One of the most widely appreciated and imitated writers of light verse, Frediric Ogden Nash was born in Rye, New York, on August 19, 1902, to Edmund Strudwick and Mattie Nash. He came from a distinguished family; the city of Nashville, Tennessee, was named in honor of one of his forbearers. Nash attended Harvard College, but dropped out after only one year. He worked briefly on Wall Street, and as a schoolteacher, before becoming a copywriter. In 1925, he took a job in the marketing department with the publishing house Doubleday.
Nash’s first published poems began to appear in the New Yorker around 1930. His first collection of poems, Hard Lines (Simon & Schuster), was published in 1931. The book was a tremendous success; it went into seven printings in its first year alone, and Nash quit his job with Doubleday. That same year, he married Frances Rider Leonard; they had two children. Nash worked briefly for the New Yorker in 1932, before deciding to devote himself full-time to his verse.
Nash considered himself a “worsifier.” Among his best known lines are “Candy / Is dandy, / But liquor / Is quicker” and “If called by a panther / Don’t anther.” His poems also had an intensely anti-establishment quality that resounded with many Americans, particularly during the Depression. Nash was a keen observer of American social life, and frequently mocked religious moralizing and conservative politicians. His work is often compared with other satirists of the time, including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and H. L. Mencken. He appeared regularly on radio and on television, and he drew huge audiences for his readings and lectures.
Nash was also the author of three screenplays for MGM, and with S. J. Perelmen, he wrote the 1943 Broadway hit One Touch of Venus. In the 1950s, Nash focused on writing poems for children, including the collection Girls Are Silly (Franklin Watts, 1962). He died on May 19, 1971.
I remember reading Ogden Nash in our high school Lit book’s section on poetry. As amusing as it was, it didn’t turn me into a poetry fan. There were deep things inside me I wanted to try to say (ala Rod McKuen), but rereading Nash’s poems now just makes me smile. I need a reminder OFTEN that life doesn’t always have to be taken so seriously — and there can STILL be a point to it!
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.
Which the Chicken, Which the Egg?
He drinks because she scolds, he thinks;
She thinks she scolds because he drinks;
And nether will admit what’s true,
That he’s a sot and she’s a shrew.
There was a young belle of Natchez
Whose garments were always in patchez.
When comment arose
On the state of her clothes,
She drawled, When Ah itchez, Ah scratchez!
Picture Source: Beaming Notes