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Poem by Ellis Parker Butler

Why Washington Retreated


Said Congress to George Washington:
  To set this country free,
Youll have to whip the Britishers
  And chase them oer the sea.
Oh, very well, said Washington,
  Ill do the best I can.
Ill slam and bang those Britishers
  And whip them to a man.


Said Congress to George Washington:
  The people all complain;
Why dont you fight? You but retreat
  And then retreat again.
That cant 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 Ill have to flee
With haste to Jersey, there to meet
  Another. Heres a list
Of sixty-seven heroes, and
  There may be some Ive missed.

To Congress said George Washington:
  Since I must meet them all
(And if I dont 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.

Ellis Parker Butler

Ellis Parker Butler's other poems:
  1. New England Magazine
  2. The Ballade of the Automobile
  3. The Rich Boys Christmas
  4. Why I Went to the Foot
  5. Jabed Meeker, Humorist

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