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Best Famous Henry Van Dyke Poems

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by Henry Van Dyke | |

The Heavenly Hills of Holland

 The heavenly hills of Holland,--
How wondrously they rise 
Above the smooth green pastures
Into the azure skies!
With blue and purple hollows,
With peaks of dazzling snow, 
Along the far horizon
The clouds are marching slow.
No mortal foot has trodden The summits of that range, Nor walked those mystic valleys Whose colors ever change; Yet we possess their beauty, And visit them in dreams, While the ruddy gold of sunset From cliff and canyon gleams.
In days of cloudless weather They melt into the light; When fog and mist surround us They're hidden from our sight; But when returns a season Clear shining after rain, While the northwest wind is blowing, We see the hills again.
The old Dutch painters loved them, Their pictures show them clear, Old Hobbema and Ruysdael, Van Goyen and Vermeer.
Above the level landscape, Rich polders, long-armed mills, Canals and ancient cities,-- Float Holland's heavenly hills.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

The Empty Quatrain

 A flawless cup: how delicate and fine
The flowing curve of every jewelled line!
Look, turn it up or down, 't is perfect still,--
But holds no drop of life's heart-warming wine.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

The Gentle Traveller

 Through many a land your journey ran,
And showed the best the world can boast:
Now tell me, traveller, if you can,
The place that pleased you most.
" She laid her hands upon my breast, And murmured gently in my ear, "The place I loved and liked the best Was in your arms, my dear!"

More great poems below...

by Henry Van Dyke | |


 Yes, it was like you to forget, 
And cancel in the welcome of your smile 
My deep arrears of debt,
And with the putting forth of both your hands 
To sweep away the bars my folly set
Between us -- bitter thoughts, and harsh demands, 
And reckless deeds that seemed untrue 
To love, when all the while
My heart was aching through and through 
For you, sweet heart, and only you.
Yet, as I turned to come to you again, I thought there must be many a mile Of sorrowful reproach to cross, And many an hour of mutual pain To bear, until I could make plain That all my pride was but the fear of loss, And all my doubt the shadow of despair To win a heart so innocent and fair; And even that which looked most ill Was but the fever-fret and effort vain To dull the thirst which you alone could still.
But as I turned the desert miles were crossed, And when I came the weary hours were sped! For there you stood beside the open door, Glad, gracious, smiling as before, And with bright eyes and tender hands outspread Restored me to the Eden I had lost.
Never a word of cold reproof, No sharp reproach, no glances that accuse The culprit whom they hold aloof, -- Ah, 't is not thus that other women use The power they have Won! For there is none like you, belovèd, -- none Secure enough to do what you have done.
Where did you learn this heavenly art, -- You sweetest and most wise of all that live, -- With silent welcome to impart Assurance of the royal heart That never questions where it would forgive? None but a queen could pardon me like this! My sovereign lady, let me lay Within each rosy palm a loyal kiss Of penitence, then close the fingers up, Thus -- thus! Now give the cup Of full nepenthe in your crimson mouth, And come -- the garden blooms with bliss, The wind is in the south, The rose of love with dew is wet -- Dear, it was like you to forget!

by Henry Van Dyke | |

One World

 "The worlds in which we live are two
The world 'I am' and the world 'I do.
'" The worlds in which we live at heart are one, The world "I am," the fruit of "I have done"; And underneath these worlds of flower and fruit, The world "I love,"--the only living root.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Pan Learns Music

 Limber-limbed, lazy god, stretched on the rock,
Where is sweet Echo, and where is your flock? 
What are you making here? "Listen," said Pan, --
"Out of a river-reed music for man!"

by Henry Van Dyke | |


 I would not even ask my heart to say
If I could love some other land as well
As thee, my country, had I felt the spell
Of Italy at birth, or learned to obey
The charm of France, or England's mighty sway.
I would not be so much an infidel As once to dream, or fashion words to tell, What land could hold my love from thee away.
For like a law of nature in my blood I feel thy sweet and secret sovereignty, And woven through my soul thy vital sign.
My life is but a wave, and thou the flood; I am a leaf and thou the mother-tree; Nor should I be at all, were I not thine.

by Henry Van Dyke | |


 Let me but love my love without disguise,
Nor wear a mask of fashion old or new,
Nor wait to speak till I can hear a clue,
Nor play a part to shine in others' eyes,
Nor bow my knees to what my heart denies;
But what I am, to that let me be true,
And let me worship where my love is due,
And so through love and worship let me rise.
For love is but the heart's immortal thirst To be completely known and all forgiven, Even as sinful souls that enter Heaven: So take me, dear, and understand my worst, And freely pardon it, because confessed, And let me find in loving thee, my best.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Urbs Coronata

 (Song for the City College of New York) 

O youngest of the giant brood 
Of cities far-renowned;
In wealth and power thou hast passed
Thy rivals at a bound;
And now thou art a queen, New York;
And how wilt thou be crowned? 

