Wednesday, November 30, 2016

LOVE SAILED AT MORN, a poem

LOVE sailed at morn in a fragile bark,
     With broidered pennants flying:
His skies with sudden storm grew dark,
          Yet gallant Love, with courage gay,
          Rode jocund on his conquering way,
     The winds and the waves defying.

But when, all peril overpast,
     In tranquil harbor lying,
He felt no more the billowing blast
          Oppose his sails, Love, joy-becalmed,
          Each foe subdued, each effort balmed,
     Without a wound lay dying.
"Love Sailed at Morn" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Sunset Shoreline (1877) by Warren Sheppard
Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

THE EMPTY HOUSE, a poem

I SEEMED to see thy spirit leave the clay
     That was its mortal tenement of late;
     I seemed to see it falter at the gate
Of the New Life, as seeking to obey
Some inner law, yet doubtful of the way
     Provided for its passage, by that fate
     Which makes birth pain, and gives to death such state
And dignity, when soul withdraws its sway.

A tremor of the pale and noble brow,
     A tightening of the lips, and thou wast gone—
Gone?—whither? Ah, the hush of death's abyss!
All tenantless thy beauteous form lay now
     As the cicada's fragile shell outgrown,
Or as the long-forsaken, lonely chrysalis.
"The Empty House" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Atlantic Monthly (November 1908), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Edward H. Coates Memorial Collection

The Edward H. Coates Memorial Collection (1923)
Florence Earle Coates presented The Edward H. Coates Memorial Collection to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1923. The exhibition, representing French and American schools, included 27 paintings and 3 pieces of sculpture, and was displayed between 4 November 1923 and 10 January 1924. Edward Hornor Coates was Academy president from 1890 to 1906, and died on 23 December 1921.

A portrait bust of Edward H. Coates
by Charles Grafly (1903)
was included in the collection
Also included in the collection is William Trost Richard's Old Ocean's Gray and Melancholy Waste (1885). I long thought that this painting was the inspiration for Mrs. Coates' "Mid-Ocean" until I stumbled upon Richards’ painting entitled Mid-Ocean (1869). Mid-Ocean is similar to that of Old Ocean’s Gray, except the latter contains no sign of a sailing vessel in the distance.

A WASTE of heaving waters to the far horizon's rim,
     And over them a vault of leaden gray;
No warmer tint or shading to relieve the aspect dim,
     Save where the riven billows break away,
Revealing as we part them to the left hand and the right,
Beneath each curling crest of foam, the marvellous green light.
Here midst the heaving billows—this unending stretch of sea
     Where scarce an ocean-bird has strength to fly,
Unnumbered leagues from any strand where habitations be,
     Alone, no comrade vessel sailing nigh,
The deep unplumbed beneath us, and, above, a frowning dome,
I do but turn my eyes on thee, and straightway it is home!
"Mid-Ocean" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.


Old Ocean's Gray and Melancholy Waste (1885)
by William Trost Richards
still part of the permanent collection at the
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)

COURAGE, a poem

'TIS the front toward life that matters most—
     The tone, the point of view,
The constancy that in defeat
     Remains untouched and true;
For death in patriot fight may be
     Less gallant than a smile,
And high endeavor, to the Gods,
     Seems in itself worth while!
"Courage" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Outlook (28 November 1908), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

LOVE THAT FALTERED, a poem

     LOVE that faltered for an hour
Had not felt the awful power
Of the god whom gods adore;
     Of the god before whose portal
     Kneel the deathless and the mortal,—
Suppliant forever more.

     Love that faltered had not heard
Love's divine, compelling word,
Or it instant had obeyed;
     Giving with the glad devotion
     Of the river for the ocean,—
Doubting not, and unafraid.

     For with Love alone is joy
Free from shadow of alloy;
And before his sacred shrine,
     Sorrow in her deepest sadness
     Guards a hope more blest than gladness,
And through worship grows divine!
"Love that Faltered" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Reader Magazine (November 1904), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

TWO BROTHERS, a poem

MY brother's face is turned from me;
He sees a thing I must not see,—
Alas! what may the vision be?

His form is wasted as with pain;
A fever feeds upon his brain
Whose fire, extinguished, burns again.

Sometimes he seems to hear a cry,—
And the ravens croak on the turrets nigh,
And the echoes shudder as they die.

