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The Best Thanksgiving Poems and Poems of Gratitude and Hope

Which poets wrote the best Thanksgiving poems in the English language? Who wrote the best poems about Gratitude and Hope? On this page you will find the best poems we have been able to garner on the themes of Thanksgiving, Harvest, Gratitude and Hope, written by good and great poets who include Matsuo Basho, Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Bogan, Yosa Buson, Chiyo-ni, e. e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, Ernest Dowson, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Robert Hayden, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Langston Hughes, John Keats, Ono no Komachi, Yamaguchi Seishi, William Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, James Wright and William Butler Yeats.

Here are my personal (and admittedly subjective) top ten poems of Thanksgiving, Gratitude and Hope:

"Cædmon's Hymn" by the ancient Anglo-Saxon poet Cædmon (the first extant poem in the English language is a poem of thanksgiving, gratitude, hope and praise)
"Thanksgiving Time" by Langston Hughes
"A Blessing" by James Wright
"My Heart Leaps Up" and "It Is a Beauteous Evening, Calm And Free" by William Wordsworth
"The Poet's Testament" by George Santayana
"Highway Apple Trees" by Rhina P. Espaillat
"Apple Picking" and "Birches" by Robert Frost
"Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden
"Endymion" ("A thing of beauty is a joy forever") and "Ode to Autumn" by John Keats
"The Wild Swans at Coole" by William Butler Yeats

Honorable Mention: "Ah! Sunflower" by William Blake, "A Noiseless Patient Spider" by Walt Whitman, "The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop, "Song for the Last Act" by Louise Bogan, "Hope Is a Thing with Feathers" by Emily Dickinson, "October" by Edward Thomas, Sonnet 73 ("That time of year thou mayest in me behold") by William Shakespeare, "This is just to say" by William Carlos Williams, "Bread and Music" by Conrad Aiken

compiled by Michael R. Burch

Cynics say life has nothing to offer
but suffering, death, then an airtight coffer.
I almost agreed life has nothing one can recommend,
but then I thought of you—fierce lover, kind friend.
You approach each day with the attitude
of gratitude,
and I admit that sometimes when I’m at the end of my rope,
you give me hope.
Michael R. Burch



Thanksgiving Time
by Langston Hughes

When the night winds whistle through the trees and blow the crisp brown leaves a-crackling down,
When the autumn moon is big and yellow-orange and round,
When old Jack Frost is sparkling on the ground,
It's Thanksgiving Time!

When the pantry jars are full of mince-meat and the shelves are laden with sweet spices for a cake
When the butcher man sends up a turkey nice and fat to bake,
When the stores are crammed with everything ingenious cooks can make,
It's Thanksgiving Time!

When the gales of coming winter outside your window howl,
When the Air is sharp and cheery so it drives away your scowl,
When one's appetite craves turkey and will have no other fowl,
It's Thanksgiving Time!



The cheerful-chirping cricket
contends gray autumn's gay,
contemptuous of frost
Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



The earliest Old English poem still extant today is probably "Cædmon's Hymn," a lyric of praise, gratitude and thanksgiving which was composed sometime between 658 and 680 AD. According to the scholar Bede (673-735), Cædmon was an illiterate herdsman who worked at the monastery of Whitby, a small English fishing village. Cædmon, according to the Venerable Bede, was given the gift of poetic composition by an angel.

Cædmon's Hymn
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Now we must honour heaven-kingdom's Guardian,
the might of the Architect and his mind-plans,
the work of the Glory-Father. First he, the eternal Lord,
established the foundation of wonders.
Then he, the first Poet, created heaven as a roof
for the sons of men, holy Creator,
Guardian of mankind. Then he, the eternal Lord,
afterwards made the middle earth for men, Master almighty.



A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Its loveliness increases; it will never
pass into nothingness ...
―John Keats



Looking into Heaven
with
Love and Gratitude
on Thanksgiving Day November 23, 2006

by
Hiroshima survivor Takashi "Thomas" Tanemori

Turning my face to Heaven
I sense rather than see
the endless blue.
Beyond the dancing leaves and soaring hawk,
its immeasurable stillness
reflects the wonder of all Creation.

**

Morning dew glittering in the dawn,
like precious jewels;
and twinkling stars echoing in the silent night,
like the songs of angels,
We gather the fruits of the earth,
till the barn is overflowing with bounty.

**

My heart fills with countless blessings:
food, shelter, clothing and friends to be encircled.
Looking back, I see how
my stumbling steps have become a path
and how, on this lonely road,
I have never been alone.

**

The kindness of many has been
like a spring rain,
bringing new life to my heart,
as a "Blade of Grass" ever emerging
from the ashes of the Past,
I stand, Amazed at my blessings,
grateful for His Wonders!



Highway Apple Trees
by Rhina P. Espaillat

Nobody seeds this harvest, it just grows,
miraculous, above old caps and cans.
These apples may be sweet. Nobody knows

If they were meant to ripen under those
slow summer clouds, cooled by their small green fans.
Nobody seeds this harvest, it just grows,

nodding assent to every wind that blows,
uselessly safe, far from our knives and pans.
These apples may be sweet. Nobody knows

what future orchards live in cores one throws
from glossy limousines or battered vans.
Nobody seeds this harvest; it just grows,

denied the gift of purpose we suppose
would give it worth, conferred by human hands.
These apples, maybe sweet (nobody knows),

soften and fall, as autumn comes and goes,
into a sleep well-earned as any man’s.
Nobody seeds this harvest, it just grows.
These apples may be sweet. Nobody knows.



One apple, alone
in the abandoned orchard
reddens for winter
Patrick Blanche, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



... you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you ...
―e. e. cummings



A Blessing
by James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.



