Dear to my heart are the ancestral dwellings of America,
Dearer than if they were haunted by ghosts of royal splendour;
These are the homes that were built by the brave beginners of a nation,
They are simple enough to be great, and full of a friendly dignity.
I love the old white farmhouses nestled in New England valleys,
Ample and long and low, with elm-trees feathering over them:
Borders of box in the yard, and lilacs, and old-fashioned Howers,
A fan-light above the door, and little square panes in the windows,
The wood-shed piled with maple and birch and hickory ready for winter,
The gambrel-roof with its garret crowded with household relics, --
All the tokens of prudent thrift and the spirit of self-reliance.
I love the look of the shingled houses that front the ocean;
Their backs are bowed, and their lichened sides are weather-beaten;
Soft in their colour as grey pearls, they are full of patience and courage.
They seem to grow out of the rocks, there is something indomitable about them:
Facing the briny wind in a lonely land they stand undaunted,
While the thin blue line of smoke from the square-built chimney rises,
Telling of shelter for man, with room for a hearth and a cradle.
I love the stately southern mansions with their tall white columns,
They look through avenues of trees, over fields where the cotton is growing;
I can see the flutter of white frocks along their shady porches,
Music and laughter float from the windows, the yards are full of hounds and horses.
They have all ridden away, yet the houses have not forgotten,
They are proud of their name and place, and their doors are always open,
For the thing they remember best is the pride of their ancient hospitality.
In the towns I love the discreet and tranquil Quaker dwellings,
With their demure brick faces and immaculate white-stone doorsteps;
And the gabled houses of the Dutch, with their high stoops and iron railings,
(I can see their little brass knobs shining in the morning sunlight);
And the solid houses of the descendants of the Puritans,
Fronting the street with their narrow doors and dormer-windows;
And the triple-galleried, many-pillared mansions of Charleston,
Standing sideways in their gardens full of roses and magnolias.
Yes, they are all dear to my heart, and in my eyes they are beautiful;
For under their roofs were nourished the thoughts that have made the nation;
The glory and strength of America came from her ancestral dwellings.
Top Henry Van Dyke Poems