Wednesday, January 17, 2018

WHY DID YOU GO? a poem

Man and Woman on the Beach (1893) and Edwardian Woman on the Beach (1900)
by Thomas Pollock Anshutz
Wikimedia Commons

DEATH called,—but why did you go?
     Did you not know
That life is better than death,
That snatches the breath
Out of joy?—that love is better than death?

     Did you not understand
     How guarded the Land
Where death leads?—that howe'er the heart yearn,
One may never return
     From the gloom
Of that dwelling-place lone that doth hold and entomb?

     O my sweet!
Might I follow your feet,—
Afar from the sun and the bloom-scented air,
     I would open once more
     The inexorable door,
And drink of dark Lethe, your prison to share!
"Why Did You Go?" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


LET me believe you, love, or let me die!
     If on your faith I may not rest secure,
     Beyond all chance of peradventure sure,
     Trusting your half-avowals sweet and shy,
As trusts the lark the pallid, dawn-lit sky—
     Then would I rather in some grave obscure
     Repose forlorn, than living on, endure
     A question each dear transport to belie!

It is a pain to thirst and do without,
     A pain to suffer what we deem unjust,
     To win a joy—and lay it in the dust;
But there's a fiercer pain—the pain of doubt;
     From other griefs Death sets the spirit free;
     Doubt steals the light from immortality!
"Let Me Believe" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Monday, January 15, 2018

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."


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!

          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.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


HOW had it been, my belovèd,
Had Fate united us sooner,—
In the bright days when our hearts
First dreamed of loving?—

When, a thrice exquisite vision,
Hope, all her lute-strings unbroken,
Smilingly beckoned us on,
Wooed us to follow?—

When our youth, eager, expectant,—
Trusting the north as the south wind,
Hardly, its pulses a-throb,
Staid life's unfolding?

Had I been more to you, dearer,
Bearing my myrtle and roses,
Than, as I came, crowned with rue,
Weighted with sorrow,

Seeing both light and its shadow,
Taught both of truth and illusion,
Knowing earth's rapture and pain,
Sharing earth's travail?

More had I been to you—dearer?...
Deep in my heart a voice answers,
Healing the sense of unworth,
Whispering comfort:—

"Love takes no counsel of prudence;
Wherefore men, timid and doubting,
Marvelling oft at his choice,
Charge him with blindness;

"But—this believe!—not Apollo,
Clothed in his glory celestial,
Bears such a light in his breast
As that which Eros

"Holds in the heart of his darkness,
Guards as a torch never failing,
Given to guide him where waits
His sole desire!"
"Retrospect" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

THE HERMIT, a poem

The Hermit Thrush
Wikimedia Commons

LISTEN! O listen! 'T is the thrush—God bless him!
     How marvellously sweet the song he sings!
All Nature seems to listen and caress him,
     And Silence even closer folds her wings
Lest she should miss one faintly-throbbing note
Of high-wrought rapture, from that flute-like throat.

The warbling world, itself, is hushed about him;
     No bird essays the amœbean strain:
Each knows the soul of Music—full without him—
     Could bear no more, and rivalry were vain.
So, Daphnis singing in the tamarisk shade,
All things grew silent, of a sound afraid.

The aspens by the lake have ceased to shiver,
     As if the very zephyrs held their breath:
Hearken how, wave on wave, with notes that quiver,
     It rises now—that song of life and death!
"O holy! holy!" Was it Heaven that called
My spirit, by love's ecstasy enthralled?
"The Hermit" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (January 1909), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Friday, January 12, 2018


MY son is dead!" the aged woman wailed,
     "My son, who was the only help I had!
     My good, good son is dead—my faithful lad
Who ne'er in duty to his mother failed!"

Eager to comfort her distress, I spoke
     Words that have solaced many a soul bereaved
     Since kingly David uttered them when, grieved,
First to its final loss his heart awoke.

"Though he, indeed, shall not to you return,
     Yet, sorrowing mother, you shall go to him.
     Lo, even now, your lamp of life burns dim,
And you may find him soon for whom you yearn!"

Sudden the tears ceased on that face of woe
     As the poor creature turned my words to meet,
     And sighed, to my amaze:—"Still, life is sweet!"
Then I perceived she had no wish to go.
"The Love of Life" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Unconquered Air (1912).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

THE MIRROR, a poem

POET, why wilt thou wander far afield?
     Turn again home! There, also, Nature sings,
     And to thy heart, her magic-mirror, brings
All images of life: thence will she yield
Every emotion in Man's breast concealed:
     Love, hate, ambition,—hope, that heavenward wings,—
     The peasant's toil, the care that waits on kings,—
All, in thy heart's clear crystal, full revealed.

Hast thou forgotten? One there was who turning
     His poet-vision inward, through the years,
Found Falstaff's wit, and Prospero's high yearning,
     Shared Hamlet's doubt, the madness that was Lear's,
Saw Wolsey's pride, and Romeo's passion, burning,—
     Knew Desdemona's truth, and felt her tears!
"The Mirror" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Study for Mariana in the South (ca. 1897)
by John William Waterhouse
Wikimedia Commons
Keyword: Shakespeare