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Biography of Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash (1902 - 1971)

A master of light, whimsical, and sometimes nonsensical verse, Nash started his writing career at Doubleday Page Publishers, where he wrote his first children's book with Joseph Algers, The Cricket of Garador, in 1925. After six years of writing advertising copy as an editor and publicist at Doubleday, Nash claimed, he began his career in humorous poetry by scribbling one afternoon. His scribbles were to become a poem called Spring Comes to Murray Hill, which he threw away. Upon some thought, however, he retrieved it from the wastebasket and sent it to The New Yorker. His first piece of satiric verse was published in 1930.

After "Murray Hill" Nash's work began to appear in other periodicals. He was prolific enough that he published a collection of his poetry, Hard Lines, in 1931. Hard Lines sold out seven printings in its first year and catapulted Nash into his role as the master of light verse. In 1932 Nash left Doubleday to join the editorial staff of The New Yorker. His steady and lengthy affiliation with the magazine helped establish its distinctive tone and sense of humor. According to poet Archibald MacLeish, Nash "altered the sensibility of his time." Even after the widespread reception of his first book, however, Nash still insisted that the whole thing was an accident. He had already become quite popular with the general public through his work in The New Yorker and "Information Please," a radio quiz show. Eventually he began to write full-time, publishing over two dozen books of poetry and prose in his lifetime.

In an environment in which people cared little about poetry, Nash managed to be one of the most popular and most quoted poets of his time, coining such phrases as "candy is dandy but liquor is quicker." His turn of the phrase, his puns, and his nonsensical rhymes appealed to people of all ages. While speaking in the Library of Congress auditorium, Nash suggested that the average man, surviving the perils of the nuclear age, needed not only missiles, submarines, and a fallout shelter, but also a few lighthearted laughs to save him.

Although the Atlantic Monthly heralded Nash as "God's gift to the United States" for his insightful commentary on 20th-century America, his work had international appeal. He was known as the Everyman of his time, the poet of the ordinary and universal. His poems were humorous not only because they made people laugh, but also because they contained some truth of human experience. His signature style used exaggeration, an element of surprise, and absurdity juxtaposed with the universal experience with which the average reader can identify. He was well regarded by critics and the public alike for his inventive titles, his unlikely rhymes, and his ridiculous play on words. Throughout his career a variety of publications from the Boston Herald to the Saturday Review of Literature sang critical praise for his work.

Although a great fan of Edward Lear and the limerick, Nash possessed a style that was very irregular indeed. Sometimes his poems contained only a handful of words; at other times they went on for several lines before ending in a clever or sometimes nonsensical rhyme. On many occasions he invented a word to fit the rhyme: "Each spring they beautify our suburb, the ladies of the garden cluburb" ("Correction: Eve Delved and Adam Span"). His other rhymes include such sets as nostrilly/tonsilly/irresponsilly ("Fahrenheit Gesundheit") and tortoises/porpoises/corpoises ("Don't Cry, Darling, lt's Blood All Right").

Not only are his lines and rhymes irregular, but the length of his poems varied greatly. Some verses would go on for pages at a time, while others began and ended abruptly in two lines. It is quite possible that Nash has written on of the shortest poems in the English language, "Reflection on a Wicked World": "Purity is obscurity." The themes of his poems varied wildly as well. From getting eyeglasses as an old man to traveling in Europe, no subject was too banal or far-fetched for Nash. His middle-class life and family provided no end of inspiration. He wrote of proud parenting, the folly of being a husband, suburban crowds, diets, vacations, fatherhood, and anything else he could think of.

Through his numerous volumes Nash became well established as a writer of light verse. Even after Hollywood expressed interest in his work, poetry remained his primary source of income. Although none of his screenplays were produced, his work was oppositioned several times, providing enough money for him and his wife to travel to Europe. Eventually he returned to the East Coast to continue writing verse. He also lectured extensively throughout the United States and England. Through his lecture tours he developed a deep respect and keen understanding of his fellow man, which his work reflected. His television appearances in the 1950s (such as "Masquerade Party") also helped increase his popularity.

Nash also renewed his interest in children’s literature in the 1950s. He believed that his writing was not just for kids, but rather lay in a gray area between child and adult worlds. In his numerous volumes for children, such as Custard the Dragon (1959), Nash continues his setting for universal truth. Nash’s approach to children is neither condescending nor mocking, however; in fact, his whimsical yet serious attitude toward the young has gained him respect among children of all ages.