Sometimes a cloud o'er his sight is cast,
And something viewless, whirling past,
Is borne away on the moaning blast.

And still his face is turned from me,
To hide the thing I must not see,—
Alas! what may the vision be?
·      ·      ·      ·      ·      ·      ·      ·
Her lips apart, her blue eyes wide,
My mother lay in her state and pride,—
The fairest thing that yet had died!

Like a royal rose,—the story saith,—
Peerless and pale, with a rose's breath
At her parted lips, she lay in death.

Her braids were held by a jewelled dart,—
Her jewelled bodice fell apart,
A jewelled dagger pierced her heart.

To find her foe, men strove in vain;
Again they sought, and yet again,—
But no one mourned with my brother's pain.

For he had loved her from the hour
His father won her with that dower
Of beauty, rare as an aloe's flower.

And she loved him till our father died;
Then something—was it grief or pride?—
Made her as marble at his side.

They say—the vassals of our race—
She wore thenceforth a wintry grace,
Like the frozen scorn on her fair dead face;

And though my brother strove at morn
And eve to comfort her, forlorn,
She met him still with that cruel scorn.

O poor, my Mother! Soon, they say,
She hid herself with her child away,
And looked no longer on the day.

But sometimes, when our towers were white,—
Bathed in the moon's celestial light,—
Her casement opened on the night

All tremulous with mystery,
And, motionless, without a sigh,
She stood there, gazing on the sky;

And they who saw her then, declare
There was nor pride nor passion there,—
Only a tearless, mute despair.

I knew her not,—or if I knew,
Forgot her quickly, as children do,—
Alas! as little children do.

But when she died, men say that I
So plaintive wailed in the chamber nigh,
That summoned thither by the cry,

They brought my brother! In that hour,
He bore me to this lonely tower—
This fortress of our ancient power,

Where ever near me, night and day,—
And happiest with me to stay,—
He kept the vexing world away. . . .

But then, he did not seem to see
The haunting thing so constantly!—
Dear God! what may the riddle be?
·      ·      ·      ·      ·      ·      ·      ·
Mother! I scarce have grieved for you,—
So close to me my brother drew—
So gave me all the joys I knew,—

But I am frightened now, and cry,
Stretching my arms out to the sky.
Without my brother's love, I die!

And though I may not understand
Where lies yon far fair Heavenly Land,
I think that soon, hand locked in hand,

We two will find you where you dwell—
Will see the face he loved so well,
And, weeping, all our sorrows tell!

And then,—ah, then, through me beguiled,
You'll smile on him,—as once you smiled,—
On him—so good to your lonely child!
"Two Brothers" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

George H. Earle, Jr. on this day in 1879

George Howard Earle, Jr. (1856-1928)
Brother of Florence Earle Coates
dated 11-26-1879 (the year he graduated from Harvard)
Image courtesy of Florence Earle Morrisey

Friday, November 25, 2016

MY DREAM, a poem

          THOUGH full of care
I tread the round
Of toil in which man's eager life is bound,
I faint not 'neath the load I bear;
For grievous though the burden sometimes be,
               I dream of thee!

          And when, at night,
I lie enwound
In silence that is sweeter than all sound,
The darkness, kindlier than light,
Shuts out the busy world awhile, and free,
               I dream of thee!

          Like to a breath
Of fragrance blown
From some shy blossom, hidden and alone,
Redeeming frost and wintry death,
So ever comes, like scent of bloom to me,
               My dream of thee!
"My Dream" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Smart Set (November 1902), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

THANKSGIVING, a poem

NOW gracious plenty rules the board,
     And in the purse is gold;
By multitudes in glad accord
     Thy giving is extolled.
Ah, suffer me to thank Thee, Lord,
     For what thou dost withhold!
I thank Thee that howe'er we climb
     There yet is something higher;
That though through all our reach of time
     We to the stars aspire,
Still, still beyond us burns sublime
     The pure sidereal fire!
I thank Thee for the unexplained,
     The hope that lies before,
The victory that is not gained,—
     O Father, more and more
I thank Thee for the unattained,
     The good we hunger for!
I thank Thee for the voice that sings
     To inner depths of being;
For all the spread and sweep of wings,
     From earthly bondage freeing;
For mystery—the dream of things
     Beyond our power of seeing!
"Thanksgiving" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Scribner's Magazine (November 1905), Lyrics of Life and Poems (1916) Volume II.

