Henry Van Dyke

Sea-Gulls of Manhattan

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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