by Usa W. Celebride

The pilgrims were a persecuted group—for their beliefs—
so they were willing for a chance, a hope for some relief.
They made the risky voyage to America by ship.
A crew that didn’t care for them, for money took the trip.
But when they got to Massachusetts in New England’s fall,
half died before they made next autumn’s cold and bitter pall.
But those who did—how could they not be thankful, and God bless?
Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of their gratefulness.
They managed to survive disease, the weather, lack of food—
among the many millions who got here—and found it good.

 

 

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11 Responses

  1. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Since the alcoholic apostates at Plymouth denied, among other things, the divinely-instituted sacrament of Holy Eucharist—the very term “eucharist” meaning “thanksgiving” in the Greek—they could not have offered thanks according to God’s law.

    Today is actually the feast of St. Cecelia, Virgin and Martyr according to the Christian Calendar.

    Reply
    • Joe Tessitore

      Couple this with your last outburst about Harvey Weinstein (that was very appropriately taken down) and I do not hesitate to urge you to pray to Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of poets, for help.

      Reply
  2. Charles Southerland

    Thank God, who reigns above all, yet lives within our hearts, that those of us apostates who are Protestants are not otherwise.

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Well said, Mr. Southerland, and thank you, Bruce, for this poem for the day.

      Exhibit A displays a brand of anti-Thanksgiving fervor I have not seen before. Interesting.

      Reply
      • Joe Tessitore

        Let it not be for me to disagree with you Amy, but “interesting” is the wrong word; “shocking” is far more appropriate,
        and on Thanksgiving Day “beyond belief” comes to mind.

        “Happy Thanksgiving!” To all ❣️

    • Joe Tessitore

      Exhibit A does not represent the Catholic Church that I know and love and is, in fact, very far from it.
      Theresa Benedicta, who died in a concentration camp, taught that we need everything at our disposal to reach Jesus, but that He needs nothing at all, including the Sacraments, to reach us.

      Reply
  3. E. V.

    I think we’re missing something. Gratitude has a spiritual universality that was poetically expressed on that 1st Thanksgiving.

    On a separate note (and Evan please forgive me for taking this liberty), Society of Classical Poet’s homepage has a new tab, “Shop”. Just in time for the holiday season, SCP is offering a T-Shirt (2 different options) and a mug. The mug and the navy shirt feature the name, Society of Classical Poets, the logo, and the website. The light blue shirt features the name and logo, but not the website. Also, it’s possible that more items will be added in the future. Check it out.

    Reply
  4. Mark Stone

    Bruce, Hello.

    1. In line 6, in sounds funny to me to say: “they made … [the]…pall.” I assume you mean “made it until the pall,” i.e., survived until the next year.

    2. In line 7, my question is: “But those who did… who did what?” Since the previous line talks about those who died, it sounds like you’re asking: How could those who died not be thankful?

    3. Regarding lines 9 & 10, it doesn’t sound right to me to say: “They managed to survive… among the many millions who got here…” The pilgrims were not “among” the millions. The millions arrived later. So I would say something like:

    They managed to survive disease, the weather, lack of food,
    and like the many millions who came later, found it good.

    4. To me, the poem seems just a little wordy. For example, to say “they got to Massachusetts in New England’s fall,” is a little redundant and unnecessary, since everyone knows that Massachusetts is in New England. I spent about 20 minutes turning the poem into iambic pentameter (with one substitution in line 9) to see if the poem would still have most of the content of the original. Here’s what I came up with:

    A persecuted group based on belief,
    the pilgrims fled in hope of some relief.
    They voyaged to America by ship.
    Their crew solely for money took the trip.
    They got to Massachusetts in the fall.
    Half died before next autumn’s bitter pall.
    How could they not be thankful and God bless?
    Thanksgiving Day, their day of gratefulness.
    They survived disease, the weather, lack of food,
    and like the mass who followed, found it good.

    It may be a bit sparse, but I bet that if you rewrote the poem in 12-syllable lines (vice 14), you wouldn’t lose any content at all.

    6. Notwithstanding these comments, I very much enjoyed the poem and fully agree with the sentiment of gratefulness that it expresses.

    Reply
  5. Usa W. Celebride

    Although not from a literary point of view, I nonetheless thoroughly enjoy Mr. Stone’s comments, because he analyzes the writing of the various poems he chooses to discuss, instead of just reacting to their content.

