An Architect of Happiness: Henry Van Dyke

room“Dr. Van Dyke is the kind of a friend to have when one is up against a difficult problem. He will take trouble, days and nights of trouble, if it is for somebody else or for some cause he is interested in.” Helen Keller said of him.

There are some long-dead men who follow their kindred spirits. Henry  seems to follow me. I first shared his poem about AMERICA with my ethnically diverse bunch of 5th graders. They loved it so much they memorized every verse.

After moving to Saratoga Springs I came upon another poem he had written for his friends SPENCER and KATRINA TRASK who were grieving the loss of their four children.

Henry pops up everywhere I go:

“As he was beginning his career as a minister, Van Dyke was also launching his career as a writer. In September 1879 he went with his friend the artist W. S. Macy to the Red River Valley wheat farms where he saw the problems with large agricultural systems that were depleting the land and exploiting migrant labor. With Macy he did an illustrated article for Harper’s Monthly Magazine; it was the lead article for the May 1880 issue.”  ALL POETRY.COM

Only the other day did I discover that Henry had written one of my favorite Christmas carols after visiting the Berkshire Mountains:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee
God of glory, Lord of love
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee
Opening to the sun above

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness
Drive the dark of doubt away
Giver of immortal gladness
Fill us with the light of day

Hallelujah we adore You

All Thy works with joy surround Thee
Earth and heaven reflect Thy rays
Stars and angels sing around Thee
Center of unbroken praise

Field and forest, vale and mountain
Flowery meadow, flashing sea
Chanting bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee



Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee

Mortals, join the mighty chorus
Which the morning stars began
Father love is reigning o’er us
Brother love binds man to man

Ever singing, march we onward
Victors in the midst of strife
Joyful music leads us onward
In the triumph song of life

Hallelujah we adore You
Hallelujah we adore You

Henry Van Dyke saw God’s beauty, grace and love in nature.  He opposed art for art’s sake because he felt all art should serve man and make him a better, happier person. His life, like his art, did just that. I imagine my students all grown up with snippets of Van Dyke in their heads.




4 responses to “An Architect of Happiness: Henry Van Dyke”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: