Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THANKSGIVING, by ALICE CARY

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THANKSGIVING, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: For the sharp conflicts I have had with sin
Last Line: Gross and material, on the external sight.
Subject(s): Holidays; Thanksgiving

FOR the sharp conflicts I have had with sin,
I have been wedged and pressed
Nigh unto death, I thank thee, with the rest
Of my befallings, Lord, of brighter guise,
And named by mortals, good,
Which to my hungry heart have given food,
Or costly entertainment to my eyes.

For I can only see,
With spirit truly reconciled to thee,
In the sad evils with our lives that blend,
A means, and not an end:

Since thou wert free
To do thy will -- knewest the bitter worth
Of sin, and all its possibility,
Ere that, by thy decree,
The ancient silence of eternity
Was broken by the music of man's birth.

Therefore I lay my brows
Discrowned of youth, within thy gracious hands,
Or rise while daybreak dew is on the boughs
To strew thy road with sweets, for thy commands
Do make the current of my life to run
Through lost and cavernous ways,
Bordered with cloudy days,
In its slow working out into the sun.
Hills, clap your hands, and all ye mountains, shout:
Hie, fainting hart, to where the waters flow;
Children of men, put off your fear and doubt;
The Lord who chasteneth, loveth you, for, lo!
The wild herb's wounded stalk He cares about,
And shields the ravens when the rough winds blow;
He sendeth down the drop of shining dew
To light the daisy from her house of death,
And shall He, then, forget the like of you,
O ye, of little faith!

He speaketh to the willing soul and heart
By dreams, and in the visions of the night,
And happy is the man who, for his part,
Rejoiceth in the light
Of all his revelations, whether found
In the old books, so sacredly upbound,
And clasped with golden clasps, or whether writ
Through later instillations of his power,
Where he that runneth still perceiveth it
Illuminating every humble flower
That springeth from the ground.

His testimony all the time is sure;
The smallest star that keepeth in the night
His silver candle bright,
And every deed of good that anywhere
Maketh the hands of holy women white;
All sweet religious work, all earnest prayer,
Of uttered, or unutterable speech;
Whatever things are peaceable and pure,
Whatever things are right,
These are his witnesses, aye, all and each!

Thrice happy is the man who doth obey
The Lord of love, through love; who fears to break
The righteous law for th' law's righteous sake;
And who, by daily use of blessings, gives
Thanks for the daily blessings he receives;
His spirit grown so reverent, it dares
Cast the poor shows of reverence away,
Believing they
More glorify the Giver, who partake
Of his good gifts, than they who fast and make
Burnt offerings and Pharisaic prayers.

The wintry snows that blind
The air, and blight what things were glorified
By summer's reign, we do not think unkind
When that we see them changed, afar and wide,
To rain, that, fretting in the rose's face,
Brings out a softer grace,
And makes the troops of rustic daffodils
Shake out their yellow skirts along the hills,
And all the valleys blush from side to side.

And as we climb the stair,
Of rough and ugly fortune, by the props
Of faith and charity, and hope and prayer,
To the serene and beauteous mountaintops
Of our best human possibility,
Where haunts the spirit of eternity,
The world below looks fair, --
Its seeming inequalities subdued,
And level, all, to purposes of good.

I thank thee, gracious Lord,
For the divine award
Of strength that helps me up the heavy heights
Of mortal sorrow, where, through tears forlorn,
My eyes get glimpses of the authentic lights
Of love's eternal morn.

For thereby do I trust
That our afflictions springs not from the dust,
And that they are not sent
In arbitrary chastisement,
Nor as avengers to put out the light
And let our souls loose in some damned night
That holds the balance of thy glory, just;
But rather, that as lessons they are meant,
And as the fire tempers the iron, so
Are we refined by woe.

I thank thee for my common blessings, still
Rained through thy will
Upon my head; the air
That knows so many tunes which grief beguile,
Breathing its light love to me everywhere,
And that will still be kissing all the while,

I thank thee that my childhood's vanished days
Were cast in rural ways,
Where I beheld, with gladness ever new,
That sort of vagrant dew
Which lodges in the beggarly tents of such
Vile weeds as virtuous plants disdain to touch,
And with rough-bearded burs, night after night,
Upgathered by the morning, tender and true,
Into her clear, chaste light.

Such ways I learned to know
That free will cannot go
Outside of mercy; learned to bless his name
Whose revelations, ever thus renewed
Along the varied year, in field and wood,
His loving care proclaim.
I thank thee that the grass and the red rose
Do what they can to tell
How spirit through all forms of matter flows;
For every thistle by the common way
Wearing its homely beauty, -- for each spring
That sweet and homeless, runneth where it will, --
For night and day,
For the alternate seasons, -- everything
Pertaining to life's marvelous miracle.

