Sunday, July 31, 2016

FIRST AND LAST, a poem

A writer once stated that "from a modern viewpoint [Florence Earle Coates'] attitudes seem naïve and optimistic, her prosody quaint," a reason for which she "is now regarded with far less enthusiasm."* Yet her lines convey timeless and vital themes (as all poetry should), and to enter "this world of pain" and somehow emerge hopeful and optimistic is not to be naïve, but trusting and wise.
HOPE smiles a welcome, if no other smiles,
     Upon our entrance to this world of pain;
     And on each purpose of our youth again,
     With an inspiring sympathy, she smiles.
She leads us forth to battle, and beguiles
     Our anguish when the long fight proves in vain;
     Till, pierced by countless wounds, amongst the slain
     We leave her, while the victor foe reviles.
But even as we touch at ruin's verge,
     And hear the voices of despair that urge
     The fatal plunge to chaos, Hope alone,—
How healèd and how ransomed none may guess,—
     Rising again in pallid loveliness,
     Resumes her sway, a thousand times o'erthrown.
"First and Last" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Cosmopolitan (July 1894) and Poems (1898).

*Thomas Eakins and the Swimming Picture (Bolger and Cash, 1996)

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