Monday, July 31, 2017


A writer once stated that "from a modern viewpoint [Florence Earle Coates'] attitudes seem naïve and optimistic, her prosody quaint," a reason for which she "is now regarded with far less enthusiasm."* Yet her lines convey timeless and vital themes (as all poetry should), and to enter "this world of pain" and somehow emerge hopeful and optimistic is not to be naïve, but trusting and wise.
HOPE smiles a welcome, if no other smiles,
     Upon our entrance to this world of pain;
     And on each purpose of our youth again,
     With an inspiring sympathy, she smiles.
She leads us forth to battle, and beguiles
     Our anguish when the long fight proves in vain;
     Till, pierced by countless wounds, amongst the slain
     We leave her, while the victor foe reviles.
But even as we touch at ruin's verge,
     And hear the voices of despair that urge
     The fatal plunge to chaos, Hope alone,—
How healèd and how ransomed none may guess,—
     Rising again in pallid loveliness,
     Resumes her sway, a thousand times o'erthrown.
"First and Last" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Cosmopolitan (July 1894) and Poems (1898).

*Thomas Eakins and the Swimming Picture (Bolger and Cash, 1996)

Sunday, July 30, 2017


I LOOKED on beauteous forms, as I lay dreaming,
     But on no form as beautiful as thine,
Who here, amid the moonbeams white and holy,
     Standest in silence by this bed of mine.

I looked on faces fair, as I lay sleeping,
     But on no face that seemed as nobly sweet
As that which in the pallid light above me
     My wondering, half-awakened sense doth greet.

Who and what art thou? Have I kept thee waiting?
     My sleep was as a river deep and calm;
Bring'st thou perchance some word of import for me?
     Hast thou, for broken hearts, like mine, some balm?

Who and what art thou? In my tranquil vision
     I gazed through rifted clouds on azure skies,—
I seemed to gaze beyond them,—but naught moved me
     Like the deep pity in thy brooding eyes.

Why art thou here to-night? I have been lonely—
     Have waited, prayed, for such an one as thou,
To still with presence kind my pulse's throbbing,
     To lay a cooling touch upon my brow.

Tell me thy name! Then, pain and fear forgotten,
     I straightway will arise and follow thee,
Who, so I think, art hither come to guide me
     To larger hope and opportunity.

Tell me thy name! I long, I need, to hear it!
     Thy name!—I may not plead, for failing breath,—
With look compassionate, the august stranger 
     Made answer very softly: "I am Death." 
"Before the Dawn" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Putnam's Monthly & The Reader (September 1908), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

THE RETURN, a poem

WHO knocks at the door so late, so late—
     Who knocks so late at the door?
Is it one who comes as a stranger comes,
     Or one who has knocked before?
Is it one who stays with intent to bless,
     Or one who stands to implore?

My days have been as the years, she said,
     And my heart, my heart is sore; 
Love looked in my face for a moment's space 
     One happy spring of yore— 
Looked in my face with a wistful grace; 
     And left me to grieve evermore! 

Through all the days the door stood wide,
     For hope had breathed a vow
That love should ne'er be kept outside.
     The years were long and hope hath died;
The door at last is barred and fast—
     Why comes this knocking now?

Yet woe the waiting heart, she said,
     And the heart it waiteth for! 
And woe the truth and wasted youth 
     That nothing shall restore! 
The faith that's fled, the hope that's dead, 
     The dreams that come no more. 

Who knocks at the gate—so late, so late?
     Thou foolish heart, be still!
What is 't to thee if love or hate
     Knocks in the midnight chill?
Art thou, poor heart, compassionate?
     Is love so hard to kill?

Ah me! the night is cold, she said;
     Would I might all forget; 
But memory lives when hope is dead, 
     And pity heals regret; 
As light still lingers overhead 
     When sun and moon are set. 
"The Return" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904), Poems (1916) Volume I and as "Who Knocks?" in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (September 1902).

Original footnote to poem:
"[George] Romney, the painter, married at nineteen and had two children in 1762.  He visited them only once, in 1767.  When old, nearly mad, and quite utterly desolate, he found his way back to his wife in 1799, and she, after the neglect of nearly forty years, received him with forgiveness and kindness, affectionately nursing him till his death; an act, as has been said, which, even from an artistic point of view, is worth all his pictures."

