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Blessings and Bounty

I love Thanksgiving because I love the history behind it. A little band of freedom-of-religion seeking wanderers came to a new land in frigid November, unprepared for the rigors of life in the new world and nearly starved to death that harrowing winter—all in the hope of being able to worship God as they saw fit. As the winter weather took its toll, the graves on the hill multiplied.

Winter was followed by poor summer crops and starvation was upon them. Half of their group lay buried. Those Plymouth pilgrims who were survivors were put on rations:  5 kernels of Indian corn per day. Through prayer and miracles, enough survived to plant and eat the harvest of 1623, and 51 of them lived to have a child.  It is fascinating to consider that over 10 million descendants today can trace their lineage to these Plymouth survivors, including 8 U.S. Presidents.

Each Thanksgiving, we set the table with 5 kernels of corn on each plate. Indian corn is what they had, and I suppose it took an hour to suck and chew it soft enough to provide some small relief to their hunger. We put 5 kernels of canned sweet corn on each plate, so even the little ones can eat it and solidify the memory of the stories we tell of our Pilgrim fathers. Before we eat our feast, we remember.

Emily always recites the poem, Five Kernels of Corn, and I always feel my eyes brimming. What blessings and bounty we enjoy!  Remember, remember those who were rationed 5 kernels of corn, so that we could enjoy the legacy of religious freedom!

Five Kernels of Corn
by Hezekiah Butterworth

‘Twas the year of the famine in Plymouth of old,
The ice and the snow from the thatched roofs had rolled;
Through the warm purple skies steered the geese o’er the seas,
And the woodpeckers tapped in the clocks of the trees;
And the boughs on the slopes to the south winds lay bare,
And dreaming of summer, the buds swelled in the air.
The pale Pilgrims welcomed each reddening morn;
There were left but for rations Five Kernels of Corn.
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
But to Bradford a feast were Five Kernels of Corn!

“Five Kernels of Corn! Five Kernels of Corn!
Ye people, be glad for Five Kernels of Corn!”
So Bradford cried out on bleak Burial Hill,
And the thin women stood in their doors, white and still.
“Lo, the harbor of Plymouth rolls bright in the Spring,
The maples grow red, and the wood robins sing,
The west wind is blowing, and fading the snow,
And the pleasant pines sing, and arbutuses blow.
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
To each one be given Five Kernels of Corn!”

O Bradford of Austerfield hast on thy way,
The west winds are blowing o’er Provincetown Bay,
The white avens bloom, but the pine domes are chill,
And new graves have furrowed Precisioners’ Hill!
“Give thanks, all ye people, the warm skies have come,
The hilltops are sunny, and green grows the holm,
And the trumpets of winds, and the white March is gone,
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
Ye have for Thanksgiving Five Kernels of Corn!

“The raven’s gift eat and be humble and pray,
A new light is breaking and Truth leads your way;
One taper a thousand shall kindle; rejoice
That to you has been given the wilderness voice!”
O Bradford of Austerfield, daring the wave,
And safe through the sounding blasts leading the brave,
Of deeds such as thine was the free nation born,
And the festal world sings the “Five Kernels of Corn.”
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
The nation gives thanks for Five Kernels of Corn!

To the Thanksgiving Feast bring Five Kernels of Corn!


Read the real story of the Pilgrims’ ordeal in my favorite children’s books (click to see):












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