1875–1956

Introduction

portrait

Born: March 16, 1875, New York Ci­ty.

Died: Au­gust 31, 1956, Cor­nish, New Hamp­shire.

Biography

Percy was the son of ac­tor James Mor­ris­on Steele Mac­Kaye and writ­er Mary El­len Keith Med­bu­ry, and hus­band of Mar­i­on Ho­mer Morse.

He is re­mem­bered as a po­et, play­wright, com­pos­er and es­say­ist.

Publications

Poem

A Child at the Wicket

A little isle: it is for some
Hell’s gate, for some Elysium!
Round Ellis Isle the salt waves flow
With old-world tears, wept long ago;

Round Ellis Isle the warm waves leap
With new-world laughter from the deep,
And centuries of sadness smile
To clasp their arms round Ellis Isle.

I watched her pass the crowded piers,
A peasant child of maiden years;
Her face was toward the evening sky
Where fair Manhattan towered high;

Her yellow kerchief caught the breeze,
Her crimson kirtle flapped her knees,
As lithe she swayed to tug the band
Of swaddled bundle in her hand.

From her right hand the big load swung,
But with her left strangely she clung
To something light, which seemed a part
Of her, and held it ’gainst her heart:

A something frail, which tender hands
Had touched to song in far-off lands
On twilights, when the looms are mute:
A thing of love—a slender lute.

Hardly she seemed to know she held
That frail thing fast, but went compelled
By wonder of the dream that lay
In those bright towers across the bay.

A staggering load, a treasure light—
She bore them both, and passed from sight.
From Ellis Isle I watched her pass:
Pinned on her breast was Lawrence, Mass.

O little isle, you are for some
Hell’s gate, for some Elysium!
Your wicket swings, and some to song
Pass on, and some to silent wrong;

But who, where hearts of toilers bleed
In songless toil, ah, who will heed—
On twilights, when the looms are mute—
A thing of love, a slender lute?

Percy Wallace MacKaye
The Present Hour, 1914

Sources

Lyrics

Help Needed

If you know Mac­Kaye’s bur­i­al place, would you ?