All Which We Behold Is Full of Blessings

Thomas Gainsborough, “River Landscape with Rustic Lovers”


For me, Thanksgiving is all about affirming family, so it’s noteworthy that today will be my first Thanksgiving since college that I won’t be dining with family. Julia is visiting her 91-year-old mother in Iowa, and my sons Darien and Tobias are in Manhattan and California with their own families, complete with new babies. I’ll be joining my dear friend Jackie Paskow for dinner but will have to rely on Skype for contact with my blood relatives.

William Wordsworth has a passage in Tintern Abbey that can function as a Thanksgiving poem. He is honoring his sister, whose presence reminds him of the rapturous joys of his childhood. As he sits with her by the banks of the Wye River, he knows that he is storing up memories that he will be able to rely on for the rest of his life. Here’s the passage I have in mind:

For thou art with me here upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,                         
My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ’tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all                   
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings.

Life can be tough. Thanksgiving reminds us that the blessings all around us that will see us through.

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

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