Estimated reading time: 2 minute(s)

Sektch of George Washington as a young soldier, clipped from "American Leaders and Heroes" (1907) by Wilbur F. Gorby.
Illustration of George Washington as a young soldier, clipped from “American Leaders and Heroes” (1907) by Wilbur Gorby

I did not post a full article on Presidents’ Day 2021, much less a presidential article. Presidents’ Day began as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday. Washington was born on February 22, 1732. For that reason, it is not too late for a New Leaf Journal Presidents’ Day special. In this post, we will reprint a poem titled “Washington’s Birthday” by Margaret E. Sangster.

(Note: Those who are interested in additional Washington content can find my article about his 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation.)

A Brief Introduction to Margaret E. Sangster

Margaret E. Sangster, pictured in 1899.
Margaret Elizabeth Sangster, pictured in 1899

Margaret E. Sangster was born on February 22, 1838, 107 years to the day of the birth of George Washington. I know not whether that fact played any role in her deciding to write a poem commemorating Washington’s birthday just before it was designated as a Federal holiday. Sangster lived until June 3, 1912, and in that time she produced both poetry and prose prolifically. In 1890, Sangster became the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, in which she would publish the poem that we will reprint below.

Finding Sangster’s “Washington’s Birthday”

Sangster’s poem, “Washington’s Birthday,” was published in the February 18, 1896 issue of Harper’s Round Table. She was, at that time, still an editor of Harper’s Bazaar. I do not know whether “Washington’s Birthday” was first published in this issue of Harper’s Round Table or whether it was published previously or thereafter . A quick search online revealed no other reference to the poem.

Reprinting “Washington’s Birthday” by Margaret E. Sangster

'Tis splendid to live so grandly
   That, long after you are gone,
The things you did are remembered,
   And recounted under the sun;
To live so bravely and purely
   That a nation stops on its way,
And once a year, with banner and drum,
   Keeps its thought of your natal day.

'Tis splendid to have a record
   So white and free from stain
That, held to the light, it shows no blot,
   Though tested and tried amain;
That to age forever
   Repeats its story of love,
And your birthday lives in a nation's heart,
   All other days above.

And this is Washington's glory,
   A steadfast soul and true,
Who stood for his country's honor
   When his country's days were few.
And now when its days are many,
   And its flag of stars is flung
To breeze in defiant challenge,
   His name is on every tongue

Yes, it's splendid to live so bravely,
   To be so great and strong.
That your memory is every a tocsin
   To rally the foes of the wrong;
To live so proudly and purely
   That your people pause in their way,
And year by year, with banner and drum,
   Keep the thought of your natal day.

-Margaret E. Sangster