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THE FIRST THANKSGIVING DAY*
MARGARET JUNKIN PRESTON
Margaret J. Preston (1825 ) is one of the leading poets of the South. She has written many poems and sketches, of which “The First Thanksgiving Day'' is especially pleasing.
“And now," said the Governor, gazing abroad on the piled-up
store Of the sheaves that dotted the clearings and covered the meadows
o'er, “ 'Tis meet that we render praises because of this yield of grain; 'Tis meet that the Lord of the harvest be thanked for His sun
“And, therefore, I, William Bradford (by the grace of God
today, And the franchise of this good people), Governor of Plymouth,
say, Through virtue of vested power-ye shall gather with one ac
cord, And hold, in the month of November, thanksgiving unto the
"He hath granted us peace and plenty, and the quiet we've sought
so long; He hath thwarted the wily savage, and kept him from wrack and
wrong; And unto our feast the Sachem shall be bidden, that he may
know We worship his own Great Spirit who maketh the harvests grow.
*Published by permission of Houghton, Mimiin Company.
4 “So shoulder your matchlocks, masters: there is hunting of all
degrees; And, fishermen, take your tackle, and scour for spoils the seas; And, maidens and dames of Plymouth, your delicate crafts
employ To honor our First Thanksgiving, and make it a feast of joy!
5 “We fail of the fruits and dainties—we fail of the old home
cheer; Ah, these are the lightest losses, mayhap, that befall us here; But see, in our open clearings, how golden the melons lie; Enrich them with sweets and spices, and give us the pumpkin
6 So, bravely the preparations went on for the autumn feast; The deer and the bear were slaughtered; wild game from the
greatest to least Was heaped in the colony cabins; brown home-brew served for
wine, And the plum and the grape of the forest, for orange and peach and pine.
ny At length came the day appointed: the snow had begun to fall, But the clang from the meeting-house belfry rang merrily over
all, And summoned the folk of Plymouth, who hastened with glad
accord, To listen to Elder Brewster as he fervently thanked the Lord.
8 In his seat sate Governor Bradford; men, matrons, and maidens
fair; Miles Standish and all his soldiers, with corselet and sword,
And sobbing and tears and gladness had each in its turn the
sway, For the grave of the sweet Rose Standish o’ershadowed Thanksgiving Day.
9 And when Massasoit, the Sachem, sate down with his hundred
braves, And ate of the varied riches of gardens and woods and waves, And looked on the granaried harvest—with a blow on his
brawny chest, He muttered, “The good Great Spirit loves His white children best!"
HELPS TO STUDY
Historical: The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, December 21, 1620. During the long, hard winter fifty-one of the one hundred Pilgrims died, among them being Rose Standish, wife of Captain Miles Standish. As soon
as spring came the colonists planted their fields. By the end of summer twenty-six acres had been cleared and a plentiful harvest was gathered in. When provisions and fuel had been laid in for the winter, Governor Bradford appointed a day of thanksgiving. Venison, wild fowl, and fish were easy to obtain. We are told “there was great store of wild turkeys of which they took many."
For three days a great feast was spread and Massasoit, the Indian Sachem, or chief, and many of his people enjoyed it with the colonists.
Notes and Questions When did the events related in How did he expect the feast to this story take place?
be provided ? Who was the governor of Plym What meat did the Pilgrims have outh at this time %
at their first Thanksgiving How did he say he had become dinner governor
What fruits did they have for the What proclamation did he make? feast? What did the governor say that What did the colonists do "with
God had done for the colony? glad accord” before they sat Who did he say should be invited down to their feast? to the feast?
Read the lines which tell what What reason did he give for this Massasoit said when he ate of invitation !
Words and Phrases for Study PRONUNCIATION: gov'-ēr-nor vir'-tue (vûr)
pămp'-kin frăn'-chise (or 1) wil'-y
mā'-trons (trúns) Plým'-outh (úth) Măs'-sä-soit
grăn'-å-ried (rid) thwart'-ed (thwôrt) Sā'-chem
corse'let (kôrs'-let) VOCABULARY:
děl'-1-cate—Pleasing; fine; dainty.
John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887), an American poet, was born in Vermont. He is best known by his humorous poems.
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
(Though all of them were blind),
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall