadway to meet her beau.

Conspicuous, splendid, conscious, sweet,

Oh, grieve not, Ladies, if at night
   Ye wake to feel your beauty going.
It was a web of frail delight,
   Inconstant as an April snowing.

I. Her Hands

My mother's hands are cool and fair,
   They can do anything.

They bade me to my spinning
Because I was a maid,
But down into the battle
I marshalled unafraid.


Order is a lovely thing;
On disarray it lays its wing,

In the wide and rocky pasture where the cedar trees are gray,
The briar rose was growing with the blueberry and bay.

But when Endymion, wandering alone,
With youth and love of loveliness forlorn,
Being greatly sorrowful with beauty, came


I saw thee once. I shall know thee ever.
Beyond the frantic mesh

Sometimes when all the world seems grey and dun
And nothing beautiful, a voice will cry,
'Look out, look out! Angels are drawing nigh!'

When with her clouds the early dawn illumes
Our doubtful streets, wistful they grow and mild
As if a sleeping soul grew happy and smiled,
The whole dark city radiantly blooms.

How swiftly, once, on silvery feet
I saw thee bound beneath the sun!
Oh, savage innocence! The fleet,
The wild, the sweet, the glistening one!


Oh who art thou—thou fearful guest—
Too burning bright, too strangely fair?

Once more among our archangelic hills
The streets of this old, grave, and gracious town
Throb with renewing vigor as when Spring

When I come back from secret dreams
   In gardens deep and fair,
How very curious it seems --
   This mortal name I bear.


But now the Dream has come again, the world is as of old.
Once more I feel about my breast the heartening splendors fold.
Now I am back in that good place from which my footsteps came,
And I am hushed of any grief and have laid by my shame.

Anna Hempstead Branch Biography

Born at Hempstead House, New London, Conn. Graduated from Smith College in 1897 and from the American Academy of Dramatic Art, in New York City, in 1900. While at college she began writing poetry and the year after her graduation won the first prize offered by the `Century Magazine' for a poem written by a college graduate. This poem, "The Road 'Twixt Heaven and Hell", was printed in the `Century Magazine' for December, 1898, and was followed soon after by the publication of Miss Branch's first volume, "The Heart of the Road", 1901. She has since published two volumes, "The Shoes That Danced", 1902, and "Rose of the Wind", 1910, both marked by imagination and beauty of a high order.)

The Best Poem Of Anna Hempstead Branch

To A New York Shop-Girl Dressed For Sunday

To-day I saw the shop-girl go
Down gay Broadway to meet her beau.

Conspicuous, splendid, conscious, sweet,
She spread abroad and took the street.

And all that niceness would forbid,
Superb, she smiled upon and did.

Let other girls, whose happier days
Preserve the perfume of their ways,

Go modestly. The passing hour
Adds splendor to their opening flower.

But from this child too swift a doom
Must steal her prettiness and bloom,

Toil and weariness hide the grace
That pleads a moment from her face.

So blame her not if for a day
She flaunts her glories while she may.

She half perceives, half understands,
Snatching her gifts with both her hands.

The little strut beneath the skirt
That lags neglected in the dirt,

The indolent swagger down the street --
Who can condemn such happy feet!

Innocent! vulgar -- that's the truth!
Yet with the darling wiles of youth!

The bright, self-conscious eyes that stare
With such hauteur, beneath such hair!
~Perhaps the men will find me fair!~

Charming and charmed, flippant, arrayed,
Fluttered and foolish, proud, displayed,
Infinite pathos of parade!

The bangles and the narrowed waist --
The tinsled boa -- forgive the taste!
Oh, the starved nights she gave for that,
And bartered bread to buy her hat!

She flows before the reproachful sage
And begs her woman's heritage.

Dear child, with the defiant eyes,
Insolent with the half surmise
We do not quite admire, I know
How foresight frowns on this vain show!

And judgment, wearily sad, may see
No grace in such frivolity.

Yet which of us was ever bold
To worship Beauty, hungry and cold!

Scorn famine down, proudly expressed
Apostle to what things are best.

Let him who starves to buy the food
For his soul's comfort find her good,

Nor chide the frills and furbelows
That are the prettiest things she knows.

Poet and prophet in God's eyes
Make no more perfect sacrifice.

Who knows before what inner shrine
She eats with them the bread and wine?

Poor waif! One of the sacred few
That madly sought the best they knew!

Dear -- let me lean my cheek to-night
Close, close to yours. Ah, that is right.

How warm and near! At last I see
One beauty shines for thee and me.

So let us love and understand --
Whose hearts are hidden in God's hand.

And we will cherish your brief Spring
And all its fragile flowering.

God loves all prettiness, and on this
Surely his angels lay their kiss.

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