Poetry: Ogden Nash

by Timothy Lane   12/12/13

Ogden Nash wasn’t the first or last writer of comic verse, but no one ever did it better. Here are some of my favorites, starting with what I believe are the first two I ever read, followed by one that I think of often these days, and some other oldies-but-goodies.

Song of the Open Road

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all.

The Panther

The panther is like a leopard,
Except it hasn’t been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say Ouch,
Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don’t anther.

The Rhinoceros

The rhino is a homely beast,
For human eyes he’s not a feast.
Farewell, farewell, you old rhinoceros,
I’ll stare at something less prepoceros.

The Termite

Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good.
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.

The Tsetse

A glossina morsitans bit rich Aunt Betsy.
Tsk, tsk, tsetse.

The Parsnip

The parsnip, children, I repeat,
Is simply an anemic beet.
Some people call the parsnip edible;
Myself, I find this claim incredible.

Family Court

One would be in less danger
From the wiles of the stranger
If one’s own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.

The Lama

The one-l lama,
He’s a priest.
The two-l llama,
He’s a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn’t any
Three-l lllama.

The Collector

I met a traveler from an antique show,
His pockets empty, but his eyes aglow.
Upon his back, and now his very own,
He bore two vast and trunkless legs of stone.
Amid the torrents of collector’s jargon
I gathered he had found himself a bargain,
A permanent conversation-piece post-prandial,
Certified genuine early Ozymandial,
And when I asked him how he could be sure,
He showed me P. B. Shelley’s signature.
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11 Responses to Poetry: Ogden Nash

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    That is good stuff
    I think I should say
    For if I did not
    It might all go away

  2. faba calculo says:

    It’s been decades since I read The Dog Barks Backward, but these still stick in my mind.

    The Python has (and I fib no fibs),
    318 pairs of ribs.
    In stating this, I place reliance,
    in a séance with a man who died for science.

    This figure is sworn and attested.
    (He counted them while being digested.)

    Behold the sulfur-bottomed whale,
    some 25 yards from head to tail.
    I find it somewhat Ludacris,
    that whales are mammals, just like us.

    And sleeping where the plankton teams,
    they dream their sweet cetacean dreams.
    One dreaming sulfur-bottomed chick,
    in her maiden-form bra met Moby Dick.

    The strangest bird is the pelican.
    It’s beak can hold more than its belly can.
    But don’t ask me how the hell he can.

    (Apologies for whatever mistakes were made. As I say, it’s been a while since I actually looked at these poems.)

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, your memory is pretty good, although my books don’t seem to include “The Pelican”. In “The Python”, the fourth line is “On a séance with one who died for science” and he says “sworn to” in the next. In “The Whale”, he has “ludicrous” rather than “Ludacris”, “basking” instead of “sleeping”,
      teems” instead of “teems”, and a few minor differences in capitalization and punctuation.

      • faba calculo says:

        You are correct about the Pelican. That one I just heard from my mother rather than reading it in the Old Dog Barks Backward. I had merely assumed it was in there.

  3. Juanita says:

    If I remember aright:
    “The turtle lives ‘twixt plated decks
    Which practically conceals its sex.
    I think it clever of the turtle
    In such a fix to be so fertile. ”

    ps. I can’t find the one about the guy who discovered a bra called peps-ola la…. can you help me with that?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Unfortunately, I don’t have access currently to my collection of Ogden Nash. But that first one certainly sounds like him.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The splendid shelled turtle
      As cute as Ernie and Bertle
      A push-car for little boys
      It rarely outlived other toys

      Yes, your memory is correct: The Turtle

      • Timothy Lane says:

        A friend of mine had a couple of turtles (named Charles V and Franz Josef as I recall), but they died one winter when he was at college (which is where we met).

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