Henry van Dyke

America For Me by Henry Van Dyke

‘America For Me’ by Henry Van Dyke is a passionate, patriotic poem about America. It celebrates how different the United States is from Europe. 

The author, Van Dyke, was an American poet who is better remembered for working as a Presbyterian clergyman and working as a lecturer in Paris. He spent time in countries around the world, including striving as Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg right as WWI was beginning. This poem is likely inspired by his experiences and his love for his home. 

America For Me
Henry Van Dyke

'Tis fine to see the Old World and travel up and downAmong the famous palaces and cities of renown,To admire the crumblyh castles and the statues and kingsBut 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 foutains filled;But, oh, to take your had, my dear, and ramble for a dayIn the friendly western woodland where Nature has her sway!

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.
America For Me by Henry Van Dyke


Summary 

‘America For Me’ by Henry Van Dyke is a heartfelt poem that celebrates what sets America apart from Europe. 

In the first lines of this poem, the speaker describes how they’ve been traveling around Europe and are thrilled to be on their way home to the United States. They live there and feel that the country has something to offer that all European countries do not. It is looking towards the future while Europe is stuck in the past. The poem ends with a repetition of some of the poem’s more memorable lines. 

Structure and Form 

‘America For Me’ by Henry Van Dyke is a six-stanza poem that is divided into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of AABB, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. The poem, despite a few unusual words, is written in a simple style. Most readers will be able to grasp the poet’s meaning without having to decipher complicated figurative expressions. 

Literary Devices 

In this poem, the poet uses a few literary devices. These include: 

  • Refrain: the repetition of an entire line of verse. For example, “America for me” appears twice in the poem and once in the title. 
  • Allusion: the poem is filled with allusions, or references, to the history of the United States and Europe. 
  • Alliteration: the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “crumbly castles.” 


Detailed Analysis 

Stanza One 

‘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 and kings

But now I think I’ve had enough of antiquated things.

In the first lines of ‘America For Me,’ the speaker begins by describing how they’ve spent time in the “Old World” or in Europe, where they’ve been traveling to famous destinations and seeing ancient cities. But the crumbly castles and statues aren’t quite the same as this person’s home. They feel, at the end of their trip, that they’re ready to return to their home. With the title and the reference to the “Old World” taken into consideration, it’s quite clear that this person’s home is in America, the “New World.” 

Stanza Two 

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.

In the second stanza, the poet’s speaker celebrates the fact that it’s time to go home to America. It’s “America” that this person cares the most about. If they had to pick a country to live in, they’d still pick the United States. That’s where they long to be and the direction in which they’re currently headed. 

The country, they say, is all it’s described as. It’s the home of “youth and freedom” and somewhere for artists and dreams, like the poet’s speaker. When one is in the United States, it feels as though the “air is full of sunlight” in the same way that the “flag is full of stars.” This is an idealized image of the country, one that is no doubt capable of resonating with many readers.

Stanza Three 

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.

In the next stanza, the speaker mentions four European cities, London, Paris, Venice, and Rome, describing why each is an interesting place to live and spend time but eventually deciding that there is “no place like home.” Rome and Venice might be a dream, but that dream does not compare to the reality of America. 

The same is said for London, which is a “man’s town” with power in the air, and Paris, which the speaker describes as a “woman’s town” with “flowers in her hair.” 

This light-hearted verse is made easier to read and enjoy by the poet’s use of rhyme. The perfect rhymes of “air” and “hair” in the first two lines make those lines stand out. 

Stanza Four 

I like the German fir-woods in green battalions drilled;

I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing foutains filled;

But, oh, to take your had, my dear, and ramble for a day

In the friendly western woodland where Nature has her sway!

Continuing on, the speaker says that there are many things about Europe that they like. They mention the German forests and the gardens of the palace Versailles as examples. These two examples are chosen because they are so different from one another. The gardens are beautiful and were created just to be enjoyed, and the forests are natural and have played host to darkness and war. 

The speaker is suggesting that Europe has every contrast that one could hope for. But still, the speaker says, they would prefer to ramble in the “friendly western woodland where Nature has her sway.” This line describes the forests in America that the speaker is used to. He appreciates but doesn’t love the cultivated gardens of France and the dark, war-torn woods of Germany. The speaker says that they’d rather take their “dear,” someone to whom the poem is addressed, for a walk in the wild woods of the United States any time. 

Stanza Five 

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.

In the fifth stanza of this patriotic poem, the speaker says that they know that “Europe’s wonderful, yet something seems to lack!” This is the main message of the entire text. There is a lot to appreciate about Europe, but it’s not home. The country is too caught up in the past, the speaker says, with the country’s residents always “looking back” at what their country’s used to be like rather than what they are today or will be in the future.

The exact opposite is true in the United States, where “We,” the poet means Americans, “love” the land for “what she is and what she is to be.” 

Stanza Six 

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.

In the final stanza, the speaker reiterates the line that was used as the title, “America for me,” this is known as a refrain. The speaker uses the first-person pronoun “I” to describe the kind of ship they want that’s going to take them west to their home where there is “Room Enough” to live away from huge towns and where the “air is full of sunlight, and the flag is full of stars,” yet another refrain. 

FAQs

What is the theme of ‘America For Me?’ 

The main theme of this poem is home. The speaker’s home is in the United States, and therefore, he sees the country as providing him with something that he can’t get in Europe. 

What is the message of ‘America For Me?’

The message is that the United States is a country looking to the future and appreciating what exists today, while the countries in Europe are too caught up in the past. The speaker sees this as one of the continent’s major failings. 

Why did Henry Van Dyke write ‘America For Me?’

Henry Van Dyke likely wrote this poem in order to celebrate his home in the United States. He likely held the same opinion that he imbues his speaker within this six-stanza poem. 

What is ‘America For Me’ about? 

This poem is about the ways that America differs in a speaker’s mind and is better than countries in Europe or in the “Old World.” 


Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Henry Van Dyke poems. For example: 

  • Christ of Everywhere’ – a poem about the presence of Christ in all living things. 
  • Time Is’ – goes beyond the scientific definition of time and explores the subjectivity of time.

Other related poems include: 

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About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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