In the pleasant days when we went to school
We read, in a well worn history book,
How, restless under a despot’s rule,
A band of pilgrims their land forsook,
And, crossing a wide, mysterious main
To a country strange and little known,
Began, with hardship and toil and pain,
The home and nation we call our own.
The tale rehearsed how they strove with fate,
They and their meek and patient wives,
And rose up early and labored late
To keep and comfort their lonely lives.
They felled the forests with fire and ax,
They dug and planted the rugged soil
And faced denials, and pinching lacks,
And constant danger, and ceaseless toil.
For nature met them with jealous mood.
She gave scant welcome to human schemes
Which tore the shade from her solitude,
And rent the forests, and dammed the streams.
Her Indian children had never dared
To spoil her shrines and to thwart her will –
The red man’s life was her own and shared,
Without a question, her good and ill.
With few of the helps we know today
To yield relief as the seasons rolled,
They paid the price that she bade them pay –
They gasped with heat, and they shook with cold.
The ills she sent them they grimly bore,
Yet none the less did that stubborn band
Hold fast to the stern, unpitying shore
Whereon their vessel had chanced to land.
One summer fiercely and long the sun
Had parched their gardens and scorched their grain,
And days and weeks had gone on and on
With never a sprinkle of saving rain.
The heat drank greedily all the springs
And dried the wheat ere the ears were filled;
It withered the corn to yellow strings,
And all the tenderer crops were killed.
And strongest spirits grew faint indeed,
Foreseeing nothing but want and woe,
Wasting hunger, and bitter need,
And actual famine with winter’s snow.
The preachers doubled their sermons’ length
And droned long chapters and prayed and prayed.
Yet, spite of their faith’s persistent strength,
Was every man of them sore afraid.
But when their courage was almost gone,
So deaf seemed heaven to their prayers and pain,
A cloud arose in the sky at dawn,
Dark and heavy with promised rain.
And when poured plenteously down at last
The crystal blessing denied so long
They changed the day from a gloomy fast
Into a service of joy and song.
And ever after their children, too,
And their children’s children after them,
With love and gratitude ever new,
Set one day separate, like a gem
Of purer luster than all the rest
In the golden round of the year of days,
When all might offer, as one, their best
Of true Thanksgiving and humble praise.
So let no spirit, though far apart
From happy fortune its path may stray,
Refuse to honor, with voice and heart,
The dear tradition we keep today.
For never a soul in all the earth,
In a hut or palace, in any clime,
But has some blessing or comfort worth
The giving thanks at this joyful time.
We who are happy, whose lot is crowned
With every favor that life can bring.
How can we fail, as the day comes round,
To offer thanks, to rejoice and sing?
We who are wretched, whose days are dark,
Void of all that can bless or cheer,
May still be glad, as its dawn we mark,
That rest and freedom are almost here.
For grain bins brimming with amber wheat,
And all the riches of harvest born;
For laden hives, with their burden sweet;
For heaps of fruits and for golden corn;
For bursting cotton and warming fleece;
For bleating flocks and for milky herds;
For home, for comfort, for thrift, for peace.
For kindly hands and for loving words;
For all the gifts of the teeming earth;
For every blessing the autumn sends;
For love, for pleasure, for tears of mirth;
For faithful hearts and for loyal friends;
For household circles still fond and whole,
Let every one in his own best way,
With grateful thought and with humble soul,
Yield thanksgiving and praise today!
The News (Frederick, Maryland) Nov 23, 1895