A Holiday Poem: “Thanksgiving” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Nov 22, 2021 | Posted by Jennifer

While the turkey is roasting in the oven, the pies are cooling on the counter, and the rolls are rising, why not take a moment or two to read this poem to your family? The speaker shares an important lesson for all of us at this festive but hectic season of the year.


by Ella Wheeler Wilcox


We walk on starry fields of white

And do not see the daisies;

For blessings common in our sight**

We rarely offer praises.

We sigh for some supreme delight

To crown our lives with splendor,

And quite ignore our daily store

Of pleasures sweet and tender.


Our cares are bold and push their way

Upon our thought and feeling.

They hang about us all the day,

Our time from pleasure stealing.

So unobtrusive many a joy***

We pass by and forget it,***

But worry strives to own our lives

And conquers if we let it.


There’s not a day in all the year

But holds some hidden pleasure,

And looking back, joys oft appear

To brim the past’s wide measure.

But blessings are like friends, I hold,

Who love and labor near us.

We ought to raise our notes of praise

While living hearts can hear us.


Full many a blessing wears the guise*

Of worry or of trouble.*

Farseeing is the soul and wise

Who knows the mask is double.

But he who has the faith and strength

To thank his God for sorrow

Has found a joy without alloy****

To gladden every morrow.


We ought to make the moments notes

Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;

The hours and days a silent phrase

Of music we are living.

And so the theme should swell and grow

As weeks and months pass o’er us,

And rise sublime at this good time,

A grand Thanksgiving chorus.


The poem is not terribly challenging to read, but there may be some words that are difficult for younger children to understand. Here are a few definitions to help you provide some schema for them:

  • splendor, n. - something that is gorgeous or magnificent in appearance

  • store, n. - something held in reserve

  • unobtrusive, adj. - something discreet; not readily observed

  • strive, v. - to work hard to achieve something

  • oft, adv. - shortened form for “often”

  • brim, v. - to fill to the very top

  • guise, n. - a disguise

  • farseeing, adj. - able to see into the future

  • alloy, n. - something added that lowers value or purity

  • sublime, adj. - of exquisite excellence

Did you happen to catch any stylistic techniques in the poem? Glance back over the poem, and see if you can spot any examples of personification, similes, or metaphors.

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. What does the poet mean that “a blessing wears the guise / Of worry or of trouble” (25‒26)?*

  2. What “blessings common in our sight” (3)** can you acknowledge?

  3. Knowing the definition of unobtrusive, what do you think these lines mean: “So unobtrusive many a joy / We pass by and forget it” (13‒14)?***

  4. Can you list any joys “without alloy” (31)?****

The past year or so has been especially difficult for many people. Perhaps this poem will become a gentle reminder to us all to look for the silver linings in each day, to be thankful for the family and friends we are blessed with, and to not let our worries overcome our joys. Have a happy and joy-filled Thanksgiving!

Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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