Even for the lowly flower
That, living, dwarfed and bent
Under some beetling rock, in gloom profound,
Far from her pretty sisters of the ground,
And shut from sun and shower,
Seemeth endowed with human discontent.

Ah! what a tender hold
She taketh of us in our own despite, --
A sadly-solemn creature,
Crooked, despoiled of nature,
Leaning from out the shadows, dull and cold,
To lay her little white face in the light.

The chopper going by her rude abode,
Thinks of his own rough hut, his old wife's smile,
And of the bare young feet
That run through th' frost to meet
His coming, and forgets the weary load
Of sticks that bends his shoulders down the while.

I thank thee, Lord, that Nature is so wise,
So capable of painting in men's eyes
Pictures whose airy hues
Do blend and interfuse
With all the darkness that about us lies, --
That clearly in our hearts
Her law she writes,
Reserving cunning past our mortal arts,
Whereby she is avenged for all her slights.

And I would make thanksgiving
For the sweet, double living,
That gives the pleasures that have passed away,
The sweetness and the sunshine of to-day.

I see the furrows ploughed and see them planted,
See the young cornstalks rising green and fair;
Mute things are friendly, and I am acquainted
With all the luminous creatures of the air;
And with the cunning workers of the ground
That have their trades born with them, and with all
The insects, large and small,
That fill the summer with a wave of sound.
I watch the wood-bird line
Her pretty nest, with eyes that never tire,
And watch the sunbeams trail their wisps of fire
Along the bloomless bushes, till they shine.

The violet, gathering up her tender blue
From th' dull ground, is a good sight to see;
And it delighteth me
To have the mushroom push his round head through
The dry and brittle stubble, as I pass,
His smooth and shining coat, half rose half fawn,
But just put on;
And to have April slip her showery grass
Under my feet, as she was used to do,
In the dear spring-times gone.

I make the brook, my Nile,
And hour by hour beguile,
Tracking its devious course
Through briery banks to its mysterious source,
That I discover, always, at my will, --
A little silver star,
Under the shaggy forehead of some hill,
From traveled ways afar.

Forgetting wind and flood,
I build my house of unsubstantial sand,
Shaping the roof upon my double hand,
And setting up the dry and sliding grains,
With infinite pains,
With infinite pains,
In the similitude
Of beam and rafter, -- then
Where to the ground the dock its broad leaf crooks,
I hunt long whiles to find the little men
That I have read of in my story-books.

Often, in lawless wise,
Some obvious work of duty I delay,
Taking my fill
Of an uneasy liberty, and still
Close shutting up my eyes,
As though it were not given me to see
The avenging ghost of opportunity
Thus slighted, far away.

I linger when I know
That I should forward go;
Now, haply for the katydid's wild shrill,
Now listening to the low,
Dull noise of mill-wheels -- counting, now, the row
Of clouds about the shoulder of the hill.

My heart anew rejoices
In th' old familiar voices
That come back to me like a lullaby;
Now 't is the church-bell's call,
And now a teamster's whistle, -- now, perhaps,
The silvery lapse
Of waters in among the reeds that meet;
And now, down-dropping to a whispery fall,
Some milkmaid, chiding with love's privilege,
Through the green wall
Of the dividing hedge,
And the so sadly eloquent reply
Of the belated cow-boy, low and sweet.

I see, as in a dream,
The farmer plodding home behind his team,
With all the tired shadows following,
And see him standing in his threshing-floor,
The hungry cattle gathered in a ring
About the great barn-door.

I see him in the sowing,
And see him in the mowing,
The air about him thick with graywinged moths;
The day's work nearly over,
And the long meadow ridged with double swaths
Of sunset-light and clover.

When falls the time of solemn Sabbath rest,
In all he has of best
I see him going (for he never fails)
To church, in either equitable hand
A shining little one, and all his band
Trooping about him like a flock of quails.
With necks bowed low, and hid to half their length
Under the jutting load of new-made hay,
I see the oxen give their liberal strength
Day after day,
And see the mower stay
His scythe, and leave a patch of grass to spread
Its shelter round the bed
Of the poor frighted ground-bird in his way.

I see the joyous vine,
And see the wheat set up its rustling spears,
And see the sun with golden fingers sign
The promise of full ears.

