Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Thanksgiving
By Mrs Little
 
IT 1 is thanksgiving morn—’t is cold and clear;
The bells for church ring forth a merry sound;
The maidens, in their gaudy winter gear,
Rival the many-tinted woods around;
The rosy children skip along the ground,        5
Save where the matron reins their eager pace,
Pointing to him who with a look profound
Moves with his ‘people’ toward the sacred place
Where duly he bestows the manna crumbs of grace.
 
Of the deep learning in the schools of yore        10
The reverend pastor hath a golden stock:
Yet, with a vain display of useless lore,
Or sapless doctrine, never will he mock
The better cravings of his simple flock;
But faithfully their humble shepherd guides        15
Where streams eternal gush from Calvary’s rock,
For well he knows, not learning’s purest tides
Can quench the immortal thirst that in the soul abides.
 
The anthem swells; the heart’s high thanks are given:
Then, mildly as the dews on Hermon fall,        20
Begins the holy minister of heaven.
And though not his the burning zeal of Paul,
Yet a persuasive power is in his call;
So earnest, though so kindly, is his mood,
So tenderly he longs to save them all,        25
No bird more fondly flutters o’er her brood,
When the dark vulture screams above their native wood.
 
“For all his bounties, dearest charge,” he cries,
“Your hearts are the best thanks; no more refrain;
Your yielded hearts he asks in sacrifice.        30
Almighty Lover! shalt thou love in vain;
And vainly woo thy wand’rers home again?
How thy soft mercy with the sinner pleads!
Behold! thy harvest loads the ample plain;
And the same goodness lives in all thy deeds,        35
From the least drop of rain, to those that Jesus bleeds.”
 
Much more he spake, with growing ardor fired;
Oh that my lay were worthy to record
The moving eloquence his theme inspired!
For like a free and copious stream outpour’d        40
His love to man and man’s indulgent Lord.
All were subdued; the stoutest, sternest men,
Heart-melted, hung on every precious word:
And as he utter’d forth his full amen,
A thousand mingling sobs re-echoed it again.        45
 
Behold that ancient house on yonder lawn,
Close by whose rustic porch an elm is seen:
Lo! now has past the service of the morn;
A joyous group are hastening o’er the green,
Led by an aged sire of gracious mien,        50
Whose gay descendants are all met to hold
Their glad thanksgiving in that sylvan scene,
That once enclosed them in one happy fold,
Ere waves of time and change had o’er them roll’d.
 
The hospitable doors are open thrown;        55
The bright wood-fire burns cheerly in the hall;
And, gathering in, a busy hum makes known
The spirit of free mirth that moves them all.
There, a youth hears a lovely cousin’s call,
And flies alertly to unclasp the cloak;        60
And she, the while, with merry laugh lets fall
Upon his awkwardness some lively joke,
Not pitying the blush her bantering has woke.
 
And there the grandam sits, in placid ease,
A gentle brightness o’er her features spread:        65
Her children’s children cluster round her knees,
Or on her bosom fondly rest their head.
Oh, happy sight, to see such blossoms shed
Their sweet young fragrance o’er such aged tree!
How vain to say, that, when short youth has fled,        70
Our dearest of enjoyments cease to be;
When hoary eld is loved but the more tenderly.
 
And there the manly farmers scan the news;
(Strong is their sense, though plain the garb it wears;)
Or, while their pipes a lulling smoke diffuse,        75
They look important from their elbow chairs,
And gravely ponder on the nation’s cares.
The matrons of the morning sermon speak,
And each its passing excellence declares;
While tears of pious rapture, pure and meek,        80
Course in soft beauty down the christian mother’s cheek.
 
Then, just at one, the full thanksgiving feast,
Rich with the bounties of the closing year,
Is spread; and, from the greatest to the least,
All crowd the table, and enjoy the cheer.        85
The list of dainties will not now appear;
Save one I cannot pass unheeded by,
One dish, already to the muses dear,
One dish, that wakens memory’s longing sigh—
The genuine far famed Yankee pumpkin pie.        90
 
Who e’er has seen thee in thy flaky crust
Display the yellow richness of thy breast,
But, as the sight awoke his keenest gust,
Has own’d thee of all cates the choicest, best?
Ambrosia were a fool, to thee compared,        95
Even by the ruby hand of Hebe drest;
Thee, pumpkin pie, by country maids prepared,
With their white rounded arms above the elbow bared.
 
