Sunday, December 26, 2010

Washington Crossing the Delaware

Most people are familiar with Emanuel Leutze's famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware.  It commemorates the famous crossing of the river 234 years ago yesterday in preparation of his surprise attack on the Hessian soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey.

This morning, on the website Boston 1775, the less famous poem, Washington Crossing the Delaware, was highlighted.  The poem is a sonnet written in 1936 by David Shulman, an eccentric wordsmith and champion Scrabble player.  Here is his work:

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
"How cold!" Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!
The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general's action wish'd "Go!"
He saw his ragged continentals row.
Ah, he stands - sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens - winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.
George can't lose war with's hands in;
He's astern - so go alight, crew, and win!

If you're like me, you're probably thinking, "So what!  I've read better poetry."  True, but the amazing thing about this work is it's an anagram (scrambled letters rearranged) of the phrase "Washington Crossing the Delaware," each and every line!

Shulman, the founder of the American Cryptogram Association, did all of this before computers could even assist him in his effort.  He was noted in his day for sending in corrections to the Oxford English Dictionary, considered the authority on the English language and it's origins.


DAG said...

Nate, I hope the rain has stopped and that you and family enjoyed a wonderful Christmas.

I saw this earlier on that site and am still amazed with it. Imagine the work and patience needed to write this. A little side note, the soldiers rowing the General across were from Marblehead Ma. A source of pride for that coastal town with a great seafaring tradition.

Nate Maas said...

DAG, thanks, Christmas was very nice. I hope it was nice for you too. The rain has stopped for now. We actually enjoyed the rain, but being an active family we enjoy being outdoors.

I enjoy Revolutionary history. I actually belong to a organization called the Sons of the American Revolution (kind of like a men's DAR). I joined the organization based on the service of my ancestor, Captain Peter Pitts, from Dighton, Mass.

DAG said...

My internet service has been restored (snow storm here about 18") and I did a quick search for Captain Pitts. Quite impressive not everybody gets a town named after them. A search also took me to which showed a family lineage from Nancy Pitts. I am sure that you know this already but being a Mayflower Descendant is a nice feather in ones cap.

You have a right to be proud of that lineage.

Nate Maas said...

DAG, that's some crazy snowfall!

Yes, I'm aware of the Mayflower ancestry of the Pitts family, although it's through Captain Peter's wife Abigail Richmond. The Pitts family is rather interesting. The town was originally named after Peter, but later after his wife. Their home was one of the first in the area and served as a tavern/inn/church/meeting hall. One of Peter and Abigail's great-grandchildren, Helen Pitts, became the second wife of Frederick Douglass.

I had the opportunity to visit the town in 2005. It was fun trying to find all the places where the family lived.

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