Lights Out

Henry van Dyke - 1852-1933
“Lights out" along the land,
“Lights out” upon the sea.
The night must put her hiding hand
O’er peaceful towns where children sleep,
And peaceful ships that darkly creep
Across the waves, as if they were not free.

The dragons of the air,
The hell-hounds of the deep,
Lurking and prowling everywhere,
Go forth to seek their helpless prey,
Not knowing whom they maim or slay—
Mad harvesters, who care not what they reap.

Out with the tranquil lights,
Out with the lights that burn
For love and law and human rights!
Set back the clock a thousand years:
All they have gained now disappears,
And the dark ages suddenly return.

Kaiser who loosed wild death,
And terror in the night—
God grant you draw no quiet breath,
Until the madness you began 
Is ended, and long-suffering man,
Set free from was lords, cries, “Let there be Light.”


More by Henry van Dyke

Mare Liberum

You dare to say with perjured lips, 
    "We fight to make the ocean free"? 
You, whose black trail of butchered ships 
    Bestrews the bed of every sea 
    Where German submarines have wrought 
    Their horrors! Have you never thought,—
What you call freedom, men call piracy! 

Unnumbered ghosts that haunt the wave 
    Where you have murdered, cry you down; 
And seamen whom you would not save, 
    Weave now in weed-grown depths a crown 
    Of shame for your imperious head,—
    A dark memorial of the dead,—
Women and children whom you left to drown

Nay, not till thieves are set to guard 
    The gold, and corsairs called to keep 
O'er peaceful commerce watch and ward, 
    And wolves to herd the helpless sheep, 
    Shall men and women look to thee—
    Thou ruthless Old Man of the Sea—
To safeguard law and freedom on the deep! 

In nobler breeds we put our trust: 
    The nations in whose sacred lore 
The "Ought" stands out above the "Must," 
    And Honor rules in peace and war. 
    With these we hold in soul and heart, 
    With these we choose our lot and part, 
Till Liberty is safe on sea and shore.

The Red Flower

                June, 1914

In the pleasant time of Pentecost,
    By the little river Kyll,
I followed the angler’s winding path
    Or waded the stream at will,
And the friendly fertile German land
    Lay round me green and still.

But all day long on the eastern bank
    Of the river cool and clear,
Where the curving track of the double rails
    Was hardly seen though near,
The endless trains of German troops
    Went rolling down to Trier.

They packed the windows with bullet heads
    And caps of hodden gray;
They laughed and sang and shouted loud
    When the trains were brought to a stay;
They waved their hands and sang again
    As they went on their iron way.

No shadows fell on the smiling land,
    No cloud arose in the sky;
I could hear the river’s quiet tune
    When the trains had rattled by;
But my heart sank low with a heavy sense
    Of trouble,—I knew not why.

Then came I into a certain field
    Where the devil’s paint-brush spread
’Mid the gray and green of the rolling hills
    A flaring splotch of red,—
An evil omen, a bloody sign,
    And a token of many dead.

I saw in a vision the field-gray horde
    Break forth at the devil’s hour,
And trample the earth into crimson mud
    In the rage of the Will to Power,—
All this I dreamed in the valley of Kyll,
    At the sign of the blood-red flower.

Stand Fast

           Stand fast, Great Britain!
Together England, Scotland, Ireland stand
One in the faith that makes a mighty land,—
True to the bond you have and will not break
And fearless in the fight for conscience’ sake!
Against the Giant Robber clad in steel,
With blood of trampled Belgium on his heel,
Striding through France to strike you down at last
           Britain, stand fast!

           Stand fast, brave land!
The Huns are thundering toward the citadel;
They prate of Culture but their path is Hell;
Their light is darkness, and the bloody sword
They wield and worship is their only Lord.
O land where reason stands secure on right,
O land where freedom is the source of light,
Against the mailed Barbarians’ deadly blast,
           Britain, stand fast!

           Stand fast, dear land!
Thou island mother of a world-wide race,
Whose children speak thy tongue and love thy face,
Their hearts and hopes are with thee in the strife,
Their hands will break the sword that seeks thy life;
Fight on until the Teuton madness cease;
Fight bravely on, until the word of peace
Is spoken in the English tongue at last,—
           Britain, stand fast!