Walt Whitman on Thanksgiving

THE PLACE GRATITUDE FILLS IN A FINE CHARACTER

 by Walt Whitman

From the Philadelphia Press, Nov. 27, 1884, (Thanksgiving number)

whitmanScene.—A large family supper party, a night or two ago, with voices and laughter of the young, mellow faces of the old, and a by-and-by pause in the general joviality. “Now, Mr. Whitman,” spoke up one of the girls, “what have you to say about Thanksgiving? Won’t you give us a sermon in advance, to sober us down?” The sage nodded smilingly, look’d a moment at the blaze of the great wood fire, ran his forefinger right and left through the heavy white mustache that might have otherwise impeded his voice, and began: “Thanksgiving goes probably far deeper than you folks suppose. I am not sure but it is the source of the highest poetry—as in parts of the Bible. Ruskin, indeed, makes the central source of all great art to be praise (gratitude) to the Almighty for life, and the universe with its objects and play of action.

“We Americans devote an official day to it every year; yet I sometimes fear the real article is almost dead or dying in our self-sufficient, independent Republic. Gratitude, anyhow, has never been made half enough of by the moralists; it is indispensable to a complete character, man’s or woman’s—the disposition to be appreciative, thankful. That is the main matter, the element, inclination—what geologists call the trend. Of my own life and writings I estimate the giving thanks part, with what it infers, as essentially the best item. I should say the quality of gratitude rounds the whole emotional nature; I should say love and faith would quite lack vitality without it. There are people—shall I call them even religious people, as things go?—who have no such trend to their disposition.”

One thought on “Walt Whitman on Thanksgiving”

  1. I believe the whole point of any holiday or celebration is purpose and meaning. Usually it is the element of appreciation, gratitude, uniting with people you care about and love. As time has gone by that sentiment has thinned out. It has become an excuse to drink more, eat more, spend more and be stressed more. There is a choice we can make to not allow ourselves to lose the heart of the matter. The whole element and reason for any holiday. I am grateful every day. I count my blessings each day. So when a holiday comes along, I am that much more in tune that concept.

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