Friday, July 28, 2017


LOVE never is too late; it sums,
     Within itself, all that is lasting gain,
And, or at morn or midnight, comes
     With blessings in its train.

We tarry, slow to give, alas!
     But though delayed, love never is too late—
Love that has power beyond the grave to pass
     And enter Heaven's gate!
"Love never is Too Late" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (September 1909), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

ISRAFEL, a poem

Autograph verse, signed copy (in part) ca. 1909.

A DREAMER midst the stars doth dwell,
Known to the gods as Israfel.
        His heart-strings are a lute;
And when, the magic notes outpouring,
He parts his lips, the gods, adoring,
        Listen in transport mute,
Subdued and softened by the spell
Of the dreamer, Israfel!

And mortals, as they toil apart,
Listen with awe, and call him—Art,
        And fain his gift to gain,
Essay to imitate the fashion
Of his rare song, and breathe its passion,—
        But, ah, they strive in vain;
For his song is more than art,
Whose lute-strings are his heart!

And others, unto whom he wings
The sweetest melodies he sings,
        In worship, name him—Love;
Yet longing the pure strain to capture,
When at the very height of rapture,
        A sadness oft approve,
And fancy, strangely, that he wrings
The music from their own heart-strings!
"Israfel" by Florence Earle Coates. Above as published in Poems (1916) Volume I. Also published as "Israphel" in The Cosmopolitan (September 1894) and Poems (1898).

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


IF love were but a little thing,
     Strange love, which, more than all, is great—
One might not such devotion bring,
     Early to serve and late.

If love were but a passing breath—
     Wild love—which, as God knows, is sweet—
One might not make of life and death
     A pillow for love's feet.
"Song" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Bazar (September 1907), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


EARTH has her blossoms, and the sea his shells
     Wrought with as fine a workmanship, and fair
     As they had been some god's peculiar care;
And in the heart of each a spirit dwells
Whose voice, in flowers,—for they to earth belong—
     Is but a perfume, evanescent, sweet,
     While in the sea-born shell, as seemeth meet,
It is an echo faint of an unending song!
"Earth's Blossoms" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I, and as "Earth Has Her Blossoms" in Harper's Monthly Magazine (September 1909).

Monday, July 24, 2017

HOMEWARD, a poem

WHEN I come to my Father's house he will hear me:
               I shall not need
               With words implore
Compassion at my Father's door:
With yearning mute my heart will plead,
     And my Father's heart will hear me.

One thought all the weary day hath caressed me:
               Though cloud-o'ercast
               Is the way I go,
Though steep is the hill I must climb, yet, oh,
When evening falls and the light is past,
     At my Father's house I will rest me.

For thither,—whatsoe'er betide me;
               Howe'er I stray,
               Beset by fears,
Wearied by effort, or blinded by tears,—
Ah, surely I shall find my way,
     Though none there be to guide me!
"Homeward" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (September 1890), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


Peach Blossoms—Villiers-le-Bel (1887-89)
by Childe Hassam
PD image from The Met
I WEAVE the beginning, I fashion the end;
Life is my fellow, and Death is my friend;
     Time cannot stay me,
     Nor evil betray me,—
They that would harm me, unknowing, defend.

I ravel asunder, I knit every flaw;
Blossoms I scatter, with tempests I awe;
     Birthplace of duty,
     And shrine of all beauty,—
Firmly I govern, and love is my law!
"Natura Benigna" by Florence Earle Coates. As published in Poems (1916) Volume I. Also published as "Nature" in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (September 1899) and Mine and Thine (1904).

Friday, July 21, 2017


COME home! The Land that sent you forth
From East and West, from South and North,
Looks wistfully beyond her gates,
Extends her arms and waits—and waits!

At duty's call she stilled her woe;
She smiled through tears and bade you go
To face the death you would not shun.
Brave hearts, return! Your task is done.

Not as you journeyed come you back!
A glory is about your track
Of deeds that vanquished tyranny
And set a tortured people free:

Deeds, sprung of manhood's finest grace,
That envious Time shall not efface;
Deeds that proclaim a Nation's worth,
And crown the Land that gave them birth.

