Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, November 19, 2006

American soldiers at war, far from home on Thanksgiving Day: The journalist-poet Lucy Larcom (1824-1893) makes that the subject of her poem about a Union soldier in the Civil War. A few years older than Emily Dickinson, a few years younger than Walt Whitman, Larcom was nothing like a great poet, but she was a competent writer, as demonstrated by some selections from "The Volunteer's Thanksgiving." It begins:

The last days of November, and everything so green!

A finer bit of country my eyes have never seen.

'Twill be a thing to tell of, ten years or twenty hence,

How I came down to Georgia at Uncle Sam's expense.

Four years ago this winter, up at the district school,

I wrote all day, and ciphered, perched on a white-pine stool;

And studied in my atlas the boundaries of the States,

And learnt the wars with England, the history and the dates.

Larcom's teenage character, whose birthday falls on the day after Thanksgiving, remembers home:

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