FREDERICK, a poem

"RESPECT the Future, which belongs to me!"
     So speak thy yearning and imperious will,
     Making the Present distant faiths fulfil,
And raised from falling kingdoms—Germany.

No idle name, no doubtful dream to thee
     That Future: actual, its clasp grown chill,
     It led thee, and thy soul sublimed it still,—
Heir of a more than earthly dynasty!

O didst thou think, untimely called to rest,
     The preparation of a life o'erthrown—
To lose what thou so bravely didst resign?

Forevermore the Fatherland shall own
     Her nobler liberties thy dear bequest:
     The future thy great spirit saw—was thine!
"Frederick" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The American (24 November 1888).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NOCTURNE, a poem

THE houseless wind has gone to rest
     In some rude cavern-bed of ocean,
And Neptune smooths his foamy crest,
     At Dian's will, with meek devotion;
The shepherd, gathering his sheep,
          Has brought them safely to the fold,—
          And in my arms my world I hold!
                         Sleep!

Forespent with hunting on the hill,
     My truant, in the dusk returning,
Finds the lone heart, he left at will,
     With the one worship burning.
The moonlight pales—the shade grows deep—
          The nightingale doth silence break!
          Ah, love, until the lark shall wake,
                         Sleep!

No homeless wanderer art thou!
     Here, pillowed safe, thy head is lying.
The nightingale! Ah, listen now!
     What passion—death itself defying!
Peace! Stars above us vigil keep,
          While breathes for thee each mystic flower
          A-bloom to-night in Dreamland bower:
                         Sleep!
"Nocturne" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (November 1907), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

THE LOVE OF LIFE, a poem

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).

Monday, November 21, 2016

SONG OF LIFE, a poem

MAIDEN of the laughing eyes,
     Primrose-kirtled, wingèd, free,
Virgin daughter of the skies—
Joy!—whom gods and mortals prize,
     Share thy smiles with me!

Yet—lest I, unheeding, borrow
     Pleasure that to-day endears,
And benumbs the heart to-morrow,
Turn not wholly from me, Sorrow!
     Let me share thy tears!

Give me of thy fullness, Life!
     Pulse and passion, power, breath,
Vision pure, heroic strife,—
Give me of thy fullness, Life!—
     Nor deny me death!
"Song of Life" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (November 1901), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

REPROACH NOT DEATH, a poem

REPROACH not Death, nor charge to him, in wonder,
     The lives that he doth separate awhile,
But think how many hearts that ache, asunder,
     Death, pitying Death, doth join and reconcile!
"Reproach Not Death" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909), Scribner's Magazine (November 1911) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

DEATHLESS DEATH, a poem

Richard Watson Gilder
1844-1909

IN MEMORY OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER

WE who have seen the seed fall without sound
          Into the lifeless ground,
Through wintry days are tempted to forget
How Spring will come with the first violet
          In her dark hair,
          Fresh and more fair
Than we remembered her, a glad surprise
In the veiled azure of her shadowy eyes.

     Fear doth the heart deceive,
          And still we grieve
     Where we should lift the voice
     In triumph, and rejoice
          Amid our sorrow,
     Because of what the past
Has given that is beauteous and shall last—
A heritage of blessing for the morrow.

     Lo, in what perfect trust
Nature confides her darlings to the dust!
The rose, the crocus, the narcissus sweet,
She lays to rest, undoubting, at her feet
     Who from the meadows bright
Was snatched away to rule in the sad light
     Of Hades, and to learn
          Its lessons stern.
     For Nature's faith is deep
That, waking from the dark and dreamless sleep,
Her flowers toward the sun shall wistful yearn,
And in the fragrant breast of Proserpine return.

     Ah, lover true of men,
     Forgive, forgive us, then,
If choked by tears we falter in our praise,
Remembering that we no more again
Shall hold glad converse with your spirit brave,
Nor from your lips hear words that lift and save,
Through all the lengthening number of our days!

By the great Silence you are set apart
From all the restless travail of the heart
          That beats in us
     So passionate and strong—
Are passed beyond the evening angelus
     And Memnon's morning song.
     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •
Man's life on earth—how brief!
Yet we with Nature hold the high belief,
     E'en when our hearts are breaking,
That death is but the vital way,
Darkness the shadow of the day,
     And sleep the door to waking!

