Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Ogden Nash and that rare thing – a “funny” poem that’s actually funny

Ogden Nash
I’ve always tended to avoid humorous poetry, mainly because it usually acts like botox, freezing one’s expression into an unnatural rictus (being told jokes tends to have the same effect on me). There are a few exceptions, mainly to be found in the Arnold Silcock collection, Verse and Worse. To this day I can recite these two anonymous New York gems:

                 Der spring is sprung,
                 Der grass is riz,
                 I wonder where dem boidies is?
                 Der little boids is on da wing,
                 Ain’t dat absoid.
                 Der little wings is on da boid!


                  Toity poiple boids
                  Asittin’ on der coib
                  A choipin' and a boipin'
                  An' eatin’ doity woims.

As I’ve written before, I tend to laugh at parodies rather than stuff that’s meant to be comic in its own right.

But I heard a poem at our last poetry-reading meeting here in Chsiwick that, while it didn’t exactly have me falling off my chair, at least made me smile – in fact, there wasn’t a man in the room who wasn’t smiling by the end of it. 

It’s by Ogden Nash, it’s called “To a Small Boy Standing on My Shoes While I Am Wearing Them” – and I doubt any male adult (and quite a few females) could hear it and not to recall myriad episodes to which they’re reacted in exactly the same way:

                 Let's straighten this out, my little man,
                 And reach an agreement if we can.
                 I entered your door as an honored guest.
                 My shoes are shined and my trousers are pressed,
                 And I won't stretch out and read you the funnies
                 And I won't pretend that we're Easter bunnies.
                 If you must get somebody down on the floor,
                 What in the hell are your parents for?
                 I do not like the things that you say
                 And I hate the games that you want to play.
                 No matter how frightfully hard you try,
                 We've little in common, you and I.
                 The interest I take in my neighbor's nursery
                 Would have to grow, to be even cursory,
                 And I would that performing sons and nephews
                 Were carted away with the daily refuse,
                 And I hold that frolicsome daughters and nieces
                 Are ample excuse for breaking leases.
                 You may take a sock at your daddy's tummy
                 Or climb all over your doting mummy,
                 But keep your attentions to me in check,
                 Or, sonny boy, I will wring your neck.
                 A happier man today I'd be
                 Had someone wrung it ahead of me.

I had assumed that Nash must have been a crusty old bachelor - my attitude to other people's children certainly softened after we produced one of our own - but he was married and had a daughter.

I've just bought Candy Is Dandy: The Best of Ogden Nash and I'm hoping this will keep my anger in check until that glorious day when the forces of law and order smite the St. Paul's protesters with furious vengeance. 

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