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:

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,

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" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Independent (28 February 1901), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

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

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.


"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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


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


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

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


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).