"Weave me no palace-wreath of pride,"
The royal city said;
"Nor forge an iron fortress-wall
To frown upon my head;
But let me wear a diadem
Of Wisdom's towers instead.
" And so upon her island height She worked her will forsooth, She set upon her rocky brow A citadel of Truth, A house of Light, a home of Thought, A shrine of noble Youth.
Stand here, ye City College towers, And look both up and down; Remember all who wrought for you Within the toiling town; Remember all they thought for you, And all the hopes they brought for you, And be the City's Crown.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

When Tulips Bloom


When tulips bloom in Union Aquare, 
And timid breaths of vernal air 
Go wandering down the dusty town, 
Like children lost in Vanity Fair; 

When every long, unlovely row 
Of westward houses stands aglow, 
And leads the eyes to sunset skies 
Beyond the hills where green trees grow; 

Then wearly seems the street parade, 
And weary books, and weary trade: 
I'm only wishing to go a-fishing; 
For this the month of May was made.
II I guess the pussy-willows now Are creeping out on every bough Along the brook; and robins look For early worms behind the plough.
The thistle-birds have changed their dun, For yellow coats, to match the sun; And in the same array of flame The Dandelion Show's begun.
The flocks of young anemones Are dancing round the budding trees: Who can help wishing to go a-fishing In days as full of joy as these? III I think the meadow-lark's clear sound Leaks upward slowly from the ground, While on the wing the bluebirds ring Their wedding-bells to woods around.
The flirting chewink calls his dear Behind the bush; and very near, Where water flows, where green grass grows, Song-sparrows gently sing, "Good cheer.
" And, best of all, through twilight's calm The hermit-thrush repeats his psalm.
How mush I'm wishing to go a-fishing In days so sweet with music's balm! IV 'Tis not a proud desire of mine; I ask for nothing superfine; No heavy weight, no salmon great, To break the record, or my line.
Only an idle little stream, Whose amber waters softly gleam, Where I may wade, through woodland shade, And cast the fly, and loaf, and dream: Only a trout or two, to dart >From foaming pools, and try my art: 'Tis all I'm wishing--old-fashioned fishing, And just a day on Nature's heart.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

The Name of France

 Give us a name to fill the mind 
With the shining thoughts that lead mankind, 
The glory of learning, the joy of art, -- 
A name that tells of a splendid part 
In the long, long toil and the strenuous fight 
Of the human race to win its way 
From the feudal darkness into the day 
Of Freedom, Brotherhood, Equal Right, -- 
A name like a star, a name of light.
I give you France! Give us a name to move the heart With a warmer glow and a swifter flood, -- A name like the sound of a trumpet, clear, And silver-sweet, and iron-strong, That calls three million men to their feet, Ready to march, and steady to meet The foes who threaten that name with wrong, -- A name that rings like a battle-song.
I give you France! Give us a name to move the heart With the strength that noble griefs impart, A name that speaks of the blood outpoured To save minkind from the sway of the sword, -- A name that calls on the world to share In the burden of sacrificial strife Where the cause at stake is the world's free life Andthe rule of the people everywhere, -- A name like a vow, a name like a prayer.
I give you France!

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Sea-Gulls of Manhattan

 Children of the elemental mother, 
Born upon some lonely island shore 
Where the wrinkled ripples run and whisper,
Where the crested billows plunge and roar; 
Long-winged, tireless roamers and adventurers,
Fearless breasters of the wind and sea,
In the far-off solitary places
I have seen you floating wild and free! 

Here the high-built cities rise around you;
Here the cliffs that tower east and west, 
Honeycombed with human habitations,
Have no hiding for the sea-bird's nest: 
Here the river flows begrimed and troubled;
Here the hurrying, panting vessels fume, 
Restless, up and down the watery highway,
While a thousand chimneys vomit gloom.
Toil and tumult, confiict and confusion, Clank and clamor of the vast machine Human hands have built for human bondage -- Yet amid it all you float serene; Circling, soaring, sailing, swooping lightly Down to glean your harvest from the wave; In your heritage of air and water, You have kept the freedom Nature gave.
Even so the wild-woods of Manhattan Saw your wheeling flocks of white and grey; Even so you fluttered, followed, floated, Round the Half-Moon creeping up the bay; Even so your voices creaked and chattered, Laughing shrilly o'er the tidal rips, While your black and beady eyes were glistening Round the sullen British prison-ships.
Children of the elemental mother, Fearless floaters 'mid the double blue, From the crowded boats that cross the ferries Many a longing heart goes out to you.
Though the cities climb and close around us, Something tells us that our souls are free, While the sea-gulls fly above the harbor, While the river flows to meet the sea!

