One of the most fascinating things about my grandparents is studying their relationship dynamic—especially their courtship years. Dorothy Smith and Ellsworth Clark dated for about two years in the early 1930’s while attending the University of Utah. Theirs was a protracted, sometimes bumpy affair marked with with long absences when Ellsworth spent summers home in Idaho working the hay fields or selling suits with his father. Even when their engagement became official, Ellsworth left—at Dorothy’s suggestion—for a six-month Western States mission. This proved fruitful ground for angst-filled letters filled with both doubt and devotion.
Among all the letters my grandma saved, there are a number of poems from their courtship. Because Dorothy seems to have thrown out some of the letters she wrote (there are significantly more letters from Ellsworth in the collection), these poems help tell a fuller picture of their courtship. In reading them, I am struck how in such a relatively short time in history, love letters and poems have devolved into texts, selfies, and tweets. In all that we have gained in convenience, we have lost the ability to communicate intimately and thoughtfully. Modern convenience has robbed our minds of time spent waiting, yearning, forming thoughts, and pondering.
Forever Yours: The Collected Poems of Dorothy Smith and Ellsworth M. Clark.
Cover design by Kimball Clark.
We recently published the entire collection to make available to the family. One of the most wonderful by-products of this effort is seeing her great-grandchildren connect with these poems, and even set some of them to music. Here are a few selections from their collection, with Ellsworth’s first foray into poetry appearing just weeks into their courtship.
This is my very first attempt at poetry. I know it does not rhyme, and the meter is wrong in places, but well, don’t show it to anybody. It just happened to be the way I felt a little while ago.
It seems good to get back to my typewriter.
To You About Me
I walked along the road of life;
‘Twas strewn with souls both good and rife.
My path had been both straight and sure.
By good example, made more sure.
Now came a turning in that road,
It grew more rough and widened more.
I left my home—no guiding hand
No voice to tell me where to stand.
I traveled North in search of Strength.
I sallied South more truths to learn.
I meandered toward the setting sun,
To get the gold to help me on.
Now I’m working, wishing, hoping
Thinking I may get some good
From the school which was my choice,
And thereupon my life make sure.
In this quest I wonder often,
If my foot may slip unnoted
Into untruth or disaster
Or be content with nothing noted.
My quest was started with a full vim.
I studied hard, then I grew thin.
I thought I loved a girl—then near.
But later learned—she was no dear.
My second year I started grim,
To fight off every little whim.
My work was good, but lacked the vim
Which sets it off is right good trim.
In the third year I settled down
And made my schoolwork fairly hum.
But life seemed empty—What! No goal?
I was traveling fast—but where?
A party, a dance, a friendly word.
She came like morning fresh and sweet.
Strangers?—Sure—but thoughts alike,
We found companionship discreet.
The days passed on. I saw her often.
First a tango, then poor excuses,
To get to see her I used ruses.
She hurt me once, ‘twas soon forgotten.
And I found her sweet; enthralling.
Now I’ve found a goal in life.
Instilled by thoughts she says so freely.
And if I heed their gentle warning
I hope to find my child of “Morning”.
13 June 1932
It is interesting in the following poem to see this side my grandma, since I only knew her in her older, more conservative years.
When will I feel your arms again
The warmth of your breath upon my cheek?
The kindling eyes that smiled and told
So many things you failed to speak.
Let me feel your strong embrace
The pressure of firm lips on mine.
The drunken ecstasy that comes
To drench my heart in lovers’ wine.
Hold me close and let me feel
One more the bat of your heart on my breast.
Let me know the sweet repose
That soothes my longing soul to rest.
Why must my heart in silent plight
Wonder and wait for the break of day?
When will it break the chains of night
To bask in the dawn of Love’s New Day?
8 July, 1932
Dorothy, after a tennis date with Ellsworth in Pioneer Park.
Again, from Dorothy very early on in their relationship—with a very hopeful prediction.
When the gold-embedded sun
Bursts forth from the mists
And rises on a happy,
Tis’ then my heart
With sweetest rapture fills—
My past cares are forgotten
My hopes are born anew
As thru the magic glory of
I see great things in store for me and you.
An early dance picture of Ellsworth and Dorothy.
Following is Ellsworth writing to Dorothy while home in Idaho. They had been dating on and off for about 7 months. This poem—and others—hint at Dorothy’s teasing nature and the presence of other suitors for Dorothy.
