Friday, December 15, 2017

VESTAL, a poem

SHE dwelt apart, as one whom love passed by,
     Yet in her heart love glowed with steadfast beam;
     And as the moonlight on a wintry stream
With paly radiance doth glorify
All barren things that in its circle lie,
     So, from within, love shed so fair a gleam
     About her, that it made her desert seem
A paradise, abloom immortally.

Some rashly pitied her; but, to atone,
     If one perchance gazed long upon her face,
He grew to feel himself more strangely lone—
     Love lent her look such amplitude of grace;
Yet who that would have made that love his own
     Aught worthy had to offer in its place?
"Vestal" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Reader (December 1907), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.


Nun contemplating a cross in a garden courtyard
by Ferdinand Wagner

Thursday, December 14, 2017

LOVE IS PASSING, a poem

LOVE is passing through the street.
Love, imperishably sweet,
On his silver-sandaled feet
     Draweth near.

Suppliant he came of yore,—
Comes he now as conqueror?
Will he, pausing at my door,
     Enter here?

Once his lips were ruby-red,
And his wings like gold, outspread,
And the roses crowned his head,
     As in story;

And though these he now disguise,
Ever a lost paradise
In the azure of his eyes
     Keeps its glory.

Love is passing through the street—
Love, imperishably sweet,
And were death our way to meet,
     I would dare it.

Come he suppliant, as before,
Come he as a conqueror,—
So he turn not from my door,
     I can bear it!
"Love is Passing" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (December 1911), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"POOR LOVE!" SAID LIFE, a poem

"POOR love!" said Life, "that hast nor gold,
     Nor lands, nor other store, I ween;
Thy very shelter from the cold
     Is oft but lowly built and mean."
"Nay: though of rushes be my bed,
     Yet am I rich," Love said.

"But," argued Life, "thrice fond art thou
     To yield the sovereign gifts of Earth—
The victor sword, the laureled brow—
     For visioned things of little worth!"
Love gazed afar with dreamt-lit eyes,
And answered, "Nay: but wise."

"Yet, Love," said Life, "what can atone
     For all the travail of thy years—
The yearnings vain, the vigils lone,
     The pain, the sacrifice, the tears?"
Soft as the breath breathed from a rose,
The answer came: "Love knows."
"'Poor Love!' said Life" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (December 1902), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"GO NOT TOO FAR", a poem

GO not too far—too far beyond my gaze,
     Thou who canst never pass beyond the yearning
Which, even as the dark for dawning stays,
     Awaits thy loved returning!
Go not too far! Howe'er thy fancies roam,
     Let them come back, wide-circling like the swallow,
Lest I, for very need, should try to come—
     And find I could not follow!
"Go Not Too Far" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Atlantic Monthly (December 1903), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Monday, December 11, 2017

IN LONELINESS, a poem

ISEULT OF BRITTANY

THEY are at rest.
How still it is—and cold!
The morrow comes; the night is growing old.
They are at rest. Why then, unresting, keep
In vigil lone, a pain that will not sleep—
An anguish, only to itself confessed,
That hushed a moment lies,
Then wakes to sudden eager life, and cries?

At rest?

Ah, me! The wind wails by,
Like to a grief that would but cannot die.
How sore the heart can ache,
Yet beat and beat and beat, and never break!

(Hearken!—Was that a child's awaking cry?)

It was the sea—the ever troubled sea!
My little ones, it was the sea,
That moans unceasingly
One dear refrain repeating o'er and o'er:—
"Tristram returns no more—
Tristram returns, returns—ah, never more!"

Ashen the fire,—
Ashen: like dead desire.
The dawn breaks chill,
The children, sleeping, think their father here.
O Tristram! might I, also, dream you near!—
Mine—mine without regret!
As when I nursed your wound, and taught you to forget
The cruel torment of your love for her,—
The poisoned wine, the still avenging hate,
The ship, the pain, the unrepenting Fate,
The yearning that is death, yet doth not kill!

(Sleep, little ones! your mother guards you still.)

They are at rest,
Their sorrows over.
Forgetful of the tortured past,
They are at rest at last,
Sad lover by sad lover.
Oh, drear to me
The voices of the sea-birds, and the sea—
The sea that moans against the shore,
Repeating ceaselessly:—
"Tristram returns no more,
Returns—ah, never, never more!"
"In Loneliness" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Joyce Kilmer and godlessness in poetry

Kilmer in 1908 and ca. 1917
Visiting England in 1914, upon seeing the long lines of men waiting to enlist, Joyce Kilmer—American poet and journalist—exclaimed, "My God, if I look at these boys much longer I'll have to hook on at the tail of this queue and join up with them!" He enlisted on 23 April 1917, shortly after America entered WWI. Just a few short months before enlisting, however, Kilmer would interview Florence Earle Coates on godlessness in poetry, where we glean the following gems from Mrs. Coates:

"The business of art is to enlarge and correct the heart and to lift our ideals out of the ugly and the mean through love of the ideal. ... The business of art is to appeal to the soul."
"...poetry needed no renascence. It was not young, it is not old."
"Beauty is eternal and ugliness, thank God, is ephemeral.  Can there be any question as to which should attract the poet?"

Kilmer was killed in action on 30 July 1918, but not before he sang—reportedly—his last song:
THE PEACEMAKER
UPON his will he binds a radiant chain,
     For Freedom's sake he is no longer free.
     It is his task, the slave of Liberty,
With his own blood to wipe away a stain.
That pain may cease, he yields his flesh to pain
     To banish war, he must a warrior be.
     He dwells in Night, eternal Dawn to see,
And gladly dies, abundant life to gain.
What matters Death, if Freedom be not dead?
     No flags are fair, if Freedom's flag be furled.
Who fights for Freedom, goes with joyful tread
     To meet the fires of Hell against him hurled,
And has for captain Him whose thorn-wreathed head
     Smiles from the Cross upon a conquered world.
The Saturday Evening Post cover (12 October 1918)
in which appears Kilmer's "The Peacemaker"
"Godlessness Mars Most Contemporary Poetry" was published in The New York Times Magazine (10 December 1916).

Saturday, December 9, 2017

LOVE, REPROACHFUL, a poem

WHEN Love, reproachful, sighed: "Art thou become
     Voiceless, who in my praise wast eloquent?
     To wound my name unto high heaven is sent
A vain lamenting,—the exordium
Of fruitless plaint and chiding wearisome,—
     While they to whom my chiefest joys are lent,
     To worship me in silence are content!"
Love, even so: whom thou dost bless are dumb.

Listen! That strain of ecstasy and pain!
Far-echoing from Thrace, it breathes again,
     Lost Philomela's passion to prolong;
Yet nested near in solitude, the dove—
Beneath thy very pinions, gracious Love!
     Coos to her mate, but sings the world no song!
"Love, Reproachful" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.