Monday, August 29, 2016

Back to School Poems

Poems by Florence Earle Coates about learning, growth, transformation, hope and dreams.

His kindred are the bold who, undismayed,
     Believe that good is ever within reach;
All who move onward—howsoe'er delayed—
     Who learn, that they may teach... 

TRANSITION
AWAKE my soul!
     Thou shalt not creep and crawl—
     An earth-bound creature, pitiful and small,
Whose weak ambition knows no higher goal!
O wistful soul,

When morning sings,
     Forgetful of the night,
     Bathe all thy restless being in the light;
Till 'neath the mesh that close about thee clings
Thou feel thy wings!

Then find life's door,—
     Trusting the instinct true
     That points to Heaven and the aerial blue,
A wingèd thing impelled forevermore
To soar and soar!
"Transition" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (February 1902), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

AN OPTIMIST
"O AGED man, pray, if you know,
     Now answer me the truth!—
Which of the gifts that gods bestow
     Is the greatest gift of youth?

"O aged man, I have far to fare
     By the divers paths of Earth,
Which of the gifts I with me bear
     Is the gift of the greatest worth?

"Is it the might of the good right arm,
     Whereby I shall make my way
Where dangers threaten and evils harm,
     Holding them still at bay?

"Is it the strength wherewith I shall climb
     Where few before have trod—
To the mountain-tops, the peaks sublime
     That glow in the smile of the god?

"Is it the never-failing will,
     Invincible in might,
Which armed against oppression still
     Shall vanquish for the right?
"Or is it the heart, thou aged man!—
     The heart, impassioned, strong,
Which shall be blest, as naught else can,
     In perfect love ere long?"

The old man smiled: a listening breeze
     Grew whist on the sun-lit slope;
The old man sighed: "Ah, none of these!
     Youth's greatest gift is its hope."
"An Optimist" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (March 1903), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

BE THOU MY GUIDE
BE Thou my guide, and I will walk in darkness
     As one who treads the beamy heights of day,
Feeling a gladness amid desert sadness,
     And breathing vernal fragrance all the way.

Be Thou my wealth, and, reft of all besides Thee,
     I will forget the strife for meaner things,
Blest in the sweetness of thy rare completeness,
     And opulent beyond the dream of kings.

Be Thou my strength, O lowly One and saintly!
     And, though unvisioned ills about me throng,
Though danger woo me and deceit pursue me,
     Yet in the thought of Thee I will be strong!
"Be Thou My Guide" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (December 1892), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

TO HELEN KELLER
LIFE has its limitations manifold:
     All life; not only that which throbs in thee,
     And strains its fetters, eager to be free.
The faultless eye may not thy vision hold—
Maiden, whose brow with thought is aureoled—
     And they who hear may lack the ministry,
     The august influence, of Silence, she
Who brooded o'er the void in ages old.

Prisoner of the dark inaudible,
     Light, which the night itself could not eclipse,
          Thou shinest forth Man's being to reveal.
     We learn with awe from thine apocalypse,
That nothing can the human spirit quell,
          And know him lord of all things, who can feel!
"To Helen Keller" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Scribner's Magazine (September 1903), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

AB HUMO
THE seedling hidden in the sod
     Were ill content immured to stay;
     Slowly it upward makes its way
And finds the light at last, thank God!

The most despised of mortal things—
     The worm devoid of hope or bliss,
     Discovers in the chrysalis
Too narrow space for urgent wings.

These are my kindred of the clay;
     But as I struggle from the ground
     Such weakness in my strength is found,
I seem less fortunate than they;

Yet though my progress be but slow,
     And failure oft obscure the past,
     I, too, victorious at last,
Shall reach the longed-for light, I know!
"Ab Humo" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (April 1905), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

PER ASPERA
THANK God, a man can grow!
     He is not bound
With earthward gaze to creep along the ground:
Though his beginnings be but poor and low,
Thank God, a man can grow!
The fire upon his altars may burn dim,
     The torch he lighted may in darkness fail,
     And nothing to rekindle it avail,—
Yet high beyond his dull horizon's rim,
Arcturus and the Pleiads beckon him.
"Per Aspera" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Atlantic Monthly (December 1906, as "Onward"), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

DREAM THE GREAT DREAM
DREAM the Great Dream, though you should dream—you, only,
     And friendless follow in the lofty quest.
Though the dream lead you to a desert lonely,
     Or drive you, like the tempest, without rest,
Yet, toiling upward to the highest altar,
     There lay before the gods your gift supreme,—
A human heart whose courage did not falter
     Though distant as Arcturus shone the Gleam.

The Gleam?—Ah, question not if others see it,
     Who nor the yearning nor the passion share;
Grieve not if children of the earth decree it—
     The earth, itself,—their goddess, only fair!
The soul has need of prophet and redeemer:
     Her outstretched wings against her prisoning bars,
She waits for truth; and truth is with the dreamer,—
     Persistent as the myriad light of stars!
"Dream the Great Dream" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Pathfinder (June 1911), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

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