Saturday, December 31, 2016

BEYOND, a poem

HAD we the present—only that, no more!
Were the past, hidden by Oblivion's door,
     Impenetrable to our backward gaze,
     Its lessons lost, its joyful, tearful days!
     Were there no vision of untrodden ways,
No distant fields of morn, no blooms unfound,
No skyey hopes to beckon from the ground,—
     No loves whose waiting welcome ne'er betrays!

Were there no promise of returning Spring
When Autumn preens a migratory wing,
     And on earth's hearth the fire is burning low!—
     Were there no future with romance aglow,
     When the chilled blood within the vein moves slow,
No dream of a fair dawning, in the night,—
No fond expectancy,—no pledge of light
     Fairer than cloud-veiled days of winter know!
    ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·
To-morrow!—mystic word of the Ideal!
What were all else, wert thou not there to heal
     The deepest hurt that e'er the present gave?
     Friend! Ever wise consoler! We are brave
     Because of thee! Trusting thy might to save,
We journey onward toward an unknown land,
And close, and closer still, we clasp thy hand,—
     Nor will be parted from thee at the grave.
"Beyond" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Friday, December 30, 2016

YESTERDAY, a poem

MY soul is fain to drink of joy;
     Thy cup is full of tears.
Ah, take it from me, nor destroy
     The dream of future years!
Thy face is fair, but grief is there—
     And grief but wastes and sears.

We two have been companioned long;
     Now straightway let us part!
Another and a dearer song,
     By some mysterious art,
Draws young, sweet breath while thy lips of death
     Yet whisper to my heart.

Ah, joy it is a timid thing,
     And easily 't is slain;
A tender firstling of the spring,
     It shrinks at touch of pain;
Then haste away, dread Yesterday!
     Nor hither come again!

So quickly? But who goes with thee,
     Unrecognized before?
Are hope, alas! and memory
     Thus joined forevermore?
Then must thou stay, O Yesterday!
     Lest joy, too, quit my door.
"Yesterday" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (December 1910), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

THE SUN-DIAL, a poem

THEY that read my message clear,
When the sun is shining near,
Know that moments tarry not
Though I keep no record here.

Noiseless as the river's flow,
Onward still the moments go;
Naught delays them—yet they be
Freighted for Eternity!

As the sand drops from the glass,
Unreturning, so they pass;
And the Power that bids them fall
Knows their value—each and all!
"The Sun-Dial" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Bazar (December 1908) and Lyrics of Life (1909).

Horologium Achaz, the Sun-dial of Ahaz
Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Tell us of beauty! ... Tell us of joy"

Did you know? The percentage of poems in Mrs. Coates' 2-volume set of Poems (1916) containing the following words:

Beauty 16%
Joy 19%
Hope 21%
Love 50%

IN MODERN BONDS, a poem

EARLY and late, one day but as another,
One night—one dreary night, like to its brother
Silent and songless, empty of desire,—
A numbness after unremitting tire,—
So, in a vicious circle bound alway,
From light to darkness and from night to day
I move: a thing mechanical, I ween,
As this my comrade here—this vast machine
Which seems more of me than my blood and bone;
Which more doth own me than my God doth own.

For what of difference is 'twixt it and me
Lies in myself a vague and nameless sorrow,
Baffling and barren as the flickering gleam
Of starlight fallen on a frozen stream,
Holding no ray of promise for a morrow
Whose moments, as they come and go, must be—
For one who welcomes nor the night nor morn,
Whose weariness scarce knows itself forlorn—
But portions of a dull, unwished eternity.
"In Modern Bonds" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Unconquered Air (1912).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

THE POET, a poem

IS he alone? The myriad stars shine o'er him,
     The flowers bloom for him mid wintry frost;
He needs not sleep to dream,—and dreams restore him
     Whatever he has lost.

Is he forsaken? Beauty's self is nigh him,
     Closer than bride to the fond lover's arms,—
Veiled, guarding still, to lift and glorify him,
     The mystery of her charms.

Unto his soul she speaks in accents moving—
     In moving accents meant for him alone,
Revealing, past all visioned heights of loving,
     Far-beckoning heights unknown.
"The Poet" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

On this day in 1883

A dinner at the Bellevue (supplanted by the Bellevue-Stratford in 1904) in Philadelphia was given by Mr. and Mrs. Coates in honor of Matthew Arnold, who was in town lecturing that month on the "Doctrine of the Remnat" and on "Emerson."

Monday, December 26, 2016

SLEEP, a poem

To "the Child in us that trembles before death."—Plato.

SAY, hast thou never been compelled to lie
     Wakeful in Night's impenetrable deep,
     Counting the laggard moments that so creep
Reluctant onward; till, with voiceless cry
Enduring, thou hadst willing been to fly
     From Life itself, and in oblivion steep
     Thy tortured senses? To such longed-for sleep
Death is a way; and dost thou fear to die?

Nay, were it this, just this, and naught beside—
     Merely the calm that we have anguished for,
The wayfarer might still be glad to hide
     From grief and suffering!—but how much more
Is Death—Life's servitor and friend—the guide
     That safely ferries us from shore to shore!
"Sleep" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Athenaeum (26 December 1914) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

On this day in 1912

Inscription in a volume of The Unconquered Air and Other Poems (1912) by Mrs. Coates to her brother George H. Earle, Jr. on Christmas Day, 1912.


Pasted into the front board of the same volume is a picture of Florence Earle Coates dated ca. pre-1905.


On Mary, Mother of Jesus

The Sleep of the Infant Jesus
by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

MOTHER MARY

METHINKS the Blessèd was content, her journey overpast,
     Amid the drowsy, wondering kine on lowly bed to lie:
To dream in pensive thankfulness, and happy days forecast,
     While over her the Star of Hope waxed brighter in the sky.

And yet, methinks in Bethlehem her spirit had been lone
     But for the tender new-born joy that in her arms she bore,—
Ay, even though with gifts of gold and many a precious stone
     Great kings had knelt with shepherd-folk about her stable door.

But every mortal mother's heart knows its Gethsemane—
     That lonelier spot whereto no star the light of hope may bring—
Yet even in the darkest hour, amidst her agony,
     Each still remembers Bethlehem, and hears the angels sing.
"Mother Mary" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Literary Digest (7 December 1912), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

WHEN CHRIST WAS BORN

ON that divine all-hallowed morn
When Christ in Bethlehem was born,
How lone did Mary seem to be,
The kindly beasts for company!

But when she saw her infant's face—
Fair with the soul's unfading grace,
Softly she wept for love's excess,
For painless ease and happiness.

She pressed her treasure to her heart—
A lowly mother, set apart
In the dear way that mothers are,
And heaven seemed nigh, and earth afar:

And when grave kings in sumptuous guise
Adored her babe, she knew them wise;
For at his touch her sense grew dim—
So all her being worshiped him.

A nimbus seemed to crown the head
Low-nestled in that manger-bed,
And Mary's forehead, to our sight,
Wears ever something of its light;

And still the heart—poor pensioner!
In its affliction turns to her—
Best loved of all, best understood,
The type of selfless motherhood!
"When Christ Was Born" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Scribner's Monthly Magazine (January 1902), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

CHRISTMAS EVE, a poem

Girl Eating Porridge (1874)
by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
WOULD Jesus come to me, Mither,
     The morrow's Christmas morn,
Wearin' the bonny smile he had
     That day that he was born,
Around his head a wreath o' light,
     And not a twig o' thorn,—

I'd open wide the doore, Mither,
     The way that he'd come in;
And not to gi' him pain at all,
     I'd keep my heart from sin;
And all I could to pleasure him
     I'd right at once begin.

Not in a stall should he be laid,
     But on me own fine bed;
And half me porridge wi' me own
     Small spoon should he be fed,
The while his Mither smiled, and shared
     Wi' you the bit o' bread.

'T would be a time o' joy, Mither!
     But thinkin' o' they things,
'T is may-be well he should be there,
     Wi' ward o' angel-wings;
I doubt they'd miss him so!—the kine,
     The shepherds, and the kings!
"Christmas Eve" by Florence Earle Coates." Published in The Bellman (25 December 1915) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Friday, December 23, 2016

"High thought seated in a heart of courtesy"

Edward Hornor Coates (1846-1921)
Portrait by John McLure Hamilton (1912)

Edward Hornor Coates, husband of Florence Earle Coates, died on this day in 1921. The funeral service was held at the Coates' 2024 Spruce St. home on 26 December at 10:30am. On 31 March, 1922, an auction of his book collection and other items was held at a Stan V. Henkels sale at 1304 Walnut St., Philadelphia. Mrs. Coates presented The Edward H. Coates Memorial Collection to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1923. Mr. Coates is buried at the Church of the Redeemer (Episcopal) churchyard in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. The inscription on his headstone, "High thought seated in a heart of courtesy," was Sir Philip Sidney's description of an honorable man and gentleman.

