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Why Washington Retreated

Written by: Ellis Parker Butler | Biography
 1775

Said Congress to George Washington:
 “To set this country free,
You’ll have to whip the Britishers
 And chase them o’er the sea.
” “Oh, very well,” said Washington, “I’ll do the best I can.
I’ll slam and bang those Britishers And whip them to a man.
” 1777 Said Congress to George Washington: “The people all complain; Why don’t you fight? You but retreat And then retreat again.
” “That can’t be helped,” said Washington, “As you will quite agree When you see how the novelists Have mixed up things for me.
” Said Congress to George Washington: “Pray make your meaning clear.
” Said Washington: “Why, certainly— But pray excuse this tear.
Of course we know,” said Washington, “The object of this war— It is to furnish novelists With patriotic lore.
” Said Congress to George Washington: “Yes! yes! but pray proceed.
” Said Washington: “My part in it Is difficult indeed, For every hero in the books Must sometime meet with me, And every sweet-faced heroine I must kiss gallantly.
” Said Congress to George Washington: “But why must you retreat?” Said Washington: “One moment, please, My story to complete.
These hero-folk are scattered through The whole United States; At every little country town A man or maiden waits.
” To Congress said George Washington: “At Harlem I must be On such a day to chat with one, And then I’ll have to flee With haste to Jersey, there to meet Another.
Here’s a list Of sixty-seven heroes, and There may be some I’ve missed.
” To Congress said George Washington: “Since I must meet them all (And if I don’t you know how flat The novels all will fall), I cannot take much time to fight, I must be on the run, Or some historic novelist Will surely be undone.
” Said Congress to George Washington: “You are a noble man.
Your thoughtfulness is notable, And we approve your plan; A battle won pads very well A novel that is thin, But it is better to retreat Than miss one man and win.
” Said Congress to George Washington: “Kiss every pretty maid, But do it in a courtly way And in a manner staid— And some day when your sword is sheathed And all our banners furled, A crop of novels will spring up That shall appal the world.



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