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Stars and the Soul

 To Charles A.
Young, Astronomer "Two things," the wise man said, "fill me with awe: The starry heavens and the moral law.
" Nay, add another wonder to thy roll, -- The living marvel of the human soul! Born in the dust and cradled in the dark, It feels the fire of an immortal spark, And learns to read, with patient, searching eyes, The splendid secret of the unconscious skies.
For God thought Light before He spoke the word; The darkness understood not, though it heard: But man looks up to where the planets swim, And thinks God's thoughts of glory after Him.
What knows the star that guides the sailor's way, Or lights the lover's bower with liquid ray, Of toil and passion, danger and distress, Brave hope, true love, and utter faithfulness? But human hearts that suffer good and ill, And hold to virtue with a loyal will, Adorn the law that rules our mortal strife With star-surpassing victories of life.
So take our thanks, dear reader of the skies, Devout astronomer, most humbly wise, For lessons brighter than the stars can give, And inward light that helps us all to live.
The world has brought the laurel-leaves to crown The star-discoverer's name with high renown; Accept the flower of love we lay with these For influence sweeter than the Pleiades!

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Lights Out

 "Lights out" along the land,
"Lights out" upon the sea.
The night must put her hiding hand O'er peaceful towns where children sleep, And peaceful ships that darkly creep Across the waves, as if they were not free.
The dragons of the air, The hell-hounds of the deep, Lurking and prowling everywhere, Go forth to seek their helpless prey, Not knowing whom they maim or slay-- Mad harvesters, who care not what they reap.
Out with the tranquil lights, Out with the lights that burn For love and law and human rights! Set back the clock a thousand years: All they have gained now disappears, And the dark ages suddenly return.
Kaiser who loosed wild death, And terror in the night-- God grant you draw no quiet breath, Until the madness you began Is ended, and long-suffering man, Set free from war lords, cries, "Let there be Light.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Love in a Look

 Let me but feel thy look's embrace, 
Transparent, pure, and warm, 
And I'll not ask to touch thy face,
Or fold thee with 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.
A loving-cup of golden wine, Songs of a silver brook, And fragrant breaths of eglantine, Are mingled in thy look.
More fair they are than any star, Thy topaz eyes divine -- And deep within their trysting-nook Thy spirit blends with mine.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Loves Nearness

 I think of thee, when golden sunbeams shimmer
Across the sea;
And when the waves reflect the moon's pale glimmer,
I think of thee.
I see thy form, when down the distant highway The dust-clouds rise; In deepest night, above the mountain by-way, I see thine eyes.
I hear thee when the ocean-tides returning Loudly rejoice; And on the lonely moor, in stillness yearning, I hear thy voice.
I dwell with thee: though thou art far removed, Yet art thou near.
The sun goes down, the stars shine out, --- Beloved, Ah, wert thou here!

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Loves Reason

 For that thy face is fair I love thee not;
Nor yet because the light of thy brown eyes
Hath gleams of wonder and of glad surprise,
Like woodland streams that cross a sunlit spot:
Nor for thy beauty, born without a blot,
Most perfect when it shines through no disguise
Pure as the star of Eve in Paradise, ---
For all these outward things I love thee not:

But for a something in thy form and face,
Thy looks and ways, of primal harmony;
A certain soothing charm, a vital grace
That breathes of the eternal womanly,
And makes me feel the warmth of Nature's breast,
When in her arms, and thine, I sink to rest.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Mare Liberum

 You dare to say with perjured lips, 
"We fight to make the ocean free"? 
You, whose black trail of butchered ships 
Bestrews the bed of every sea 
Where German submarines have wrought 
Their horrors! Have you never thought, -- 
What you call freedom, men call piracy! 

Unnumbered ghosts that haunt the wave 
Where you have murdered, cry you down; 
And seamen whom you would not save, 
Weave now in weed-grown depths a crown 
Of shame for your imperious head, -- 
A dark memorial of the dead, -- 
Women and children whom you left to drown.
Nay, not till thieves are set to guard The gold, and corsairs called to keep O'er peaceful commerce watch and ward, And wolves to herd the helpless sheep, Shall men and women look to thee -- Thou ruthless Old Man of the Sea -- To safeguard law and freedom on the deep! In nobler breeds we put our trust: The nations in whose sacred lore The "Ought" stands out above the "Must," And Honor rules in peace and war.
With these we hold in soul and heart, With these we choose our lot and part, Till Liberty is safe on sea and shore.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Mother Earth

