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Brave Pilgrims

By Lori Harris
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #26, 1998.

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Lori Harris


'Twas the year of the famine in Plymouth of old,
The ice and the snow from the thatched roofs had rolled;
Through the warm purple skies steered the geese o'er the seas,
And the woodpeckers tapped in the clocks of the trees;
And the boughs on the slopes to the south winds lay bare,
and dreaming of summer, the buds swelled in the air.
The pale Pilgrims welcomed each reddening morn;
There were left but for rations Five Kernels of Corn.
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
But to Bradford a feast were Five Kernels of Corn!

"Five Kernels of Corn! Five Kernels of Corn!
Ye people, be glad for Five Kernels of Corn!"
So Bradford cried out on bleak Burial Hill,
And the thin women stood in their doors, white and still.
"Lo, the harbor of Plymouth rolls bright in the Spring,
The maples grow red, and the wood robins sing,
The west wind is blowing, and fading the snow,
And the pleasant pines sing, and arbutuses blow.
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
To each one be given Five Kernels of Corn!"

O Bradford of Austerfield hast on thy way,
The west winds are blowing o'er Provincetown Bay,
The white avens bloom, but the pine domes are chill,
And new graves have furrowed Precisioners' Hill!
"Give thanks, all ye people, the warm skies have come,
The hilltops are sunny, and green grows the holm,
And the trumpets of winds, and the white March is gone,
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
Ye have for Thanksgiving Five Kernels of Corn!

"The raven's gift eat and be humble and pray,
A new light is breaking and Truth leads your way;
One taper a thousand shall kindle; rejoice
That to you has been given the wilderness voice!"
O Bradford of Austerfield, daring the wave,
And safe through the sounding blasts leading the brave,
Of deeds such as thine was the free nation born,
And the festal world sings the "Five Kernels of Corn."
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
The nation gives thanks for Five Kernels of Corn!
To the Thanksgiving Feast bring Five Kernels of Corn!

Did you cry? I do every time I read this. In the spring of 1622, the Pilgrims were in the middle of an almost two-year famine when, according to tradition, the rations were reduced to five kernels of corn per day. This is a great poem to help introduce family members to a biblical view of Thanksgiving. It is especially fun to have the kids give their presentation of this poem at the family bash. Be sure to have a small plate with five kernels of corn displayed. Have one member of your "presentation team" give an introduction to the author of the poem as well. Hezekiah Butterworth was an American patriot schoolteacher from Boston who was actively involved in the American Revolution. He was a prolific writer and a deeply committed Christian. His personal history is every bit as interesting as the many books and poems he wrote to help guide children in their pursuit of knowledge.

Depending on how receptive your audience is, you might want to have more material ready for presentation. Some of our favorites include John Robinson's Farewell Address to the Pilgrims at Leyden and sections from Bradford's History of Plimoth Plantation, Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphreys and Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Bulla. We may not get through them all, but we try to review our favorite sections. Another good book to read for a family circle is Louisa May Alcott's An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving.

Placing the Pilgrims on a timeline is important. Did you know that the time of the Pilgrims overlaps the time of Rembrandt? Dutch painting and the Pilgrims' time in Holland can be worked in easily. Be sure to point out that the Separatists of Leyden were much like many homeschooling parents of today; they felt they had to rescue their offspring from the secular culture around them.

Incorporate the geography of the East Coast in your study. How very different our lives would be if this small band had not landed in that specially placed spot on the Atlantic seaboard! Be sure to study a map and visualize the "Strong Arm of the Lord" (Cape Cod) as it caught that little band of pilgrims and held them securely.

The foundation of our Christian Republic rests on the fact that these Pilgrims had the desire to form a new nation based on a biblical view of God and a strong anchor in the reformed faith. Read the story of the Virginia Colony. Compare the people of Plimoth and their government with the Virginia Colony. Take a look at the chart at the upper right to see the differences.

Depending on the ages in your family you will be able to vary your findings but this should give you a general idea of various principles to search for. Look for biblical, historical and governmental evidences. Be sure to write out the scriptures that help you to identify the principles you are discovering.

Lastly, if you get the chance, plan the ultimate vacation to Plymouth. While there, visit the Monument to the Forefathers as well as Plymouth Rock, the Sarcophagus of the Pilgrims, and the many statues placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution during the 1920's. Take your family on the Heritage Institute Ministries tour. Director Paul Jehle has trained students from his Principle Approach school to give visitors the Christian History tour that the general public never sees!

Brave Pilgrims Chart


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