-Ethel Veva King

1888 - 1929

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


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 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 King

Cora King Swain

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 poems seem to hint 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


Two Moods

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 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 came 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.


Three White Hairs

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.

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.


(circa 1945)

by Cora King Swain

A City Wakes

An Empty Lot

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.

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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