Here the egret and flamingo, fleeing
From the invading and death dealing foe,
Find escape for a dread time-being
O’er the bones of the one laid below;
Merrick, George E. “A Grave in the Everglades.” In Song of the Wind on a Southern Shore, and Other Poems of Florida. Boston: The Four Seas Company, 1920.
Most Floridians could easily picture a gator creeping out of hiding when reading these lines from “Song of the Wind on a Southern Shore, and Other Poems of Florida”. But they would not as easily imagine the author of all the poems in this collection is George E. Merrick, founder of the city of Coral Gables. This poem captures the essence of the Everglades, while paying respectful tribute to a bygone Native American dweller. The book includes six rich illustrations by Merrick’s uncle, renowned illustrator Denman Fink. Arriving in South Florida in 1899 as a young boy, Merrick and his family lived as true pioneers, clearing the land to grow fruits and vegetables, and carrying these on a mule drawn wagon to be sold at the newly incorporated small village of Miami. Tutored while growing up, he was able to attend Rollins College and later study law in New York.
His father’s illness brought Merrick back home to manage the plantation, which he developed to be one of the most prosperous plantations of citrus and tropical fruits. Yet his creative mind and admiration of beauty gave way to what he is most known for, the founding of ‘Coral Gables, The City Beautiful.’ Around the same time his book of poems was published in 1920, Merrick was planning the development of Coral Gables. He was inspired by the Garden City and City Beautiful movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and included Mediterranean Revival style architecture amidst lush green avenues and ornate plazas. Merrick donated the land and funds to build Coral Gables’ university, the University of Miami.
Throughout his life, Merrick continued to follow his childhood love of writing. He was published in various types of publications; and his article on pre-Flagler Southeast Florida was published in the inaugural 1941 issue of Tequesta, The Journal of the Historical Association of Southern Florida. Merrick himself was a co-founder of this Historical Association. His admiration for the simple beauties of Florida, from St. Augustine to the Everglades, are reflected in his book of poems, and resonate of earlier pioneer days when he was growing up in the Florida wilderness.
This book of poems has been digitized and is available through the Digital Public Library of America.