Henry van Dyke

What we do belongs to what we are; and what we are is what becomes of us.

Henry van Dyke (1852–1933) was an American author, educator, poet, playwright, and clergyman.

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Thou warden of the western gate, above Manhattan Bay,
The fogs of doubt that hid thy face are driven clean away:
Thine eyes at last look far and clear, thou liftest high thy hand
To spread the light of liberty world-wide for every land.
O dearest country of my heart, home of the high desire,
Make clean thy soul for sacrifice on Freedom’s altar-fire:
For thou must suffer, thou must fight, until the warlords cease,
And all the peoples lift their heads in liberty and peace.
  • So in the heart,
    When, fading slowly down the past,
    Fond memories depart,
    And each that leaves it seems the last;
    Long after all the rest are flown,
    Returns a solitary tone,—
    The after-echo of departed years,—
    And touches all the soul to tears.
    • The After-Echo, st. 2 (1871).
  • A tear that trembles for a little while
    Upon the trembling eyelid, till the world
    Wavers within its circle like a dream,
    Holds more of meaning in its narrow orb
    Than all the distant landscape that it blurs.
    • Dulciora, st. 1 (1872).
  • And so, by night, while we were all at rest,
    I think the coming sped the parting guest.
    • The Parting and the Coming Guest (1873).
  • What we do belongs to what we are; and what we are is what becomes of us.
    • Ships and Havens, ch. 2 (1898).
  • The legend of Felix is ended, the toiling of Felix is done;
    The Master has paid him his wages, the goal of his journey is won;
    He rests, but he never is idle; a thousand years pass like a day,
    In the glad surprise of Paradise where work is sweeter than play.
    • The Toiling of Felix, Pt. III, st. 1 (1898).
  • This is the gospel of labour, ring it, ye bells of the kirk!
    The Lord of Love came down from above, to live with the men who work.
    This is the rose that He planted, here in the thorn-curst soil:
    Heaven is blest with perfect rest, but the blessing of Earth is toil.
    • The Toiling of Felix, Pt. III, st. 5.
  • For men have dulled their eyes with sin,
    And dimmed the light of heaven with doubt,
    And built their temple-walls to shut thee in,
    And framed their iron creeds to shut thee out.
    • God of the Open Air, st. III (1904).
  • This is the soldier brave enough to tell
    The glory-dazzled world that "war is hell":
    Lover of peace, he looks beyond the strife,
    And rides through hell to save his country's life.
    • The Statue of Sherman by St. Gaudens (1904).
  • Count not the cost of honour to the dead!
    The tribute that a mighty nation pays
    To those who loved her well in former days
    Means more than gratitude for glories fled;
    For every noble man that she hath bred,
    Lives in the bronze and marble that we raise,
    Immortalised by art's immortal praise,
    To lead our sons as he our fathers led.
    • National Monuments, st. 1 (February 1905).
  • O brave flag, O bright flag, O flag to lead the free!
    The glory of thy silver stars,
    Engrailed in blue above the bars
    Of red for courage, white for truth,
    Has brought the world a second youth
    And drawn a hundred million hearts to follow after thee.
    • Who Follow the Flag, Phi Kappa Beta Ode, Harvard University (June 30, 1910).
  • Honour the brave who sleep
    Where the lost “Titanic” lies,
    The men who knew what a man must do
    When he looks Death in the eyes.

    “Women and children first,”—
    Ah, strong and tender cry!
    The sons whom women had borne and nursed,
    Remembered,—and dared to die.

    The boats crept off in the dark:
    The great ship groaned: and then,—
    O stars of the night, who saw that sight,
    Bear witness, These were men!

    • Heroes of the "Titantic" (November 9, 1912).
  • What is Friendship? Something deep
    That the heart can spend and keep:
    Wealth that greatens while we give,
    Praise that heartens us to live.
    • The Talisman, st. 2 (January 21, 1914).
  • If Might made Right, life were a wild-beasts' cage;
    If Right made Might, this were the golden age;
    But now, until we win the long campaign,
    Right must gain Might to conquer and to reign.
    • Might and Right (July 1, 1915).
  • God said, “I am tired of kings,”—
    But that was a long while ago!
    And meantime man said, “No,—
    I like their looks in their robes and rings.”
    So he crowned a few more,
    And they went on playing the game as before,
    Fighting and spoiling things.

    Man said, “I am tired of kings!
    Sons of the robber-chiefs of yore,
    They make me pay for their lust and their war;
    I am the puppet, they pull the strings;
    The blood of my heart is the wine they drink.
    I will govern myself for awhile I think,
    And see what that brings!”

    Then God, who made the first remark,
    Smiled in the dark.

    • Remarks About Kings (October 1915).
  • They tell me thou art rich, my country: gold
    In glittering flood has poured into thy chest;
    Thy flocks and herds increase, thy barns are pressed
    With harvest, and thy stores can hardly hold
    Their merchandise; unending trains are rolled
    Along thy network rails of East and West;
    Thy factories and forges never rest;
    Thou art enriched in all things bought and sold!

    But dost thou prosper? Better news I crave.
    O dearest country, is it well with thee
    Indeed, and is thy soul in health?
    A nobler people, hearts more wisely brave,
    And thoughts that lift men up and make them free,—
    These are prosperity and vital wealth!

    • America's Prosperity (October 1, 1916).
  • Peace without Justice is a low estate,—
    A coward cringing to an iron Fate!
    But Peace through Justice is the great ideal,—
    We'll pay the price of war to make it real.
    • The Price of Peace (December 28, 1916).
  • I have no joy in strife,
    Peace is my great desire;
    Yet God forbid I lose my life
    Through fear to face the fire.

