1930-1939‎ > ‎

-Ethel Veva King

... and her sister Cora King Swain (1877-1966)


Ethel Veva King
Ethel Veva King was born 7 January 1888, the daughter of Francis King (1842-1918) and Anna Rozel Dean (1848-1935). She was born in Belvidere, Illinois, and it was Belvidere that was her life-long home. Veva had an elder sister, Cora, who married famed silent film comic actor Mack Swain who worked with Charlie Chaplin, and she was herself an actress. In fact, Cora also wrote a poetry book entitled Rainbows in about 1945, at least 16 years after her younger sister's death.  I was able to find more about Veva's sister than about Veva herself! (the name Veva, and not Ethel, was engraved on her headstone, so I am assuming she went by this name)

Cora was born Cora Claire King in Illinois on 8 January, 1877. Her younger sister, Veva, joined the family when Cora was eleven years old. The girls grew up in Belvidere, but Cora's life was to take her far from their friendly home town. I have not been able to determine how or when Cora's stage career began, but it was evidently not yet underway by her marriage to Moroni "Mack" Swain, which took place in New Mexico in November of 1899. Mack's career was already established, as the 1900 census, just a year later,
lists  his occupation as "comedian". By this time they had moved to Colorado, but by 1920 they were in Los Angeles, CA and Mack's career was at its peak. The 1930 census lists his occupation as "speaker/stage". Mack died suddenly at age 59, possibly of a heart attack, in August of 1935 while the couple was in Washington State. Cora continued to live in Los Angeles until her death in 1968 at the age of 91 years.

Cora is listed in the 1900 census as "book binder" under occupation, which is interesting, as her book has no publisher or printer noted in the first few pages, nor does it list a date. I am wondering if Cora had access to a printing/book binding
Cora King Swain 
operation by way of her work. The book has to have been published after August of 1945 because one of the poems in it is about the end of the war. Other than that, I know nothing about the origins of her book.  However, I was able to acquire a copy of Rainbows, signed by Cora, after I created this page about Veva. I am adding some of Cora's poems beneath Veva's, though her book would ordinarily go in the 40's decade.

I have found a few things about Veva, mostly from the Belvidere Daily Republican newspaper. She graduated in 1905 from South Belvidere High School, and appears to have been valedictorian, as she gave a speech at graduation entitled "Life Lies in the Quest" which was printed in full in the paper. She attended Northwestern University where she majored in English and Latin. Also, she is listed on her death record as "business woman". I have discovered that, upon her graduation from high school in 1905, her father gifted her with the deed to an 80-acre farm, located in the nearby town of Flora, that had long been owned by her family. It was valued at $10,000, quite a sum for the day. Veva also taught part-time as a substitute teacher at the local high school. She never married or had any children, and lived with her mother at 722 South State street in Belvidere.

If any visitor here knows more about Veva or Cora, please email me with any information at poetess@gmx.com.

I have been able to find photographs of Veva's parents and her rather glamorous sister, Cora, and her famous comedian brother-in-law:

Veva's Father
Francis King
Veva's Mother
Anna Dean King
Veva's Sister
Cora King Swain
Veva's brother-in-law
Mack Swain

Veva died on Christmas Eve, 1929, just shy of her 42nd birthday. The paper describes her death as due to "paralysis" which struck her suddenly and was followed by six weeks of deterioration before she succumbed. Could she have had a stroke, perhaps? The obituary lauds Veva, saying, "She has held high office in most of the literary and educational organizations of the city and was a woman of brilliant intellectual attainment." She appears frequently in the paper in connection with her many clubs and activities, including the DAR and the Northwestern University club. Evidently, Veva was the owner of an automobile, as there is an amusing little blurb in the paper on 3 August 1914 that she fractured her wrist while cranking her automobile! 

Often melancholy and pensive, a few of her her poems seem to hint at at a love relationship lost. Her poetry is truly thoughtful and lovely, whatever Veva's story was.

Her book, Selected Poems, was compiled posthumously, presumably by her family, but there is no specific year of publication given in the book, nor is there a printer listed.  Perhaps her elder sister had a hand in the printing of this book as well. I'm assuming the date of 1930. There was, however, a newspaper clipping tucked into my copy which is as below:

 The book American Lyric Poetry was published in 1934, Gerta Aison, editor.

Selected Poems circa 1930
by Ethel Veva King


I am so human in my heart tonight
That I want all the human things,
A purple robe, a shining comb, warm lips,
A little heart that sings and sings.

Last night I lived with star things, misty high,
To-morrow I shall take the hand
Of some white cloud, and laugh with happiness,
And dance upon the silver sand.

But I am very human just to-night,
And want the human things alone,
A purple robe, a shining comb, a heart
That sings, and lips upon my own.

 Two Moods

Two little moods with me abide;
And one is shimmering with light
In opalescent hues so bright
She fills the room, nor can she hide
Her shining gown, her filmy wings,
Her sandals gold, her soul that sings.

The other wears a gown of gray;
Her eyes are dim with unshed tears.
She listens to the tramping years,
Or sighs for some forgotten May.
Among the shadow ghosts she steals,
And by some little dream-grave kneels.

Two little moods I live between,
And both to me are dear and fair.
Sometimes the one is mistress there;
Sometimes the other one is Queen;
One heart that weeps, one soul that sings,
One mood in gray and one with wings.

 If I Could Know

If I could know that spring would come next year
To clothe the earth in green and gold and red,
If I could know when clouds are overhead
The sun was shining somewhere very near,
If I could know the ones I hold  most dear
Were never far away when they were dead,
And I might find the place their pathway led,
Then life would be more joyous for me here.
If I could know that gain would follow loss,
And wisdom come from every failure made,
That strength would grow from carrying each cross,
That there was reason in the game I played,
No dread then where my stumbling way might go,
How steep or far the climb-- if I could know.


There is no night can bring to me your touch:
There is no day can bring a sight of you:
No bursting spring, no leaden fall, no turn
Of changing seasons all the ages through
Can bring you back, can lay your hand in mine,
Can bring to me the heartbreak of your sigh,
The music of your laugh; and so I wait
Among the memories that will not die.

There is no night but brings its dreams of you:
There is no day but you are by my side,
No bursting spring, no leaden fall, no turn
Of changing seasons as the ages glide
But brings you back, remolds your life in mine,
Gives me the gladness of you presence here,
Breathes on my soul the impress of your life;
And so I wait, and know that you are near.


She plays with jewels that glitter and shine,
but now and again her eyes meet mine.
She dare not think she must not dream,
So she plays with jewels that sparkle and gleam.

She fingers them over and laughs to see
The glinting colors that dazzle me
A moment into forgetting her heart
And the darkness where the dead things start;

And the others may scorn her idle play,
But I know all she  has laid away,
Love and Joy and the dearest Dream;
So she plays with jewels that glitter and gleam.

She sparkles among them, an opal of fire,
Brave with the courage of dead desire:
She plays with jewels that shimmer and shine--
Except for the moment her eyes meet mine.

 Three White Hairs

Your loving fingers stroke my brow
And linger there tonight,
When in my dusky hair you find
Three shining threads of white;
And one is for a green, green grave
And one a deep regret,
The other for a hopeless love
Which never can forget.

You jest at age and graying years
While in your toying hand
Three little silver threads you see,
And do not understand
That one is like a sacred thing,
One fetters to the sod;
But oh, the other one it is
Which lifts me up to God.

Since one is for a green, green grave
And one a deep regret,
And one is for a hopeless love
Which never can forget.

Rainbows circa 1945
by Cora King Swain

 A City Wakes

Did you ever lie-- half dreaming?
Dreaming in the early dawn--
Just as day comes creeping onward
Just as night is almost gone?
And the city all about you
Seems to waken from its sleep
Rumbling wheels of distant traffic
Faintly first they seem to creep--
O'er the distant roads and byways
As a something vague-- unreal,
While another sound soon joins them
Just a brake-- or rumbling wheel.
Then a milk-man's cart goes jarring
Slowly forward on its way,
And a bell clangs in the distance
All announce the coming day.
Noises mingle and grow louder
And a bird calls to his mate;
As a whistle rends the silence
Then a pause-- a breathless wait.
Out of silence-- out of slumber
Life emerges thru dawn's gate.
Wheels of commerce once more turning
A great city is awake.

An Empty Lot

A toothless bit of empty space
A sorry looking plot,
It glares at every passer by
A city's empty lot. 
A rugged growth of tangled weeds,

Stray, straggling bits of green;
Buildings of worth on either side
It lies, unkempt between.

A sightless thing -- a vacant lot,
Catch-all for stray debris;
Yet to the dreamer it may breathe
Of future things that are to be,
When structure great of wood and steel
Will rear its mighty worth
And fling a challenge to the sky
No more a lowly thing of earth.

And so with human progress,
What now seems low and mean
Will slowly raise its consciousness 
To finer heights -- we little dream
So visualize the future 
And the chances one has got;
When next you are confronted 
With a city's empty lot.


When I feel the sea in my blood
With its tide like the beat of my heart,
When I feel that I blend with the air I breathe
And all life -- of my life is a part.
When the velvet of night clasps me close
And the stars softly for me unroll,
When all nature throbs in my pulse
And the love of all men fills my soul.
When the day sheds its sheen at my feet
And each garden and flower and tree
Pours o'er me its sweet benediction--
I'll know that I've contacted Thee.


Little time for worry, little time for strife
If we but consider, duties of our life
Use the moments wisely, and let every hour
Springing from our life-work, bear a mental flower.

Through a curtain made of rain drops
Shines a lowly setting sun
Making magic crystals sparkle
As a mystic web is spun.
Glittering in silver splendor
Little water-stars are tossed,
Drenching Earth in dewy fragrance
Till each leaf appears embossed.

Glancing upward toward the heavens
Where an archway hangs o're head
One sees pastel blend of color 
Ultra violet -- infra red.
Every shade is here reflected
Like a painting hung oh high,
An immortal beauty pictured
By a rainbow in the sky.

So thru all our imperfections
Thru our doubts and grief and fear,
If we keep our vision lifted
We will see the arch of cheer;
Like an autograph of promise
From a mighty hand above
Sending us eternal blessing,
Its God's rainbow made of love.


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