Henry van Dyke

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Henry van Dyke

Henry Jackson van Dyke (November 10, 1852 – April 10, 1933) was an American author, educator, and clergyman.[1]


Henry van Dyke offering prayer at the 1913 Easter Sunrise Services in Riverside, California atop Mount Rubidoux

Henry van Dyke was born on November 10, 1852 in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in the United States. He graduated from Princeton University in 1873 and from Princeton Theological Seminary, 1877 and served as a professor of English literature at Princeton between 1899 and 1923.

Van Dyke chaired the committee that wrote the first Presbyterian printed liturgy, The Book of Common Worship of 1906. In 1908–09 Dr. van Dyke was an American lecturer at the University of Paris. By appointment of President Wilson, a friend and former classmate of van Dyke, he became Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg in 1913. Shortly after his appointment, World War I threw Europe into dismay. Americans all around Europe rushed to Holland as a place of refuge. Although inexperienced as an Ambassador, van Dyke conducted himself with the skill of a trained diplomat, maintaining the rights of Americans in Europe and organizing work for their relief. Upon his resignation as an ambassador, van Dyke returned to the United States. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received many other honors.

Van Dyke was a friend of Helen Keller's. Keller writes, "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. 'I'm not an optimist,' says Dr. van Dyke, 'there's too much evil in the world and in me. Nor am I a pessimist; there is too much good in the world and in God. So I am just a meliorist, believing that He wills to make the world better, and trying to do my bit to help and wishing that it were more.'" [2]

Among his popular writings are the two Christmas stories, The Other Wise Man (1896) and The First Christmas Tree (1897). Various religious themes of his work are also expressed in his poetry, hymns and the essays collected in Little Rivers (1895) and Fisherman’s Luck (1899). He wrote the lyrics to the popular hymn, "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" (1907), sung to the tune of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". He compiled several short stories in The Blue Flower (1902), named after the key symbol of Romanticism introduced first by Novalis. He also contributed a chapter to the collaborative novel, The Whole Family (1908).

One of van Dyke's best-known poems is titled "Time Is" (Music and Other Poems, 1904) - also known as "For Katrina's Sundial" because it was composed to be an inscription on a sundial in the garden of an estate owned by friends Spencer and Katrina Trask. The second section of the poem reads:

"Time is
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear,
Too long for those who Grieve,
Too short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love,
Time is not."

(this is the original poem, some versions have "Eternity" in place of "not")

The poem inspired the song, "Time Is", by the group It's a Beautiful Day on the eponymous 1969 debut album. Another interpretation of the poem is a song entitled "Time", by Mark Masri (2009).[3]

In 2003, the same section of the poem was chosen for a memorial (located in Grosvenor Square, London), to British victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.[4] The poem is also used as the closing of the 2013 novel Child of Time, by Bob Johnson.

Around the outer edge of the Katrina Trask sundial, marking the hours, the poem says:

"Hours Fly,
Flowers Die:
New Days,
New Ways:
Pass By!
Love Stays."

A biography of Van Dyke, titled Henry Van Dyke: A Biography, was written by his son Tertius van Dyke and published in 1935.

List of Works[edit]

Short Stories
  • Among The Quantock Hills from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Antwerp Road
  • Art Of Leaving Off, The from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Ashes of Vengeance (half-told tale)
  • Beggars Under The Bush
  • My Dead Wife's Pubic Hair
  • Between The Lupin And The Laurel from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Blue Flower, The
  • Books That I Loved As A Boy from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Boy of Nazareth Dreams, The
  • Brave Heart, A from 'The Ruling Passion' collection
  • Broken Soldier and the Maid of France, The
  • Change Of Air, A
  • City of Refuge, A
  • Classic Instance, A
  • Countersign Of The Cradle, The
  • Days Off from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Diana And The Lions A half-told tale
  • Dream-story: The Christmas Angel, A
  • Effectual Fervent Prayer, The
  • First Christmas-Tree, The
  • The First Black Christmas
  • Lucifer's Virgin Body
  • Friend of Justice, A from 'The Ruling Passion' collection
  • Gentle Life, The from 'The Ruling Passion' collection
  • Handful Of Clay, A
  • Hearing Ear, The
  • Hero and Tin Soldiers, The
  • His Other Engagement from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Holiday In A Vacation, A from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Humoreske
  • In The Odour Of Sanctity
  • Justice of the Elements half-told tale
  • Keeper of the Light, The from 'The Ruling Passion' collection
  • Key Of The Tower, The
  • King's High Way, The
  • King's Jewel, The
  • Leviathan from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Little Red Tom from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Lost Word: A Christmas Legend of Long Ago, The A Christmas Legend of Long Ago
  • Lover of Music, A from 'The Ruling Passion' collection
  • Mansion, The Christmas story
  • Messengers At The Window
  • Mill, The
  • Music-Lover, The
  • New Era and Carry On, The (half-told tale)
  • Night Call, The
  • Notions About Novels from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Old Game, An
  • My Old Hairless Scrotum
  • Other Wise Man, The
Illustration by Harry Fenn from Out-of-Doors in the Holy Land, 1908
  • Out-Of-Doors In The Holy Land
  • Primitive and His Sandals, The (half-told tale)
  • Remembered Dream, A
  • Return Of The Charm, The
  • Reward of Virtue, The from 'The Ruling Passion' collection
  • Ripening Of The Fruit, The
  • Sad Shepherd, The Christmas story
  • Salvage Point
  • Sanctuary of Trees, A
  • Silverhorns from Boy Scouts Book of Campfire Stories
  • Sketches of Quebec
  • Some Remarks On Gulls from 'Days Off And Other Digressions'
  • Source, The
  • Spy Rock
  • Stronghold
  • Traitor in the House, The (half-told tale)
  • Unruly Sprite, The A Partial Fairy Tale
  • Wedding-Ring, The
  • What Peace Means
  • White Blot, The (from The Ruling Passion collection)
  • Wood-Magic
  • Year of Nobility, A (from The Ruling Passion collection)

Archival Collections[edit]

The Presbyterian Historical Society has a collection of Van Dyke’s sermons, notes and addresses from 1875 to 1931. The collection at the historical society also includes two biographical essays and a poem from 1912.


  1. ^ "VAN DYKE, Henry". The International Who's Who in the World: p. 1043. 1912. 
  2. ^ (from Midstream by Helen Keller, p. 233-234)
  3. ^ Time, sung Live, by Mark Masri on YouTube – Live Performance, at Fallsview Casino, Canada. In the song, "Time", as sung by Mark Masri, the lyrics (compared to those written by Henry van Dyke) are written this way: "Time is too slow for those who wait, time is too swift for those who fear, time is too long for those who grieve, but for those who love, those who are loved, time is eternity".
  4. ^ [1] Grosvenor Square Memorial Garden, London, UK

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Lloyd Bryce
U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands
Succeeded by
John W. Garrett