White plum blossoms
though the hour is late,
a glimpse of dawn
Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch; this is believed to be Buson's death poem and he is believed to have died before dawn



My Heart Leaps Up
by William Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold
   A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
   Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.



If fields of autumn flowers
can shed their blossoms, shameless,
why can’t I also frolic here —
as fearless, and as blameless?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



A Clear Midnight
by Walt Whitman

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best.
Night, sleep, death and the stars.



Whistle on, twilight whippoorwill,
solemn evangelist
of loneliness
Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Hope Is A Thing With Feathers
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings a tune without words
And never stops at all.

And sweetest, in the gale, is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That keeps so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea
Yet, never, in extremity
It ask a crumb of me.



The first morning of autumn:
the mirror I investigate
reflects my father’s face
Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Beginning My Studies

by Walt Whitman

Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much,
The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,
The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,
The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much,
I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther,
But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.



Wild geese pass
leaving the emptiness of heaven
revealed
Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



The Poet's Testament
by George Santayana

I give back to the earth what the earth gave,
All to the furrow, none to the grave,
The candle's out, the spirit's vigil spent;
Sight may not follow where the vision went.

I leave you but the sound of many a word
In mocking echoes haply overheard,
I sang to heaven. My exile made me free,
from world to world, from all worlds carried me.

Spared by the furies, for the Fates were kind,
I paced the pillared cloisters of the mind;
All times my present, everywhere my place,
Nor fear, nor hope, nor envy saw my face.

Blow what winds would, the ancient truth was mine,
And friendship mellowed in the flush of wine,
And heavenly laughter, shaking from its wings
Atoms of light and tears for mortal things.

To trembling harmonies of field and cloud,
Of flesh and spirit was my worship vowed.
Let form, let music, let all quickening air
Fulfill in beauty my imperfect prayer.



Ah butterfly,
what dreams do you ply
with your beautiful wings?
Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Release
by R. S. "Sam" Gwynn

Slow for the sake of flowers as they turn
      Toward sunlight, graceful as a line of sail
            Coming into the wind. Slow for the mill—
Wheel's heft and plummet, for the chug and churn
      Of water as it gathers, for the frail
            Half-life of spraylets as they toss and spill.

For all that lags and eases, all that shows
      The winding-downward and diminished scale
            Of days declining to a twilit chill,
Breathe quietly, release into repose:
                                                       Be still.


Watching wan moonlight
illuminate trees,
my heart also brims,
overflowing with autumn.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?



The first soft snow:
leaves of the awed jonquil
bow low
Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



The Poem of Poems
by Greg Alan Brownderville

A boy passes ghost-like through a curtain of weeping willow.
In rainbow-stained apparel, birds are singing a cappella.
Suddenly I sense it, in the birds and in the child:
The world is a poem growing wild.

A dewdrop on a blade of grass soon slips from where it clung
Like a perfect word that gathers on the tip of a poet's tongue.
And men are merely characters to love and be defiled.
God is a poem growing wild.



Come, investigate loneliness!
a solitary leaf
clings to the Kiri tree
Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Bread and Music
by Conrad Aiken

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, belovèd,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,—
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.



I had thought to pluck
the flower of forgetfulness
only to find it
already blossoming in his heart.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Song For The Last Act
by Louise Bogan

Now that I have your face by heart, I look
Less at its features than its darkening frame
Where quince and melon, yellow as young flame,
Lie with quilled dahlias and the shepherd's crook.
Beyond, a garden. There, in insolent ease
The lead and marble figures watch the show
Of yet another summer loath to go
Although the scythes hang in the apple trees.

Now that I have your face by heart, I look.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read
In the black chords upon a dulling page
Music that is not meant for music's cage,
Whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed.
The staves are shuttled over with a stark
Unprinted silence. In a double dream
I must spell out the storm, the running stream.
The beat's too swift. The notes shift in the dark.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see
The wharves with their great ships and architraves;
The rigging and the cargo and the slaves
On a strange beach under a broken sky.
O not departure, but a voyage done!
The bales stand on the stone; the anchor weeps
Its red rust downward, and the long vine creeps
Beside the salt herb, in the lengthening sun.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see.



Late autumn; now all
the golden leaves turn black underfoot:
soot
Michael R. Burch



Endymion
by John Keats

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkn'd ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.



An empty road
lonelier than abandonment:
this autumn evening
Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



It Is a Beauteous Evening, Calm And Free
by William Wordsworth

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.



This darkening autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he continue?
Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Come Slowly, Eden
by Emily Dickinson

Come slowly—Eden
Lips unused to thee—
Bashful—sip thy jasmines—
As the fainting bee—

Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums—
Counts his nectars—alights—
And is lost in balms!



Grasses wilt:
the braking locomotive
grinds to a halt
Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



This Is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold



The first chill rain:
poor monkey, you too could use
a woven cape of straw
Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



since feeling is first
e. e. cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis



it is at moments after i have dreamed
by e. e. cummings

it is at moments after i have dreamed
of the rare entertainment of your eyes,
when(being fool to fancy)i have deemed
with your peculiar mouth my heart made wise;
at moments when the glassy darkness holds
the genuine apparition of your smile
(it was through tears always)and silence moulds
such strangeness as was mine a little while;
moments when my once more illustrious arms
are filled with fascination,when my breast
wears the intolerant brightness of your charms:
one pierced moment whiter than the rest
—turning from the tremendous lie of sleep
i watch the roses of the day grow deep.



The Wild Swans at Coole
by William Butler Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.

The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?



The Windhover

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
  dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
  Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
  As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
  Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

  No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
  Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.



A Noiseless Patient Spider
by Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.



Ode to Autumn
by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.



Music When Soft Voices Die (To —)
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovèd's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.



Sonnet 73
by William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

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