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Florence Earle Coates

1850–1927

Florence Earle Coates was born on July 1, 1850, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She married Edward H. Coates in 1879, and she served as a leader in multiple social organizations, including the Society of Mayflower Descendants. Her poems began appearing in magazines in the 1890s, and she published her first poetry collection, Poems (Houghton Mifflin), in 1898. Coates was also the author of Pro Patria (Philadelphia, 1917), a collection of poems about World War I; The Unconquered Air (Houghton Mifflin, 1912); Lyrics of Life (Houghton Mifflin, 1909); and Mine and Thine (Houghton Mifflin, 1904). She was named the poet laureate of Pennsylvania in 1915. She died on April 6, 1927, in Philadelphia.

 

Florence Earle Coates

By This Poet

3

Place de la Concorde

August 14, 1914

(Since the bombardment of Strasburg, August 14, 1870, her statue in Paris, representing Alsace, has been draped in mourning by the French people.)

Near where the royal victims fell
In days gone by, caught in the swell
Of a ruthless tide
Of human passion, deep and wide:
There where we two
A Nation’s later sorrow knew—
To-day, O friend! I stood
Amid a self-ruled multitude
That by nor sound nor word
Betrayed how mightily its heart was stirred.

A memory Time never could efface—
A memory of Grief—
Like a great Silence brooded o’er the place;
And men breathed hard, as seeking for relief
From an emotion strong
That would not cry, though held in check too long.

One felt that joy drew near—
A joy intense that seemed itself to fear—
Brightening in eyes that had been dull,
As all with feeling gazed
Upon the Strasburg figure, raised
Above us—mourning, beautiful!

Then one stood at the statue’s base, and spoke—
Men needed not to ask what word;
Each in his breast the message heard,
Writ for him by Despair,
That evermore in moving phrase
Breathes from the Invalides and Père Lachaise—
Vainly it seemed, alas!
But now, France looking on the image there,
Hope gave her back the lost Alsace.

A deeper hush fell on the crowd:
A sound—the lightest—seemed too loud
(Would, friend, you had been there!)
As to that form the speaker rose,
Took from her, fold on fold,
The mournful crape, gray-worn and old,
Her, proudly, to disclose,
And with the touch of tender care
That fond emotion speaks,
’Mid tears that none could quite command,
Placed the Tricolor in her hand,
And kissed her on both cheeks!

In War-Time

(An American Homeward-Bound)

Further and further we leave the scene
    Of war—and of England’ s care;
I try to keep my mind serene—
    But my heart stays there;

For a distant song of pain and wrong
    My spirit doth deep confuse,
And I sit all day on the deck, and long—
    And long for news!

I seem to see them in battle-line—
    Heroes with hearts of gold,
But of their victory a sign
    The Fates withhold;

And the hours too tardy-footed pass,
    The voiceless hush grows dense
’Mid the imaginings, alas!
    That feed suspense.

Oh, might I lie on the wind, or fly
    In the willful sea-bird’s track,
Would I hurry on, with a homesick cry—
    Or hasten back?

An Adieu

Sorrow, quit me for a while!
    Wintry days are over;
Hope again, with April smile,
    Violets sows and clover.

Pleasure follows in her path,
    Love itself flies after,
And the brook a music hath
    Sweet as childhood’s laughter.

Not a bird upon the bough
    Can repress its rapture,
Not a bud that blossoms now
    But doth beauty capture.

Sorrow, thou art Winter’s mate,
    Spring cannot regret thee;
Yet, ah, yet—my friend of late—
    I shall not forget thee!

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