The Second Thanksgiving

Miles Standish stood on the Plimouth stockade
And looked inland: what thing had made
That wailing sound? It was thin and high,
Like a weary animal, waiting to die.
And then he saw them: ragged and weak,
They limped towards the wall—one tried to speak,
“Netop!” he cried. “Englishman! Friend!”
It fell to a mutter, Miles had to bend
Across the weathered palisade
To hear—he cupped his ear to aid
Him in the brisk November wind.
“Netop!” it came again, “You, friend!”
The sentry raised his gun—“No closer!”
“Know them?” Standish asked him. “No, sir,
But what matter? Orders are to shoot
At anything which dares set foot
Within The Saints’ small garden ground
And there they are—I’ll fire a round
Above their heads, at least—that’s fair.
But then, should they have thought to dare
Approach the wall, their fault, their harm.
So please you, sir, to sound the alarm
Then arm yourself and join me here
Unless, at shot, they disappear
Like ghosts at sunrise—ghosts they look.”
But Standish stood: to overlook
A danger was a sin, but he
Was whelmed with curiosity.
“You there!” he shouted. “Who are you?”
One faltered forward, “Someone who
Once helped your people to survive.”
“Samoset! You’re still alive?”
“But barely—winter, English friend,
Will soon bring all things to an end
Unless you help us—as I know
You will—as we once helped you, so
It’s your turn now. You’ll take us in.
You’re netop to us, English, friend.”
What should I do? Miles Standish wondered
And while upon the matter pondered,
The governor came up the wall
And looked and shook his head, “It’s fall
And we have little for The Saints.
I’m sorry, Standish, but complaints
About those people pass around,
Of how they claim this as their ground
When all of us swear by the bliss
Of life beyond, God gave us this.
Besides, we’ll grow in numbers now
And spring will give us time to plow
And we’ll need more and more good land.
If they are gone, well, understand
I mean no harm—but I would say
It’s God will put them from our way
Who favors us, or else we’d be
As they are now—that’s QED.
So, sentry, do your duty—fire
And if they don’t at once retire
Beyond the edge of yonder wood,
Turn out the guard—a little blood
Will keep them moving.” He descended,
Convinced the matter had been ended.
The sentry fired, the little band
Shook, then scattered—no command
From governor or captain swept
Them off—as if the thing which kept
Them one was trust in English friends
And with that shot, the friendship ends
And tribe as well. But Standish stood,
“Poor Samoset! And was this good
For good? We live and they are lost?
I wonder what that plowland cost?”


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