Sunday, April 30, 2017

VITA NUOVA, a poem

     WHAT miracle is here—
     What vision of forgotten things and dear?
The grass—how green it lies in coverts deep!
The pussy-willows—sentinels of the wood—
How slim, how fair, each 'neath its downy snood,
     They stand, new-waked from sleep!

     And the enchantment cold
     That seemed as death? Could it no longer hold
Against the glow that warmed the breast of Earth?
Hearken! what myriad little lives once more
Come knocking, knocking at the Mother's door,
     Importunate for birth!

     The trees, that look so bare,
     Are conscious that the tender leaves are there—
Folded, yet faintly stirring in the bud;
And upward from each buried rootlet runs,
The golden ichor, gift of vernal suns,
     On-swelling to the flood.

     And, oh! thrice loved of yore—
     Whence comes that note? It was not here before!
The white-throat! By what blest magician's art—
Flung out of silence, comes that clear appeal,
To make the jaded and insensate feel
     New yearnings of the heart?

     A something in the song
     Shall hardly to a later strain belong—
A tremulous and naïve ecstasy
That moves the soul; which, eager then to live,
Petitions life: "Ah, stay awhile, and give
     A little heed to me!

     "I, also, feel the Spring!
     I, also, long to spread my wings and sing,
Unvexed by cares that canker and consume:
To hope, to dream,—ere winter come, to capture
The fleeting thrill, the fragrance and the rapture
     Of beauty in its bloom!"
"Vita Nuova" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

SONG, a poem

THE new-born leaves unfolding fast
     Make nests of green on every bough;
The pilgrim birds, their wanderings past,
With joy return,—but thou, my love,
     Oh, where, my love, art thou?

Soft tumults fill the balmy air,
     Faint breathings of the flowers to be;
Life glows and gladdens everywhere,—
But I am lone for thee, my love,
     Oh, lone, my love, for thee!

Give me the voice of moaning pines,
     The frozen wold, the desert space;
Give me the winter Earth resigns,—
But let me see thy face, my love,
     Oh, let me see thy face!
"Song" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Friday, April 28, 2017

FOR JOY, a poem

FOR each and every joyful thing,
For twilight swallows on the wing,
For all that nest and all that sing,—

For fountains cool that laugh and leap,
For rivers running to the deep,
For happy, care-forgetting sleep,—

For stars that pierce the sombre dark,
For Morn, awaking with the lark,
For life new-stirring 'neath the bark,—

For sunshine and the blessèd rain,
For budding grove and blossomy lane,
For the sweet silence of the plain,—

For bounty springing from the sod,
For every step by beauty trod,—
For each dear gift of joy, thank God!
"For Joy" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1916) Volume I.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

TO THE VICTOR, a poem

YOU have outstripped me in the race,
Your brow shall wear the laurel's grace;
     But though on-speeding in your might
     You pass beyond my straining sight,
My spirit shall with yours keep pace!

For I have dreamed your dream divine,
For I have worshiped at the shrine
     Whose oracles your faith have moved,
     For I have loved what you have loved—
Your victory is also mine!

Shall the grave gods pronounce their choice
And I not lift in praise my voice?
     Or shall another win the goal
     Whose vision hath illumed my soul,
And I, though distant, not rejoice?

Ah, no! Your greater gifts prevail;
But though to reach your side I fail,
     Through you triumphant in defeat,
     Even in death I will repeat,—
Hail to the victor! Hail!...
"To the Victor" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

TENNYSON, a poem

HOW beautiful to live as thou didst live!
     How beautiful to die as thou didst die,—
     In moonlight of the night, without a sigh,
At rest in all the best that love could give!

How excellent to bear into old age
     The poet's ardor and the heart of youth,—
     To keep to the last sleep the vow of truth,
And leave to lands that grieve a glowing page!

How glorious to feel the spirit's power
     Unbroken by the near approach of death,
     To breath blest prophecies with failing breath,
Soul-bound to beauty in that latest hour!

How sweet to greet, in final kinship owned,
     The master-spirit to thy dreams so dear,—
     At last from his immortal lips to hear
The dirge for Imogen, and thee, intoned!

How beautiful to live as thou didst live!
     How beautiful to die as thou didst die,—
     In moonlight of the night, without a sigh,
At rest in all the best that love could give!
"Tennyson" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (April 1893), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

TO-MORROW, a poem

THE robin chants when the thrush is dumb,
     Snow smooths a bed for the clover,
Life flames anew, and days to come
     Are sweet as the days that are over.

