Happy Birthday to Ogden Nash!
America’s favorite humorist would have been 109 years old today. His poems and witticisms are part of America’s DNA; at one time or another, we’ve all heard Nashisms like, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker,” “Parsley is gharsley,” and, “Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.”
A shot of his light verse is the sure cure for doldrums of any sort. He’s one of those poets whose style is so recognizable that even when you encounter lines he’s written that you’ve never seen before, you sort of nod, knowingly, and think, “this has got to be Ogden Nash.” Who else so deftly misspells words (or makes up his own), packs in the puns, teases the reader with irregular meter and lines of uneven length? He took great pleasure in the element of surprise, pulling out all the stops for comic effect.
Not too long ago, I purchased a collection of his food poems aptly embellished with Etienne Delessert’s droll illustrations. Whenever I’m in the mood for a laugh snack, I treat myself to a serving of Squab, Tarragon, Smelt, or Kippers (things I wouldn’t necessarily eat in real life, but find strangely palatable cooked up in Nash’s literary kitchen). Thought it would be fun to celebrate his birthday by featuring what is perhaps his most well known food poem. Just for today, you may also have all the virtual candy and/or liquor you please.
THE CLEAN PLATTER
by Ogden Nash
Some singers sing of ladies’ eyes,
And some of ladies’ lips,
Refined ones praise their ladylike ways
And coarse ones hymn their hips.
The Oxford Book of English Verse
Is lush with lyrics tender;
A poet, I guess, is more or less
Preoccupied with gender.
Yet I, though custom call me crude,
Prefer to sing in praise of food.
Just any old kind of food.
Pooh for the cook,
And pooh for the price!
Some of it’s nicer but all of it’s nice.
Pheasant is pleasant, of course,
And terrapin, too, is tasty,
Lobster I freely endorse,
In pâté or patty or pasty.
But there’s nothing the matter with butter,
And nothing the matter with jam,
And the warmest of greetings I utter
To the ham and the yam and the clam.
For they’re food,
And I think very highly of food.
Though I’m broody at times
When bothered by rhymes,
Some painters paint the sapphire sea,
And some the gathering storm.
Others portray young lambs at play,
But most, the female form.
‘Twas trite in that primeval dawn
When painting got its start,
That a lady with her garments on
Is Life, but is she Art?
By undraped nymphs
I am not wooed;
I’d rather painters painted food.
Just any old kind of food.
Let it be sour
Or let it be sweet,
As long as you’re sure it is something to eat.
Go purloin a sirloin, my pet,
If you’d win a devotion incredible;
And asparagus tips vinaigrette,
Or anything else that is edible.
Bring salad or sausage or scrapple,
A berry or even a beet.
Bring an oyster, an egg, or an apple,
As long as it’s something to eat.
If it’s food,
Never mind what kind of food.
When I ponder my mind
I consistently find
It is glued
My thoughts exactly ☺! Oh, why not one more?
Let us call Yorkshire pudding
A fortunate blunder;
It’s a sort of popover
That tripped and popped under.
Dori Reads has got the full menu of poetic offerings this week. Do you think she’d like some gharsley parsley or popunders? Take her this one:
“You can have my jellyfish
I am not sellyfish.”
And to you, one hundred and nine good wishes for a great weekend. What’s your favorite Nashism?
*Yorkshire Pudding by nanlt/flickr.
Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.