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Saturday, August 20, 2016

The unflappable Ogden Nash


“If you don't want to work you have to work to earn enough money so that you won't have to work” – Ogden Nash

Born on this day in 1902, Nash was known for his light verse, and at the time of his death in 1971 The New York Times said his "droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country's best-known producer of humorous poetry.”

Nash wrote over 500 pieces of comic verse. The best of his work was published in 14 volumes between 1931 and 1972.   When Nash wasn't writing poems, he made guest appearances on comedy and radio shows and toured the United States and the United Kingdom, giving lectures at colleges and universities.  One he often liked to read and which I selected for Saturday’s Poem, is:

Goody for Our Side and Your Side Too

Foreigners are people somewhere else,
Natives are people at home;
If the place you’re at
Is your habitat,
You’re a foreigner, say in Rome.
But the scales of Justice balance true,
And tit leads into tat,
So the man who’s at home
When he stays in Rome
Is abroad when he’s where you’re at.

When we leave the limits of the land in which
Our birth certificates sat us,
It does not mean
Just a change of scene,
But also a change of status.
The Frenchman with his fetching beard,
The Scot with his kilt and sporran,
One moment he
May a native be,
And the next may find him foreign.

There’s many a difference quickly found
Between the different races,
But the only essential
Differential
Is living different places.
Yet such is the pride of prideful man,
From Austrians to Australians,
That wherever he is,
He regards as his,
And the natives there, as aliens.

Oh, I’ll be friends if you’ll be friends,
The foreigner tells the native,
And we’ll work together for our common ends
Like a preposition and a dative.
If our common ends seem mostly mine,
Why not, you ignorant foreigner?
And the native replies
Contrariwise;
And hence, my dears, the coroner.

So mind your manners when a native, please,
And doubly when you visit
And between us all
A rapport may fall
Ecstatically exquisite.
One simple thought, if you have it pat,
Will eliminate the coroner:
You may be a native in your habitat,
But to foreigners you’re just a foreigner.


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