The Poems of Henry Van Dyke eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 381 pages of information about The Poems of Henry Van Dyke.

  Their hulls were heightened, their sails spread out,
    they grew with the growth of their quest;
  They opened the secret doors of the East,
    and the golden gates of the West;
  And many a city of high renown
    was proud of a ship on its crest.

  The fleets of England and Holland and France
    were at strife with each other and Spain;
  And battle and storm sent a myriad ships
    to sleep in the depths of the main;
  But the seafaring spirit could never be drowned,
    and it filled up the fleets again.

  They greatened and grew, with the aid of steam,
    to a wonderful, vast array,
  That carries the thoughts and the traffic of men
    into every harbor and bay;
  And now in the world-wide work of the ships
    ’tis England that leads the way.

  O well for the leading that follows the law
    of a common right on the sea! 
  But ill for the leader who tries to hold
    what belongs to mankind in fee! 
  The way of the ships is an open way,
    and the ocean must ever be free!

  Remember, O first of the maritime folk,
    how the rise of your greatness began. 
  It will live if you safeguard the round-the-world road
    from the shame of a selfish ban;
  For the glory of ships is a light on the sea,
    and a star in the story of man!

September 12, 1916.



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 sent 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.

Project Gutenberg
The Poems of Henry Van Dyke from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.