When he was not writing poetry, Nash appeared on various radio game and comedy shows in the 1940s and wrote scores for TV shows in the 1950s, including lyrics for the show "Peter and the Wolf." In 1943 Nash collaborated with Kurt Weill and S. J. Perelman on One Touch of Venus, a musical comedy. He continued to write, publish and lecture until very close to the end of his life.



117 Poems written by Ogden Nash

The poems are by default sorted according to volume, but you can also choose to sort them alphabetically or by page views.

Volume | Alphabetically | Page Views | Comments | [First Lines]


First LineComments
A bit of talcum
A child need not be very clever
A girl whose cheeks are covered with paint
A mighty creature is the germ, Comments and analysis of The Germ by Ogden Nash 15 Comments
A shrimp who sought his lady shrimp
Adam Comments and analysis of Fleas by Ogden Nash 9 Comments
Affection is a noble quality;
Any hound a porcupine nudges Comments and analysis of The Porcupine by Ogden Nash 6 Comments
Behold the duck
Behold the hippopotamus! Comments and analysis of The Hippopotamus by Ogden Nash 3 Comments
Being a father Comments and analysis of Soliloquy In Circles by Ogden Nash 2 Comments
Belinda lived in a little white house, Comments and analysis of The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash 2 Comments
Beneath this slab Comments and analysis of Lather As You Go by Ogden Nash 9 Comments
Bound to your bookseller, leap to your library,
Bring down the moon for genteel Janet; Comments and analysis of Good-By Now or Pardon My Gauntlet by Ogden Nash 2 Comments
Candy Comments and analysis of Reflections On Ice-Breaking by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
Celery, raw Comments and analysis of Celery by Ogden Nash 4 Comments
Children aren't happy with nothing to ignore, Comments and analysis of The Parent by Ogden Nash 4 Comments
Consider the auk; Comments and analysis of A Caution To Everybody by Ogden Nash 443 Comments
Cuckoos lead Bohemian lives,
FIRST
First a little
Foreigners are people somewhere else,
From whence arrived the praying mantis? Comments and analysis of The Praying Mantis by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
Go hang yourself, you old M.D.! Comments and analysis of Common Cold by Ogden Nash 9 Comments
God in his wisdom made the fly
Guess what happened in the little white house Comments and analysis of Custard The Dragon And The Wicked Knight by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
He tells you when you've got on
He who is ridden by a conscience
Higgledy piggledy, my black hen,
How pleasant to sit on the beach,
How wise I am to have instructed the butler Comments and analysis of I Do, I Will, I Have by Ogden Nash 36 Comments
Husbands are things that wives have to get used to putting up with.
Hypochondriacs
I didn't go to church today, Comments and analysis of I Didn't Go To Church Today by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
I don't mind eels Comments and analysis of The Eel by Ogden Nash 2 Comments
I find it very difficult to enthuse
I find it very hard to be fair-minded
I give you now Professor Twist, Comments and analysis of The Purist by Ogden Nash 2 Comments
I have a bone to pick with Fate.
I objurgate the centipede, Comments and analysis of The Centipede by Ogden Nash 19 Comments
I sit in an office at 244 Madison Avenue
I sit in the dusk. I am all alone. Comments and analysis of Tableau At Twilight by Ogden Nash 14 Comments
I test my bath before I sit,
I think that I shall never see Comments and analysis of Song Of The Open Road by Ogden Nash 3 Comments
I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance
I've never seen an abominable snowman,
In Baltimore there lived a boy. Comments and analysis of The Boy Who Laughed At Santa Claus by Ogden Nash 222 Comments
In fourteen hundred and ninety-two,
In January everything freezes.
In spite of her sniffle,
Isabel met an enormous bear, Comments and analysis of Adventures Of Isabel by Ogden Nash 7 Comments
It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
Last night I saw upon the stair Comments and analysis of Last Night I Saw Upon the Stair by Ogden Nash 37 Comments
Let's straighten this out, my little man, Comments and analysis of To A Small Boy Standing On My Shoes While I Am Wearing Them by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
May I join you in the doghouse, Rover? Comments and analysis of Children's Party by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
Middle-aged life is merry, and I love to
More than a catbird hates a cat, Comments and analysis of To My Valentine by Ogden Nash 3 Comments
My fellow man I do not care for. Comments and analysis of À Bas Ben Adhem by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
