Tuesday, February 28, 2017

DELILAH, a poem

EVERMORE I hear my name,
     Blared upon the cruel street,
     Echoed in my close retreat,
Breathing fame, and branding shame:
Evermore it mocks my dream.
     Though I wear the purple fine—
     All the pomp of Palestine—
Ravens over Gaza scream:
               "Delilah!"

And when most I should be gay
     For my triumph,—lo! my sight
     Darkens in another's night,
And accusing voices say:
"Guile may lightly vanquish odds;
     But though mortals pay the price
     And accept the sacrifice,
Treason's hateful to the gods,
               Delilah!"

Samson!—bowing reverent knee
     Unto Israel's God and thine—
     Did'st thou think I loved not mine?
Unto him I yielded thee!
Yet—O mighty in thy fall!—
     Groping still thy God to find,
     Bond and bound, bereft and blind,—
Happier thou than she they call
               Delilah!
"Delilah" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Independent (28 February 1901), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Monday, February 27, 2017

On the "People's Poet"

On 27 February 1907, Mrs. Coates attended a dinner celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at the National Arts Club in New York. Mrs. Coates' poem, "Henry Wadsworth Longfellow," was published in Harper's Weekly a few days later in the 2 March 1907 issue:

If tasting Heliconian springs
     He of their waters drank not deep,
If, smiling, he beheld not things
     Revealed to eyes that weep,
If dread Dodona's Oracle
     And Delphi's voice for him were mute,
If grave Minerva in his path
     Dropped never silver flute,— 
Yet beauty wove a magic spell
     For him, and early, at his need,
Upon a bed of asphodel
     He found a tuneful reed,—
The Syrinx-reed Thessalian,
     Of plaintive, far renown,
The universal pipe of Pan,—
     Where the god laid it down.
Right reverently from the ground
     He lifted up the sacred thing,
Accepted it with awe profound,
     With faith unfaltering;
And when its music forth he drew
     Earth half forgot her ancient pain,
For Marsyas himself ne'er blew
     A purer, sweeter strain!
What though there be who self-attired
     In robes of judgment some misuse,
Protest that he was not inspired
     By the authentic Muse,—
Love, granting all his faults to these,
     Forever holds his name apart,
Who moved not senseless stones and trees,
     But the quick human heart.
"The people's poet." Did he lack
     Return? He served in his degree
The people, and they gave him back
     Their immortality!
Time careless grows of costly wit,
     Brave monuments are quickly gone,—
But that which on the heart is writ
     Lives on, and on, and on!

Subsequently published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II, with changes to text.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

CONFLICT AND REST, a poem

THROUGH the long voyage we may welcome day,
     Glad when the night is gone,
So many threat'ning perils of the way
     Vanish before the dawn;

And yet a deeper darkness we may crave
     When strife indeed is past,
And we from stress of tempest and of wave
     Are nearing port at last.
"Conflict and Rest" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

TRANSITION, a poem

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.


Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Dreyfus Affair

"Thou latest victim of an ancient hate!"
Alfred Dreyfus
as depicted in Vanity Fair (7 September 1899)
In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a French artillery officer, was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. When evidence was presented in 1896 by Lt Col Georges Picquart showing that Dreyfus was wrongly accused, military officials tried to suppress it and silence Picquart by transferring him to a new duty station in Tunisia. But word spread about the cover-up, and in large part due to pressure from public opinion, Dreyfus would eventually be fully exonerated in 1906. Florence Earle Coates was among "artists and intellectuals" who spoke out against the wrongful imprisonment, and would pen four poems relating to the affair: "Dreyfus" (1898), "Dreyfus" (1899), "Picquart" (1902) and "Le Grand Salut" (1906).  Further details about the Dreyfus affair can be found at Wikipedia.
France has no dungeon in her island tomb
     So deep that she may hide injustice there;
     The cry of innocence, despite her care,—
Despite her roll of drums, her cannon's boom,
Is heard wherever human hearts have room
     For sympathy: a sob upon the air,
     Echoed and re-echoed everywhere,
It swells and swells, a prophecy of doom.
Thou latest victim of an ancient hate!
     In agony so awfully alone,
          The world forgets thee not, nor can forget.
     Such martyrdom she feels to be her own,
And sees involved in thine her larger fate;
          She questions, and thy foes shall answer yet.
"Dreyfus," as published in Poet Lore (September 1898)

