Ogden Nash 1902 - 1971
Born Frederick Ogden Nash on August 19, 1902 in Rye, New York.
An ancestor, General Francis Nash, gave his name to Nashville, Tennessee.
Raised in Rye, New York and Savannah, Georgia. Educated at St. George's School in Rhode Island and, briefly, Harvard University.
Started work writing advertising copy for Doubleday, Page Publishing, New York, in 1925.
Published first book for children, The Cricket of Caradon in 1925.
First published poem Spring Comes to Murray Hill appears in New Yorker magazine in 1930.
Joins staff at New Yorker in 1932.
Married Frances Rider Leonard on June 6, 1933.
Published 19 books of poetry.
Collaborated, in 1943, in the musical comedy, One Touch of Venus
Elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1950.
Lived in New York but his principal home was in Baltimore, Maryland, where he died on May 19, 1971. He was buried in North Hampton, New Hampshire.
Once upon a time there was an Italian,
And some people thought he was a rapscallion,
But he wasn't offended,
Because other people thought he was splendid,
And he said the world was round,
And everybody made an uncomplimentary sound,
But he went and tried to borrow some money from Ferdinand
But Ferdinand said America was a bird in the bush and he'd rather have a berdinand,
But Columbus' brain was fertile, it wasn't arid,
And he remembered that Ferdinand was married,
And he thought, there is no wife like a misunderstood one,
Because if her husband thinks something is a terrible idea she is bound to think it a good one,
So he perfumed his handkerchief with bay rum and citronella,
And he went to see Isabella,
And he looked wonderful but he had never felt sillier,
And she said, I can't place the face but the aroma is familiar,
And Columbus didn't say a word,
All he said was, I am Columbus, the fifteenth-century Admiral Byrd,
And, just as he thought, her disposition was very malleable,
And she said, Here are my jewels, and she wasn't penurious like Cornelia the mother of the Gracchi, she wasn't referring to her children, no, she was referring to her jewels, which were very very valuable,
So Columbus said, Somebody show me the sunset and somebody did and he set sail for it,
And he discovered America and they put him in jail for it,
And the fetters gave him welts,
And they named America after somebody else,
So the sad fate of Columbus ought to be pointed out to every child and every voter,
Because it has a very important moral, which is, Don't be a discoverer, be a promoter.
THE BOY WHO LAUGHED AT SANTA CLAUS
In Baltimore there lived a boy.
He wasn't anybody's joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.
In school he never led his classes,
He hid old ladies' reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn't any Santa Claus.
Another trick that tickled Jabez
Was crying 'Boo' at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.
Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
'There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Deploring how he did behave,
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.
Like whooping cough, from child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
'Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Slunk like a weasel of a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
'There isn't any, no there's not!'
The children wept all Christmas eve
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez' ribald mocking.
He sprawled on his untidy bed,
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp-a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.
What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.
What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of 'Don't,' and 'Pretty Please.'
He howled, 'I don't know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!'
'Jabez' replied the angry saint,
'It isn't I, it's you that ain't.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn't any Jabez Dawes!'
Said Jabez then with impudent vim,
'Oh, yes there is, and I am him!
Your magic don't scare me, it doesn't'
And suddenly he found he wasn't!
From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
An ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.
The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;
They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.
All you who sneer at Santa Claus,
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint.
Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.
ALWAYS MARRY AN APRIL GIRL
Praise the spells and bless the charms,
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy;
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true
I love April, I love you.
A WORD TO HUSBANDS
To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.
THE SUNSET YEARS OF SAMUEL SHY
Master I may be,
But not of my fate.
Now come the kisses, too many too late.
Tell me, O Parcae,
For fain would I know,
Where were these kisses three decades ago?
Girls there were plenty,
Mint julep girls, beer girls,
Gay younger married and headstrong career girls,
The girls of my friends
And the wives of my friends,
Some smugly settled and some at loose ends,
Sad girls, serene girls,
Girls breathless and turbulent,
Debs cosmopolitan, matrons suburbulent,
All of them amiable,
All of them cordial,
Innocent rousers of instincts primordial,
But even though health and wealth
Hadn't yet missed me,
None of them,
Not even Jenny,
Once kissed me.
These very same girls
Who with me have grown older
Now freely relax with a head on my shoulder,
And now come the kisses,
A flood in full spate,
The meaningless kisses, too many too late.