    A peaceful man must fight
    For that which peace demands,—
    Freedom and faith, honor and right,
    Defend with heart and hands.

    • The Peaceful Warrior, st. 1-2 (May 1918).
  • And yet there is an anger that purifies the heart:
    The anger of the better against the baser part,
    Against the false and wicked, against the tyrant's sword,
    Against the enemies of love, and all that hate the Lord.
    • Righteous Wrath, st. 2 (January 1918).
  • Four things a man must learn to do
    If he would make his record true:
    To think without confusion clearly;
    To love his fellow-men sincerely;
    To act from honest motives purely;
    To trust in God and Heaven securely.
    • "Four Things," Poems, vol. 1 (vol. 9 of The Works of Henry Van Dyke) (1920).
  • Flowers rejoice when night is done,
    Lift their heads to greet the sun;
    Sweetest looks and odours raise,
    In a silent hymn of praise.
    • Matins, st. 1.
  • If all the skies were sunshine,
    Our faces would be fain
    To feel once more upon them
    The cooling splash of rain.

    If all the world were music,
    Our hearts would often long
    For one sweet strain of silence.
    To break the endless song.

    If life were always merry,
    Our souls would seek relief,
    And rest from weary laughter
    In the quiet arms of grief.

    • If All the Skies.
  • The world is full of warfare 'twixt the evil and the good;
    I watched the battle from afar as one who understood
    The shouting and confusion, the bloody, blundering fight—
    How few there are that see it clear, how few that wage it right!
    • Another Chance.
  • Religion? Yes, I know it well; I've heard its prayers and creeds,
    And seen men put them all to shame with poor, half-hearted deeds.
    They follow Christ, but far away; they wander and they doubt.
    I'll serve him in a better way, and live his precepts out.
    • Another Chance.
  • Let me but feel thy look's embrace,
    Transparent, pure, and warm,
    And I'll not ask to touch thy face,
    Or fold thee in mine arm.
    For in thine eyes a girl doth rise,
    Arrayed in candid bliss,
    And draws me to her with a charm
    More close than any kiss.
    • Love in a Look.
  • There are many kinds of love, as many kinds of light,
    And every kind of love makes a glory in the night.
    There is love that stirs the heart, and love that gives it rest,
    But the love that leads life upward is the noblest and the best.
    • Love and Light.
  • But often faltering feet
    Come surest to the goal;
    And they who walk in darkness meet
    The sunrise of the soul.
    • Reliance, st. 2.
  • He that planteth a tree is the servant of God,
    He provideth a kindness for many generations,
    And faces that he hath not seen shall bless him.
    • The Friendly Trees.
  • To be glad of life because it gives you to chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars- to be satisfied with your possessions but not content with yourself until you have made the best of them- to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice- to be governed by you admirations rather than by your disgusts- to covet nothing that is your neighbors except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners- to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends, and every day of Christ; to spend as much time as you can in God's out-of doors- these are the little guideposts on the footpaths to peace.
    • Footpaths to Peace.

The Fall of the Leaves (1874)Edit

  • In warlike pomp, with banners flowing,
    The regiments of autumn stood:
    I saw their gold and scarlet glowing
    From every hillside, every wood.
    • I, st. 1.
  • I heard through the night
    The rush and the clamour;
    The pulse of the fight
    Like blows of Thor's hammer;
    The pattering flight
    Of the leaves, and the anguished
    Moan of the forest vanquished.
    • II, st. 2.
  • The storm is ended! The impartial sun
    Laughs down upon the battle lost and won,
    And crowns the triumph of the cloudy host
    In rolling lines retreating to the coast.
    • III, st. 1.
  • For ever so our thoughtful hearts repeat
    On fields of triumph dirges of defeat;
    And still we turn on gala-days to tread
    Among the rustling memories of the dead.
    • III, st. 3.

America for Me (1909)Edit

  • Oh, London is a man’s town, there’s power in the air;
    And Paris is a woman’s town, with flowers in her hair;
    And it’s sweet to dream in Venice, and it’s great to study Rome;
    But when it comes to living, there is no place like home.
    • Lines 9-12.
  • I know that Europe’s wonderful, yet something seems to lack;
    The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back.
    • Lines 17-18.
  • Oh, it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
    I want a ship that’s westward bound to plow the rolling sea,
    To the blessed Land of Room Enough beyond the ocean bars,
    Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.
    • Lines 21-24.

Liberty Enlightening the World (1917)Edit

  • Thou warden of the western gate, above Manhattan Bay,
    The fogs of doubt that hid thy face are driven clean away:
    Thine eyes at last look far and clear, thou liftest high thy hand
    To spread the light of liberty world-wide for every land.
  • Oh, come as comes the morn.
    Serene and strong and full of faith, America, arise,
    With steady hope and mighty help to join thy brave Allies.
    O dearest country of my heart, home of the high desire,
    Make clean thy soul for sacrifice on Freedom’s altar-fire:
    For thou must suffer, thou must fight, until the warlords cease,
    And all the peoples lift their heads in liberty and peace.

Quotes about van DykeEdit

  • He is a Presbyterian first and an artist second, which is just as comfortable as trying to be a Presbyterian first and a chorus girl second.
    • H.L. Mencken, "The National Letters," from Prejudices: Second Series, ch. 1 (1920).

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Last modified on 13 April 2014, at 07:54