     If thou art living, in that Devil's Isle
     Inquisitorial and darkly vile,
Where human hearts are pitilessly broken;
          Where treacherous hate seems stronger
Than either right or law; where grief hath spoken
Its final word and asks but to forget:
If thou art living, wretched one! live yet
          A little longer!
     Outcast, forsaken, thou art not alone,
     One bides with thee Who shall thy woes atone,
And France, entangled in her toils of hate,
          Hearkens a voice of warning.
Martyr and hope of an imperiled State,
Live yet a little! In the East is light—
A pledge to thee that long tho seem the night,
          There comes the morning!
"Dreyfus," as published in The Independent (16 February 1899)

"For love of justice and for love of truth!"
     Aye, 't was for these, for these, he put aside
     Place and preferment, fortune and the pride
     Of fair renown; the friends he prized, in sooth,
All the rewards of an illustrious youth,
     And set his strength against a swollen tide,
     And gave his spirit to be crucified,—
     For love of justice and for love of truth!
Keeper of the abiding scroll of fame,
     Lo! we intrust to thee a hero's name!
     Life, like a restless river, hurrying by,
Bears us so swiftly on, we may forget
     The name to which we owe so deep a debt,—
     But guard it, thou! nor suffer it to die!
"Picquart," as published in The Century Magazine (July 1902)

"Major Dreyfus, in the name of the Republic and of the people of France, I proclaim you a knight of the Legion of Honour"

There is a power in innocence, a might
     Which, clothed in weakness, makes injustice vain:
     A strength, o'ertopping reason to explain,
Which bears it—though deep-buried out of sight—
Slowly and surely upward to the light:
     A conscious certainty amidst its pain
     That, robbed of all things, it shall all regain,
Through that eternal law which guards the right.
O Dreyfus! Thy dear country has restored
     More than thine honour in her hour supreme.
          Noble, still noble, though she so could err,
     God spared thee to her that she might redeem
Herself, and hand thee back thy blameless sword.
          Listen! the world salutes—not only thee, but her!
"Le Grand Salut," as published in The Athenaeum (28 July 1906)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

AN OPTIMIST, a poem

"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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

SELF-CONFIDENT YOUTH, a poem

THE earth is mine and its myriad flowers,
     And the stars are mine: I shall count them all;
As I hasten on with expanding powers,
     No cloud-capped peak shall my strength appal.

I will measure my might 'gainst the might of Ocean,
     In ships of my building, its wastes will dare;
I will learn of the swallow its swift-winged motion,
     And ride as it rides, through the fields of Air! . . .

I marvel my fathers have been contented
     To live and to labor in ways time-worn:
That to Fate's denials they e'er consented,
     Solaced by trifles my soul would scorn!

For the tired old world I will write a story
     That none of her children has told before:
A tale of adventure and love, whose glory
     Shall glow in her annals forevermore.

To the depths, to the heights I am called to inherit,
     I will climb, will descend, without fear of fall,
In the perilous joy of a dauntless spirit
     That nothing shall have—if it have not All!
"Self-confident Youth" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (January 1915) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

YOUTH AND AGE, a poem

FOND Youth and Age met face to face,
     And each the other doubted sore.
Age mourned: "Your follies grow apace
     More dangerous than of yore.

"Old standards trampled in the dust,
     Where you are wending who can tell?"
Youth, wondering, smiled, at his distrust,
     And answered: "Nay; all's well!—

"Your day gone by, why fear that I
     Shall lack the strength for mine own hour?
Each new demand of destiny
     Brings with it a new power.

"For you the past: for me the Now
     The wonder-working Now divine!
A weight too heavy for your brow
     The Fates transfer to mine."

Age, out of heart, impatient, sighed:—
     "I ask what will the Future be?"
Youth laughed contentedly, and cried:—
     "The future leave to me!"
"Youth and Age" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1916) Volume II.

Monday, February 20, 2017

On this day in 1902

Mrs. Coates was among other women who attended "a series of six studies in current events ... at the house of Mrs. Mahlon N. Kline [Isadora Emilie Unger Kline], 266 West Tulpehocken street, Germantown.  Thursday afternoons in Lent at half after 3 o'clock, beginning February 20." [Philadelphia Inquirer 18 February 1902]

IN WINTER, a poem

IT will be long ere 'neath the sunlight dimpling,
     The mountain snows melt back to earth's still breast,
Ere swallows build, and wayward brooklets wimpling
     O'er pebbly beds, wind by the pewee's nest,
Ere swells the lily's cup, ere transport strong
Thrills in the bluebird's lay,—it will be long!

It will be long ere dews and fresh'ning showers
     Descend where latticed roses languid burn,
Ere, pale from exile, nodding wayside flowers
     And timid woodland darlings home return,
Ere vesper-sparrows chant their Delphian song,
And larks at sunrise sing,—it will be long!

But though fierce blow the winds through forests shrouded,
     Where snows, for leafy verdure, cheerless cling,
Though seas moan wild, and skies are darkly clouded,—
     Within the heart that loves 't is always spring!
There memories and hopes, fresh-budding, throng,
And faith forgets that Winter lingers long.
"In Winter" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

IN WINTER-TIME, a poem

HOW sweet it is 'neath apple-blooms to lie,
     And breathe their breath!
To peep through waving branches at the sky,
To feel the zephyrs as they idle by,
     And question of the brooklet what it saith!

How sweet it is to roam through the green wold
     When labors cease!
To hear the tranquil tale by Nature told—
The tale that was not young, and grows not old—
     To find within the heart an answering peace!

And though apart from Nature we maintain
     An alien quest,
How sweet that we shall leave the strife and strain
Some blessèd morn, and wander back again,
     And close our eyes, and in her bosom rest!
"In Winter-Time" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

WINTER'S SOVEREIGNTY, a poem


When Winter's sovereignty complete
     Has left us not a leaf to cull,
Then come the feathery snow and sleet:
     So God doth love the beautiful!

"Winter's Sovereignty" by Florence Earle Coates. Above as published in The Era Magazine, February 1903. Subsequently published as "Compensation" in Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Friday, February 17, 2017

THE LAND OF PROMISE, a poem

ALTHOUGH the faiths to which we fearful clung
     Fall from us, or no more have might to save;
     Although the past, recalling gifts it gave,
     O'er lost delights a doleful knell have rung;
Although the present, forth from ashes sprung,
     Postpone from day to day what most we crave,
     And, promising, beguile us to the grave,—
Yet, toward the Future, we are always young!

It smiles upon us in last lingering hours,
     If with less radiance, with a light as fair,
          As tender, pure, as in our childish years:
It is the fairy realm of fadeless flowers;
     Of songs and ever-springing fountains, where
          No heart-aches come, no vain regrets, no tears!
"The Land of Promise" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Cosmopolitan (February 1895), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Mrs. Coates may have sent this poem to Walt Whitman in 1888 (albeit under a slightly different title), for in With Walt Whitman in Camden (1888) we read of Whitman's response: "Mrs. Coates has sent him a poem, type-written: The Promised Land. 'The letter that came with it was very hospitable, forth-giving: I liked it: indeed, the letter was a better poem than the poem: a real poem in fact.'" [p. 396]

Other excerpts from the same book mentioning the Coates' are as follows:
I am told [Mrs. Coates] bears me in mind and is of a disposition to look with something of favor on my work—which I might say, quoting one of William's playful quips, 'shows her good sense.' They tell me Mrs. Coates is quite a woman among women—is beautiful, shines with great brightness, and, by those who know her well, is admired and cherished...[93] I don't know Mr. Coates but I know the wife—a beautiful, true woman, I have always believed her. We have had several talks together—or maybe only one talk: I am not clear about that now—but I shall always remember what she said—the effect of her talk, which was mainly about Matthew Arnold, who was her guest in Germantown. Arnold is a man for whom I never seem to be able to get up any stir—with whom I never have had and never could have a thorough-going affinity. But Mrs. Coates gave me the other side of him—the social side, the personal side, the intellectual side—the side of deportment, behavior—the side which I ought perhaps most to hear about and did willingly and gladly hear of from her. For every man has that better thing to be said of him—is entitled to all it may mean, signify, explain...[112] Yes, tell the Coates people—Mrs., Mr. Coates—to come over: I will see them...[156] I saw [Mr. and Mrs. Coates]—was glad to see them: both of them are so good, cordial, sincere—she particularly. It does my old eyes good to look at such a woman...[215]

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Mayflower descendant, and PILGRIM SONG, a poem

Mrs. Coates was the tenth founding member (1896) of the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (SMDPA), a society which still exists today. She was a ninth generation descendant of Pilgrim John Howland:

John TILLEY (passenger) married Elizabeth CARVER; and had Elizabeth TILLEY, who married John HOWLAND (passenger); and had Desire HOWLAND, who married Capt John GORHAM; and had Lt. Col. John GORHAM, who married Mary OTIS; and had Stephen GORHAM, who married Elizabeth GARDNER; and had Susannah GORHAM, who married Daniel PADDACK; and had Deborah PADDACK, who married George HUSSEY; and had Uriel HUSSEY, who married Phebe FOLGER; and had Mary HUSSEY, who married THOMAS EARLE; and had George Hussey EARLE, Sr., who married Ellen Frances VAN LEER; and had Florence Van Leer EARLE.

Mrs. Coates wrote the following poem for the Society some time prior to 1900:

PILGRIMS of the trackless deep,
     Leaving all, our fathers came,
Life and liberty to keep
     In Jehovah's awful name.
Neither pillared flame nor cloud
     Made the wild, for them, rejoice,
But their hearts, with sorrow bowed,
     In the darkness heard His voice.
Things above them they divined—
     Thoughts of God, forever true,
And the deathless Compact signed—
     Building better than they knew:
Building liberty not planned,
     Law that ampler life controls,
All the greatness of our land
     Lying shadowed in their souls.
In the days that shall succeed,
     Prouder boast no time shall grant
Than to be of them, indeed,
     Children of their Covenant:
Children of the promised day,
     Bound by hope and memory,
Brave, devoted, wise, as they—
     Strong with love's humility.

Published in Mine and Thine (1904) and subsequently in Poems (1916) Volume I as "Pilgrim Song." The poem was set to music as a hymn in 1900, with music by Thomas Whitney Surette. According to the Pennsylvania Mayflower (Winter 2010-2011), "The Pilgrims" was sung by members and guests "at the annual meeting of the SMDPA in Philadelphia" on 16 February 1900.



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

CUPID AND THE MUSES, a poem

"Revetior illas, mater; nam venerandae sunt, et semper quiddam commeditantur..."—Lucian.
ONCE lovely Venus to her wayward boy—
     Her wilful torment and her keen delight—
Spake chidingly:—"Why must you me annoy
     With your capricious wiles by day and night?
Perplexing child, display your arts elsewhere:
Turn you to those whom idly now you spare!
     Cold in content, and armored in their pride,
Behold the Muses!—let them claim your care!"
     To whom the laughing Cupid: "Nay, I've tried
What ways I know, to move those ladies fair;
     But, ah, my mother, they're so occupied!"
"Cupid and the Muses" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

SONG: "For me the jasmine buds unfold"

The back yard of "Willing Terrace" in Germantown where the Coates' resided from 1879-1908.
Photographed in 2009.

FOR me the jasmine buds unfold
     And silver daisies star the lea,
The crocus hoards the sunset gold,
     And the wild rose breathes for me.
I feel the sap through the bough returning,
     I share the skylark's transport fine,
I know the fountain's wayward yearning,
     I love, and the world is mine!
I love, and thoughts that sometime grieved,
     Still well remembered, grieve not me;
From all that darkened and deceived
     Upsoars my spirit free.
For soft the hours repeat one story,
     Sings the sea one strain divine;
My clouds arise all flushed with glory,—
     I love, and the world is mine!
As published in Harper's Weekly (21 February 1891)
Florence Earle Coates' "Song" was set to music several times.  First published in Harper's Weekly on 21 February 1891, and subsequently published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I. I believe Clayton Johns was the first to set it to music in 1891:


Also setting the poem to music were Mrs. H. H. A Beach (1892, 1893), Harriet Burdett Wills (1895), Charles Fonteyn Manney (1904), Della V. Oliver (1905), Charles Gilbert Spross (1906), Frank Lynes (1911), and Victor Harris (1926), possibly among others.


Another image from the back yard of "Willing Terrace" in Germantown.
Photographed in 2009.


A LITTLE MINISTER, a poem

FAR up the crag, 'twixt sea and sky,
Where winds tempestuous, blowing by,
     Leave giant boulders swept and bare:
     Where frequent lightnings fitful flare,
And petrels sound their stormy cry,—

I found a bluebell, sweet and shy,
Lifting its head complacently,
     As guarded by the tenderest care—
          Far up the crag.

And often now, when fear draws nigh,
In thought I stand 'twixt sea and sky,
     And as of old, in my despair,
     I bless the Power that set it there—
That tiny thing with courage high,
          Far up the crag!
"A Little Minister" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Outlook (14 February 1903), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.


Monday, February 13, 2017

GREATNESS, a poem

MIDST noble monuments, alone at eve
I wandered, reading records of the dead,—
In spite of praise forgotten past recall;
And near, so sheltered one might scarce perceive,
I found a lowly headstone, and I read
The word upon it: HAWTHORNE—that was all.
"Greatness" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Atlantic Monthly (February 1898), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.
Headstone of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, February 12, 2017

On Lincoln, and Leaders of Men

"...We shrine our heroes for the future days..."


And one there is, one image, full of rest,
A memory of manhood singly blest,
     The savior of our Nation and her Chief:
Matchless in judgment, love, compassion, power—
          The Man meet for the hour.
     Assailed by ignorance and half-belief,—
Each searching from too near a view
To read the soul of all our souls most true,—
     He went his way, unselfish, minist'ring;
     But in the bud and promise-time of Spring
     He died—and then we knew.
From "Memorial Ode" by Florence Earle Coates.

I do not know whether Mrs. Coates ever met Lincoln, but we are told in an issue of Law Notes (August 1907) that her father, George H. Earle, Sr.—"one of the best known lawyers and citizens of Philadelphia ... was a personal friend of [Lincoln's], and was [at the time of Earle's death] the oldest surviving delegate to the first Republican National Convention that nominated Fremont for the presidency." In the Report of the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Bar Association (1907), it states that Mr. Earle "[asserted] himself as a champion of the slave and also as a municipal reformer. As a boy he had taken part in an anti-slavery demonstration, and he was wounded at the riot attending the burning of Pennsylvania Hall. He defended many slaves captured under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave law, and on more than one occasion obtained the release of his clients. He took the stump and took part in the campaigns which preceded the election of Lincoln and Grant. After the Civil War he turned his attention to municipal affairs ... His manner was simple yet powerful, and when he desired to be, he was deliciously satirical..."  Of such "Leaders of Men", Mrs. Coates writes:

WHEN they are dead, we heap the laurels high
Above them where, indifferent, they lie:
     We join their deeds to unaccustomed praise,
     And crown with garlands of immortal bays
Whom, living, we but thought to crucify.

As mountains seem less glorious viewed too nigh,
So, often, do the great whom we decry
     Gigantic loom to our astonished gaze—
            When they are dead;

For, shamed by largeness, littlenesses die;
And partisan and narrow hates put by,
     We shrine our heroes for the future days;
     And to atone our ignorant delays
With fond and emulous devotion try,—
            When they are dead!
"Leaders of Men" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (October 1909), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.  It was also the Foreword in The Book of Lincoln (1919), by Mary Wright-Davis (compiler).

George H. Earle, Sr.
Original photo courtesy of
Florence Earle Morrisey
On Lincoln, Mrs. Coates writes the following:

A HERO

HE sang of joy; whate'er he knew of sadness
     He kept for his own heart's peculiar share:
So well he sang, the world imagined gladness
     To be sole tenant there.

For dreams were his, and in the dawn's fair shining,
     His spirit soared beyond the mounting lark;
But from his lips no accent of repining
     Fell when the days grew dark;

And though contending long dread Fate to master,
     He failed at last her enmity to cheat,
He turned with such a smile to face disaster
     That he sublimed defeat.
"A Hero" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (February 1909), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

HIS FACE

THEY tell you Lincoln was ungainly, plain?
          To some he seemed so: true.
Yet in his look was charm to gain
          E'en such as I, who knew
With how confirmed a will he tried
To overthrow a cause for which I would have died.

The sun may shine with naught to shroud
          Its beam yet show less bright
Than when from out eclipsing cloud
          It pours its radiant light;
And Lincoln seen amid the shows of war
Clothed in his sober black, was somehow felt the more

To be a centre and a soul of power,—
          An influence benign
To kindle in a faithless hour
          New trust in the divine.
Grave was his visage, but no cloud could dull
The radiance from within that made it beautiful.

A prisoner, when I saw him first—
          Wounded and sick for home—
His presence soothed my yearning's thirst
          While yet his lips were dumb;
For such compassion as his countenance wore
I had not seen nor felt in human face before.

And when, low-bending o'er his foe,
          He took in his firm hand
My wasted one, I seemed to know
          We two were of one Land;
And as my cheek flushed warm with young surprise,
God's pity looked on me from Lincoln's sorrowing eyes.

His prisoner I was from then—
          Love makes surrender sure—
And though I saw him not again,
          Some memories endure,
And I am glad my untaught worship knew
His the divinest face I ever looked into!
"His Face" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (February 1911), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.


AN AMERICAN AT LINCOLN

THE vast cathedral-crown of the high hill,
     The long, low-vaulted nave, the transepts where
     The light is glory shed through windows rare
In rainbow tintings: glory deep and still,
     Gift of a past forever present there!

Beyond the lantern, the carved Gothic Choir,
     And, as interpreting the hallowed place
     Athrob with harmonies, a boyish face—
English, yet with the look of awed desire
     Which speaks America,—the younger race.

In the half-parted lips without a smile,
     In the whole rapt, impassioned gaze,
     I read the travail of the distant days,
The wistful hunger of the Long Exile—
     The yearning that survives through all delays

I read thy soul, my Country! thou dear Land
     Across the deep and all-dividing sea!
     I read thy soul and theirs who founded thee
With sacrifices few could understand—
     Renouncing and enduring silently.

And I perceived that thou hast still retained
     Their strength to toil, their courage to resist:
     That seeking ardently whate'er they missed,
Thou hast remained—in spite of all, remained—
     That which they made thee—an idealist!

And once again I felt how blest it is
     To hunger and to thirst: anew I saw
     That by eternal high-appointed law,
Sublimity and beauty most are his
     In whom they move the deepest thrill of awe!
"An American at Lincoln" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Book News Monthly (November? 1907), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

President of the Browning Society of Philadelphia


Formed in 1887 by the New Century Club, the Browning Society of Philadelphia was "devoted to the study of pure literature, and not exclusively to the work of Robert Browning." It would grow to become "the largest literary organization in the world, having a membership of more than one thousand." (The Literary World, 9 Jan 1897)

Election invitation, 1895


Mrs. Coates was elected president of the Society from 1895 to 1903, and again from 1907 to 1908. Preceding Mrs. Coates' election in 1895, Miss Helen Bell was acting president of the Society (first elected in 1891). Upon the death of Miss Bell on 11 February 1895, Mrs. Coates would pen the following (as rendered in Woman's Progress, April 1895):


Death wished to borrow something of thy grace;
     And now that thou art lying 'neath the snow,
The grave that holds thee seems a favored place,
     Where one might willing go.
But life is not so rich in things divine,
That it would part with such a soul as thine!
A voice of comfort breathes from sorrowing Earth
     If winter is the nursery of flowers,
If purity and loveliness have worth
     Beyond this world of ours,
If there is pity for the tears we shed,
If any truly live—thou art not dead!
Published as "Helen Bell. February 11, 1895" in Woman's Progress (April 1895) and as "Winter the Nursery for Spring Flowers" in Meehan's Monthly (January 1896).

Helen Bell


A dedicatory piece on Helen Bell can be found in the April 1895 issue of Jane Campbell's Woman's Progress.

The Society was disbanded around 1922, with meetings ending in 1925.

Friday, February 10, 2017

MEMORY, a poem

IF it be true, as some aver,
     With wisdom naught endears,
That portioned to each human lot
     Are fewer smiles than tears,—

Then, merciful Mnemosyne,
     How great to thee our debt,
That we remember all our joys,
     Our sufferings forget!
"Memory" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Mnemosyne (1875-81)
by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, February 9, 2017

THE HEART OF LOVE, a poem

I KNOW a place warm-sheltered from the world—
     A place secure, in mild conditions blest,
Where fainting Toil, the homespun banner furled,
            May pause awhile and rest:
I know a place where fires burn late,
And Mercy, waiting at the gate,
            Still welcomes the oppressed!

I know a shrine more rich than Plutus' fane.
     An altar fragrant with celestial dew,
Where wavering souls their virgin faiths regain
            And energies renew.
I know a garden fair and free,
Where life yet wears, unfadingly,
            Lost Eden's roseate hue!
"The Heart of Love" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

DIDST THOU REJOICE? a poem

DIDST thou rejoice because the day was fair,—
     Because, in Orient splendor newly dressed,
     On flowering glebe and bloomless mountain-crest
The sun complacent smiled? Ah! didst thou dare
The careless rapture of that bird to share
     Which, soaring toward the dawn from dewy nest,
     Hailed it with song? From Ocean's treacherous breast
Didst borrow the repose mild-mirrored there?

Thou foolish heart! Behold! the light is spent;
     Rude thunders shake the crags; songs timorous cease;
Lo! with what moan and mutinous lament
     Ocean his pent-up passions doth release!
O thou who seekest sure and fixed content,
     Search in thy soul: there find some source of peace.
"Didst Thou Rejoice?" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (February 1885), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

ADONIS, a poem

Venus Lamenting the Death of Adonis (1655-1657)
by Luigi Primo
LOVE is dying; lay him low;
Pile the blossoms for his bed:
     Here, where languid poppies blow,
Pillow soft his beauteous head!
Let their dream-breath float around him,
Even as my arms enwound him—
     In the summer, long ago!

     Say not it was yesterday!
Hours have been as years since then!
     And shall rapture, fled away,
Never more return again?
Love, with throbbing heart of fire,—
     Love, with thrilling voice and low,—
Hast thou quenchèd fond desire
     In this breast of snow?

     Then, O Death! I cry to you
From my grief immortal:
     Goddess kind—of all most true—
Ope to me your portal!
In your calm my senses steep;
     Close mine eyes, from tears grown dim;
Give me sleep—I ask but sleep—
     In the grave, with him.

     Can it be that flowers will spring
Where all lifeless love shall lie?
     Can it be that birds will sing,
Though Adonis die?

     Never earthly bloom, I wis,
With his beauty could compare;
     Never voice was sweet as his
Who lieth there;
And, thou blue Idalian sky,
     Thou didst smile upon our lot,
And I knew my love must die,—
     But believed it not!

     Whither now to take my way?
If I seek on mountains bare,
     Or in caverns hid from day,—
Shall I find him there?
Will the rivers give him back,
     Or the woods of Adon tell?
     Will the hounds that loved him well
Follow in his track?
Ah, the distance matters not,
     Nor the way I, mournful, tread:
Every path leads from the spot
     Where my love lies dead!
"Adonis" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Monday, February 6, 2017

THE VIOLIN, a poem

HE gave me all, and then he laid me by.
     Straining my strings to breaking with his pain,
He voiced an anguish, through my wailing cry,
     Never to speak again.

He pressed his cheek against me, and he wept—
     Had we been glad together over much?—
Emotions that within me deep had slept
     Grew vibrant at his touch,

And I who could not ask whence sprung his sorrow,
     Responsive to a grief I might not know,
Sobbed as the infant that each mood doth borrow
     Sobs for the mother's woe.

Wild grew my voice and stormy with his passion,
     Lifted at last unto a tragic might;
Then swift it changed in sad and subtile fashion
     To pathos infinite,

Swooning away beneath his faltering fingers
     Till the grieved plaint seemed, echoless, to die;
When, calm, he rose, and with a touch that lingers,
     Laid me forever by.