I see the slender moon
Time after time grow old and round in th' face,
And see the autumn take the summer's place,
And shake the ripe nuts down,
In their thick, bitter hulls of green and brown,
To make the periods of the schoolboy's tune;
I see the apples, with their russet cheeks
Shaming the wealth of June;
And see the bean-pods, gay with purple freaks,
And all the hills with yellow leaves o'erblown,
As through the fading woods I walk alone,
And hear the wind o'erhead
Touching the joyless boughs and making moan,
Like some old crone,
Who on her withered fingers counts her dead.

I hear the beetle's hum, and see the gnats
Sagging along the air in strings of jet,
And from their stubs I see the weak-eyed bats
Flying an hour before the sun is set.
Picture on picture crowds,
And by the gray and priestlike silence led,
Comes the first star through evening's steely gates
And chides the day to bed
Within the ruddy curtains of the clouds;
So gently com'st thou, Death,
To him who waits,
In the assurance of our blessed faith,
To be acquainted with thy quiet arms,
His good deeds, great and small,
Builded about him like a silver wall,
And bearing back the deluge of alarms.

The mother doth not tenderer appear
When, from her heart her tired darling laid,
She trims his cradle all about with shade,
And will not kiss his sleepy eyes for fear.

I see the windows of the homestead bright
With the warm evening light,
And by the winter fire
I see the gray-haired sire
Serenely sitting,
Forgetful of the work-day toil and care,
The old wife by his elbow, at her knitting;
The cricket on the hearth-stone singing shrill,
And the spoiled darling of the house at will
Climbing the good man's chair,
A furtive glimpse to catch
Of her fair face in his round silver watch,
That she in her high privilege must wear,
And listen to the music that is in it,
Though only for a minute.
I thank thee, Lord, for every saddest cross;
Gain comes to us through loss,
The while we go,
Blind travelers holding by the wall of time,
And seeking out through woe
The things that are eternal and sublime.

Ah! sad are they of whom no poet writes
Nor ever any story-teller hears, --
The childless mothers, who on lonesome nights
Sit by their fires and weep, having the chores
Done for the day, and time enough to see
All the wide floors
Swept clean of playthings; they, as needs must be,
Have time enough for tears.

But there are griefs more sad
Than ever any childless mother had, --
You know them, who do smother Nature's cries
Under poor masks
Of smiling, slow despair, --
Who put your white and unadorning hair
Out of your way, and keep at homely tasks,
Unblest with any praises of men's eyes,
Till Death comes to you with his piteous care,
And to unmarriageable beds you go,
Saying, "It is not much; 't is well, if so
We only be made fair
And looks of love await us when we rise."

My cross is not as hard as theirs to bear,
And yet alike to me are storms, or calms;
My life's young joy,
The brown-cheeked farmer-boy,
Who led the daisies with him like his lambs, --
Carved his sweet picture on my milking-pail,
And cut my name upon his threshing-flail,
One day stopped singing at his plough; alas!
Before that summer-time was gone, the grass
Had choked the path which to the sheep-field led,
Where I had watched him tread
So oft on evening's trail, --
A shining oat-sheaf balanced on his head,
And nodding to the gale.

Rough wintry weather came, and when it sped,
The emerald wave
Swelling above my little sweetheart's grave,
With such bright, bubbly flowers was set about,
I thought he blew them out,
And so took comfort that he was not dead.

For I was of a rude and ignorant crew,
And hence believed whatever things I saw
Were the expression of a hidden law;
And, with a wisdom wiser than I knew,
Evoked the simple meanings out of things
By childlike questionings.

And he they named with shudderings of fear
Had never, in his life, been half so near
As when I sat all day with cheeks unkissed,
And listened to the whisper, very low,
That said our love above death's wave of woe
Was joined together like the seamless mist.

God's yea and nay
Are not so far away,
I said, but I can hear them when I please;
Nor could I understand
Their doubting faith, who only touch his hand
Across the blind, bewildering centuries.

And often yet, upon the shining track
Of the old faith, come back
My childish fancies, never quite subdued;
And when the sunset shuts up in the wood
The whispery sweetness of uncertainty,
And Night, with misty locks that loosely drop
About his ears, brings rest, a welcome boon,
Playing his pipe with many a starry stop
That makes a golden snarling in his tune;

I see my little lad
Under the leafy shelter of the boughs,
Driving his noiseless, visionary cows,
Clad in a beauty I alone can see:
Laugh, you, who never had
Your dead come back, but do not take from me
The harmless comfort of my foolish dream,
That these, our mortal eyes,
Which outwardly reflect the earth and skies
Do introvert upon eternity:

And that the shapes you deem
Imaginations, just as clearly fall;
Each from its own divine original,
And through some subtle element of light,
Upon the inward, spiritual eye,
As do the things which round about them lie,
Gross and material, on the external sight.

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net