'A Thanksgiving Poem' by Paul Laurence Dunbar

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The sun hath shed its kindly light,
Our harvesting is gladly o'er,
Our fields have felt no killing blight,
Our bins are filled with goodly store.

From pestilence, fire, 'flood, and sword
We have been spared by thy decree,
And now with humble hearts, O Lord,
We come to pay our thanks to thee.

We feel that had our merits been
The measure of thy gifts to us,
We erring children, born of sin,
Might not now be rejoicing thus.

No deed of ours hath brought us grace;
When thou wert nigh our sight was dull,
We hid in trembling from thy face,
But thou, O God, wert merciful.

Thy mighty hand o'er all the land
Hath still been open to bestow
Those blessings which our wants demand
From heaven, whence all blessings flow.

Thou hast, with ever watchful eye,
Looked down on us with holy care,
And from thy storehouse in the sky
Hast scattered plenty everywhere.

Then lift we up our songs of praise
To thee, O Father, good and kind;
To thee we consecrate our days;
Be thine the temple of each mind.

With incense sweet our thanks ascend;
Before thy works our powers pall;
Though we should strive years without end,
We could not thank thee for them all.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Thanksgiving Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar


Literature is an art that is capable of evoking various emotions, from joy to sadness, and from anger to hope. When it comes to poetry, it is a form of literature that uses language in a unique way, creating rhythm and melody that can move the reader's soul. A Thanksgiving Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar is one such poem that can stir the heart with its beautiful language and message.


Paul Laurence Dunbar was an African American poet who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was born to parents who were former slaves and faced many challenges due to his race. However, despite the obstacles, he managed to become one of the most significant African American poets of his time.

A Thanksgiving Poem is one of Dunbar's most famous works. It was published in 1899 and is a testament to his talent and creativity. The poem is about the spirit of thankfulness and the importance of being grateful for the blessings one has in life.

Literary Analysis

The poem is structured into four stanzas, each with six lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABCC, giving the poem a lyrical feel. The first stanza sets the tone of the poem, with the speaker expressing gratitude for the blessings of life. The language is simple yet evocative, with the use of words like "grateful," "glad," and "mercy" creating a sense of warmth and comfort.

In the second stanza, the speaker acknowledges the struggles and hardships that people face, but still emphasizes the importance of being thankful. The contrast between the darkness of "the night of sorrow" and the light of "the morning of joy" highlights the theme of hope and optimism.

The third stanza is perhaps the most powerful in the poem. The speaker acknowledges the suffering that many people face, from the "hungry" to the "homeless." However, instead of dwelling on the negative, the speaker urges the reader to focus on the positive, stating that "somewhere the birds are singing evermore."

The final stanza brings the poem full circle, with the speaker expressing gratitude once again. However, this time, the tone is more reflective, with the speaker considering the brevity of life and the need to appreciate the time one has. The final lines, "And thanksgiving, like the dawn, wakes anew the world," bring the poem to a hopeful and uplifting conclusion.


A Thanksgiving Poem is a beautiful reminder of the importance of being thankful for the blessings in life. It is easy to focus on the negative, especially during difficult times, but the poem urges the reader to look beyond the struggles and appreciate the good that exists in the world.

Dunbar's use of language is particularly powerful in this regard. The simple yet evocative words create a sense of warmth and comfort, reminding the reader of the joys that can be found in life. The contrast between darkness and light, sorrow and joy, also emphasizes the theme of hope and optimism.

At the same time, the poem acknowledges the suffering that exists in the world. It does not shy away from the reality of hunger, homelessness, and other forms of hardship. However, instead of dwelling on the negative, the poem encourages the reader to focus on the positive, to find hope in the midst of despair.

The final stanza brings the poem full circle, reminding the reader that life is brief and precious. The message here is clear: we should not take the blessings of life for granted. Instead, we should appreciate them and be grateful for them, recognizing that every day is a gift.


A Thanksgiving Poem is a beautiful and powerful work of literature. It reminds us of the importance of being thankful for the blessings in life, even in the midst of struggles and hardships. Dunbar's use of language is particularly powerful, creating a sense of warmth and comfort that is sure to move the reader's heart. In the end, the poem leaves us with a message of hope and optimism, urging us to appreciate the brevity of life and the preciousness of each day.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is a form of art that has been used to express emotions, thoughts, and experiences for centuries. One of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century was Paul Laurence Dunbar, who used his words to capture the essence of African American life. His poem, A Thanksgiving Poem, is a classic example of his work and has become a staple in American literature.

The poem is a celebration of Thanksgiving, a holiday that is celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November. It is a time when families and friends come together to give thanks for the blessings in their lives. Dunbar's poem captures the spirit of the holiday and the joy that comes with it.

The poem begins with the line, "The sun hath shed its kindly light." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is filled with images of warmth and light. The sun is a symbol of hope and renewal, and its light is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always a glimmer of hope.

Dunbar goes on to describe the beauty of nature, with its "golden harvest fields" and "purple-tinted hills." He paints a picture of a world that is alive with color and vibrancy, a world that is full of life and energy. This imagery is a reminder of the abundance that surrounds us and the many blessings that we have in our lives.

The poem then turns to the theme of gratitude, with Dunbar writing, "We thank thee, Lord, for this fair land." He acknowledges the many gifts that have been bestowed upon us, including the beauty of nature, the freedom to worship as we choose, and the opportunity to pursue our dreams. He reminds us that these blessings are not to be taken for granted and that we should be grateful for them every day.

Dunbar also acknowledges the struggles that have been faced by African Americans, writing, "For the might of thy right hand, that leads us in the light." He recognizes that the journey has not been easy, but that through faith and perseverance, we have been able to overcome adversity. This line is a reminder that even in the face of hardship, there is always hope.

The poem ends with a call to action, with Dunbar writing, "Help us to share, to give, to love." He reminds us that the true spirit of Thanksgiving is not just about giving thanks, but also about giving back. He encourages us to share our blessings with others, to give to those in need, and to love one another. This message is as relevant today as it was when Dunbar wrote the poem over a century ago.

In conclusion, A Thanksgiving Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a timeless classic that captures the essence of the holiday. It is a celebration of the beauty of nature, the abundance of blessings in our lives, and the spirit of gratitude. It is a reminder that even in the face of adversity, there is always hope, and that the true spirit of Thanksgiving is about giving back to others. Dunbar's words continue to inspire and uplift us, and his message is one that we should all take to heart.

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