America For Me
by Henry Van Dyke
‘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 of the kings,–
But 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 battallions drilled;
I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing fountains filled;
But, oh, to take your hand, my dear, and ramble for a day
In the friendly western woodland where Nature has her way!
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.
I’d never traveled out of the country.
It was my first time traveling by airplane, anywhere–my senior trip to Europe after high school.
We flew from Detroit to Newark, and then all the way to Frankfurt.
We poked around Budapest and Vienna, and spent days in Rothenburg and Munich. Our tour bus took us to Lucerne, Switzerland and Strasbourg, France. We toured Mad King Ludwig’s castles and Dachau and Old Town Strasbourg. We went to a Hungarian Rodeo and Mozart’s birthplace and took a night boat in Lucerne.
We arrived at chateaus and sauntered through castles and hiked every trail we found time for. I snapped rolls of photos of Austrian Alps and when the bus started moving, I stared out the window and wrote poetry in my journal. It was all I could do with so much beauty. I couldn’t stop looking for more.
I shot hundreds of dreadful photos with my $10 camera from 1994.
Our teachers had tried to prepare us before the trip. They said there would be some things to get used to over there. It wouldn’t be like the USA. We would walk through bits of history, up close, but they told us how much we’d miss America.
“You’ll want to kiss the ground when you return,” our principal said.
It’s true that I missed home, especially the people who were home to me.
But more than anything, I woke up there. I fell in love there, only it wasn’t with a person.
I fell in love with the great big world far beyond my home state of Michigan. I fell in love with seeing the world and sauntering through quaint little towns, snapping them up as you go.
I fell in love with the Old World, where the past stands next to the present. With sleepy town squares and dreamy old villages coming alive in the middle of the day.
Those two weeks passed in a whirlwind. I was happy to come home again. I was ready for that uncertain summer between high school and college, the one with all the things to fear and look forward to.
But I didn’t want to kiss the ground, not in Newark or Detroit.
I only wanted to take another plane ride. Next time–London or Paris? Rome and Florence?
I’ve never forgotten, there’s no place like home. But every time I go, I fall in love again.
Write about a place beyond home, where you woke up, or fell in love.