My friends all know that I am shy, Comments and analysis of The Chipmunk by Ogden Nash 4 Comments
My heart leaps up when I behold
Now when I have a cold
O all ye exorcizers come and exorcize now, and ye clergymen draw nigh and clerge,
Oh, "rorty" was a mid-Victorian word Comments and analysis of You Can Be A Republican, I'm A Genocrat by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
Oh, weep for Mr. and Mrs. Bryan!
Once upon a time there was an Italian, Comments and analysis of Columbus by Ogden Nash 2 Comments
One cantaloupe is ripe and lush,
One thing that literature would be greatly the better for Comments and analysis of Very Like A Whale by Ogden Nash 7 Comments
One way to be very happy is to be very rich
One would be in less danger Comments and analysis of Family Court by Ogden Nash 9 Comments
OR Comments and analysis of Lines To Be Embroidered On A Bib by Ogden Nash 4 Comments
Parsley
People expect old men to die, Comments and analysis of Old Men by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
People live forever in Jacksonville and St. Petersburg and Tampa,
People who have what they want are very fond of telling people who haven't what they Comments and analysis of The Terrible People by Ogden Nash 2 Comments
Praise the spells and bless the charms, Comments and analysis of Always Marry An April Girl by Ogden Nash 4 Comments
Purity Comments and analysis of Reflection On A Wicked World by Ogden Nash 3 Comments
Scholars call the masculine swan a cob;
Senescence begins Comments and analysis of Crossing The Border by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
Some people, and it doesn't matter whether they are paupers or millionaires,
Some primal termite knocked on wood Comments and analysis of The Termite by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
Some singers sing of ladies' eyes,
Sure, deck your limbs in pants,
Tell me, O Octopus, I begs Comments and analysis of The Octopus by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
The ant has made himself illustrious
The camel has a single hump; Comments and analysis of The Camel by Ogden Nash 16 Comments
The cow is of the bovine ilk; Comments and analysis of The Cow by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
The firefly's flame Comments and analysis of The Firefly by Ogden Nash 4 Comments
The hands of the clock were reaching high Comments and analysis of A Tale Of The Thirteenth Floor by Ogden Nash 3 Comments
The hunter crouches in his blind Comments and analysis of The Hunter by Ogden Nash 5 Comments
The ostrich roams the great Sahara.
The people upstairs all practise ballet Comments and analysis of The People Upstairs by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
The pig, if I am not mistaken, Comments and analysis of The Pig by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
The rhino is a homely beast,
The solitary huntsman
The summer like a rajah dies,
The truth I do not stretch or shove Comments and analysis of The Dog by Ogden Nash 6 Comments
The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks Comments and analysis of The Turtle by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
The wasp and all his numerous family Comments and analysis of The Wasp by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
There is a knocking in the skull,
There is one thing that ought to be taught in all the colleges,
There is something about a Martini, Comments and analysis of A Drink With Something In It by Ogden Nash 2 Comments
There was a young belle of old Natchez Comments and analysis of Requiem by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
They tell me that euphoria is the feeling of feeling wonderful, Comments and analysis of No Doctor's Today, Thank You by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
This is a song to celebrate banks, Comments and analysis of Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else, Except Richer by Ogden Nash 2 Comments
This is my dream, Comments and analysis of My Dream by Ogden Nash 1 Comment
This one is entering her teens,
Though you know it anyhow
To keep your marriage brimming Comments and analysis of A Word To Husbands by Ogden Nash 26 Comments
Toward a better world I contribute my modest smidgin;
Unwillingly Miranda wakes, Comments and analysis of A Lady Who Thinks She Is Thirty by Ogden Nash 5 Comments
Whales have calves, Comments and analysis of The Guppy by Ogden Nash 2 Comments
When I remember bygone days Comments and analysis of The Middle by Ogden Nash 3 Comments
When people aren't asking question Comments and analysis of More About People by Ogden Nash 53 Comments
Who is the happy husband? Why, indeed,
Who wants my jellyfish?
Your hopeless patients will live, Comments and analysis of Old Dr. Valentine To His Son by Ogden Nash 2 Comments


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