He Couldn't Say No by M. E. B.

It was sad and it was strange!

He just was full of knowledge,

His studies swept the whole broad range

Of High School and of College;

He read in Greek and Latin too,

Loud Sanscrit he could utter,

But one small thing he couldn't do

That comes as pat to me and you

As eating bread and butter:

He couldn't say "No!" He couldn't say "No!"

I'm sorry to say it was really so!

He'd diddle, and dawdle, and stutter, but oh!

When it came to the point he could never say "No!"

Geometry he knew by rote,

Like any Harvard Proctor;

He'd sing a fugue out, note by note;

Knew Physics like a Doctor;

He spoke in German and in French;

Knew each Botanic table;

But one small word that you'll agree

Comes pat enough to you and me,

To speak he was not able:

For he couldn't say "No!" He couldn't say "No!"

'Tis dreadful, of course, but 'twas really so.

He'd diddle, and dawdle, and stutter, but oh!

When it came to the point he could never say "No!"

And he could fence, and swim, and float,

And use the gloves with ease too,

Could play base ball, and row a boat,

And hang on a trapeze too;

His temper was beyond rebuke,

And nothing made him lose it;

His strength was something quite superb,

But what's the use of having nerve

If one can never use it?

He couldn't say "No!" He couldn't say "No!"

If one asked him to come, if one asked him to go,

He'd diddle, and dawdle, and stutter, but oh!

When it came to the point he could never say "No!"

When he was but a little lad,

In life's small ways progressing,

He fell into this habit bad

Of always acquiescing;

'Twas such an amiable trait,

To friend as well as stranger,

That half unconsciously at last

The custom held him hard and fast

Before he knew the danger,

And he couldn't say "No!" He couldn't say "No!"

To his prospects you see 'twas a terrible blow.

He'd diddle, and dawdle, and stutter, but oh!

When it came to the point he could never say "No!"

And so for all his weary days

The best of chances failed him;

He lived in strange and troublous ways

And never knew what ailed him;

He'd go to skate when ice was thin;

He'd join in deeds unlawful,

He'd lend his name to worthless notes,

He'd speculate in stocks and oats;

'Twas positively awful,

For he couldn't say "No!" He couldn't say "No!"

He would veer like a weather-cock turning so slow;

He'd diddle, and dawdle, and stutter, but oh!

When it came to the point he could never say "No!"

Then boys and girls who hear my song,

Pray heed its theme alarming:

Be good, be wise, be kind, be strong—

These traits are always charming,

But all your learning, all your skill

With well-trained brain and muscle,

Might just as well be left alone,

If you can't cultivate backbone

To help you in life's tussle,

And learn to say "No!" Yes, learn to say "No!"

Or you'll fall from the heights to the rapids below!

You may waver, and falter, and tremble, but oh!

When your conscience requires it, be sure and shout "No!"