     And shall we still with tears
Pay tribute sad to one whose soul endears
Even the dark, dark river it hath crossed?
     Shall we in grief forget
The sweetness and the glory of our debt,
And that no good, once given, can be lost?

     Distant your dwelling seems,
Poet and patriot!—but, ah, your dreams
Are living as the flame of sacrifice!
     Therefore love's roses now
We lay amidst the laurel for thy brow,
Grateful that souls like yours our earth emparadise.
"Deathless Death" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Outlook (1 January 1910), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Friday, November 18, 2016

SONG, a poem

IF love were not, the wilding rose
Would in its leafy heart inclose
       No chalice of perfume;

By mossy bank, in glen or grot,
No bird would build, if love were not,
       No flower complacent bloom.

The sunset clouds would lose their dyes,
The light would fade from beauty's eyes,
       The stars their fires consume;

And something missed from hall and cot
Would leave the world, if love were not,
       A wilderness of gloom.
"Song" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Atlantic Monthly (November 1896), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Rosa virginiana, wild rose species native to the United States.
Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, November 17, 2016

INDIA, a poem

SILENT amidst unbroken silence deep
     Of dateless years, in loneliness supreme,
     She pondered patiently one mighty theme,
     And let the hours, uncounted, by her creep.
The motionless Himalayas, the broad sweep
     Of glacial cataracts, great Ganges' stream—
     All these to her were but as things that seem,
Doomed all to pass, like phantoms viewed in sleep

Her history? She has none—scarce a name.
     The life she lived is lost in the profound
          Of time, which she despised; but nothing mars
The memory that, single, gives her fame—
     She dreamed eternal dreams, and from the ground
          Still raised her yearning vision to the stars.
"India" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (November 1891), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Amos N. Wilder on Hope and Mrs. Coates

In the Winter (1951-1952) issue of Religion in Life, Amos Niven WilderAmerican poet, minister, theology professor, WWI veteran, and older brother to playwright and novelist Thornton Wilderwrites:

"A man's wisdom is measured by his hope." I used to puzzle over this aphorism cited to me years ago by a choice poet of the last generation, Florence Earle Coates, then in an advanced age, recently widowed, and going blind...


Birch Island, Upper St. Regis Lake
Mrs. Coates' husband Edward died in 1921, and Mrs. Coates would eventually contract and suffer from a form of nephritis—perhaps a contributing factor to her blindness. In a letter from Mrs. Coates to Mr. Wilder dated 22 January 1924, Mrs. Coates states, "your book [Battle Retrospect and Other Poems (1923)] has been before me, and though I can read little at a time, owing to my blindness, I have constantly been charmed by new and eloquent lines." A little more digging led me to a poem by Mr. Wilder written and dedicated to Mrs. Coates and entitled "The Vision of Purgatory." The poem appears in Wilder's collection of verse, Arachne (1928), and is signed, "Birch Island, Upper St. Regis Lake, N. Y. 1923." The Coates' had a summer camp ("Camp Elsinore") also located at Upper St. Regis Lake (in the Adirondacks), and according to a 1923 summer Social Register, Mrs. Coates summered there—along with her granddaughters—that very summer. "The Vision of Purgatory" addresses the theme of hope, and of finding convalescence and absolution:

...I learned how hope could conquer circumstance
And vault the phantom barriers of time,
I learned to mock the incidence of chance

And wait each true conjunction at its prime...

...And through the somber western copses driven
The fires of sunset pierced that nether grove
Where loitering spirits, chastened and new shriven,

Won absolution by a lake of love...

...And after purgatorial pains and trial

Took convalescence in that dim asyle.
"Camp Elsinore," Upper St. Regis Lake.
In Religion and Life, Wilder continues,
The saying ["A man's wisdom is measured by his hope"], affirmed out of adversity, suggested a triumphant insight directed against shallow wisdoms characterized by "realism" or cynicism. It seemed to say: the greater the hope, the greater the wisdom. The man with little hope or fluctuating hope was the fool, no doubt because he was blind to the true character of a situation, blind to the dynamic processes of good at work. As Jesus said to the Sadducees: "Ye know not....the power of God." Hopelessness is ignorance.
Letter to Mr. Wilder where Coates speaks of "a man's wisdom."

The aphorism spoken of by Mrs. Coates to Mr. Wilder likely springs from a sentiment expressed by Ralph Waldo Emerson; for in a tribute piece to Matthew Arnold in the April 1894 issue of The Century Magazine, Mrs. Coates cites Arnold citing Emerson:
[Emerson] says himself: "We judge of a man's wisdom by his hope, knowing that the perception of the inexhaustibleness of nature is an immortal youth". . . His abiding word for us, the word by which being dead he yet speaks to us, is this: "That which befits us, embosomed in beauty and wonder as we are, is cheerfulness and courage, and the endeavor to realize our aspirations." One can scarcely overrate the importance of thus holding fast to happiness and hope. It gives to Emerson's work an invaluable virtue. . . . Carlyle's perverse attitude toward happiness cuts him off from hope. He fiercely attacks the desire for happiness. He is wrong; "We judge of a man's wisdom by his hope." . . . Wise men everywhere know that we must keep up our courage and hope...
Also see: Amos N. Wilder on the "revisioning of the world" after WWI  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

DAWN, a poem

IN Orient mystery
Thou veilest thee,
Pale daughter of the never-quenchèd Light,
Who from the couch of Night
By swift-ascending steeds to heaven art borne
Ere yet thy sister, Morn,
Awaking, dons her wondrous vesture bright.

Like to a handmaid lowly, day by day
Thou dost prepare her way;
But when soft-trailing saffron and warm rose
Half hide and half disclose
Her glowing beauty rare,—
When living things her sweet breath quaff,
And lift their heads for joy of her, and laugh,
Thou art no longer there.

Yet, hours there be,
Child of Hyperion, sacred to thee,
That dearer gifts confer;
When mortals lay before thy dim-lit shrine
A thankfulness of worship more divine
Than any offered her:

When, after night distressful spent—
Night sleepless and intolerably long,
Comes—unexpected, eloquent—
A tentative, faint note of song!
And the o'erwearied watcher sighs,
And lying still, with tear-wet eyes,
Hearkens the most celestial lays
Earth knows; and sees Night's curtains drawn
Slowly aside, and whispers: "Dawn!"—
Yearning beholds the tender gleam
Of Hope's pale star, where it doth beam
Eternal on thy brow,
And in its ray composed and blest,
Sinks into rest.
"Dawn" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The North American Review (November 1912), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Monday, November 14, 2016

EAGLES, a poem

GIBERT'S BATTLE FOR THE AIR

IT rose, and swam into the sky—
     The man-made bird;
And the great Eagle saw it fly—
     Saw it, and heard
The whirring of its plumeless wings,—
The bird that mounts and soars, but never sings!

The falcon-eyes that face the sun
     Blinked on the flight
Of the dread creature that had won
     The unwelcome right
To leave its native earth, and dare
Intrude upon the monarch of the Air!

As moved the monoplane, the man,
     Strange soul of it,
Sailing the sea cerulean,
     The whole of it
Seemed his; ay, subject to his sway.
Then he beheld—an Eagle in his way!

Awed, each upon the other gazed
     A moment's space,
When sudden-swooping talons grazed
     The pale man face,
As the fierce earn, there, mid the skies
Struck with blind fury at his rival's eyes.

Up-fluttering, the feathered king
     Plunged down again.
His rushing anger seemed to bring
     Fate nearer; then
The man-bird knew the moment's strife
Not for supremacy alone, but life!

With nerve that grows in peril great,
     He toward him drew
A thing to strengthen him with Fate,
     Whence instant flew
A wingèd death, and far behind
Headlong the Eagle fell, the abyss to find.
·      ·      ·      ·      ·      ·      ·      ·      ·
Thy fight was over, glorious bird!—
     Thy scornful strength
Which the sky's sovereignty conferred,
     Subdued at length,—
An autumn leaf against the wind,
In conflict with a greater power—called Mind!
"Eagles" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (November 1911), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Eugène Gilbert
Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, November 13, 2016

ECHO CONSOLATRIX, a poem

I SAID, "She is gone from the grieving earth—
     The Maiden, Spring; in the realms of Dis
She reigns o'er a world of tears and dearth,
     With a homesick heart that yearns for this.
Frozen the meadows, the fields lie bare,
And afar, 'mid the fragrant dusk of her hair,
The violets dream of the light, in vain.
She is gone!—ah, will she return again?"
          A voice breathed low, "Again."

I said, "In this joyless heart of me
     Is a winter chill and comfortless:
I tire of the wail of the wind-swept sea,
     My soul is afraid of its loneliness.
Is there a land, as poets tell,
Where beauty and love—as the asphodel
Unchanging—inhale an immortal air?—
And my little lad?—shall I find him there?"
          The voice made answer: "There!"
"Echo Consolatrix" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (November 1908), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

NATURE, a poem

TO see thee, hear thee, wistful watch I keep—
     Mother, who in Immensity dost dwell—
A child who listens for the boundless deep,
     Her ear against a shell:

And vainly though I seek thy face to scan,
     Lost in the vasty temple where thou art,
Faint breathings of thy voice æolian
     Vibrate against my heart.
"Nature" by Florence Earle Coates. Published as "As from Afar" in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (November 1904) and Mine and Thine (1904), and as "Nature" in Poems (1916) Volume I.

Friday, November 11, 2016

NANSEN, a poem

TO drift with thee, not strive against thy tide,
     All-powerful Nature! to pursue thy law,
     Attentive,—with devout and childlike awe
Hearkening unto thy voice, and none beside:
To drift with thee! With thee for friend and guide
     In fragile bark, careless of cold or thaw,
     To brave the ice-pack and the dread sea-maw!—
So are man's conquests won, so glorified.

The truest compass is the seeing soul.
     Oh, wond'ring Earth! did not thy spirit glow,
          Calling to mind the deathless Genoese,
As Nansen, pilot of the frozen Pole,
     Like a young Viking rode the icy floe,
          Wresting their secret from the Arctic Seas?
"Nansen" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (November 1897), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mrs. Coates attends Henry Mills Alden's 70th birthday celebration (10 Nov 1906)

from "Henry Mills Alden's 70th Birthday: Souvenir of its Celebration." Harper's Weekly, 15 Dec 1906 (p. 1836). Mrs. Coates is seated second from the right. Image courtesy (Thank you!) of Ian Schoenherr.
by Florence Earle Coates
OUR days by deeds are numbered,—and by dreams,
If we dream well and nobly; for it seems
   That he who would respond
By deed to what is loveliest and best,
Must, holding to the near and manifest,
   Find in the things beyond,
Faith, ay, and courage, duty to fulfil,—
Hearing the higher voices calling still.

Thy youth those voices heard on many a height,
In the fresh dawn and the all-fragrant night,
   For thou wast mountain-born;
And looking to the hills,—from boyhood-days
Thy comrades,—learned the wonder in their ways,
   Reglorified each morn;
Gaining, with deeper draughts of upland breath,
Large images of Life and lordly Death.

And as a man but follows his lodestar,—
For our ideals make us what we are,—
   Through self-effacing years,
Thou, toiling where the burdened city moans,
Hast lost no accent of the higher zones.
   Smiles, and the truth of tears,
And memories, and melodies unsung,
Have visited thy heart, and kept it young.

Thou hast had strength, where many failed, to glean
Good from a doubtful harvest; thou hast seen
   Light where the shade lay deep.
The future with the present praise must blend
To crown thy triumphs worthily, O friend!
   But we remembrance keep
More grateful, even, for thyself than them,
And lay upon thy brow love's anadem.
"To Henry Mills Alden" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

IN DARKNESS, a poem


          I WILL be still;
The terror drawing nigh
Shall startle from my lips no coward cry;
Nay, though the night my deadliest dread fulfil,
          I will be still.

          For, oh! I know,
Though suffering hours delay,
Yet to Eternity they pass away,
Carrying something onward as they flow,
          Outlasting woe!

          Yes, something won;
The harvest of our tears—
Something unfading, plucked from fading years,
Something to blossom on beyond the sun.
          From sorrow won.

          The agony,
So hopeless now of balm,
Shall sleep at last, in light as pure and calm
As that wherewith the stars look down on thee,
          Gethsemane!
"In Darkness" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (November 1888), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

COMBATANTS, a poem

HE seemed to call me, and I shrank dismayed,
     Deeming he threatened all I held most dear;
But when at last his summons I obeyed,
     Perplexed and full of fear,
I found upon his face no angry frown,—
     Only a visor down.

Indignant that his voice, so calm and sweet,
     In my despite, unto my soul appealed,
I cried, "If thou hast courage, turn and meet
     A foeman full revealed!"
And with determined zeal that made me strong,
     Contended with him long.

But oh, the armor he so meekly bore
     Was wrought for him in other worlds than ours!
In firm defense of what he battled for,
     Were leagued eternal powers!
I fell; yet overwhelmed by my disgrace,
     At last I saw his face.

And in its matchless beauty I forgot
     The constant service to my pledges due,
And, with adoring love that sorrowed not,
     Entreated, "Tell me who
Hath so o'erthrown my will and pride of youth!"
     He answered, "I am Truth."
"Combatants" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (November 1893), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Monday, November 7, 2016

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

Sunday, November 6, 2016

EARTH'S MYSTERY, a poem

I LOOKED on Sorrow, tragical and dread;
     Beheld the anguish in her sunken eyes,
     Which yearned no longer upward to the skies,
As dumbly pleading to be comforted,
But bent their blinded vision on the dead:
     The dead removed—how far!—from human sighs,
     Lying majestic, as a conqueror lies,
Indifferent to tears, so costly shed.

But as I pondered, seeking, soul-oppressed,
     To read the riddle of a world like this,
          Where Nature still seems waiting to destroy,
     I saw immortal Love descend and kiss,
With timid wonder, reverent and blest,
          The quivering eyelids and the lips of Joy!
"Earth's Mystery" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Delineator as "I Looked on Sorrow" (November 1905), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

AUTUMN, a poem

IN her arms unconscious lying,
Cytherea's love is dying.
On the hill and in the valley,
Through the grove and sun-lit alley,
Drooping flower and fading leaf
     Share her grief.
But in realms of gloom and night
Proserpine enwreathes her hair,
And a gleam of tender light
Seems to pierce the darkness there:
"Ah!" she sighs, "I long have waited
With the calm of hopeless pain,
But to me, the sorrow-fated,
Comes the lost one back again!
Lovely things that seem to die
Hither now will quickly hie,
And to-morrow, in the gloom
Of this sad and sunless tomb,
Butterflies will lightly hover,
As o'er meadows fair;" she saith,
"For Adonis brings the clover
     With his breath!"
"Autumn" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (November 1901), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Friday, November 4, 2016

MORNING, a poem

I WOKE and heard the thrushes sing at dawn,—
     A strangely blissful burst of melody,
     A chant of rare, exultant certainty,
Fragrant, as springtime breaths, of wood and lawn.
Night's eastern curtains still were closely drawn;
     No roseate flush predicted pomps to be,
     Or spoke of morning loveliness to me.
But for those happy birds the night was gone!

Darkling they sang, nor guessed what care consumes
     Man's questioning spirit; heedless of decay,
They sang of joy and dew-embalmed blooms.
     My doubts grew still, doubts seemed so poor while they,
Sweet worshipers of light, from leafy glooms
     Poured forth transporting prophecies of Day.
"Morning" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Magazine (November 1885), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A SECRET, a poem

MY laddie 's a' the world to me!
     'T is to himself I owe it
That I can never more gae free;
     But, ah!—he must not know it!

When from my side he roams awa',
     I scarce believe I'm living;
But when he's here—my laddie!—ah,
     I die for want of giving!

Why must I think upon his smile?—
     His eyes o'er bright and bonny?—
His gladness that doth sae beguile
     It robs my heart of ony?

Were I a lad, and he a maid,
     I would na be sae winning;
To wound too deep I'd be afraid,
     And deem such sweetness sinning!
"A Secret" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Magazine (November 1913) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

KINDRED, a poem

TENDER grass in April springing,
     Scent of lilacs wet with rain,
Bluebird jubilantly singing
     Snatches of a loved refrain,

Falcon soaring high above me,
     Light of stars in deeps divine,
Creeping earth-bound things that move me
     To compassion, ye are mine!

Wind in varied cadence playing
     Mystic runes on harps unseen,
Blossom hardily delaying
     Where lost summer late hath been,

Shadow drifting o'er the mountain,
     Mist blown inward from the sea,
Hidden spring and bubbling fountain,—
     Ye are mine and parts of me!