Now to the kitchen come a vagrant train,
The plenteous fragments of the feast to share.        100
The old lame fiddler wakes a merry strain,
For his mull’d cider and his pleasant fare,—
Reclining in that ancient wicker chair.
A veteran soldier he, of those proud times
When first our freedom’s banner kiss’d the air:        105
His battles oft he sings in untaught rhymes,
When wakening memory his aged heart sublimes.
 
But who is this, whose scarlet cloak has known
Full oft the pelting of the winter storm?
Through its fringed hood a strong wild face is shown,—        110
Tall, gaunt, and bent with years, the beldam’s form;—
There ’s none of all these youth with vigor warm,
Who dare by slightest word her anger stir.
So dark the frown that does her face deform,
That half the frighted villagers aver        115
The very de’il himself incarnate is in her.
 
Yet now the sybil wears her mildest mood;
And round her see the anxious silent band.
Falls from her straggling locks the antique hood,
As close she peers in that fair maiden’s hand,        120
Who scarce the struggles in her heart can stand;
Affection’s strength has made her nature weak;
She of her lovely looks hath lost command;
The flecker’d red and white within her cheek—
Oh, all her love it doth most eloquently speak!        125
 
Thy doting faith, fond maid, may envied be,
And half excused the superstitious art.
Now, when the sybil’s mystic words to thee
The happier fortunes of thy love impart,
Thrilling thy soul in its most vital part,        130
How does the throb of inward ecstacy
Send the luxuriant blushes from thy heart
All o’er thy varying cheek, like some clear sea
Where the red morning-glow falls full but tremblingly?
 
’T is evening; and the rural ball begins:        135
The fairy call of music all obey;
The circles round domestic hearths grow thin;
All, at the joyful signal, hie away
To yonder hall with lights and garlands gay.
There, with elastic step, young belles are seen        140
Entering, all conscious of their coming sway:
Not oft their fancies underrate, I ween,
The spoils and glories of this festal scene.
 
New England’s daughters need not envy those
Who in a monarch’s court their jewels wear;        145
More lovely they, when but a simple rose
Glows through the golden clusters of their hair.
Could light of diamonds make her look more fair,
Who moves in beauty through the mazy dance,
With buoyant feet that seem’d to skim the air,        150
And eyes that speak, in each impassion’d glance,
The poetry of youth, love’s sweet and short romance?
 
He thinks not so, that young enamor’d boy
Who through the dance her graceful steps doth guide,
While his heart swells with the deep pulse of joy.        155
Oh, no; by nature taught, unlearnt in pride,
He sees her in her loveliness array’d,
All blushing for the love she cannot hide;
And feels that gaudy art could only shade
The brightness nature gave to his unrivall’d maid.        160
 
Gay bands, move on; your draught of pleasure quaff;
I love to listen to your joyous din;
The lad’s light joke, the maiden’s mellow laugh,
And the brisk music of the violin.
How blithe to see the sprightly dance begin!        165
Entwining hands, they seem to float along,
With native rustic grace that well might win
The happiest praises of a sweeter song,
From a more gifted lyre than doth to me belong.
 
While these enjoy the mirth that suits their years,        170
Round the home-fires their peaceful elders meet.
A gentler mirth their friendly converse cheers;
And yet, though calm their pleasures, they are sweet
Through the cold shadows of the autumn day
Oft breaks the sunshine with as genial heat,        175
As o’er the soft and sapphire skies of May,
Though nature then be young and exquisitely gay.
 
On the white wings of peace their days have flown;
Nor wholly were they thrall’d by earthly cares;
But from their hearts to heaven’s paternal throne        180
Arose the daily incense of their prayers.
And now, as low the sun of being wears,
The God to whom their morning vows were paid,
Each grateful offering in remembrance bears;—
And cheering beams of mercy are display’d,        185
To gild with heavenly hopes their evening’s pensive shade.
 
But now, farewell to thee, thanksgiving day!
Thou angel of the year! one bounteous hand
The horn of deep abundance doth display,
Raining its rich profusion o’er the land;        190
The other arm, outstretch’d with gesture grand,
Pointing its upraised finger to the sky,
Doth the warm tribute of our thanks demand
For Him, the Father God, who from on high
Sheds gleams of purest joy o’er man’s dark destiny.        195
 
Note 1. Mrs Little is of Boston. She is the daughter of the Hon. Ashur Robbins, of Massachusetts. She has made her writings acceptable to the public under the signature of Rowena. The piece we have selected possesses great merit, and shows both taste and talent. [back]
 
 
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