Tuesday, May 1, 2018

"Pour Prendre Conge" and UNBIDDEN, a poem

Calling card of Florence Earle Coates

On 1 May 1899, Mrs. Coates inscribes a copy of Poems (1898) to Mrs. G. Oram Ring (Elizabeth Clendenning Ring), to include two lines from her poem "India." Also within the volume is a calling card, likely left in parting from a gathering at the Ring's home. Mrs. Coates states that "Unbidden [posted below] is far too long to write in your book, but I shall hope to send it to you some day. Lovingly, F.E.C." The poem would later be published in Coates' 1904 book of verse, Mine and Thine, spanning seven pages. At the time, the Coates' lived at 5321 Baynton (formerly Hancock) Street in Germantown, PA ("Willing Terrace"—where a man's "worth is warrant for his welcome"). Around 1908, they moved into the city residing at 2024 Spruce Street.

Image courtesy of Florence Earle Morrisey
Elizabeth Clendenning Ring would write a biographical piece about Mrs. Coates entitled "Florence Earle Coates: Some Phases of Her Life and Poetry." It was published in the December 1917 issue of Book News Monthly.

UNBIDDEN

AS shakes the breast of giant Kaf
     When Allah's thunders near resound,
So nations quail before my wrath,
And shudder at its sound.

     The broad Euphrates bears my name
To Oman's waves triumphantly;
The lordly Indus sings my fame
To the wondering Indian sea.

     For me Khorasan tempers steel,
The Turkoman rears matchless steeds;
Azerbijan grows me her wine,
And luscious fruit for summer needs;
My peacock throne burns like a gem,
And stars blaze in my diadem.

     The mighty vie to honor me:
Kings at my table humbly sit,
And tributary satraps fret
When banished over-long from it.

     What then have I to do with thoughts
That blanch the cheek and chill the blood?
Some wretched slave may quake and start,
Who hast'ning through Ghilan's lone wood,
Hears ravening jackals distant howl,—
But I?  Nay, who doth not revere
The brazen doors my guards defend?
Who dares, unsummoned, enter here?

     Shall baseless terrors mock my peace,
And chide desired Sleep away?
Forbidding her to close mine eyes,
Tormenting me when I would pray?
The years are long; yet time hath sped,
And Earth forgets what once she knew,
For hidden far beneath her view,
The grasses wave above my dread.

     The guests attend me. Wake, my will!
Put off this garb of sullen gloom!
The dead may neither wound nor blight;
And vengeance slumbers in the tomb.
Be thou but firm, and all's secure:
Match well thy purpose to the hour,
Nor babble what is voiceless still,—
Not Eblis shall abase thy power!

     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·

     Heard you a knocking then, my lords?
No?—and the wind, you think, sounds so?
To me 't was as a stroke of doom,
Reverberate from some long ago.

     Well, since 't was nothing, speed the cheer!
Nor sit like phantoms dull and mute,
For something which ye did not hear.

     Ye thought me weary?  So: and then?
Am I not mortal like the rest?
May I not falter in my mirth,
Nor palsy every guest? . . .

     That knocking!—Ah! you note it now.
It vexed me men should disallow
A sound more dread than frenzy's shriek,—
And prate of a wind-blown bough!

     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·

     Thine errand, sirrah!  Who's without
That may not be denied?
A stranger? And thou darest bring
His hests unbidden before thy king?

     A stranger? Though his need be stout,
And stubborn as his pride,
Is 't here that he should seek our face?
Command him to the appointed place,
And those who should provide!

     Ha! answerest thou? Not be denied?—
Grows life so worthless then?—
Go drive him hence, thou tiresome knave!
. . . Friends, to our feast again!
     This imbecile hath broke the cheer;
But day is distant yet,
And ere her joyless flags appear,
We'll pay mad pleasure's debt.

     Drink to all revels—foes to thought!
Drink, drink to poppy-trances deep!
And since from some sleep holds aloof,
To oblivion drink!—the dreamless sleep.

     Again that sound affronts the air!
Ill-omened wretch, proclaim thy care—
My soul thy pallor hates!
What hounds thee back?  Whence, whence this din?
The stranger?  He hath passed the gates—
And waiteth there—within?

     And waiteth there? . . . Admit him then:
Who hunts the panther to his den
Flies not the panther's rage.
. . . Fool! fool! Thou deem’st it wise to beard
Our fury? . . . Gods! the face I feared!

     At height of bloom, so cometh blight.
Avaunt! avaunt, thou withering sight!
Eternal pains begin:
I swoon to Hell's abysmal night,—
Ah, horror!—Back, my Sin!
"Unbidden" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904).


Friday, April 27, 2018

INTERCHANGE, a poem

THE oriole sang in the apple tree;
     The sick girl lay on her bed, and heard
     The tremulous note of the glad wild bird;
And, "Ah!" she sighed, "to share with thee
     Life's rapture exquisite and strong:
Its hope, its eager energy,
     Its fragrance and its song!"

The oriole swayed in the apple tree,
     And he sang: "I will build, with my love, a nest,
     Fine as e'er welcomed a birdling guest:
Like a pendant blossom, secure yet free,
     It shall hang from the bough above me there,
Bright, bright with the gold that is combed for me
     From the sick girl's auburn hair!"

So he built the nest in the apple tree;
     And, burnished over, a ball of light,
     It gleamed and shone in the sick girl's sight,
And she gazed upon it wonderingly:
     But when the bird had forever flown,
They brought the nest from the apple tree
     To the bed where she lay alone.

"O builder of this mystery!"—
     The wide and wistful eyes grew dim,
     And the soul of the sick girl followed him—
"Dear bird! I have had part, through thee,
     In the life for which I long and long:
Have shared its hope, its energy,
     Its rapture and its song!"
"Interchange" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (November 1902), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.
PENDANT NEST OF THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE
Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 26, 2018

SONG, a poem

HER cheek is like a tinted rose
     That June hath fondly cherished,
Her heart is like a star that glows
     When day hath darkling perished,
Her voice is as a songbird's sweet,
     The drowsy wolds awaking—
But, ah, her love is past compare,
     And keeps my heart from breaking!

Lost sunbeams light her tresses free,
     Along their shadows gleaming!
Her smiles entangle memory
     And set the soul a-dreaming,
Her thoughts, like seraphs, upward soar,
     Earth's narrow bounds forsaking—
But, ah, her love abides with me
     And keeps my heart from breaking!
"Song" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (April 1892), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

MASEFIELD, a poem

On re-reading Gallipoli and the Sonnets

I thought on England in her tragic hour
     Of sacrifice supreme for human right;
     Beheld her bleeding, broken in the fight
With a massed tyranny's stupendous power;
And musing on far graves where lie her flower
     Of manhood, memory so dimmed my sight
     That I forgot the dawn that crowned her night—
The victory that was her valor's dower.

Then, even as I grieved, I saw once more
     How genius can atone and re-create:
How, by its own high gift, it can restore
     The Land that gives it birth to sovereign State,
Rekindling glories that it knew before,
     And deepening its life to life as great!
"Masefield" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The North American Review (May 1922).

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

INHERITOR, a poem

SAY not the gods are cruel,
     Since man himself is kind—
Man, who could give no tenderness
     If, impotent and blind,
He stretched appealing hands on high
     No tenderness to find,—

Who, wakened to compassion,
     No longer stands apart,
Careless of others' suffering,
     But, rather, shares the smart,
Because of pity drawn from out
     The Universal Heart,—

Who feels within him glowing
     A spark that dares aspire,
Flame-like, unto supernal things,
     With never-quenched desire,
And knows that Heaven bestowed on him
     A spark of its own fire!
"Inheritor" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Outlook (24 April 1909) and Lyrics of Life (1909).


The Creation of Adam
Michelangelo

Monday, April 23, 2018

SHAKESPEARE, a poem

O'ER-TOPPING all—upon how lone a height!—
     A demiurge beneficent, a seer
     Like his own Prospero, he doth appear,
'Mid clouds that half conceal him from our sight,
A being god-like in creative might:
     He who so very human was! so near
     To Nature that her voice through him we hear—
Her voice of truth and beauty infinite.

Shakespeare! With love and awe we breathe his name
Who needs not mortal praise! Deathless in fame,
     Far from our dull activities he seems;
But let us turn, a-wearied, from the strife,
To share with him the high adventure,—life,
     Straightway we feel the stirrings of Great Dreams!
"Shakespeare" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1916) Volume I.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

NEAR AND FAR, a poem

For a beautiful reading of this poem—recorded on 21 March 2011 by Jannie Meisberger for Librivox.org—click on the title below as she gives voice to...
Photo by Ashley Bohm.


NEAR AND FAR
by Florence Earle Coates

THE air is full of perfume and the promise of the spring,
   From wintry mould the dainty blossoms come;
There's not a bird in all the boughs but's eager now to sing,
   And from afar a ship is sailing home!

The cherry-blooms, all lightly blown about the verdant sward,
   With silver fleck the dandelion's gold;
The jasmine and arbutus breathe the fragrance they have stored;
   The crumpled ferns, like faery tents, unfold.

And low the rills are laughing, and the rivers in the sun
   Are gliding on, impatient for the sea;
The wintry days are past and gone, the summer is begun,
   And love from far is sailing home to me!

Ah, blessed spring!—how far more sweet than any spring of yore!
   No note of all thy harmonies is dumb;
With thee my heart awakes to hope and happiness once more,—
   And from afar a ship is sailing home!

As rendered in Poems (1916) Vol. I; also published in Poems (1898).