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Born Frederick Ogden Nash on August 19, 1902
in Rye, New York. An ancestor, General Francis Nash, gave his name to Nashville,
Tennesee. Raised in Rye, New York and Savannah, Georgia. Educated at St. George's
School in Rhode Island and, briefly, Harvard University. Started work writing
advertising copy for Doubleday, Page Publishing, New York, in 1925. Published
first book for children, The Cricket of Caradon in 1925. First published poem
Spring Comes to Murray Hill appears in New Yorker magazine in 1930. Joins staff
at New Yorker in 1932. Married Frances Rider Leonard on June 6, 1933. Published
19 books of poetry. Collaborated, in 1943, in the musical comedy, "One Touch
of Venus." Elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1950. Lived
in New York but his principal home was in Baltimore, Maryland, where he died
on May 19, 1971. He was buried in North Hampton, New Hampshire.
Books he published:
"Hard Lines" (1931), "I'm a Stranger Here Myself "(1938), "The Face is Familiar" (1940), "Good Intentions" (1942), "Many Long Years Ago" (1945), "Selected Verse" (1946), "Versus" (1949), "Parents Keep Out" (1951), "The Private Dining Room" (1953), "You Can't Get There From Here" (1957), "The Christmas That Almost Wasn't" (1957), "Everyone But Thee and Me" (1962), "Marriage Lines" (1964), "The Untold Adventures of Santa Claus" (1964), "There's Always Another Windmill" (1968), "Bed Riddance" (1970), "The Old Dog Barks Backwards" (1972).
This creature fills its mouth with venum
And walks upon its duodenum.
He who attempts to tease the cobra
Is soon a sadder he, and sobra.
Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man
It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even
every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is
And it is what you are doing when you are doing some
thing you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a
sin of omission and is equally bad in the eyes of all
right - thinking people, from Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds
of sin as long as, in a way, against each other we are
And that is, don't bother your head about sins of commission
because however sinful, they must at least
be fun or else you wouldn't be committing them.
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you get really painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven't taken out and the checks
you haven't added up the stubs of and the appointments
you haven't kept and the bills you haven't
paid and the letters you haven't written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly
painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn't as though it had been a riotous redletter day or night every time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn't get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forgot to pay a bill;
You didn't slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let's all fail to write just one more letter before we go home,
and this round of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of the things you haven't done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn't do give you a
lot more trouble than the unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all,
but if some kind of sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.
Very Like a Whale
One thing that literature would be greatly the better for
Would be a more restricted employment by authors of simile and metaphor.
Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,
Can't seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have to go out of their way to say that it is like something else.
What does it mean when we are told
That the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?
In the first place, George Gordon Byron had had enough experience
To know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it was a lot of Assyrians.
However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and thus hinder longevity,
We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity.
Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose coorts were gleaming in purple and gold,
Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a wolf on the fold?
In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy there are a great many things,
But I don't imagine that among them there is a wolf with
and gold cohorts or purple and gold anythings.
No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this
Assyrian was actually like a wolf I must have some kind
Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and
a big red mouth and big white teeth and did he
say Woof woof?
Frankly I think it very unlikely, and all you were enitled to say, at the very most,
Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian cohorts about to destroy the Hebrew host.
But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear
me no he had to invent a lot of figures of speech
and then interpolate them,
With the result that whenever you mention Old Testa
ment soldiers to people they say Oh yes, they're
the ones that a lot of wolves dressed up in gold
and purple ate them.
That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time
by poets, from Homer to Tennyson;
They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison,
And they always say things like that the snow is a white
blanket after a winter storm.
Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch
blanket of snow and I'll sleep under a half-inch
blanket of unpoetical blanket material and we'll
see which one keeps warm,
And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly
What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.
I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist.
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."
People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different. People look
At them with eyes that wonder when . . .
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies.
© 2001 Elena and Yacov Feldman