The First Thanksgiving
"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 rain."
"And, therefore, I, William
(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 accord,
And hold, in the month of November,
thanksgiving unto the Lord."
"He hath granted us peace and
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."
"So shoulder your matchlocks,
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!"
"We fail of the fruits and dainties--
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-pie!"
So, bravely the preparations went
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.
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.
In his seat sate Governor Bradford;
men, matrons, and maidens fair,
Miles Standish and all his soldiers,
with corselet and sword, were there;
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.
And when Massasoit, the Sachem,
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!"
NOTES AND QUESTIONS
Biographical and Historical Note:
Margaret J. Preston (1820-1897) was one of the leading poets of the South.
She wrote many poems and sketches. "The First Thanksgiving Day" gives
a good picture of the life in the old Pilgrim days.
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, and by the end of summer 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
- When did the events related in this story take place?
- Who was the governor of Plymouth at this time?
- What proclamation did he make?
- What did the governor say that God had done for
- Who did he say should be invited to the feast?
- What meat did the Pilgrims have at their first Thanksgiving
- What fruits did they have for the feast?
- What fruit is meant by "pine" in line
12, page 93?
- What did the colonists do "with glad accord" before
they sat down to their feast?
- Find the lines that tell what Massasoit said when
he ate of the feast.
- Why is it a good thing for America to have a day
set apart each year for us to give thanks for our blessings?
- Find in the Glossary the meaning of store; sheaves;
clearings; wrack; dames; mayhap; befall; slaughtered;
appointed; summoned; fervently; sate; braves; brawny.
- Pronounce: therefore; franchise; wily; Sachem, pumpkin;
matrons; corselet; Massasoit; granaried.
Phrases for Study
'tis meet, scour for spoils, franchise of this good
people, delicate crafts employ, virtue of vested power,
fail of the fruits, with one accord, home-brew served
for wine, thwarted the wily savage, each in its turn
the sway, Great Spirit, o'ershadowed Thanksgiving Day,
shoulder your matchlocks, of all degrees, varied riches.