“America for Me,” by Henry Van Dyke, Jr.

Henry Van Dyke, Jr. (1852-1933) was sent as United States ambassador to Holland and Luxemburg in 1913, just before the Great War (World War I) erupted. Perhaps it was that experience that led him to write one of my favorite patriotic poems.

“America for Me”

‘Tis fine to see the Old World, and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown,
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of the kings, –
But now I think I’ve had enough of antiquated things.

So it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be,
In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.

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.

I like the German fir-woods, in green battalions drilled;
I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing fountains filled;
But, oh, to take your hand, my dear, and ramble for a day
In the friendly western woodland where Nature has her way!

I know that Europe’s wonderful, yet something seems to lack:
The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back.
But the glory of the Present is to make the Future free, –
We love our land for what she is and what she is to be.

Oh, it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
I want a ship that’s westward bound to plough 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.

One of Van Dyke’s most famous poems was written ca. 1900 for a sundial on the estate of his friends Spencer and Katrina Trask. It’s called “Time Is,” or “For Katrina’s Sundial.”

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.

Katrina Trask commissioned a memorial for her husband from Daniel Chester French. The  Trask Memorial, also known as “Spirit of Life,” is one of my favorites by French. Larger images are available here, and a great close-up here (scroll down just over halfway).

Daniel Chester French, Spencer Trask Memorial, 1915. Saratoga Springs, New York. Photo: N-Lange.de / Wikipedia

More

  • My favorite book on French, Daniel Chester French: An American Sculptor, by Michael Richman, has a chapter on each of French’s major works and photos of sketches and models as well as the finished sculptures. I bought my copy years ago when I visited Chesterwood, French’s home and studio. (Why do such places encourage exhibitions of truly stupid non-representational art? Have a look at the Chesterwood home page.)
  • Here’s an awesomely distracting Pinterest page of French sculptures. And check out Doug Yeo’s page – he’s got a fantastic collection of photos.

About Dianne L. Durante

I’m an independent scholar and freelance writer /lecturer on art and art history, with forays into food, history, politics, and publishing. My most recent projects are *Innovators in Sculpture¸* a survey of 5,000 years of art in two hours, and *Monuments of Manhattan,* a videoguide app by Guides Who Know that’s based on my book *Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide.*

Comments are closed.