by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét
Sing hey! For bold George Washington,
That jolly British tar,
King George’s famous admiral
From Hull to Zanzibar!
No–wait a minute–something’s wrong–
George wished to sail the foam.
But, when his mother thought aghast,
Of Georgie shinning up a mast,
Her tears and protests flowed so fast
That George remained at home.
Sing ho! For grave Washington,
The staid Virginia squire,
Who farms his fields and hunts his hounds
And aims at nothing higher!
Stop, stop it’s going wrong again!
George liked to live on farms,
But when the Colonies agreed
They could and should and would be freed,
They called on George to do the deed
And George cried “Shoulder arms!”
Sing ha! For Emperor Washington,
That hero of renown,
Who freed his land from Britain’s rule
To win a golden crown!
No, no, that’s what George might have won
But didn’t for he said,
“There’s not much point about a king,
They’re pretty but they’re apt to sting
And, as for crowns–the heavy thing
Would only hurt my head.”
Sing ho! For our George Washington!
(At last I’ve got it straight.)
The first in war, the first in peace,
The goodly and the great.
But, when you think about him now,
From here to Valley Forge,
Remember this–he might have been
A highly different specimen,
And, where on earth would we be, then?
I’m glad that George was George.
I have never liked President’s Day. Why celebrate loser presidents like Jimmy Carter and James Buchanan, non-entities like Millard Fillmore, bad presidents, like Grant, with great presidents like Washington and Lincoln? Officially the date is still the commemoration of George Washington’s birthday and in this post we will recall the life of the greatest American who ever lived. Ironically in the length of a blog post we will be unable to cover all of Washington’s event filled life, including his Presidency. We will break off at the close of the Revolution and finish off on February 22, the actual birthday of the man who will always be first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of all of us who, as Americans, in many ways are his children.
Only Abraham Lincoln comes close to Washington in our American secular pantheon. Our first president, he was also the man who led our armies to victory in the Revolutionary War, a conflict I am certain that we would have lost but for his leadership, faith and example. In his own time, and from his days as a very young man, most people who encountered Washington assumed he was destined for greatness. Six foot three at a time when most men were around five foot six, Washington was a literal giant for his day, weighing 220 pounds of muscle, and noted for his feats of strength. A quiet aura of dignity and command seemed to envelop him from the first time that he put on the uniform of a Virginia militia officer. He had a hot temper that he usually successfully controlled beneath a mask of quiet dignity, leavened by a lively sense of humor. However, none of these explain why men and women instinctively looked to him for leadership, but they always did. Perhaps it was simply a matter of trust. Although the cherry tree is a myth, Washington was always known to be an honest man, and a man who could be entrusted with great tasks that he would attempt to do out of a sense of duty and not for personal aggrandizement. Such men are very rare in history, and almost all Washington’s contemporaries realized that he was such a rarity.
Washington of course did not appear full grown on the stage of history. When he was born none would have expected him to have any historical significance in his life. (more…)