Once on a time a general whose name is handed down
To the present generation as a name of high renown
Once on a time this general - I trust you understand
This happened years and years ago, and in a foreign land.
This general once stood before his army, thinking hard;
And he talked about advancing, but he didn't move a yard,
For, to put the matter plainly, though he knew his cause was right,
And desired to be the leader, yet he didn't want to fight.

He bravely talked for hours and hours of tactics and defence
(In good sooth, he was a leader of undoubted eloquence)
Till his soldiers grew impatient, for they spied afar the foe,
So they started marching forward, and the leader had to go,
Though he begged for time to elocute, they forced him to a walk;
Then they broke into a double, and he hadn't breath to talk.
If his soldiers start to push him - well, that can a leader do?
Thus he led his army forward - of necessity, 'tis true.

Oh, they forced him to a run,
And the firing of a gun
Gave him qualms about the business, but he couldn't change his mind.
He'd have dearly loved to pause
And orate about The Cause,
But he had to keep responding to the pressure from behind.
Then he yelled a battle-cry,
And he waved his sword on high,
But he mournfully reflected as he viewed the foemen's horde:
Leadership may be all right
While the foe is out of sight,
But, like the pen, the silver tongue is safer than the sword.

The fight was won. That general, his heart swelled up with pride,
Delivered speeches eloquent to his victorious side;
And the peroration hinted they should rest while they'd the chance;
But the army wanted more of it and urged him to advance.
'Twas here the general resigned to join another band
That didn't yearn to go and fight the battles of the land.
'Twas a calm, reposeful army, and that leader suited well;
For it let him talk of fighting while it sat and took a spell.

He was leader of the tired,
And he never was required
To go ranging o'er the country to attack a savage foe;
And whene'er he thought it best
To sit down and take a rest,
Well - it's rude to push a leader when he doesn't want to go.
And, if by some mischance,
He should mention an advance,
They would let him talk about it and applaud him very hard;
They would hail him as the man
Who by right was in the van;
But they'd grab him by the coat-tails if he sought to move a yard.

Give attention now, my masters, to this general's career;
He was affable and eloquent, but let me mention here
This happened very long since - twenty thousand years or so;
For now, we know, a leader leads before he's forced to go.
But if, perchance, at any time, a leader you should find
Who objects to moving onward till he gets a push behind,
Far better shift him from the front; his place is never here;
And let him join the other crowd - the Army of the Rear.

Let us have a moving army, let its leader be a man
Who doesn't need a shove behind to keep him in the van;
And if he halts to elocute, let's shift him off the track,
And put him 'mid the baggage-carts and lumber at the back.
There to seek a reputation with the busted and the bushed:
For no man may seek for Honor who insists on being pushed.
And he who seeks to lead must keep ahead a yard or so,
For - it's rude to push a leader when he doesn't want to go.

For a leader of the kind
Who requires a kick behind
Isn't any sort of leader, when you come to think of it;
And the generals we need
Are the fellows who CAN lead
The men who know the track to go, and tackle it with grit.
Wherefore, when you hear the talk
Of these fellows who would baulk,
While they flood the land with eloquence till mentally you're bushed.
Just remember, words and air
Seldom lead to anywhere,
And reflect upon the story of the leader that was pushed

More verses by Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis