By Henry Van Dyke
(1852 - 1933)
An Angler’s Wish

WHEN tulips bloom in Union Square,
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 towards sunset skies
Beyond the hills where green trees grow,—
Then weary 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.

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?

I think the meadow-lark’s clear sound
Leaks upward slowly from the ground,
  While on the wing the blue-birds 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 much I ’m wishing to go a-fishing
In days so sweet with music’s balm!

’T is 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:
  No more I ’m wishing—old-fashioned fishing,
And just a day on Nature’s heart.
Four Things
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.
Roslin and Hawthornden
FAIR Roslin Chapel, how divine
The art that reared thy costly shrine!
Thy carven columns must have grown
By magic, like a dream in stone.
Yet not within thy storied wall
Would I in adoration fall,
So gladly as within the glen
That leads to lovely Hawthornden:
A long-drawn aisle, with roof of green
And vine-clad pillars, while between
The Esk runs murmuring on its way,
In living music, night and day.
Within the temple of this wood
The martyrs of the convenant stood,
And rolled the psalm, and poured the prayer,
From Nature’s solemn altar-stair.
In Lucem Transitus, October, 1892
FROM the misty shores of midnight, touched with splendors of the moon,
To the singing tides of heaven, and the light more clear than noon,
Passed a soul that grew to music till it was with God in tune.
Brother of the greatest poets, true to nature, true to art;
Lover of Immortal Love, uplifter of the human heart,—
Who shall cheer us with high music, who shall sing, if thou depart?
Silence here—for love is silent, gazing on the lessening sail;
Silence here—for grief is voiceless when the mighty minstrels fail;
Silence here—but, far beyond us, many voices crying, Hail!
The Lily of Yorrow
DEEP in the heart of the forest the lily of Yorrow is growing;
Blue is its cup as the sky, and with mystical odor o’erflowing;
Faintly it falls through the shadowy glades when the south wind is blowing;
Sweet are the primroses pale, and the violets after a shower;
Sweet are the borders of pinks, and the blossoming grapes on the bower:
Sweeter by far is the breath of that far-away woodland flower.
Searching and strange in its sweetness, it steals like a perfume enchanted
Under the arch of the forest, and all who perceive it are haunted,
Seeking and seeking forever, till sight of the lily is granted.
Who can describe how it grows, with its chalice of lazuli leaning
Over a crystalline spring, where the ferns and the mosses are greening?
Who can imagine its beauty, or utter the depth of its meaning?
Calm of the journeying stars, and repose of the mountains olden,
Joy of the swift-running rivers, and glory of sunsets golden,
Secrets that cannot be told in the heart of the flower are holden.
Surely to see it is peace and the crown of a life-long endeavor;
Surely to pluck it is gladness,—but they who have found it can never
Tell of the gladness and peace: they are hid from our vision forever.
’T was but a moment ago that a comrade was wandering near me:
Turning aside from the pathway, he murmured a greeting to cheer me,—
Then he was lost in the shade, and I called, but he did not hear me.
Why should I dream he is dead, and bewail him with passionate sorrow?
Surely I know there is gladness in finding the lily of Yorrow:
He has discovered it first, and perhaps I shall find it to-morrow.
The Veery
THE MOONBEAMS over Arno’s vale in silver flood were pouring,
When first I heard the nightingale a long-lost love deploring.
So passionate, so full of pain, it sounded strange and eerie;
I longed to hear a simpler strain,—the wood-notes of the veery.
The laverock sings a bonny lay above the Scottish heather;
It sprinkles down from far away like light and love together;
He drops the golden notes to greet his brooding mate, his dearie;
I only know one song more sweet,—the vespers of the veery.
In English gardens, green and bright and full of fruity treasure,
I heard the blackbird with delight repeat his merry measure:
The ballad was a pleasant one, the tune was loud and cheery,
And yet, with every setting sun, I listened for the veery.
But far away, and far away, the tawny thrush is singing;
New England woods, at close of day, with that clear chant are ringing:
And when my light of life is low, and heart and flesh are weary,
I fain would hear, before I go, the wood-notes of the veery.