 Mother of all the high-strung poets and singers departed,
Mother of all the grass that weaves over their graves the glory of the field,
Mother of all the manifold forms of life, deep-bosomed, patient, impassive,
Silent brooder and nurse of lyrical joys and sorrows!
Out of thee, yea, surely out of the fertile depth below thy breast,
Issued in some strange way, thou lying motionless, voiceless,
All these songs of nature, rhythmical, passionate, yearning,
Coming in music from earth, but not unto earth returning.
Dust are the blood-red hearts that beat in time to these measures, Thou hast taken them back to thyself, secretly, irresistibly Drawing the crimson currents of life down, down, down Deep into thy bosom again, as a river is lost in the sand.
But the souls of the singers have entered into the songs that revealed them, -- Passionate songs, immortal songs of joy and grief and love and longing: Floating from heart to heart of thy children, they echo above thee: Do they not utter thy heart, the voices of those that love thee? Long hadst thou lain like a queen transformed by some old enchantment Into an alien shape, mysterious, beautiful, speechless, Knowing not who thou wert, till the touch of thy Lord and Lover Working within thee awakened the man-child to breathe thy secret.
All of thy flowers and birds and forests and flowing waters Are but enchanted forms to embody the life of the spirit; Thou thyself, earth-mother, in mountain and meadow and ocean, Holdest the poem of God, eternal thought and emotion.

by Henry Van Dyke | |


 Across a thousand miles of sea, a hundred leagues of land,
Along a path I had not traced and could not understand,
I travelled fast and far for this, -- to take thee by the hand.
A pilgrim knowing not the shrine where he would bend his knee, A mariner without a dream of what his port would be, So fared I with a seeking heart until I came to thee.
O cooler than a grove of palm in some heat-weary place, O fairer than an isle of calm after the wild sea race, The quiet room adorned with flowers where first I saw thy face! Then furl the sail, let fall the oar, forget the paths of foam! The Power that made me wander far at last has brought me home To thee, dear haven of my heart, and I no more will roam.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

The Window

 All night long, by a distant bell,
The passing hours were notched
On the dark, while her breathing rose and fell,
And the spark of life I watched
In her face was glowing or fading, -- who could tell? --
And the open window of the room,
With a flare of yellow light,
Was peering out into the gloom,
Like an eye that searched the night.
Oh, what do you see in the dark, little window, and why do you fear? "I see that the garden is crowded with creeping forms of fear: Little white ghosts in the locust-tree, that wave in the night-wind's breath, And low in the leafy laurels the larking shadow of death.
" Sweet, clear notes of a waking bird Told of the passing away Of the dark, -- and my darling may have heard; For she smiled in her sleep, while the ray Of the rising dawn spoke joy without a word, Till the splendor born in the east outburned The yellow lamplight, pale and thin, And the open window slowly turned To the eye of the morning, looking in.
Oh, what do you see in the room, little window, that makes you so bright? "I see that a child is asleep on her pillow, soft and white, With the rose of life on her tips, and the breath of life in her breast, And the arms of God around her as she quietly takes her rest.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

They Who Tread the Path of Labor

 They who tread the path of labor follow where My feet have trod; 
They who work without complaining, do the holy will of God; 
Nevermore thou needest seek me; I am with thee everywhere; 
Raise the stone, and thou shalt find Me, clease the wood and I am there.
Where the many toil together, there am I among My own; Where the tired workman sleepeth, there am I with him alone: I, the Peace that passeth knowledge, dwell amid the daily strife; I, the Bread of Heav'n am broken in the sacrement of life.
Every task, however simple, sets the soul that does it free; Every deed of love and mercy, done to man is done to Me.
Nevermore thou needest seek me; I am with thee everywhere; Raise the stone, and thou shalt find Me; cleave the wood, and I am there.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

Time Is

 Time is 
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

To James Whitcomb Riley

 On his "Book of Joyous Children"

Yours is a garden of old-fashioned flowers;
Joyous children delight to play there;
Weary men find rest in its bowers,
Watching the lingering light of day there.
Old-time tunes and young love's laughter Ripple and run among the roses; Memory's echoes, murmuring after, Fill the dusk when the long day closes.
Simple songs with a cadence olden-- These you learned in the Forest of Arden: Friendly flowers with hearts all golden-- These you borrowed from Eden's garden.
This is the reason why all men love you; Truth to life is the charm of art: Other poets may soar above you-- You keep close to the human heart.

by Henry Van Dyke | |

To Julia Marlowe

 Long had I loved this "Attic shape," the brede 
Of marble maidens round this urn divine:
But when your golden voice began to read,
The empty urn was filled with Chian wine.