    1. I agree with Mr. Stone’s assessment of L6 (for one brief instant I am more Mr. Stone than Mr. Stone himself!); however, there is no easy fix here; and I will continue to keep the text as is, with the ellipsis “made” for “made it to”, an idiom used in my part of the World.

    2. I had previously alerted Mr. Mantyk to this in an email, saying that no one would probably even care, but that I had replaced “did” with “lived”; and in the poem’s second publishing that has been amended. But, for SCP, this is proof again of Mr. Stone’s expertise; he caught it. I have also changed the title in the second publishing.

    3. As to L10, I agree with Mr. Stone; but my revision is not the same as his.

    “and like the millions coming afterwards—they found it good.”

    4. Here I disagree with Mr. Stone entirely; for my poem is not prolix; it is prosaic; and that is exactly what I am striving for. In addition, artistically (not stylistically!) I do not want to write iambic pentametres. What Mr. Stone would like to eliminate, though he perhaps is unaware of it, are the subtle poetic elements that dot its verbal landscape.

    5. The tennos is syllabically the exact length of the sonnet; but it does not divide into two, or emphasize a concluding sestet or couplet. That is one of the reasons I am avoiding the sonnet now (Besides I’ve already written hundreds of them.). As Robert Frost used to say, if you have something you would like to say for eight lines, and then want to take it back for six lines, you’re on the verge of writing a sonnet. I have something I would like to say in ten lines—period.

    Nor am I interested in writing heroic couplets, as the Neoclassicists did, like Dryden, Pope, or, in
    America, Wheatley, which make Mr. Stone’s worthy attempt seem futile indeed, and show Mr. MacKenzie’s brilliant attempt at heroic couplets in “Letter to England” lacking in refined, reasoned clarity. We lack that subtle clarity in though; it is one of the glaring losses of the literature of the last 200 years, from the Romantics on, including the so-called (here @ SCP) “classicist Keats”.

    6. The poem was a visceral response to all the “hate speech” against the tradition of Thanksgiving, but without the attending rancour. Truth be told, the poem pales in comparison to the vigourous prose of William Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation”.

    Reply
    • Mark Stone

      Bruce, After reading your response to my Comment #4, I went back and looked at the slimmed down version of your poem that I created. I acknowledge that it looks like a Christmas tree with no lights or decorations. It lacks the vivid and colorful details that bring a poem alive. It lacks the adjectives, adverbs and prepositional phrases where one can do the alliteration, assonance, consonance, double entendre and word play that makes writing fun. Just as Frost said that the road you choose to take in life makes all the difference, it is the vivid and colorful details in a poem that make all the difference. Although I have written and edited technical documents for a living for the last 30-plus years, I still have a lot to learn about reviewing and commenting on poems. Please allow me to withdraw my Comment #4.

      Reply
  6. Usa W. Celebride

    Mr. Stone can certainly take back his comment; but I thought (mistyped above in my last comment) it was a very informative example for comparison. Mr. Stone’s clipped poem shows better than I can explain why I prefer a longer poetic line, which, if not as free as Whitman’s, nor as dynamic as Pound’s, nor as rhyme-free as Stevens’ intricate wordwork (my Anglo kenning for poetry), at least incorporates some of each of them, inter alia.

    Nevertheless, Mr. Stone brings up a very important point in his take-back (I’ve been reading Beowulf again). He brings up, if indirectly, the topic of What is poetry?

    He states that his poem looks “like a Christmas tree with no lights or decorations. It lacks the vivid and colorful details that bring a poem alive. It lacks the adjective, adverbs, and prepositional phrases where one can do the alliteration, assonance, consonance, double entendre and wordplay (English is kenning rich) is that makes writing fun.”

    1. I do not think poetry is decorative; that was the mistake of the Neoclassicist poets.

    2. Prose is superior to poetry in its dexterity; however, it too is informed by the elements of poetry; and its power does not come from its decorations.

    3. There are many shared qualities between good prose and good poetry.

    4. The Elizabethans were good at the “fun” of wordplay; and that is one indication of the power of a language at any point in time.

    5. For me a key power of any writing is in the beauty, the goodness, and the truths it conveys, as for example, Noether’s work in symmetrical structures, which is behind so many modern laws of physics.

    6. In short, what makes good writing is its integrity, that integral component for which its symbols stand. Within language there is enormous power, from Homeric hexametres to Schrödinger’s equation and beyond; and we are a part of that.

    Reply

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