What am I? The stars have made me,
     And the dust to which I cleave,
Rivers, and the hills that aid me,
     Past and future, morn and eve,

Nightshade lightly plucked unknowing,
     Roses fondly twined with rue,
Harvestings of mine own sowing,
     And from fields I never knew!

I have gained mid loss and capture
     Strength not found in vanquishing,
Sharing oft the mounting rapture,
     Trailing oft the broken wing;

Kindred with the sunlight streaming
     Where nor dew nor rain-drop gleams,
With the parchèd desert dreaming
     Incommunicable dreams,

Laid in cavern-bed at even,
     Throned on rose-flushed Apennine—
Multitudinous earth and heaven,
     Naught ye hold that is not mine!
"Kindred" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (November 1908), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

On Alexander III of Russia

TO THE TSAR (1890)

O THOU into whose human hand is given
     A godlike might! who, for thy earthly hour,
Above reproof, self-counseled and self-shriven,
     Wieldest o'er regions vast despotic power!
               Mortal, who by a breath,
     A look, a hasty word, as soon forgot,
Commandest energies of life and death!—
Midst terrors dread, that darkly multiply,
     Wilt thou thy vision blind, and listen not
Whilst unto Heaven ascends thy people's cry?

In vain, in vain!  The injuries they speak
     Down unto final depths their souls have stirr'd:
The aged plead through them, the childish-weak,
     The mad, the dying,—and they shall be heard!
               Thou wilt not hear them; but,
     Though Heaven were hedged about with walls of stone,
And though with brazen gates forever shut,
And sentried 'gainst petitions of despair,
     'T were closely guarded as thy fearful throne,
That cry of helpless wrong should enter there!

O Majesty!  'T is great to be a king,
     But greater is it yet to be a man!
The exile by far Lena perishing,
     The captive in Kara who bears thy ban,
               Ransomed at length and free,
     Shall rise from torments that make heroes strong;
Shall rise, as equal souls, to question thee;
And for defense there nothing shall endure
     Of all which to thy lofty state belong,
Save that thou hast of human, brave, and pure!

Cæsar, thou still art man, and serv'st a King
     Who wields a power more terrible than thine!
Slow, slow to anger, and long-suffering,
     He hears his children cry, and makes no sign:
               He hears them cry, but, oh!
     Imagine not his tardy judgments sleep,
Or that their agonies He doth not know
Who, hidden, waste where tyrants may not see!
     Eternal watch He over them doth keep,—
Eternal watch,—and Russia shall be free!
"To the Tsar (1890)" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (January 1890) and Poems (1898).

Funeral of Alexander III


ALEXANDER III

(LIVADIA, NOVEMBER 1, 1894)
THE world in mourning for a Russian Tsar!
     A despot of the nineteenth century
     Mourned by the nations that have made men free!
     Ye captives of his rule! where'er ye be,
Whether in dungeons or in mines afar—
Wretches who mourn, yet mourn not for the Tsar,—
     Forgive the tears that seem a wrong to grief
     Barren of comfort and without relief;
The Tsar was Russia's martyr—as ye are!
He asked for peace, and she ordained him strife.
     A Slav of simple heart, disliking show,
     She bade him every lowly hope forego;
     And placing on his brow her crown of woe,
Gave him a sovereignty with perils rife,
And 'neath his sceptre hid the assassin's knife.
     So, masked as Fear, she broke his nerves of steel
     Upon the circle of her racking wheel,
And set a horror at his door of life!
Humanity but sorrows for her own;
     The Autocrat she mourns not, but the man,
     Who, loving Russia, lived beneath her ban,
     Powerless to soften fate or change the plan
That called him all unwilling to a throne,
Hereditary evils to atone.
     She mourns not Cæsar, but the pathos old
     Of a quick conscience driven to uphold
A dynasty the world had long outgrown.
Omitted from the 1916 version (rendered above), the 1898 rendering of this poem includes the following last stanza:
Woe to the Tsar!—Livadia's cannon boom,
     Proclaiming that the Tsar from woe is free!
     Peace to the Tsar! but, Russia, woe to thee!
     Still he who rules thee shall thy victim be,
Tortured by griefs that shall his heart consume,
Till he and thou, risen as from the tomb,
     Shall see the light on Liberty's calm face,
     Shall know that tyranny must yield its place
To the great spirit that hath breathed its doom!
"Alexander III" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.