Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Selected Verse of Ogden Nash (The Modern Library, 1945)

I got this absolutely lovely copy of The Modern Library's collection of The Selected Verse of Ogden Nash (1945) at the book sale at my library this year, and I've found it to be an instant cure for the blues.

Nash is known for his light, comedic, rhyming poetry. His most famous poem might be the very brief "Reflections on Ice-Breaking" (Candy / Is dandy / But liquor / Is quicker), but his longer poems are just as perceptive and satisfying. While some of the verses have rather dated gender and racial views, most of them are just as enjoyable as they were when they were written.

And you are really missing out if you don't read them out loud.

Here is one of my favorites (long, but quick):

The Life of the Party

Lily, there isn't a thing you lack,
Your effect is simply stunning.
But Lily, your gown is low in the back,
So conduct yourself with cunning.
Some of your charm is charm of face,
But some of your charm is spinal;
Losing your looks is no disgrace,
But losing your poise is final.
Ridicule's name is Legion,
So look to your dorsal region.

For Artie,
Old Artie,
The life of the party,
Is practically perfect tonight;
He's prettily, properly tight;
He's never appeared so bright.
Have you ever seen Artie
Enliven a party?
You've never seen Artie --
Why Lord love a duck!
At present old Artie is running amuck.
There's a wink in his eye
And a smile on his lips
For the matron he tickles,
The waiter he trips.
There's a rubber cigar,
And a smoking-room jest,
To melt the reserve
Of the clerical guest.
There's a pin for the man who stoops over,
And a little trained flea for Rover.
So Lily, beware of your back!
More daring than duller and older blades,
Artie is hot on the track.
I've noticed him eying your shoulder blades.
And maybe it's salad,
And maybe it's ice,
But I fear he has planned
Some amusing device,
For the laughter is slack
And he's taking it hard --
He's eying your back --
And Artie's a card --
He's forming a plan --
May I fetch you a shawl?
That inventive young man --
There is one in the hall.
Though your back is divine
In its natural state,
May I curtain your spine? --
Dear Heaven, I'm late!
Aren't you glad that you came to the party?
And weren't you amused by Artie?

Horace, the moment that you appeared,
I admired your manly beauty,
But I feel that a word about your beard
Is only my bounden duty.
Your tailor's craft is a dandy's dream,
Your suavity leaves me lyrical,
But escaping tonight with your self-esteem
Will require a minor miracle.
Fun is a gay deceiver,
So look to your kingly beaver.

For Artie,
Old Artie,
The life of the party,
Is hitting his stride tonight.
No bushel obscures his light.
He's knocking them left and right.
Have you ever seen Artie
Enliven a party?
You've never seen Artie --
My lad, you're in luck,
For Artie, old Artie, is running amuck.
At Artie's approach
Lesser wags droop.
Have you seen the tin roach
He drops in your soup?
Is a spoon in your pocket?
Or gum on your chair?
It's Artie, old Artie,
Who magicked them there.
And of those who complain, there's a rumor
That they're lacking in sense of humor.
So Horace, beware of your beard!
I sense some fantastic flubdubbery!
Old Artie has just disappeared
And I've noticed him eying your shrubbery.
And maybe it's syrup,
And maybe it's mice,
But I fear he has planned
Some amusing device.
His conceptions are weird,
And nothing is barred --
He was eying your beard --
And Artie's a card --
When Artie returns,
The fun will begin --
May I fetch you a bag
To put on your chin?
Just a small paper bag
To envelop the bait?
For Artie's a wag --
Dear Heaven, I'm late!
Aren't you glad that you came to the party?
And weren't you amused by Artie?

As always, the Modern Library put out a wonderful copy of these poems. The book is just the right size, nicely printed, and sturdily bound. This one will go into the permanent collection, to be pulled out on occasions when I'm taking myself too seriously.


jms said...

"The Life of the Party" is one of my all-time favorite Ogden Nash poems! It absolutely sings and bounces along with the lyrical fun and clever wordsmithery that Nash is so known and loved for. Thank you for posting this as I have looked elsewhere online and not found it after having lost my collection of Ogden Nash poetry. This was one treasured selection I was resolute to recapture and I appreciate so much your making that possible.

Spacebeer said...

Glad you liked it!