America but waits to greet
And bless you, kneeling at her feet,
Your standards fair in honor furled,
The proudest mother in the world!

Come home! The Land that sent you forth
From East and West, from South and North,
Looks wistfully beyond her gates,
Extends her arms and waits!
"To the Returning Brave" by Florence Earle Coates. Above as published in Poems (1916) Volume I. Published as "Welcome" in The Outlook (3 September 1898) and in Mine and Thine (1904). Also published as "Welcome to Dewey" in Life and Heroic Deeds of Admiral Dewey, Including Battles in the Philippines, & etc. (1899).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

UNREST, a poem

WE trekked our way to the desert,
     My soul and I, alone:
We passed beyond the world of men,
     And all men call their own,
And came where never yet were laws
     On parchment writ or stone.

Mid vast and barren stretches
     Where Age speaks not to Age,
Where ne'er doth spring a living thing
     Save the everlasting sage,
I felt as the savage coyote, free—
     With a freedom naught could cage.

No milestones mark the desert:
     Though seasons come and go,
Where the arid sands unmeasured lie
     None through the hour-glass flow;
The desert has no memory—
     Nor can of promise know.

Unfettered mid the silence,
     Escaped from rule and law,
The desert, like a sea-floor vast,
     Exultantly I saw;
Yet distant heights that pierced the blue,
     Still troubled me with awe;

And when, turned from the mountains,
     I passed beyond the brush
Where a sea-floor without weed or shell
     Burns breathless in the hush,
There came mirage my sense to mock
     With grasses sweet and lush.

Thirst, not as that for water,—
     A thirst ne'er felt before,—
Parched gradual in the soul of me
     Till I could bear no more;
Earth seemed to cry: "Now whither fly
     From the dearth you struggled for?"
     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·
Reluctant, slow returning
     The common lot to share,
With a new and strange emotion—
     Half longing, half despair,
I said: "For man is no escape:
     Here bides the Law, as there!"
"Unrest" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Athenæum (11 September 1915) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

DEMETER, a poem

THOU, thou hast seen the child I seek!
The vale is thine and the cloudy peak,
     Divine Apollo
     Whose eye doth follow
Each secret course! Ah, speak!

I have sued to the other gods in vain:
Thou wilt not disregard my pain;
     But by thy power
     Win back my flower
To gladden earth again!

Fair as the poppy mid the wheat,—
Her breath as the breath of the wild grape, sweet
     In the twilight tender,—
     She loved thy splendor
Of perfect day to greet.

And it is thou—of gods most dear!—
Thou, sun-god! who hast led me here:
     Whose smile caressing,
     My wrong redressing,
Tells me the Maid is near!

Blessèd, O blessèd, be thy light!
She comes from the shadows—blissful sight!—
     To the breast that bore her
     To the yearning for her,
That fills me, day and night!
"Demeter" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Mary Curzon, Baroness Curzon of Kedleston
Portrait study by Franz von Lenbach, c. 1902
Wikimedia Commona
JULY 17, 1906
INTO the light where beauty doth not pale,
Into the glory that can never fail,
     Beyond our yearning care, she passed from view.
Two nations loved and claimed her,—English flower,—
One gave her birth, one gave a regal dower,
But both—ah, both forgot how Heaven must love her too!
"On the Death of Lady Curzon" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Death date in poem is likely incorrect. Most sources cite Wednesday, 18 July 1906.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


WAS it worth while to paint so fair
     Thy every leaf—to vein with faultless art
Each petal, taking the boon light and air
     Of summer so to heart?

To bring thy beauty unto perfect flower,
     Then, like a passing fragrance or a smile,
Vanish away, beyond recovery's power—
     Was it, frail bloom, worth while?

Thy silence answers: "Life was mine!
     And I, who pass without regret or grief,
Have cared the more to make my moment fine,
     Because it was so brief.

"In its first radiance I have seen
     The sun!—why tarry then till comes the night?
I go my way, content that I have been
     Part of the morning light!"
"The Morning Glory" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (April 1910), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


NOTHING that we deem can die
     Has any thought of death:
The mortal thing, without a sigh—
Without reproachful plaint or cry—
     Yields scarcely conscious breath;
The coming sleep to it the same
As that from which it all-unknowing came.

But spirit cannot so resign
     A hope that o'er the depths of sorrow
Like to a star remains: a sign
That strengthens, by its beam divine,
     To-day with promise of To-morrow!
Nay; longing, vital, and foreseeing,
Itself becomes a pledge of deathless being.
"Nothing that can die" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (July 1914) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


LITTLE sister, everywhere
There is sorrow: here—where men
Greet the day-beam often when
They the lagging moments measure
By the suffering they bear—
          Just as there!

Earth-born children all are due
At one goal, and none is free:
Nay; not I, who seem to be
Privileged at large to wander
Where no walls obstruct the blue,
          More than you!

But where tears have wet the sod,
Beautiful may flowers spring,
And in cages birds may sing;
For there's love, too, little sister,
Everywhere that grief hath trod;
          And there's God!
"To One in Hospital Pent" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (July 1916) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

HELEN KELLER WITH A ROSE, and other poems

Published in the July 1905 issue of The Century Magazine, "Helen Keller with a Rose" was written after Mrs. Coates viewed the above image published in the January 1905 issue of the same magazine.

OTHERS may see thee; I behold thee not;
     Yet most I think thee, beauteous blossom, mine:
     For I, who walk in shade, like Proserpine—
Things once too briefly looked on, long forgot—
     Seem by some tender miracle divine,
When breathing thee, apart,
To hold the rapturous summer warm within my heart.
We understand each other, thou and I!
     Thy velvet petals laid against my cheek,
     Thou feelest all the voiceless things I speak,
And to my yearning makest mute reply:
     Yet a more special good of thee I seek,
For God who made—oh, kind!—
Beauty for one and all, gave fragrance for the blind!
"Helen Keller with a Rose" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Magazine (July 1905) and Lyrics of Life (1909).


LIFE has its limitations manifold:
     All life; not only that which throbs in thee,
     And strains its fetters, eager to be free.
The faultless eye may not thy vision hold—
Maiden, whose brow with thought is aureoled—
     And they who hear may lack the ministry,
     The august influence, of Silence, she
Who brooded o'er the void in ages old.

Prisoner of the dark inaudible,
     Light, which the night itself could not eclipse,
          Thou shinest forth Man's being to reveal.
     We learn with awe from thine apocalypse,
That nothing can the human spirit quell,
          And know him lord of all things, who can feel!
"To Helen Keller" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Scribner's Magazine (September 1903), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.



AS mute against the gate of life you sit,
     Longing to open it,
Full oft you must behold, in thought, a maid
With banner white, whose lilies do not fade,
     And armor glory lit.

Across the years, darkling, you still must see,
     In the hush of memory,
Her whom no wrong of Fate could make afraid—
Of all the maidens of the world, The Maid!
     In her brave purity.

For she, like you, was singly set apart,
     O high and lonely heart!—
And hearkened Voices, silent save to her,
And looked on visions she might not transfer
     By any loving art,—

Knew the dread chill of isolation, when
     Life darkened to her ken;
Yet could not know, as round her closed the night,
How radiant and far would shine her light,—
     A miracle to men!
"Against the Gate of Life" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (December 1910) and The Unconquered Air (1912).

Monday, July 10, 2017

ROMANCE, a poem

HOW fair you are, wondrous maiden,
As from the aisle I behold you
In the old English cathedral,
Standing so rapt and apart!

Glintings of gold from the stained glass
Brighten the coils of your dark hair
Waving away from a forehead
Pure with the freshness of youth,

And your face flower-like lifted,
With the blue eyes full of worship,
Fairer you seem than the angels
Carved near the altar, in stone.

What though I know not your name, dear,—
Though I to-day first behold you—
You who must pass as a vision
Nobly enthralling and glad?

Does he who, lone in the forest,
Finds there an exquisite blossom,
Joy in it less that its beauty
Blooms not to fade on his breast?

Nay: nor does one who at nightfall
Harkens the voice of the mavis
Feel less delight that the singer
Blesses him, high out of reach.

So, though you pass—and for ever,
Yet I, afar, shall remember
That the world holds such a maiden,
And, you remembering, love!
"Romance" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Athenaeum (July 1916) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

POETRY, a poem

CONTEMPLATIVE and fair, with look divine,
     Her wistful vision fixed on the unseen,—
     The future hers, as the long past has been,—
She waits apart. Who disregard her shrine,
Who pour to her libations of red wine,
     Who heal their griefs at her loved Hippocrene,
     She noteth not—enwrapt in thought serene,
And pondering grave meanings, line by line.

She has envisaged the veiled heart of things—
     Has passed through Purgatory, and her way,
          Darkling, unravelled through the deeps of Hell;
          And thence arising where the blessèd dwell,
Has touched the stars with her aspiring wings,
     And knows that she is deathless as are they!
"Poetry" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Critic (July 1905), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

ADIEU, a poem

ADIEU! I know that I no more
     Shall behold you,
Your future lies beyond her door
     Who consoled you;

The world has promised to redeem
     Each new sorrow,
It beckons, and you lightly dream
     Of a morrow.

I weep not, nor shall futile sighs
     Hold you longer,
The pity in your loveless eyes
     Makes me stronger,

For terrible, past loss of mine,
     Hath arisen
The dread to know what was your shrine—
     But your prison.

I listen while your lips protest,
     Heavy hearted,
For by your wishes unexpressed—
     We are parted:

I listen, and hope's fickle glow
     Fades away.
Why mock my grief? If you can go—
     Wherefore stay?

In all the past we still were true,
     You and I, love;
Few words suffice to bid adieu,
     Few to die, love;

The loneliest stand face to face,
And thoughts of love that strain through space
     Are requited!
"Adieu" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

AMERICA, a poem

THY children are inspired by thee:
Blest by thy gift of liberty,
They go to make the wretched free,

They were indeed not sons of thine
Could they withhold that gift divine.
Of liberty thou art the shrine,

Thy children glory in thy name;
They write it, as with words of flame,
In deeds that put thy foes to shame,

In deeds of daring unforecast,
In deeds of valor unsurpassed,
In deeds that make thee known at last,

Thy strength it was that made them strong;
Thy justice taught them hate of wrong;
They are of thee, to thee belong,

Their lungs are filled with thy sweet breath;
Thy voice they hear, and what it saith;
They love thee, and they fear not death,
"America" by Florence Earle Coates (before the war for the liberation of Cuba). Published in The Outlook (9 July 1898), Mine and Thine (1904) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

Monday, July 3, 2017

AFFINITY, a poem

ALL are not strangers whom we so misname:
Man's free-born spirit, which no rule can tame,
     Careless of time, o'er vasty distance led,
Still finds its own where alien altars flame,
     Still greets its own, amongst the deathless dead!
"Affinity" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Putnam's Monthly (July 1907), Lyrics of Life (1909), and Poems (1916) Volume II.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

On this day in 1860

According to an 1860 Census, Florence had just turned 10 years old, and lived with her father ("Atty at law"), mother, and was the eldest of her siblings: Alice, Mary, George H. Jr., and "Fanny" (Frances). The family had a "servant" named Maggie Wallace, from Ireland, who was 19 years old at the time. The Earle's estate was valued at $5,000 (Philadelphia Ward 15).

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Birth and PRIVILEGE, a poem

Florence Earle Coates was born on this day in 1850 to Philadelphia lawyer George Hussey Earle, Sr. and Frances Van Leer Earle. The eldest of five children, to include Mary Earle, Alice Earle, George H. Earle, Jr., and Frances Van Leer Earle.


BLEST is the right to share
     The grief of hearts forlorn,—
With other men to bear
     What must by men be borne;
          For night bestows dawn's orient rose
     And glories of the morn;
And as its shadow-wing
     Lends to the sunlight worth,
So out of suffering
     Arise the joys of earth—
          The good and ill, united still
     And offspring of one birth.
Great is the gift of life
     To him who lives indeed,
A partner in the strife,
     The toil, the pain, that speed—
          Like hidden rills veined through the hills—
     Life's ocean-deeps to feed!
"Privilege" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Independent (30 December 1909), Lyrics of Life (1909) and Poems (1916) Volume II.