November 17, 2006

Thanksgiving Poetry, Prayers and Psalms

Our family has a Thanksgiving tradition of tucking a little slip of paper or a ribboned scroll at each place setting, with a poem or a prayer or a passage of scripture printed on it, and each of us finds a moment to read our selection aloud at some point during the big feast. We do this at a leisurely pace, and it usually goes around the table rather randomly throughout the meal. It's really quite lovely, having poems and prayers and perhaps words of hymns punctuating the usual family chatter. Here are some that have become traditional favorites.

(Note: If you try this, do keep it low key for the little readers in your family. In the past, we have let younger readers have a peek at their scrolls before dinner to make sure they knew all the words, and sometimes we have let younger ones share a selection with a parent or another child, taking turns with stanzas.)


The Supper of Thanksgiving
by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

For the bread and for the wine,
For the pledge that seals Him mine,
For the words of love divine,
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

For the body and the blood,
For the more than angel's food,
For the boundless grace of God,
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

For the chalice whence we sip
Moisture for the parched lip,
For the board of fellowship,
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

For the feast of love and peace
Bidding all our sorrows cease,
Earnest of the kingdom's bliss,
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

For the paschal lamb here given,
For the loaf without the leaven,
For the manna dropt from heaven,
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

Only bread and only wine,
Yet to faith the solemn sign
Of the heavenly and divine!
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.



The breeze has swelled the whitening sail,
The blue waves curl beneath the gale,
And, bounding with the wave and wind,
We leave Old England's shores behind --
Leave behind our native shore,
Homes, and all we loved before.

The deep may dash, the winds may blow,
The storm spread out its wings of woe,
Till sailors' eyes can see a shroud
Hung in the folds of every cloud;
Still, as long as life shall last,
From that shore we'll speed us fast.

For we would rather never be,
Than dwell where mind cannot be free,
But bows beneath a despot's rod
Even where it seeks to worship God.
Blasts of heaven, onward sweep!
Bear us o'er the troubled deep!

O see what wonders meet our eyes!
Another land, and other skies!
Columbian hills have met our view!
Adieu! Old England's shores, adieu!
Here, at length, our feet shall rest,
Hearts be free, and homes be blessed.

As long as yonder firs shall spread
Their green arms o'er the mountains head --
As long as yonder cliffs shall stand,
Where join the ocean and the land --
Shall those cliffs and mountains be
Proud retreats for liberty.

Now to the King of kings we'll raise
The paean loud of sacred praise:
More loud than sounds the swelling breeze,
More loud than speak the rolling seas!
Happier lands have met our view!
England's shores, adieu! adieu!

~ Thomas Cogswell Upham


A favorite of mine, and just perfect for reading at the table before prayer --

Harvest Hymn
by John Critchley Prince (1808-1866)

Whoever fails, Thou dost not fail;
Whoever sleeps, Thou dost not sleep;
With fattening shower, and fostering gale,
Thy mercy brings the time to reap;
Man marks each season and its sign,
And sows the seed and plants the tree,
But form, growth, fullness, all are Thine, --
Lord of the harvest, praise to Thee!

O God! it is a pleasant thing
To see the precious grain expand,
And the broad hands of Plenty fling
Her golden largess o'er the land;
To see the fruitage swell and glow,
And bow with wealth the parent tree;
To see the purple vintage flow --
Lord of abundance, praise to Thee!

Praise for the glorious harvest days,
And all the blessings that we share;
For the unbounded sunlight praise
And for the free and vital air;
Praise for the faith that looks above;
The hope of immortality;
For life, health, virtue, truth and love,
Maker and Giver, praise to Thee!


Here's a good poem for a child to read:


Peace and Mercy and Jonathan,
and Patience (very small),
Stood by the table giving thanks
The first Thanksgiving of all.
There was very little for them to eat,
Nothing special and nothing sweet;
Only bread and a little broth,
And a bit of fruit
(and no tablecloth);
But Peace and Mercy and Jonathan
And Patience, in a row,
Stood up and asked a blessing on
Thanksgiving, long ago.
Thankful they were for hearth and home,
And kin and company;
They were glad of broth to go with their bread,
Glad their apples were round and red,
Glad of mayflowers they would bring
Out of the woods again next spring,
So Peace and Mercy and Jonathan,
And Patience (very small),
Stood up gratefully giving thanks
The first Thanksgiving of all.

-Nancy Byrd Turner



I thank Thee, O my God, that through Thy grace
I know Thee, who Thou art;
That I have seen the beauty of Thy face
And felt Thee in my heart.

I thank Thee, O my Savior, who hast deigned
To stoop to even me;
Within my inmost soul hast ruled and reigned,
And will my ransom be.

I thank Thee, Holy Spirit, that Thy wings
Brood o'er my wandering mind;
Bringing to my remembrance sacred things
To which my eyes were blind.

I thank Thee, Triune God! But oh, how cold
The warmest words I speak;
For love and goodness strange and manifold,
All human words are weak.

O teach me, then, to praise Thee with my life,
With stern obedience;
To make the atmosphere about me rife
With silent eloquence!

Elizabeth Payson Prentiss


Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers
by Felicia Hemans

The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast;
And the woods against a stormy sky,
Their giant branches tossed;
And the heavy night hung dark
The hills and waters o'er
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame;
Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear;
They shook the depths of the desert's gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang
And the stars heard, and the sea!
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free;
The ocean eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam;
And the rocking pines of the forest roared:
This was their welcome home.

There were men with hoary hair
Amidst that pilgrim band;
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?
There was a woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of seas, the spoils of war?
They sought a faith's pure shrine!
Aye, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod;
They have left unstained what there they found ~
Freedom to worship God.


Luke 17:11
And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered into a certainvillage, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.


Psalm 111
Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation. The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: and His righteousness endureth for ever. He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full ofcompassion. He hath given meat unto them that fear Him: He will ever be mindful of his covenant. He hath shewed His people the power of His works, that He may give them the heritage of the heathen. The works of His hands are verity and judgment; all His commandments are sure. They standfast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. He sent redemption unto His people: He hath commanded His covenant forever: holy and reverend is His name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endureth for ever.


Psalm 100
A Psalm of praise.
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before His presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.


We've also included the lovely Thanksgiving Prayer I posted earlier this week.

1 comment:

Sean Carter said...

Hey those are some very beautiful poems and that's a very nice tradition as well...this way all the younger ones can learn the true meaning of Thanksgiving and continue the family tradition....and hey for some more beautiful thoughts on Thanksgiving i'd ask you to visit my Thanksgiving Blog sometime and share the fun and joy of this glorious celebration!!!