Coates was president of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1890 to 1906. According to his death certificate, he had suffered from "diabetes mellitus" for a span of ten years, but the primary cause of death was "acute cardiac dilatation."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A BALLAD OF A DRUM, a poem

THE Austrians at Arcola
     (The fight had lasted long),
The Austrians at Arcola—
     Some fifty thousand strong—
Assailed the bridge whereto the French
     (A fourth their strength) had come,
With menace dire, and murderous fire;
     Then fled before a drum!

For Estienne at Arcola—
     Heroic little lad!—
Seeing the carnage on the bridge,
     With soul grown sick and sad,
Had sworn that he, at least, would pass
     Beyond the sanguine tide,
And beat his drum, whate'er should come,
     Upon the farther side.

So Estienne at Arcola—
     No fear had he to die!—
With one brave Sergeant, swam the stream,
     His precious drum held high,
And from the river dripping rose
     Amid the battle's hum,
A French refrain, with might and main,
     To pound upon his drum.

The Austrians at Arcola
     Seemed fifty thousand strong,
But many were the raw recruits
     Among that mighty throng,
Who hearing Frenchmen in the rear,
     Listened, confused and dumb,
Then gave a shout,—"We're hemmed about!"
     And fled—before a drum!

The courage shown at Arcola
     By André Estienne—
The lesson taught at Arcola
     Is wholesome now as then.
Needs there a moral to the tale?
     Then read in this its sum:
The greatest strength may yield at length,
     When sounds a hero's drum!
"A Battle of a Drum" by Florence Earle Coates. Published as "The Battle of a Drum" in The Delineator (December 1904), and as "A Battle of a Drum" in Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

MARS, a poem

IN the blue, cloudless heaven
     A single star,
Lone torch and lamp of even,
     Burning afar;

Not with the radiance tender
     Of other stars,
But with insistent splendor,—
     Celestial Mars!

Above the summits hoary
     Of ancient hills,
It yet pours out a glory
     On lakes and rills,

As when Selene passes
     Across the night
And her fair image glasses,
     Leaving its light.

Strange planet! Thou dost awe me,
     As by a spell;
Thou dost uplift and draw me
     Where thou dost dwell!

Thy mysteries to capture
     Let others guess;
Mine—mine to feel with rapture
     Thy beauteousness.
"Mars" by Florence Earle Coates. Published as "Mars—1907" in Lyrics of Life (1909), and as "Mars" in Poems (1916) Volume I.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

TO HORACE HOWARD FURNESS, a dedicatory poem

With kind and cruel ministries
     Nature assays her metals fine,
And Heaven, bestowing joys and griefs
     With equal hand benign,
Attempers what it holds most dear—
Adds now a smile and now a tear,
     Till it creates with touch divine
     A soul like thine, a soul like thine!—
Ever to loftiest counsels moved,
By all men honoured, and by all beloved.
"To Horace Howard Furness" by Florence Earle Coates. Dedicatory poem from The Unconquered Air and Other Poems (1912).

Monday, December 19, 2016

KEATS, a poem

BY the pyramid of Caius Sestius,
     Unmarked for honour or remembrance save
     By a meek epitaph, there is a grave
For sake of which, o'er oceans perilous,
As to a shrine, uncounted pilgrims come;
     Each bringing tribute unto one who gave
     Life beauty,—the one thing man still must crave,
Though worshiping from far, with passion dumb.

The Eternal City by the Tiber holds,
     In the broad view of Buonarotti's dome,—
     With all its treasure,—naught that is more dear
Than the low mound that easefully enfolds
     The English poet who lies buried here
By the pyramid outside the walls of Rome.
"Keats" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

VEILED, a poem

IS the promise of day merely darkness,
     Is sleep full fruition for strife,
Is the grave compensation for sorrow,
     Is Nirvana the answer to life?

Is there no unobscured revelation
     The evil of Earth to explain,—
No word of compassion to soften
     The terrible riddle of pain?

In cold, imperturbable silence
     The planets revolve in their course,
And Nature is deaf to entreaty,
     Untroubled by doubt or remorse;

The snows, far outspread on her mountains,
     Dissolve, nor her mandate gainsay,
And the cloud is consumed at her bidding,
     And vanisheth quickly away.

And man?—shall he fade like the cloud-wreath,
     And waste, unresisting, like snow,
Nor learn of the place whence he journeyed,
     Nor guess whereunto he must go?