They kiss me hello,
They kiss me goodbye,
Should I offer a light, there's a kiss for reply.
They kiss me at weddings,
They kiss me at wakes,
The drop of a hat is less than it takes.
They kiss me at cocktails,
They kiss me at bridge,
It's all automatic, like slapping a midge.
The sound of their kisses
Is loud in my ears
Like the locusts that swarm every seventeen years.
I'm arthritic, dyspeptic,
And weary of kisses by custom compulsory.
Should my dear ones commit me
As senile demential,
It's from kisses perfunctory, inconsequential.
Answer, O Parcae,
For fain would I know,
Where were these kisses three decades ago ?
TWO DOGS HAVE I
For years we've had a little dog,
Last year we acquired a big dog;
He wasn't big when we got him,
He was littler than the dog we had.
We thought our little dog would love him,
Would help him to become a trig dog,
But the new little dog got bigger,
And the old little dog got mad.
Now the big dog loves the little dog,
But the little dog hates the big dog,
The little dog is eleven years old,
And the big dog only one;
The little dog calls him Schweinhund,
The little dog calls him Pig-dog,
She grumbles broken curses
As she dreams in the August sun.
The big dog's teeth are terrible,
But he wouldn't bite the little dog;
The little dog wants to grind his bones,
But the little dog has no teeth;
The big dog is acrobatic,
The little dog is a brittle dog;
She leaps to grip his jugular,
And passes underneath.
The big dog clings to the little dog
Like glue and cement and mortar;
The little dog is his own true love;
But the big dog is to her
Like a scarlet rag to a Longhorn,
Or a suitcase to a porter;
The day he sat on the hornet
I distinctly heard her purr.
Well, how can you blame the little dog,
Who was once the household darling?
He romps like a young Adonis,
She droops like an old mustache;
No wonder she steals his corner,
No wonder she comes out snarling,
No wonder she calls him Cochon
And even Espèce de vache.
Yet once I wanted a sandwich,
Either caviar or cucumber,
When the sun had not yet risen
And the moon had not yet sank;
As I tiptoed through the hallway
The big dog lay in slumber,
And the little dog slept by the big dog,
And her head was on his flank.
WHAT ALMOST EVERY WOMAN KNOWS SOONER OR LATER
And with whom they breakfast with and sup with.
They interfere with the discipline of nurseries,
And forget anniversaries,
And when they have been particularly remiss
They think they can cure everything with a great big kiss,
And when you tell them about something awful they have done they just
look unbearably patient and smile a superior smile,
And think, Oh she'll get over it after a while.
And they always drink cocktails faster than they can assimilate them,
And if you look in their direction they act as if they were martyrs and
you were trying to sacrifice, or immolate them,
And when it's a question of walking five miles to play golf they are very
energetic but if it's doing anything useful around the house they are
And then they tell you that women are unreasonable and don't know
anything about logic,
And they never want to get up or go to bed at the same time as you do,
And when you perform some simple common or garden rite like putting
cold cream on your face or applying a touch of lipstick they seem to
think that you are up to some kind of black magic like a priestess of Voodoo.
And they are brave and calm and cool and collected about the ailments
of the person they have promised to honor and cherish,
But the minute they get a sniffle or a stomachache of their own, why
you'd think they were about to perish,
And when you are alone with them they ignore all the minor courtesies
and as for airs and graces, they uttlerly lack them,
But when there are a lot of people around they hand you so many chairs
and ashtrays and sandwiches and butter you with such bowings and
scrapings that you want to smack them.
Husbands are indeed an irritating form of life,
And yet through some quirk of Providence most of them are really very
deeply ensconced in the affection of their wife.
YOU CAN BE A REPUBLICAN, I'M A GENOCRAT
Which meant "fine, splendid, jolly,"
And often to me it has reoccurred
In moments melancholy.
For instance, children, I think it rorty
To be with people over forty.
I can't say which, come eventide,
More tedious I find;
Competing with the juvenile stride,
Or meeting the juvenile mind.
So I think it rorty, yes, and nifty,
To be with people over fifty.
The pidgin talk the youthful use
I can't believe the code they choose
Is a means of communication.
Oh to be with people over sixty
Despite their tendency to prolixty !
