Bill Lynch: The poems of Edna Poppe Cooper live on

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There is a perfect time to be in Jack London State Historic Park.

It is in the middle of a beautiful song being performed by the cast of Transcendence Theatre in the ruins of Jack’s old stone winery, just as the moon rises above the stage. The hillside vineyards in the background glow as the sweet musical notes borne by moonbeams float all around you.

It is then that, if I could, I’d write a poem.

Fortunately, I don’t have too because Edna Poppe Cooper beat me too it.

I found her poems in a booklet I discovered many years ago in my Dad’s office at the Index-Tribune. It is leather-bound and entitled “Songs from the Valley of the Moon.”

Miss Poppe Cooper was born in Glen Ellen in 1889. Her father, Charles J. Poppe was the village postmaster and proprietor of the little country store there in which his wife assisted. Edna graduated from Glen Ellen Grammar School in 1904, then attended Sonoma Valley High School where she excelled in English and composition.

While at SVHS, she wrote her first poem entitled “Flowers of The West.” After high school she studied nursing at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco.

She married Lieutenant Morris C. Cooper and they settled into a home on O’Donnell Lane in Glen Ellen. She worked as a nurse here for many years. She died on May 31, 1918 and is buried in Mountain Cemetery.

The book is a collection of poems she wrote over her lifetime, collected by her family and printed in 1926.

The forward to her book was written by Charmian Kittredge London (Jack’s widow), who said of her, “I remember her as a fair, shy thing, my flower-like as her name that is so suggestive of California’s golden emblem. Upon this mountains side I call mine, Edna Poppe wandered, alone, or with sisters or friends; and who can guess the fullness of her love toward it... In its fastnesses her inspiration dwelt – in its far, high meadows, its canyons trooped by firs and redwood, bedded in ferns, rippling and cascading with mountain waters.”

Here are some samples of the Edna Poppe Cooper’s poems:

“The Valley of the Moon”

In sunset’s glimmering, the daylight dies;

Through pathless forests, night is on its way;

Dream meadows slumber ‘neath star-studded skies

And shadows stir before the dawn of day.

Now, vagrant winds sigh through the fields of corn,

While morning hours drift to golden noon;

I find the woodlands where my dreams were born–

In fair Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon.

“On Jack London’s Trail”

Here Jack and Charmian, side by side

As lovers, rode before he died

And worshipped Beauty at her shrine

They loved each oak-tree plant and vine

The mission-bell on slender stem;

The shy wake-robin, bloomed for them;

The young and tender ferns uncurled

To grace their corner of the world.

Here, where the canyon waters gleamed,

These word-famed loves lived and dreamed.

Today, more than a century later, the moon still rises where Jack and Charmian lived, loved and dreamed.

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