Alas! after nights spent in searching,
     After days and years, what can he tell,—
What imagine of mysteries higher
     Than heaven, and deeper than hell?

At end of the difficult journey,
     With restless inquiries so rife,
He knows what his spirit discovered
     At the shadowy threshold of life;

He feels what the tenderness beaming
     From eyes bending, wistful, above,
Revealed to his heart when an infant,—
     The care, unforgetting, of love!

The hawk toward the south her wings stretcheth,
     The eagle ascendeth the sky;
They know not the guide who conducts them,
     Yet onward, unerring, they fly:

In the desert the dew falleth gently,—
     In the desert where no man is;
And the herb wisteth not who hath sent it,
     But the herb and the dew,—both are His!
"Veiled" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (December 1889), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

PERDITA, a poem


Mary Anderson as Perdita
in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, 1887

Mary Anderson performed in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale at the Chestnut Street Opera House in Philadelphia in January of 1889. It is possible that Florence Earle Coates was in attendance during that time, as "Perdita" was published later that year.

Of Anderson's Philadelphia performance, The American (19 January 1889) reports
"That a great success was achieved by Miss Anderson in the fourth act, when, as Perdita, she lead the rinca fada, or long dance, the dance of the shepherds and shepherdesses, there is not the slightest doubt. The vast audience,—one of those famous "coldly critical, unsympathetic Philadelphia audiences" one has heard so much about,—was aroused to positive enthusiasm over it; and it was only when the point of physical exhaustion was neared, that the "queen of curds and cream" was allowed to dismiss her fleeting shepherd lads and take needed rest in the arms of her beloved Florizel."

PERDITA

(ON SEEING MISS ANDERSON IN THE RÔLE)
SHE dances,
     And I seem to be
     In primrose vales of Sicily,
Beside the streams once looked upon
By Thyrsis and by Corydon:
The sunlight laughs as she advances,
     Shyly the zephyrs kiss her hair,
And she seems to me as the wood-fawn, free,
     And as the wild rose, fair.

Dance, Perdita! and shepherds, blow!
     Your reeds restrain no longer!
Till weald and welkin gleeful ring,
Blow, shepherds, blow! and, lasses, sing,
     Yet sweeter strains and stronger!
Let far Helorus softer flow
'Twixt rushy banks, that he may hear;
Let Pan, great Pan himself, draw near!

               Stately
          She moves, half smiling
     With girlish look beguiling,—
A dawn-like grace in all her face;
     Stately she moves, sedately,
     Through the crowd circling round her;
               But—swift as light—
               See! she takes flight!
     Empty, alas! is her place.

Follow her, follow her, let her not go!
               Mirth ended so—
               Why, 't is but woe!
Follow her, follow her! Perdita!—lo,
          Love hath with wreaths enwound her!

               She dances,
          And I seem to see
The nymph divine, Terpsichore,
As when her beauty dazzling shone
On eerie heights of Helicon.
With bursts of song her voice entrances
     The dreamy, blossom-scented air,
And she seems to me as the wood-fawn, free,
     And as the wild rose, fair.
"Perdita" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (December 1889), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Friday, December 16, 2016

A LOVER'S "LITANY TO PAN", a poem

BY the germinating seed
And the blossoming of the weed,
By the fruitage that doth feed,—
          Oh, hear!

By the light's reviving kiss,
By the law that wakes to bliss
Butterfly from chrysalis,
          Oh, hear!

By the raptures of the Spring,
And the myriad flowers that bring
Incense at her feet to fling,
          Oh, hear!

By the water-lily shrine
And the syrinx that is thine,
By its melodies divine,
          Oh, hear!

By the fragrance of the glade,
By thy slumber in the shade
And thy bed, of mosses made,
          Oh, hear!

By the budding mysteries
And leafy glory of the trees,—
By the human eye that sees,
          Oh, hear!

By the wistful hopes that throng
To thy chantry of sweet song,
By our power to love and long,
          Oh, hear!

By the dawning's tender beam,
By the twilight's westering gleam,
By the soul's enduring dream,
          Oh, hear!

By the summer's ardent quest,
And the balm of winter rest,—
By the calm of Nature's breast,
          Oh, hear!

By the wonder of thy plan,
By thy boundless gifts to man,—
By thy deathless self, great Pan!
          Oh, hear!
"A Lover's 'Litany to Pan'" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The North American Review (December 1911), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.