19th Century Women's Poetry

Florence Earle Coates (fl. 1850s-90s)

Born in Philadelphia, Florence was the granddaughter of a well-known philanthropist, Thomas Earle. As a member of an aristocratic family, she was given an exceptional education.

(On Seeing Miss Anderson in the Role)
She dances,
And I seem to be
In primrose vales of Sicily,
Beside the streams once looked upon
By Thyrsis and by Corydon:
The sunlight laughs as she advances,
Shyly the zephyrs kiss her hair,
And she seems to me as the wood-fawn, free,
And as the wild rose, fair.
Dance, Perdita! and, shepherds, blow!
Your reeds restrain no longer!
Till weald and welking gleeful ring,
Blow, shepherds, blow! and, lasses, sing
Yet sweeter strains and stronger!
Let far Helorus softer flow
'Twixt rushy banks, that he may hear;
Let Pan, great Pan himself, draw near!

She moves, half smiling,
With girlish look beguiling,--
A dawn-like grace in all her face;
Stately she moves, sedately,
Through the crowd circling round her;
But--swift as light--
See! she takes flight!
Empty, alas! is her place.

Follow her, follow her, let her not go!
Mirth ended so--
Why, 't is but woe!
Follow her, follow her! Perdita!--lo,
Love hath with wreaths enwound her!
She dances,
And I seem to see
The nymph divine, Terpsichore,
As when her beauty dazzling shone
On eerie heights of Helicon.
With bursts of song her voice entrances
The dreamy, blossom-scented air,
And she seems to me as the wood-fawn, free,
And as the wild rose, fair.


The knell that dooms the voiceless and obscure
Still 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 Caesar, 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 Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Silent amidst unbroken silence deep
Of dateless years, in loneliness supreme,
She pondered patiently one mighty theme,
And let the hours, uncounted, by her creep.
The motionless Himalayas, the broad weep
Of glacial cataracts, great Ganges' stream,--
All these to her were but as things that seem,
Doomed all to pass, like phantoms viewed in sleep.
Her history? She has none,--scarce a name.
The life she lived is lost in the profound
Of time, which she despised; but nothing mars
The memory that, single, gives her fame:
She dreamed eternal dreams, and from the ground
Still raised her yearning vision to the stars.