13 March 2014

Poetry Thursday - Just Keep Quiet and Nobody Will Notice by Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash (via)
Just Keep Quiet and Nobody Will Notice 
by Ogden Nash
There is one thing that ought to be taught in all the colleges,
Which is that people ought to be taught not to go around always making apologies.
I don't mean the kind of apologies people make when they run over you or borrow five dollars or step on your feet,
Because I think that is sort of sweet;
No, I object to one kind of apology alone,
Which is when people spend their time and yours apologizing for everything they own.
You go to their house for a meal,
And they apologize because the anchovies aren't caviar or the partridge is veal;
They apologize privately for the crudeness of the other guests,
And they apologize publicly for their wife's housekeeping or their husband's jests;
If they give you a book by Dickens they apologize because it isn't by Scott,
And if they take you to the theater, they apologize for the acting and the dialogue and the plot;
They contain more milk of human kindness than the most capacious diary can,
But if you are from out of town they apologize for everything local and if you are a foreigner they apologize for everything American.
I dread these apologizers even as I am depicting them,
I shudder as I think of the hours that must be spend in contradicting them,
Because you are very rude if you let them emerge from an argument victorious,
And when they say something of theirs is awful, it is your duty to convince them politely that it is magnificent and glorious,
And what particularly bores me with them,
Is that half the time you have to politely contradict them when you rudely agree with them,
So I think there is one rule every host and hostess ought to keep with the comb and nail file and bicarbonate and aromatic spirits on a handy shelf,
Which is don't spoil the denouement by telling the guests everything is terrible, but let them have the thrill of finding it out for themselves.

Nash (Frederic Ogden, 1902-1971) called himself a "worsifier". Among his best known lines are "Candy / Is dandy, / But liquor / Is quicker". The anti-establishment quality of his poems resounded with many Americans, particularly during the Depression. As you can tell from the poem above, Nash was a keen observer of American social life, and his poems often mocked religious moralizing and conservative politicians. He appeared regularly on radio and on television, and - unsurprisingly - he drew huge audiences for his readings and lectures.

His first collection of poems, Hard Lines, published in 1931, was a tremendous success, and as a result Nash quit his publishing job, got married, and soon became a full-time poet with two children.

The image above is from one of the stamps issued in 2002 to mark the centennial of his birth. Text from six different poems is included in the background of the design, one of them including the word "sex" - no doubt that got a few complaints!

1 comment:

Vicki Miller said...

Your posts are always worth reading. so interesting. I think you must be researching 24 hours a day. But it seems like you love it!