“The Pumpkin” by John Greenleaf Whittier

by Ann Neilson

When I was growing up in Ohio, I would yearly attend a festival in Circleville, my family’s hometown, called The Pumpkin Show. I recall pumpkin-flavored donuts, seeing the world’s largest pumpkin pie, and collecting souvenirs of Buckeyes with pumpkins painted on their bellies (Ohio is the Buckeye state, after all). This, furthermore, recalls cozy Thanksgivings with my extended family, warm cider, and my great-Aunt’s pumpkin bread. But above all, what is more sacredly served around the family table than the pumpkin pie? Although I am now situated on the East Coast, I maintain these traditions by purchasing pumpkin-flavored/scented everything once late August hits. This generally lasts through mid-November, which is when I then start getting the Christmas itch.

While peering through my poetry anthologies, I delightedly discovered a poem entitled “The Pumpkin,” by John Greenleaf Whittier. This poem expresses my exact sentiments about the beloved fruit, honorably deeming it “Greenly and fair in the lands of the sun” and the “fruit loved of [childhood].” From its organic color, to its distinguished taste, to its formidable size—which is perfect, I might add, and as does Whittier, for carving malicious faces into—the pumpkin reigns as the king of all fruits.

At the end of this post, just below the poem, you will find links to various Pumpkin-y recipes, which I just had to share. I fear I may turn into a pumpkin before the day’s through, with all this talk!

The Pumpkin
John Greenleaf Whittier

O, GREENLY and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o’er Nineveh’s prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.

On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines.

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South come the pilgrim and guest,
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

O,—fruit loved of boyhood!—the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

Then thanks for thy present!—none sweeter or better
E’er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o’er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!


Pumpkin Recipes
Pumpkin SoupPumpkin Bread 
Pumpkin Cookies
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
What to do with those pumpkin leaves!
Pumpkin Pie
My go-to pumpkin tea