About You During a Snowstorm
‘Tis afternoon my fairy Queen,
As large lump flakes of snow
Come gliding in, come peeking in
The portals of my window.
My heart is soft, my eyes are longing
For your puzzling, lovely face.
My hands are out, ears seem straining
Oh, Jeanne, ‘tis lovely in this place.
‘Tis your smile, perchance your eyes
That make men say “Ah, Paradise!”
Or maybe lips, or brown hair twining
‘Neath your temples straying.
Why did God make such a woman
To Adams son dismaying?
She’s hot, she’s cold–
She’s bashful, bold–
Her life’s a paradox
She makes my life a thrilling game
Of chance—a rosy bed of rocks.
Now, quit your penning
And turn to other tasks a-waiting
Then when through your weary eyes
Will search her out in land of dreaming.
3 January 1933
Ellsworth and Dorothy posing near the state capitol.
They both attended the Capitol Hill Ward in 1932.
Ellsworth follows a few days later with a humorous and pointed verse, still smarting from an undisclosed hurt.
I’m going to build with skill and will,
(around my heart)
A shroud so tough and hard and cold,
(can’t come apart)
So storms within will die unspent
So inmost truth, the things I kennt,1
Will never start
The grief that’s in my soul.
The wiles of those of graceful air
(What of it all?)
Will hit that shroud and wonder where
(He won’t enthrall)
The air will seem less chill, less bare.
They’ll turn away; the can’t ensnare
That icy ball
That people call my heart.
I’m tough! I’m bold:
My heart is cold.
A maiden caused it so.
And when I’m gold;
Life’s’ story told;
Haw! Into a hole I’ll go.
That matters more—the earth seems warm
I’m wedded to the soil.
The worms that eat my eyes, my ears;
That fight and writhe and coil,
Will say that woman caused that shell
So hard to get behind;
Will up in arms and massacre
All females of their kind.
All women vain
They catch a heart and tear,
They all entreat
‘Tis but a saccharine ware.
Give man his woman, woman rope
She’ll hang her man. Ah! Little hope.
Written the day of our Lourde 1933 upon the 6th day of January while in complete health and in sanity of mind.
6 January 1933
Ellsworth and Dorothy, around the time of their engagement.
Another one from Ellsworth, slightly more optimistic.
If You But Knew the Joy You’d Bring
If you but knew the joy you’d bring
If you’d but walk up here,
And push the bell and make it ring
So I’d come out and find you dear.
You’d make the sunshine in the eve
And make my heart starting singing
Songs of love you can’t conceive
Because you’re not here ringing.
If I should see you now my dear
No matter what you’re doin’
I’d clear the space in one quick jump
And kiss you quick, “no foolin”.
Two days are years to me tonight
I’m lonely, sad and wonderin’
Can I last longer in this plight
Of lovin’ you—you darlin’.
‘Tis grand outside—
The soft wind wafts perfume of flowers
So sweet and fair,
It makes me feel I want you hours
To talk and to confide.
23 May 1933
We see now Dorothy coming around. This was close to the time they became officially engaged, and perhaps is a description of the event itself.
Indian summer brought a story
Of a lover’s troth
Golden autumn shed its glory
Thru the wood
Where Romance stood
Waiting to beguile the pair
Who should chance to wander there.
Hand in hand a maiden strolled
With a youth thru paths of gold,
Romance round them did entwine
Filled their hearts with love’s own wine.
Bade them drink and tarry there,
Bade them love’s sweet gifts to share.
Transfixed in that starry night
Two lips confessed that she was right;
Two arms betrayed a secret fair:
Love’s paradise had blossomed there.
5 October 1933
Dorothy wrote this poem shortly before their marriage, and is a lovely glimpse into her feelings for Ellsworth that have been fully realized.
For What You Are
I love you not only for what you are
But for what I am when I am with you.
I love you not only for what you have made of yourself,
But for what you are making of me.
I love you for closing your ears to the discords in me
And for adding to the music in and by your listening.
I love you because you are helping me
To make of myself
Not a tavern but a temple life.
And of my every day words,
Not a reproach but a song.
I love you because you have done
More than any creed could have done
To make me good and more than any touch
Could have done to make me happy.
You have done it without a word,
Without a sign, without a touch.
You have done it just by being yourself,
And perhaps that is what love means after all.