In contemporary American society, poetry is one of the least esteemed types of literature. Many of us only bother to read works from past poets because we’re required to take a poetry course in college. It’s too bad that we view poetry in this light, because poets, past and present, have much to offer us. If you’re a fan of poetry, you know that good verse encourages thought and reflection.
Poetry doesn’t have to be “stuffy” either. Just search the web for contemporary poets and you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of stimulating poetry. Some will enable thoughtfulness, others will trigger smiles and laughter.
Many of us were ushered into the world of legitimate poetry in grade school via the stanzas of Ogden Nash. His verses made us grin and maybe even caused us to effortlessly think. You don’t need to be a fifth grader to appreciate such gems as his salute to canines.
The Dog by Ogden Nash
The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state the dog is full of love.
I’ve also proved, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.
Frederic Ogden Nash was born on August 19, 1902 in Rye, New York to Edmund and Mattie Nash. Nash was descended from two politically noteworthy individuals, an early governor of North Carolina, Abner Nash and the namesake for Nashville, Tennessee, Francis Nash. Ogden’s family lived for awhile in a carriage house at Savannah, Georgia on property owned by Juliette Low, the founder of Girl Scouts USA. He graduated public school at Newport, Rhode Island then attended Harvard University for one year.
Nash worked awhile as a streetcar advertisement writer. In 1931 he worked three months for “The New Yorker” magazine. That same year, he married Frances Leonard. Later, in 1931, his first poetry collection, “Hard Lines” was published. Within its pages is this very famous verse:
Reflection on Ice-Breaking
Nash’s skill with comical, quotable verse, stanzas, and perfect puns made him instantly popular with the American public. Eventually, Nash went on to author children’s books and musical play lyrics. He was a famous public speaker throughout his life.
Pretty Halcyon Days
by Ogden Nash
How pleasant to sit on the beach,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun,
With ocean galore within reach,
And nothing at all to be done!
No letters to answer,
No bills to be burned,
No work to be shirked,
No cash to be earned,
It is pleasant to sit on the beach
With nothing at all to be done!
How pleasant to look at the ocean,
Democratic and damp; indiscriminate;
It fills me with noble emotion
To think I am able to swim in it.
To lave in the wave,
Majestic and chilly,
Tomorrow I crave;
But today it is silly.
It is pleasant to look at the ocean;
Tomorrow, perhaps, I shall swim in it.
How pleasant to gaze at the sailors.
As their sailboats they manfully sail
With the vigor of vikings and whalers
In the days of the vikings and whale.
They sport on the brink
Of the shad and the shark;
If its windy they sink;
If it isn’t, they park.
It is pleasant to gaze at the sailors,
To gaze without having to sail.
How pleasant the salt anesthetic
Of the air and the sand and the sun;
Leave the earth to the strong and athletic,
And the sea to adventure upon.
But the sun and the sand
No contractor can copy;
We lie in the land
Of the lotus and poppy;
We vegetate, calm and aesthetic,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun.
Ogden Nash died as the result of Crohn’s disease on May 19, 1971 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was buried at North Hampton, New Hampshire.
The Blue Jay of Happiness also likes this stinger from Ogden Nash:
“The wasp and all his numerous family
I look upon as a major calamity.
He throws open his nest with prodigality,
But I distrust his waspitality.”