Thanksgiving 1896

By Larry Clinton

Reading the following Thanksgiving poem, from the November 21, 1896 Sausalito News, makes it clear that folks back then were concerned about many of the same international issues that trouble us today: oppression, human rights, religious freedom and class warfare:

As the earth grows old, and clearly to the view

New roads to truth and power as their course pursue—

Leading far on to the long-promised day,

When war and fear shall stop their baleful sway

And Man, victor at last o'er Ignorance,

’Gainst all but death shall fear his sure defence —

Something there’s lost of sweet and simple Faith,

That like a luminous and tender waith*

In early days shed peace and sweet content

Where all was rude with toil and danger blent

They asked not much, those sons of Freedom old—

A home of logs, where boundless forests rolled

And dally bread, wrenched from the unfriendly soil,

Or from the woods and waters needed spoil;

And the bright hearthstone, kept by woman's love

And laugh of children in the virgin grove;

The right of manhood these to prize, defend

To guard 'gainst savage foe or tyrant's end;

And then, who fled from Superstition’s rod

The freeman's first, best right—to worship God!

These granted, though 'mid savage war's alarm

Or wasting storm, or summer’s fervid harm,

The harvest gathered, and the woodland store

Ranked for near use about the rustic door.

Their hearts swelled full with gratitude for all

The benefits conferred to pious call.

And fain they sought in public way to show

The faith in aid Divine they claimed to know.

So rose Thanksgiving Day! Simple the ways,

Simple the men and women who could praise

For benefits so scant and sorely wrung

From meagre soil! And yet the songs they sung,

Simple in faith, were the sure seed that grew

Into the great republic! Checkered the view

That lies before us! In a cynic age

Restless with discontent and jealous rage

Of class 'gainst class, of rich who grind the poor,

Of poor whose curses heap the rich man’s door,

There opens now no virgin continent,

Home of the fearless, haven of uncontent,

Where restless souls may seek a refuge kind

Near Nature's heart, for the rebellious mind

In struggles with the savage forest brood,

Or pious praise amid her solitude.

Fair Freedom's fight must now be carried

As man 'gainst man, till breaks the final dawn 

Of Peace and Liberty, when Time shall see

The world-wide brotherhood that is to be.

Need we not Faith against the coming day –

Faith such as in our father's hearts held sway?

Tho savage foeman lurk, and storms may lower.

And dark the gulf 'twixt Anarchy and Power.

Welcome the festival our fathers gave.

The day of thanks, when all may fitly crave

Help from on high, and grateful praises give

That still our nation, 'mid all trials, doth live.

Welcome the solemn praise, the grateful feast.

The hand of bounty both to great and least,

And still guide on, O Faith, unto the end,

Our bark of State, where'er its course may tend.

— Q. H. Benedict.

Here’s hopes for a happier Thanksgiving season this year.


*Scottish wandering minstrel