The hours a working parent keeps
Mean less than Latin to them,
Wherefore they disappear in jeeps
Till three and four A.M.
Oh, to be with people you pour a cup for
Instead of people you have to wait up for !
I've tried to read young mumbling lips
Till I've developed a slant-eye,
And my hearing fails at the constant wails
Of, If I can't, why can't I ?
Oh, to be beside a septuagenarian,
Silent upon a peak in Darien !
They don't know Hagen from Bobby Jones,
They never heard of Al Smith,
Even Red Grange is beyond their range,
And Dempsey is a myth.
Oh golly, to gabble upon the shoulder
Of someone my own age, or even older !
I'm tired of defining hadn't oughts.
To opposition mulish,
The thoughts of youth are long long thoughts,
And Jingo! Aren't they foolish !
All which is why, in case you've wondered
I'd like a companion aged one hundred.
PEEKABO, I ALMOST SEE YOU
Middle-aged life is merry, and I love to
But there comes a day when your eyes
are all right but your arm isn't long
to hold the telephone book where you can read it,
And your friends get jocular, so you go
to the oculist,
And of all your friends he is the joculist,
So over his facetiousness let us skim,
Only noting that he has been waiting for you ever since
you said Good evening to his grandfather clock under
the impression that it was him,
And you look at his chart and it says SHRDLU QWERTYOP,
and you say Well, why SHRDNTLU QWERTYOP? and he
says one set of glasses won't do.
You need two.
One for reading Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason and
Keats's "Endymion" with,
And the other for walking around without saying Hello
to strange wymion with.
So you spend your time taking off your seeing glasses to put
on your reading glasses, and then remembering that your
reading glasses are upstairs or in the car,
And then you can't find your seeing glasses again because
without them on you can't see where they are.
Enough of such mishaps, they would try the patience of an
I prefer to forget both pairs of glasses and pass my declining
years saluting strange women and grandfather clocks.
NO DOCTOR'S TODAY, THANK YOU
They tell me that euphoria is the feeling of feeling wonderful,
well, today I feel euphorian,
Today I have the agility of a Greek god and the appetitite of a
Yes, today I may even go forth without my galoshes,
Today I am a swashbuckler, would anybody like me to buckle
This is my euphorian day,
I will ring welkins and before anybody answers I will run away.
I will tame me a caribou
And bedeck it with marabou.
I will pen me my memoirs.
Ah youth, youth! What euphorian days them was!
I wasn't much of a hand for the boudoirs,
I was generally to be found where the food was.
Does anybody want any flotsam?
Does anybody want any jetsam?
I can getsam.
I can play chopsticks on the Wurlitzer,
I can speak Portuguese like a Berlitzer.
I can don or doff my shoes without tying or untying the laces because
I am wearing moccasins,
And I practically know the difference between serums and antitoccasins.
Kind people, don't think me purse-proud, don't set me down as
I'm just a little euphorious.
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A PREMATURELY OLD MAN
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,
And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission
and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from
Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as,
in a way, against each other we are pitting them,
And that is, don't bother your head about the sins of commission because
however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn't be
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you really get painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven't taken out and the checks you haven't added up
the stubs of and the appointments you haven't kept and the bills you
haven't paid and the letters you haven't written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn't as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn't get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill;
You didn't slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let's all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round
of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven't done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn't do give you a lot more trouble than the
unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind of
sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.
SO DOES EVERYBODY ELSE, ONLY NOT SO MUCH
GOOD - BY NOW OR PARDON MY GAUNTLET
She's too refined for this gross planet.
She wears garments and you wear clothes,
You buy stockings, she purchases hose.
She say That is correct, and you say Yes,
And she disrobes and you undress.
Confronted by a mouse or moose,
You turn green, she turns chartroose.
Her speech is new-minted, freshly quarried;
She has a fore-head, you have a forehead.
Nor snake nor slowworm draweth nigh her;
You go to bed, she doth retire.
To Janet, births are blessed events,
And odors that you smell she scents.
Replete she feels, when her food is yummy,
Not in the stomach but the tummy.
If urged some novel step to show,
You say Like this, she says Like so.
Her dear ones don't die, but pass away;
Beneath her formal is lonjeray.
Of refinement she's a fount, or fountess,
And that is why she's now a countess.
