Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I have seen a paper on which a boy of about eight listed what he was grateful for, in all twenty or twenty-five items. Number one was "computers". "My parents" were somewhere around seven or ten.

Others have found other blessings. Henry Adams, for example, writing to Sir Robert Cunliffe on August 31, 1875:
You know that though a democrat and a sceptic, I am not fanatically inclined, but I do occasionally thank God that fate did not make me the younger son of an English country gentleman and put me in the army or the church. Of all the forms of English lunacy I ever saw, those two seem to me the most astounding.
An English younger son, Evelyn Waugh, wrote to Nancy Mitford on 1 May, 1952:
Among the countless blessings I thank God for, my failure to find a house in Ireland comes first. Unless one is mad on fox hunting there is nothing to draw one.
 It is curious how often the formula "thank God" has an ironic use--from the British drill sergeant's "Thank God we have got a Navy" when recruits stumble, to the Texan or Kentuckian "Thank God for Mississippi" when the statistics on social well-being come out. I suppose that one could consider the irony Biblically sanctioned, relying on Luke 18:11. Yet it seldom conveys a sense of piety.

For a poem of thanksgiving, (which does not use the verb "thank"), you may see Hopkins's "Pied Beauty" at the University of Toronto's wonderful "Representative English Poetry" site.

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