The tide that ebbs by the moon flows back,
     Faith builds on the ruins of sorrow,
The halcyon flutters in winter's track,
     And night makes way for the morrow.

And ever a strain, of joys the sum,
     Sings on in the heart of the lover—
In death sings on—that days to come
     Are sweet as the days that are over!
"To-morrow" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Monday, April 24, 2017

INHERITOR, a poem

SAY not the gods are cruel,
     Since man himself is kind—
Man, who could give no tenderness
     If, impotent and blind,
He stretched appealing hands on high
     No tenderness to find,—

Who, wakened to compassion,
     No longer stands apart,
Careless of others' suffering,
     But, rather, shares the smart,
Because of pity drawn from out
     The Universal Heart,—

Who feels within him glowing
     A spark that dares aspire,
Flame-like, unto supernal things,
     With never-quenched desire,
And knows that Heaven bestowed on him
     A spark of its own fire!
"Inheritor" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Outlook (24 April 1909) and Lyrics of Life (1909).

The Creation of Adam
Michelangelo

Sunday, April 23, 2017

SHAKESPEARE, a poem

O'ER-TOPPING all—upon how lone a height!—
     A demiurge beneficent, a seer
     Like his own Prospero, he doth appear,
'Mid clouds that half conceal him from our sight,
A being god-like in creative might:
     He who so very human was! so near
     To Nature that her voice through him we hear—
Her voice of truth and beauty infinite.

Shakespeare! With love and awe we breathe his name
Who needs not mortal praise! Deathless in fame,
     Far from our dull activities he seems;
But let us turn, a-wearied, from the strife,
To share with him the high adventure,—life,
     Straightway we feel the stirrings of Great Dreams!
"Shakespeare" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1916) Volume I.

I TOO HAVE LOVED, a poem

I, TOO, have loved the Greeks, the Hero-sprung,
     The glad, spoiled children of Posterity:
     Have closed my eyes, more near their shrines to be,
Have hushed my heart, to hear their epics sung.
Upon their golden accents I have hung,
     With Thyrsis wooed to vales of Sicily,
     And Homer, blind, has given me to see
Olympus, where the deathless Gods were young.
But still, that one remembering with awe
Whose vision deeper than all others saw,
     I feel the dearer debt my spirit owes
To him, who towers, peerless and sublime,
The noblest, largest intellect of Time,
     Born where the English Avon softly flows.
"I Too Have Loved" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The North American Review (January 1919).

Saturday, April 22, 2017

NEAR AND FAR, a poem

For a beautiful reading of this poem—recorded on 21 March 2011 by Jannie Meisberger for Librivox.org—click on the title below as she gives voice to...
Photo by Ashley Bohm.


NEAR AND FAR
by Florence Earle Coates

THE air is full of perfume and the promise of the spring,
   From wintry mould the dainty blossoms come;
There's not a bird in all the boughs but's eager now to sing,
   And from afar a ship is sailing home!

The cherry-blooms, all lightly blown about the verdant sward,
   With silver fleck the dandelion's gold;
The jasmine and arbutus breathe the fragrance they have stored;
   The crumpled ferns, like faery tents, unfold.

And low the rills are laughing, and the rivers in the sun
   Are gliding on, impatient for the sea;
The wintry days are past and gone, the summer is begun,
   And love from far is sailing home to me!

Ah, blessed spring!—how far more sweet than any spring of yore!
   No note of all thy harmonies is dumb;
With thee my heart awakes to hope and happiness once more,—
   And from afar a ship is sailing home!

As rendered in Poems (1916) Vol. I; also published in Poems (1898).

Friday, April 21, 2017

IN A COLLEGE SETTLEMENT, a poem

THE sights and sounds of the wretched street
Oppressed me, and I said: "We cheat
     Our hearts with hope. Man sunken lies
In vice, and naught that's fair or sweet
     Finds further favor in his eyes.

"Vainly we strive, in sanguine mood,
To elevate a savage brood
     That, from the cradle, sordid, dull,
No longer has a wish for good,
     Or craving for the beautiful."

I said; but chiding my despair,
My wiser friend just pointed where,
     By some indifferent passer thrown
Upon a heap of ashes bare,
     The loose leaves of a rose were sown.

And I, 'twixt tenderness and doubt,
Beheld, while pity grew devout,
     A squalid and uneager child,
With careful fingers picking out
     The scentless petals, dust-defiled.

And straight I seemed to see a close,
With hawthorn hedged and brier-rose;
     And, bending down, I whispered, "Dear,
Come, let us fly, while no one knows,
     To the country—far away from here!"

Upon the little world-worn face
There dawned a look of wistful grace,
     Then came the question that for hours
Still followed me from place to place:
     "Real country, where you can catch flowers?"
"In a College Settlement" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Weekly (21 April 1894), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

AB HUMO, a poem

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

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

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

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

AFTER, a poem

"After." A poem by Florence Earle Coates.  Illustration by V.A.B.
Folded card (Laurel series, I-3) 

The image is of a folded card from the Laurel Series, with corrections made and signed by Mrs. Coateslikely prior to final production.  It was created ca. 1914 or 1915, based on the series number (I-3) recorded on the back as compared with other Laurel Series cards listed in copyright catalogs online.  The illustrator's initials are "VAB." This version of the poem leaves out the third stanza, which reads:
After the heat of anger,
   Love that all life enwraps;
After the stress of battle,
   The trumpet sounding "taps."


On the back.


"After" was first published in the 24 March 1906 issue of The Outlook, with the first line of the last stanza then reading, "After regret and doubting."  On "Easter 1906" (April 19), Mrs. Coates sent a handwritten copy of "After" to composer Amy Cheney Beach (Mrs. H. H. A. Beach).  Sometime between then and September of 1908, Mrs. Beach would set the poem to music, suggesting to Mrs. Coates that the line instead read, "After despair and doubting."  Mrs. Coates replied to Mrs. Beach, in a letter written on 8 September 1908, and thanked her "sensitive genius for a very great improvement which [she] shall straightway adopt." [Letters accessed: Amy Cheney Beach Papers, Milne Special Collections, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham NH].



After. Op. 68. Words by Florence Earle Coates; music by Mrs. H. H. A. Beach. High and low voice. Words also printed as text. Caption title. 1 score (7 p.) ; 35 cm. Boston : Arthur P. Schmidt. (1909)
The poem was subsequently published (with text change applied) in Lyrics of Life (1909) and in Poems (1916) Vol. II.


Retouch of original image, to include Mrs. Coates' correction.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

THE DIFFERENCE, a poem

Had Henley died, his course half run—
Had Henley died, and Stevenson
     Been left on earth, of him to write,
     He would have chosen to indite
His name in generous phrase—or none.

No envious humor, cold and dun,
Had marred the vesture he had spun,
     All luminous, to clothe his knight—
          Had Henley died!

Ah, well! at rest—poor Stevenson!—
Safe in our hearts his place is won.
     There love shall still his love requite,
     His faults divinely veiled from sight,
Whose tears had fallen in benison,
          Had Henley died!
"The Difference" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (April 1902) and Mine and Thine (1904).

Monday, April 17, 2017

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, a poem

"Eripuit cœlo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis."
FRANKLIN! our Franklin! America's loved son!—
     Loved in his day, and now, as few indeed:
Franklin! whose mighty genius allies won,
     To aid her in great need!

Franklin! with noble charm that fear allays,
     Tact, judgment, insight, humor naught could dim!—
"Antiquity," said Mirabeau, "would raise
     Altars to honor him!"

How should one country claim him, or one hour?
     Bound to no narrow circuit, and no time,
He is the World's—part of her lasting dower,
     One with her hope sublime.

His kindred are the equable and kind
     Whose constant thought is to uplift and bless;
The witty, and the wise, the large of mind,
     Who ignorance redress:

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

Who overcoming pain and weariness,
     In life's long battle bear a noble part;
All who, like him,—greatest of gifts!—possess
     The genius of the heart!

How should we praise whose deeds belittle praise,
     Whose monument perpetual is our land
Saved by his wisdom, in disastrous days,
     From tyranny's strong hand?—

How praise whose Titan-thought, beyond Earth's ken
     Aspiring, tamed the lightnings in revolt,
Subduing to the will of mortal men
     The awful thunderbolt?

Our debt looms larger than our love can pay:
     We know not with what homage him to grace
Whose name outlasts the monument's decay,—
     A glory to our race!
"Benjamin Franklin" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Reader (March 1906), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

*"Eripuit coelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis": A line in Latin that Marquis Turgot wrote under a portrait of Franklin.  An English translation by James Elphinston (pre-1817): "He snatcht the bolt from Heaven's avenging hand, / Disarm'd and drove the tyrant from the land.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Poems of Easter

Easter, 2016
Grave of Florence Earle Coates
Church of the Redeemer
Bryn Mawr, PA

THEY TOLD ME

THEY told me: "Pan is dead—Nature is dead:
There is no God." I read
The words of Socrates, and then I read
Of Jesus; and I said:—
"Divinity 's not dead!"

Good can nor poisoned be
Nor slain upon a tree:
The soul of good, escaping, still is free,
And in its ministry
Lives God eternally.
"They Told Me" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

REJECTED

THE World denies her prophets with rash breath,
     Makes rich her slaves, her flatterers adorns;
To Wisdom's lips she presses drowsy death,
     And on the brow Divine a crown of thorns.
Yet blessèd, though neglected and despised—
     Who for the World himself hath sacrificed,
Who hears unmoved her witless mockery,
     While to his spirit, slighted and misprised,
Whisper the voices of Eternity!
"Rejected" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (April 1887), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.


THE LARK

THERE is a legend somewhere told
Of how the skylark came of old
        To the dying Saviour's cross,
And circling round that form of pain
Poured forth a wild, lamenting strain,
        As if for human loss.

Pierced by those accents of despair,
Upon the tiny mourner there
        Turning his fading eyes,
The Saviour said, "Dost thou so mourn,
And is thy fragile breast so torn,
        That man, thy brother, dies?

"O'er all the world uplifted high,
We are alone here, thou and I;
        And near to heaven and thee
I bless thy pity-guided wings!
I bless thy voice—the last that sings
        Love's requiem for me!

"Sorrow no more shall fill thy song;
These frail and fluttering wings grown strong,
        Thou shalt no longer fly
Earth's captive—nay, but boldly dare
The azure vault, and upward bear
        Thy transports to the sky!"

Soon passed the Saviour; but the lark,
Close hovering near Him in the dark,
        Could not his grief abate;
And nigh the watchers at the tomb,
Still mourned through days of grief and gloom,
        With note disconsolate.

But when to those sad mourners came,
In rose and amethyst and flame,
        The Dawn Miraculous,
Song in which sorrow had no part
Burst from the lark's triumphant heart—
        Sweet and tumultuous!

An instant, as with rapture blind,
He faltered; then, his Lord to find,
        Straight to the ether flew,—
Rising where falls no human tear,
Singing where still his song we hear
        Piercing the upper blue!
"The Lark" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (March 1907), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

EASTER

I KNOW the Summer fell asleep
     Long weary months ago;
Heaped high above her grave I saw
     The heavy winter snow;
Say, sparrow, then, what word you bring;
     Is it her requiem you sing?

The meadowlark is mute, the wren
     Forgets his late abode,
No throstle answering fluteth near,
     Yet never prelude flowed
From ivied bosk or verdant slope
     More brimming with delight and hope!

I, listening, seem to see the blooms
     That were whilom so dear,
And voices loved and silent long
     I, listening, seem to hear;
And longings in my breast confer,
     And sweet, prophetic pulses stir.

"Thou lonely one," they seem to say,
     "Lost Summer shall return;
Wreathed in her shadowy tresses shall
     The roses blissful burn;
Wan lilies at her feet shall lie,
     And wind-flowers on her bosom sigh.

"Here, from this rough and lowly bed,
     The little celandine
Shall lift her sunny glances to
     The balmy eglantine;
And flags shall flaunt by yonder lake,
     And fair Narcissus there awake."

I know the Summer fell asleep
     Long weary months ago;
But ah! all is not lost, poor heart,
     That's laid beneath the snow;
There wait, grown cold to care and strife,
     Things costliest, dying into life.

All changes, but Life ceases not
     With the suspended breath;
There is no bourne to Being, and
     No permanence in Death;
Time flows to an eternal sea,
     Space widens to Infinity!
"Easter" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

AT EASTER

HE saw the myriad blooming plants
     That mark the hallowed morn;
He thought upon a lowly mound
     In a far land, forlorn,

Where yearning love would never come
     To place or flower or leaf,
Where lonely love would never bring
     Its heartache for relief.

When, lo! athwart his musings, came
     Again that strange appeal
Which he had listened to before,—
     Without the power to feel;

And putting by a vain regret,—
     His fallen foe to save,—
"Ah, love!" he sighed, "lost love!—I lay
     This blossom on thy grave!"
"At Easter" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904).

ÉASTRE

          I WHO am ever young,
          Am she whom Earth hath sung
From the far ages when from death awaking
She felt the dawn of life within her breaking—
A strange and inexperienced delight—
That warned the desert places of her night,
          And, after bondage long,
             Left her divinely free
             To worship with an ecstasy,
          Voiceless, that yet was song!

          I am that she, Astarte named,
By proud Phœnicia and Assyria claimed,
Adored by Babylon and Naucratis.
          From the moon, my throne of bliss,
          On famed Hieropolis
Where stood my temple sanctified and hoary,
I poured such floods of silver glory
That mortals—blest my ''palest'' beams to see—
Fell prone upon the earth and worshiped me!

I am Aurora—goddess of the dawn!
To heaven in my orient car updrawn,
          While wingèd joys fly after,
I part with roseate hand the curtained dark.
          Mid bird-songs and celestial laughter,
I perfume all the æther with my breath,
And putting by the envious clouds of Death,
          With my insistent yearning
Rekindle the sun's fire and set it burning.

          Persephone am I—the Spring!
Whom all things celebrate and sing.
          When glad from Hades' sombre home
          Back to the dear, dear earth I come,
The gods themselves, my way befriending,
          Look down on me with shining eyes benign,
And grant that, to my mother's arms ascending,
          Of miracles the loveliest shall be mine.

          Howe'er men speak my name
          I ever am the same,—
In herb and tree and vine and blossoming flower,
Regenerating, consecrating power.
          Youth am I and delight.
Astarte or Aurora, still the priest
Of mysteries beneficently bright.
The vivifying glory of the East,
The Spring, in vesture of transparent dyes
'Broidered with blossoms and with butterflies,
The door that leads from gloomy vasts of Death,—
I resurrection am!—new life! new breath!
"Éastre" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

LOVE CONQUERS DEATH, a poem

LOVE conquers Death by night and day,
Beguiles him long of his destined prey;
     And when, at last, that seems to perish
     Which he hath striven still to cherish,
Love plucks the soul from the fallen clay.

Death is not master, but Love's slave,
He smites the timid and the brave;
     Yet as he fares, with sweet low laughter,
     Love, the sower, follows after,
Scattering seed in each new-made grave!
"Love Conquers Death" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (April 1895), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Poems on the "Titanic"

Wikimedia Commons
RMS Titanic

THE BAND OF THE TITANIC
"These are the immortal,—the fearless"—Upanishads

UP, lads! they say we've struck a berg, though there's no danger yet,—
     Our noble liner was not built to wreck!—
But women may have felt a shock they're needing to forget,
     And when there's trouble, men should be on deck.

Come!—now's the time! They're wanting us to brighten them a bit;
     Play up, my lads—as lively as you can!
Give them a merry English air! they want no counterfeit
     Like that down-hearted tune you just began!...

I think the Captain's worried, lads: maybe the thing's gone wrong;
     Well, we will show them all is right with us!
Of Drake and the Armadas now we'll play them such a song
     Shall make them of the hero emulous.

When boats are being lowered, lads, your place and mine are here,—
     Oh, we were never needed more than now!
When others go, it is for us those left behind to cheer,
     And I am glad, my lads, that we know how!

If it is Death that's calling us, we'll make a brave response;
     Play up, play up!—ye may not play again;
The prize that Nelson won at last, the chance that comes but once,
     Is ours, my lads!—the chance to die like men!
"The Band of the Titanic" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (July 1912), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

THE "TITANIC"—AFTERMATH

O NATURE! overmastered by thy power,
Man is a hero still
And knighthood is in flower!
All save his tameless will
Thou can'st subdue by thine appalling might;
But failest utterly to quench his spirit's light.

Yea, though he seem, in conflict with thy strength,
A pygmy of the dust,
Heroic man, at length
Greater than thou, through trust,
Sovereign through something thou can'st not enslave,
Finds once again, in death, the life he scorned to save!
"The Titanic—Aftermath" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Unconquered Air (1912).

On 18 May 1912, the New York Times reports that Mr. and Mrs. Coates are among those aboard the S. S. Minnewaska en route to London.  This voyage would take place one month after the sinking of the Titanic.  Sometime between then and July 1912, Mrs. Coates would write "The Band of the Titanic." She would also pen "The Titanic—Aftermath" to be published in The Unconquered Air and Other Poems released in November of the same year.  The Coates' were likely headed to painter John McLure Hamilton's home in Murestead, Grove End Road, London, N. W., England, for it was there, during the summer of 1912, that Mr. Hamilton painted their portraits.

Edward H. Coates (1912)
by John McLure Hamilton

The Philadelphia Inquirer, on 10 November 1912, describes the portrait of Mrs. Coates (not shown) as possessing "to a marked degree the charm and vivacity of the sitter, and while it is not an unqualified success in the drawing of the head, the perspective of which is open to criticism, it resembles the curate's egg in the excellence of its parts.  The hands are sympathetic and really rather wonderful in their character."


"Lycidas is dead, and hath not left his peer!"

Matthew Arnold
(1822-1888)

On this day...in 1888
Matthew Arnold dies

Six years after Matthew Arnold passed into "quiet realms Elysian," Florence Earle Coates dedicated her pen in tribute to her friend and mentor, Matthew Arnold—British poet and cultural critic.  Coates and Arnold first met in New York in 1883 at the home of Andrew Carnegie, and soon formed a lasting friendship.  Arnold's last letter to Mrs. Coates is dated February 24, 1888, in which he speaks of his remembrance of his last visit to Philadelphia, and of her tulip-trees and maples.

Matthew Arnold
by Florence Earle Coates
The Century Magazine, April 1894: 931-7.

IT is told of one of our poets that, when in England, he was asked who took Matthew Arnold's place in America, and he answered, "Matthew Arnold." The reply would still be just, and, excepting as he fills it, the place of Matthew Arnold must long continue vacant. Men of genius are not replaced, and if, dying, they leave their work half done, the loss is irreparable. But Arnold's message was delivered, whether in verse or prose, with an amplitude and distinctness to which few messages may lay claim, and is "full of foretastes of the morrow." [read more...]

Friday, April 14, 2017

LOVE AND THE CHILD, a poem

LOVE came into the world and said:
"With the tender infant on this bed
     Shall be my home; I will impart
     The winning graces to its heart
That blessing in life's pathway spread."

So—for Love crooned its lullabies—
His own smile dawned within its eyes,
     And into its small being stole
     The laughing radiance of his soul,
And all its eager sympathies.

Unconscious as the flowers that bless—
A tiny flame of lovingness—
     To any palm it gave at once
     A dimpled hand, in quick response,
Nor what "a stranger" meant might guess.

That to distrust is often well,
It heard with smile ineffable.
     Then, on a morn, Love came to say:
     "Thou child of mine, come, come away!
In Paradise to dwell!"
"Love and the Child" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (April 1912), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

SONG, a poem

HER cheek is like a tinted rose
     That June hath fondly cherished,
Her heart is like a star that glows
     When day hath darkling perished,
Her voice is as a songbird's sweet,
     The drowsy wolds awaking—
But, ah, her love is past compare,
     And keeps my heart from breaking!

Lost sunbeams light her tresses free,
     Along their shadows gleaming!
Her smiles entangle memory
     And set the soul a-dreaming,
Her thoughts, like seraphs, upward soar,
     Earth's narrow bounds forsaking—
But, ah, her love abides with me
     And keeps my heart from breaking!
"Song" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (April 1892), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

SURVIVAL, a poem

THE knell that dooms the voiceless and obscure
     Stills Memnon's music with its ghostly chime;
     Strength is as weakness in the clasp of Time,
And for the things that were there is no cure.
The vineyard with its fair investiture,
     The mountain summit with its hoary rime,
     The throne of Cæsar, Cheops' tomb sublime,
Alike decay, and only dreams endure.

Dreams for Assyria her worship won,
     And India is hallowed by her dreams;
The Sphinx with deathless visage views the race
     That like the lotus of a summer seems;
And, rudderless, immortally sails on
The wingèd Victory of Samothrace.
"Survival" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Atlantic Monthly (April 1893), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

On this day in 1895

Mrs. Coates is elected president of The Browning Society of Philadelphia.  She would serve as president from 1895 to 1903, and again from 1907 to 1908.

Invitation to the 1895-96 Browning Society elections,
the year Mrs. Coates was elected president.



Monday, April 10, 2017

"SO WAR HAS BEGUN", a poem

SO war has begun, they say,
     Well, Spring is here before it;
If war takes much away,
     And leaves us to deplore it,—
Yet see! the woody dells once more
Are turning green, in spite of war.

On yonder maple tree
     The misty buds are swelling;
Violets, timidly,
     Peep from their mossy dwelling,
And bluebirds, far and near, outpour
Their brimming hope, in spite of war.

Rumor, with awful tales
     Of death and of disaster,
May clamor through our vales,
     But Spring comes hither faster,
Humming a tender rune of peace—
Breathing of bloom and life's increase.

Old soldiers still relate
     How at Resaca's battle,—
As if to compensate,—
     Above the din and rattle
Of musketry, continued long,
A mockingbird sang rapturous song:

And one who lay near death,—
     A soldier sorely wounded,
Drew less distressful breath,
     As clear that music sounded,
And felt to his tired spirit come
The most delightful dreams of home.

Ah, well! we talk of war,
     But peace is so much kinder,
That all our strife is for
     Is just the hope to find her:
And see!—how Spring, with look serene,
     Is garlanding her halls in green!
"So War has Begun" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

WAR, a poem

IN the beginning was I born,
     With man from out the dust;
And presently, from earth uptorn,
     Came Cruelty and Lust.
Alway, the vassals of my will,
     They twain go with me still.

Where'er my flashing sword they see,
     Where'er they scent my breath,
Quickly they follow after me,
     Bringing despair and death;
Yet still the mighty wear with pride
My liveries, crimson-dyed!

Once, long ago, in ages gone,
     When man seemed as the brute,
I looked with dread to wisdom's dawn,
     And virtue's ripening fruit:
Now sages wreathe my brow with bays,
And poets chant my praise.

And once, in little Bethlehem—
     Once only, not again—
Peace wore a royal diadem:
     But I could trust to men,
And crucified upon a tree,
Peace is a memory!
"War" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (April 1904), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

WITH BREATH OF SPRING, a poem

     THE air is full of balm, I know;
The winter vanished long ago.
In sheltered plots along the street
Crocus and tiny snowdrop meet,
And children skip about and play—
Rejoicing in the glad noonday—
Or loiter 'neath some budding bough
Where bird-notes will be warbled now—
          Outside the prison wall.

     The brook, by winter long enchained,
Flows through the meadow unrestrained;
The violet will blossom soon,
The moth will break from the cocoon;
And where the happy children sing,
The fledgling bird will try his wing,—
But, O my heart! the sunshine there!—
The grateful shade!—the boon, free air—
          Outside the prison wall!
"With Breath of Spring" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Era (April 1903) and Lyrics of Life (1909).

Friday, April 7, 2017

IN PLAINS OF PICARDY, a poem

IN far-off plains of Picardy
     Our country's Flag is flying,
And Life and Death are battling there;
     But no man there fears dying.
So large a hope has set men free
From fear, in far-off Picardy!

To us, across the ocean deep,
     A wondrous strain comes winging;
It is the song of lads who march
     On to the conflict, singing—
Our lads, who so have longed to be
Where heroes strive, in Picardy!

Their strength is tried, their hearts so brave
     Were fed on Freedom's story;
"The coming of the Lord," they sing—
     "Mine eyes have seen the glory!"
The glory all at last shall see,
Rise o'er the plains of Picardy!

O Union Jack! O Tricolor!
     No more you grieve us, calling!
No more we wait, our hearts aflame,
     While brave men there are falling,
Our Stars and Stripes have crossed the Sea,
And we are one, in Picardy!
"In Plains of Picardy" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The New York Times (7 April 1918); above as rendered in The Protectionist (May 1918).

Thursday, April 6, 2017

On this day in 1927: Florence Earle Coates dies

Church of the Redeemer
Bryn Mawr, PA
March, 2016


...They live indeed—the dead
By whose example we are upward led...

 
Florence Earle Coates died in Hahnemann Hospital, Philadelphia on 6 April 1927. In 1924 she "contracted a form of nephritis ["chronic interstitial nephritis" as per death certificate] which led to a cerebral hemorrhage and death three years later." (Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, 1971.) A funeral service announcement clipping found opposite p. 109 in a copy of The Unconquered Air (1912) states that her funeral would be held at her home on April 9th at 2:00 pm.  Within the same pages holds a note stating that Mrs. Coates' poem "Immortal" was read at the funeral service.


Mrs. Coates is buried in the churchyard of the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania next to her husband Edward Hornor Coates. The inscription on Mrs. Coates' headstone, "THEY LIVE INDEED—THE DEAD BY WHOSE EXAMPLE WE ARE UPWARD LED", is taken from a memorial poem she wrote for Eliza Sproat Turner (who died ca. 1903) entitled "In Memory." Florence's husband's inscription, "HIGH THOUGHT SEATED IN A HEART OF COURTESY," is based on Sir Philip Sydney's description of an honorable man and gentleman.

Digital drawing by Sonja N. Bohm

THE SINGER, a poem

HE came to us with dreams to sell—
     Ah, long ago it seems!
From regions where enchantments dwell,
He came to us with dreams to sell,
     And we had need of dreams.

Our thought had planned with artful care,
     Our patient toil had wrought,
The roomy treasure-houses where
Were heaped the costly and the rare,—
     But dreams we had not bought:

Nay; we had felt no need of these,
     Until with dulcet strain,
Alluring as the melodies
That mock the lonely on the seas,
     He made all else seem vain:

Bringing an aching sense of dearth,
     A troubled, vague unrest,
A fear that we, whose care on Earth
Had been to garner things of worth,
     Had somehow missed the best.

Then, as had been our wont before,—
     Unused in vain to sigh,—
We turned our treasure o'er and o'er,
But found in all our vaunted store
     No coin that dreams would buy.

We stood with empty hands: but gay
     As though upborne on wings,
He left us; and at set of day
We heard him singing, far away,
     The joy of simple things!

He left us, and with apathy
     We gazed upon our gold;
But to the world's ascendancy
Submissive, soon we came to be
     Much as we were of old.

Yet sometimes when the fragrant dawn
     In early splendor beams,
And sometimes when, the twilight gone,
The moon o'er-silvers wood and lawn,
     An echo of his dreams

Brings to the heart a swift regret
     That is not wholly pain,
And, grieving, we would not forget
The vision, hallowed to us yet,—
     The hope that seemed so vain.

And then we envy not the throng
     That careless passes by,
With no remembrance of the song,—
Though we must listen still, and long
     To hear it till we die!
"The Singer" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (April 1906), as "A Traveller from Altruria" in Lyrics of Life (1909) and as "The Singer" in Poems (1916) Volume II.

A Traveler from Altruria (1894) is a Utopian novel by William Dean Howells.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

On this day in 1830

Ellen Frances VAN LEER Earle, mother of Florence Earle Coates, was born on 5 April 1830, having descended from a family long members of the Society of Friends. Mrs. Earle died on 19 May 1892 in Germantown, PA. See also: "Mother"

Original image and retouch. Original courtesy of Florence Earle Morrisey,
from the scrapbook of Frances Earle Johnson (sister of Mrs. Coates).

ALMS, a poem

A  beggar, bent beneath the weight of years,—
     To wretchedness inured, half reconciled,—
Entreated help, and I could give but tears;
     Yet grateful looked the man on me, and smiled.
"Alms" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (April 1904), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.


To Miss Susanna Stern, in Mine and Thine (1904)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I HEARD A VOICE, a poem

I HEARD a voice say: "You,
Who worship, should pursue:
The good you dream of—do.

"Arise!—perfection seek.
Surmounting what is weak,
Toil on from peak to peak!"

"Henceforth, through sun and shade,"
I answered, "unafraid,
I follow the shy maid:

"Yea, beauty to create,
Accept with heart elate
Whate'er may be my fate."

Then, in youth's ardor, strong,
I toiled my way along,
Upon my lips a song;

But as I climbed on high,
Toward the forbidding sky
Perfection seemed to fly;

And though I strove the more,
Still through some viewless door
She ever passed before.

Heart-wearied and forespent,
With body earthward bent,
I ceased from the ascent;

Then, when hope seemed too late,
Despairing,—at Death's gate
I heard a voice say: "Wait!"
"I Heard a Voice" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (April 1913) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Monday, April 3, 2017

AT BREAK OF DAY, a poem

I THOUGHT that past the gates of doom,
     Where Orpheus played a strain divine
     Of love importunate as mine,
Unto the dwellings of the dead I came through paths of gloom.

Around me, looming dark through cloud,
     Vast walls arose whence mournful fell
     The shadow and the hush of hell;
And silence, brooding, palpable, enwrapped me like a shroud.

Naught blossomed there; in that chill place
     Where longing dwells divorced from hope,
     Naught to a joyless horoscope
Lent prophecies of future grace, but—I beheld thy face!

And I awoke,—songs trembling near,—
     Awoke and saw day's chariot pass
     Bright gleaming o'er the meadow-grass,
And knew this glad earth without thee, than realms of Death more drear!
"At Break of Day" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (April 1892), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

APRIL, a poem

SWELLING bud and fond suggestion,
     Wafting of perfume,
Tearful rapture, thrilling question
     Of restraint or bloom,
Life all dreamlessly asleeping,
     As in death, but now,
Upward to the sunlight creeping,—
     April, that is thou!

Mystery's authentic dwelling,
     Faith's expanding wing,
Maiden loveliness foretelling
     Fuller blossoming,
Prophet of the new creation,
     Priestess of the bough,
Month of the imagination,—
     April, that is thou!
"April" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (April 1908), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

IN APRIL, a poem

WHEN beeches bud and lilacs blow,
     And Earth puts on her magic green;
When dogwoods bear their vernal snow
     And skies grow deep the stars between,—
Then, O ye birds! awake and sing
The gladness at the heart of Spring!

When flowers blossom for the poor,
     And Nature heals the hurt of years,
When wondering Love resists the cure,
     Yet hopes again, and smiles through tears,—
Then, O ye birds! awake and sing
The gladness at the heart of Spring!
"In April" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume I.