She was asking for the little girls' room
And a flunky though she said the earl's room.
This is my dream,
It is my own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt.
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.
JUST KEEP QUIET AND NOBODY WILL NOTICE
There is one thing that ought to be taught in all the colleges,
Which is that people ought to be taught not to go around always making apologies.
I don't mean the kind of apologies people make when they run over you or borrow five dollars or step on your feet,
Because I think that is sort of sweet;
No, I object to one kind of apology alone,
Which is when people spend their time and yours apologizing for everything they own.
You go to their house for a meal,
And they apologize because the anchovies aren't caviar or the partridge is veal;
They apologize privately for the crudeness of the other guests,
And they apologize publicly for their wife's housekeeping or their husband's jests;
If they give you a book by Dickens they apologize because it isn't by Scott,
And if they take you to the theater, they apologize for the acting and the dialogue and the plot;
They contain more milk of human kindness than the most capacious diary can,
But if you are from out of town they apologize for everything local and if you are a foreigner they apologize for everything American.
I dread these apologizers even as I am depicting them,
I shudder as I think of the hours that must be spend in contradicting them,
Because you are very rude if you let them emerge from an argument victorious,
And when they say something of theirs is awful, it is your duty to convince them politely that it is magnificent and glorious,
And what particularly bores me with them,
Is that half the time you have to politely contradict them when you rudely agree with them,
So I think there is one rule every host and hostess ought to keep with the comb and nail file and bicarbonate and aromatic spirits on a handy shelf,
Which is don't spoil the denouement by telling the guests everything is terrible, but let them have the thrill of finding it out for themselves.
WILL CONSIDER SITUATION
There here are words of radical advice for a young man looking for a job;
Young man, be a snob.
Yes, if you are in search of arguments against starting at the bottom,
Why I've gottem.
Let the personnel managers differ;
It,s obvious that you will get on faster at the top than at the bottom because
there are more people at the bottom than at the top so naturally the competition
at the bottom is stiffer.
If you need any further proof that my theory works
Well, nobody can deny that presidents get paid more than vice-presidents and
vice-presidents get paid more than clerks.
Stop looking at me quizzically;
I want to add that you will never achieve fortune in a job that makes you
When anybody tells you that hard jobs are better for you than soft jobs be sure
to repeat this text to them,
Postmen tramp around all day through rain and snow just to deliver other
people's in cozy air-conditioned offices checks to them.
You don't need to interpret tea leaves stuck in a cup
To understand that people who work sitting down get paid more than people who
work standing up.
Another thing about having a comfortable job is you not only accommodate more
You get more leisure.
So that when you find you have worked so comfortably that your waistline is a
You correct it with golf or tennis.
Whereas is in an uncomfortable job like piano-moving or stevedoring you
You have no time to exercise, you just continue to bulge.
To sum it up, young man, there is every reason to refuse a job that will make
heavy demands on you corporally or manually,
And the only intelligent way to start your career is to accept a sitting
position paying at least twenty-five thousand dollars annually.
GRANDPA IS ASHAMED
A child need not be very clever
To learn that "Later, dear" means "Never."
THE TERRIBLE PEOPLE
People who have what they want are very fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it,
And I wish I could afford to gather all such people into a gloomy castle on the Danube and hire half a dozen capable Draculas to haunt it.
I dont' mind their having a lot of money, and I don't care how they employ it,
But I do think that they damn well ought to admit they enjoy it.
But no, they insist on being stealthy
About the pleasures of being wealthy,
And the possession of a handsome annuity
Makes them think that to say how hard it is to make both ends meet is their bounden duity.
You cannot conceive of an occasion
Which will find them without some suitable evasion.
Yes indeed, with argumetsn they are very fecund;
Their first point is that money isn't everything, and that they have no money anyhow is their second.
Some people's money is merited,
And other people's is inherited,
But wherever it comes from,
They talk about it as if it were something you got pink gums from.
Perhaps indeed the possession of wealth is constantly distressing,
But I should be quite willing to assume every curse of wealth if I could at the same time assume every blessing.
The only incurable troubles of the rich are the troubles that money can't cure,
Which is a kind of trouble that is even more troublesome if you are poor.
Certainly there are lots of things in life that money won't buy, but it's very funny -
Have you ever tried to buy them without money ?