Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ogden Nash

After the gravity of the poems of Turbina and Yevtushenko, I thought I should lighten the mood a little with a few pieces from Ogden Nash. He would, however, I think not have liked for me to use the word "light" in connection with his name. He was a witty poet, with a style all his own, but he did not think of himself as a writer of "light verse." His poems had serious points to make (except when they didn't, which was often), and although the point was couched in playful rhymes he did not want the reader to toss off the serious undercurrent as part of the joke. He expected the reader to be able to discern seperate serious and humorous threads within the same poem. Too much to ask? Perhaps. Even his obituary in the NY Times called him a writer of "light verse."

It is this flippancy of presentation combined with his expectation that the reader was discerning enough to distinguish serious trains of thought in playful banter that links him to the great newspaper voices of the past. Although not really a newspaper man himself, he has much in common with the presentation of Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard), Mark Twain, James Thurber, Ambrose Bierce, and James Whitcomb Riley (those last two being my fellow Hoosiers, that is natives of Indiana). If one wanted one could trace the geniology of that style of newspapering back to the likes of Addison and Steele, or even back to Senaca and Juvenal if one were working on a dissertation, which I am not.

The hunter crouches in his blind
'Neath camouflage of every kind,
And conjures up a quacking noise
To lend allure to his decoys.
This grown-up man, with pluck and luck,
Is hoping to outwit a duck.

Unwillingly Miranda wakes,
Feels the sun with terror,
One unwilling step she takes,
Shuddering to the mirror.

Miranda in Miranda's sight
Is old and gray and dirty;
Twenty-nine she was last night;
This morning she is thirty.

Shining like a morning star,
Like the twighlight shining,
Haunted by a calendar,
Miranda sits a-pining.

Silly girl, silver girl,
Draw the mirror toward you;
Time who makes the years to whirl
Adorned as he adored you.

Time is timelessness for you;
Calendars for the human;
What's a year, or thirty, to
Loveliness made woman?

Oh, Night will not see thirty again,
Yet soft her wing, Miranda;
Pick up your glass and tell me, then~
How old is spring, Miranda?

May I join you in the doghouse, Rover?
I wish to retire till the party's over.
Since three o'clock I've done my best
To entertain each tiny guest;
My conscience now I've left behind me,
And if they want me, let them find me.
I blew their bubbles, I sailed their boats,
I kept them from each other's throats.
I told them tales of magic lands,
I took them out to wash their hands.
I sorted their rubbers and tied their laces,
I wiped their noses and dried their faces.
Of similarity there's lots
Twixt tiny tots and Hottentots.
I've earned repose to heal the ravages
Of these angelic-looking savages.
Oh, progeny playing by itself
Is a lonely fascinating elf,
But progeny in roistereing batches
Would drive St. Francis from her to Natchez.
Shunned are the games a parent proposes;
They prefer to squirt each other with hoses,
Their playmates are their natural foeman
And they like to poke each other's abdomen.
Their joy needs another's woe to cushion it,
Say a puddle, and somebody to push in it.
They obeserve with glee the ballistic results
Of ice cream with spoons for catapults,
And inform the assembly with tears and glares
That everyone's presents are better than theirs.
Oh, little women and little men,
Someday I hope to love you again,
But not till after the party's over,
So give me the key to the doghouse, Rover.

Children aren't happy with nothing to ignore,
And that's what parents were created for.

No comments: