Saturday, December 17, 2016

PERDITA, a poem


Mary Anderson as Perdita
in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, 1887

Mary Anderson performed in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale at the Chestnut Street Opera House in Philadelphia in January of 1889. It is possible that Florence Earle Coates was in attendance during that time, as "Perdita" was published later that year.

Of Anderson's Philadelphia performance, The American (19 January 1889) reports
"That a great success was achieved by Miss Anderson in the fourth act, when, as Perdita, she lead the rinca fada, or long dance, the dance of the shepherds and shepherdesses, there is not the slightest doubt. The vast audience,—one of those famous "coldly critical, unsympathetic Philadelphia audiences" one has heard so much about,—was aroused to positive enthusiasm over it; and it was only when the point of physical exhaustion was neared, that the "queen of curds and cream" was allowed to dismiss her fleeting shepherd lads and take needed rest in the arms of her beloved Florizel."

PERDITA

(ON SEEING MISS ANDERSON IN THE RÔLE)
SHE dances,
     And I seem to be
     In primrose vales of Sicily,
Beside the streams once looked upon
By Thyrsis and by Corydon:
The sunlight laughs as she advances,
     Shyly the zephyrs kiss her hair,
And she seems to me as the wood-fawn, free,
     And as the wild rose, fair.

Dance, Perdita! and shepherds, blow!
     Your reeds restrain no longer!
Till weald and welkin gleeful ring,
Blow, shepherds, blow! and, lasses, sing,
     Yet sweeter strains and stronger!
Let far Helorus softer flow
'Twixt rushy banks, that he may hear;
Let Pan, great Pan himself, draw near!

               Stately
          She moves, half smiling
     With girlish look beguiling,—
A dawn-like grace in all her face;
     Stately she moves, sedately,
     Through the crowd circling round her;
               But—swift as light—
               See! she takes flight!
     Empty, alas! is her place.

Follow her, follow her, let her not go!
               Mirth ended so—
               Why, 't is but woe!
Follow her, follow her! Perdita!—lo,
          Love hath with wreaths enwound her!

               She dances,
          And I seem to see
The nymph divine, Terpsichore,
As when her beauty dazzling shone
On eerie heights of Helicon.
With bursts of song her voice entrances
     The dreamy, blossom-scented air,
And she seems to me as the wood-fawn, free,
     And as the wild rose, fair.
"Perdita" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (December 1889), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

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