Forever! Ah, he comes no more—my lover!
     And all my spirit wrapped in trance-like sleep,
Darkling I dream that such a night doth cover
     His grief with hush as deep.
"The Violin" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909), Poems (1916) Volume I and Scribner's Magazine (February 1921).

Sunday, February 5, 2017

THE HOUSE OF PAIN, a poem

UNTO the Prison House of Pain none willingly repair;
     The bravest who an entrance gain
Reluctant linger there,
For Pleasure, passing by that door, stays not to cheer the sight,
And Sympathy but muffles sound and banishes the light.

Yet in the Prison House of Pain things full of beauty blow,—
     Like Christmas-roses, which attain
Perfection 'mid the snow;
Love, entering, in his mild warmth the darkest shadows melt,
And often, where the hush is deep, the waft of wings is felt.

Ah, me! the Prison House of Pain!—what lessons there are bought!—
     Lessons of a sublimer strain
Than any elsewhere taught;
Amid its loneliness and gloom, grave meanings grow more clear,
For to no earthly dwelling-place seems God so strangely near.
"The House of Pain" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (January 1908), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

NO MORE, DEAR HEART, a poem

NO more, dear heart—no more I moan
The loss of happiness, your gift alone,
For quiet thoughts I keep,
And in the lengthening, grief-subduing years,
Have lost the trick and sweet distress of tears.
I smile again—again, ah me! I sleep,
And half believe my heart grown cold,
Till other happy lovers I behold.
"No More, Dear Heart" by Florence Earle Coates. Published (as "No More") in The Outlook (4 February 1911), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Friday, February 3, 2017

BESIDE A PLEASANT SHORE, a poem

I LAY upon my narrow bed,
     And dreamed life's happy moments o'er;
I thought that love my footsteps led
     Beside a pleasant shore.

Care for a moment loosed its grasp,
     And breathing deep the fragrant brine,—
My hand locked in my lover's clasp,—
     I felt his pulses throb with mine;

And dear contentment seemed my right,—
     There roaming from the world apart;
I saw his eyes, I felt their light
     Beam through the shadows, in my heart;

And waves, and trees—all nature—sang
     A pæan by that pleasant shore.
Then I awoke, and with a pang
     Remembered that we loved no more.
"Beside a Pleasant Shore" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

TOO LATE, a poem

THE words of love I never said to thee
          I whisper now,
The tenderness I might have given thee
          I offer now,
As at thy feet, who hopeless knelt to me,
          I, hopeless, bow.

The wintry bush in yonder hedgerow growing,
          A rose adorns,
And near and far are snowy clusters blowing,
          Where late were thorns;
But still my heart, nor bud nor blossom knowing,
          Unpitied mourns.

I see the bird that to his mate is winging—
          His mate so dear,
The very heart within his breast is singing
          As he draws near,
And I, O love, too late my love am bringing—
          Thou dost not hear!
"Too Late" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in New Peterson Magazine (February 1894), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

TO ALICE MEYNELL, a poem

Mr. and Mrs. Coates were friends of Wilfrid and Alice Meynell. In a letter to Katherine Brégy (24 September 1912), Mrs. Coates writes: 
Indeed we were received by [the Meynell's] with the most beautiful hospitality—a hospitality such as one rarely looks to find outside of America—and we look back to our visits to them,— I hope we did not tax them by too full an acceptance of their gracious welcome,—as amongst the most charming of our English experiences.
We so liked them all! Afterward, I put into verse something of my feeling for dear Mrs. Meynell which will be included, in a somewhat revised shape, in my new volume. Naturally we talked much of you, and Mrs. Meynell said she should write you of our visit.

I MARVEL not that they have loved you so—
     The gifted ones who knew you;
Gazing upon your face, I know
     Why poet and why painter drew you;
Perceive the mystic thing divine
That brought their hearts to worship at your shrine!

How much the eyes are windows to the soul
     Your poet eyes have taught me,—
Those shadowed orbs that seem the goal
     Of all that fairest dreams have brought me,—
And, in their depths revealing you,
Win from my heart a tender homage, too.
"To Alice Meynell" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Unconquered Air (1912).