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Nash, Ogden

Category: Poet

Frederic Ogden Nash ( 1902 – 1971) was an American poet well known for his 'light' [meaning funny] verse. At the time of his death in 1971, the New York Times said his

droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country's best-known producer of humorous poetry.

Ogden Nash wrote over 500 pieces of comic verse. The best of his work was published in 14 volumes between 1931 and 1972. 

He was intellectually a clever man, but he was wholly uninterested in intellectual pursuits. 

Nash entered Harvard University in 1920, only to drop out a year later. And what we see throughout his life story is that he was to all intents and purposes a child in adult guise. A real right brainer.

 

He loved home, family and the safety of one place – the Safe House.  The house his family had, was where he worked and wrote all his best poems.  For example, Nash moved to Baltimore, Maryland,  and to a simple house with a simple address -  4300 Rugby Road - where he lived for most of his life from 1934 until his death in 1971.  There he stayed with his wife his daughters and his parents. Nash thought of Baltimore as his safe haven. After his return from a brief move to New York, he wrote

"I could have loved New York had I not loved Balti-more."

He had the child's naughty streak and simple but harmless love of a bit of disobedience.      For example, one verse, titled Common Sense, asks: 

 

Why did the Lord give us agility,
If not to evade responsibility?

And he loved all rhyme.
"I think in terms of rhyme, and have since I was six years old,"
he stated in a 1958 news interview. 

Now look at the titles of some of his poems and books most of them were for children or had a title that appealed to the child in us all .

 

  •  
    Candy is Dandy
  • Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight 
  • I'm a Stranger Here Myself
  • The Old Dog Barks Backwards
  • Ogden Nash's Zoo 
  • The Tale of Custard the Dragon
  • Bed Riddance
  • "Versus" 
  • There's Always Another Windmill 
  • Many Long Years Ago
  • You Can't Get There From Here.
 

When Nash wasn't writing poems, he made guest appearances on comedy and radio shows.  Nash wrote humorous poems for each movement of the Camille Saint-Saëns orchestral suite The Carnival of the Animals.

And he loved games – he followed the Baltimore Colts, an American football team, and he was also a baseball fan.

He plays, he plays with words, he plays with people.  Nash's poetry was often a playful twist of an old saying or poem. For one example, he expressed this playfulness in what is perhaps his most famous rhyme, a twist on Joyce Kilmer's verse: 

"I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree
",

Nash's poem went 

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.

 

But there is no malice, no nastiness, not even a smidgeon of hurtfulness about any of his fun, it was never at someone else's expense it was just childishly funny – at times silly, at times wonderfully daft.  Some of it was very cheering – uplifting and good for the soul.

Nash died at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital on May 19, 1971, aged 69, from Crohn's disease aggravated by a lactobacillus infection transmitted by improperly prepared cole slaw.

What a lovable chap he must have been.

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