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Sea-Gulls of Manhattan

Henry Van Dyke 1852 (Germantown, Pennsylvania) – 1933 (Princeton, New Jersey)

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!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:21 min read
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Henry Van Dyke

Henry Jackson van Dyke was an American author, educator, and clergyman. more…

All Henry Van Dyke poems | Henry Van Dyke Books

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