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Ogden Nash (1902-1971). Courtesy The Famous People.

Ogden Nash
Born August 19, 1902(1902-Template:MONTHNUMBER-19)
Rye, New York
Died May 19, 1971(1971-Template:MONTHNUMBER-19) (aged 68)
Baltimore, Maryland
Education Harvard University ( For 1 Year)
Occupation Poet, author, lyric-writer
Spouse Frances Leonard
Parents Edmund and Mattie

Frederic Ogden Nash (August 19, 1902 - May 19, 1971) was an American poet well known for his light verse. 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".[1]


Youth and education[]

Nash was born in Rye, New York. His father owned and operated an import-export company, and because of business obligations, the family relocated often.

His family lived briefly in Savannah, Georgia, in a carriage house owned by Juliette Gordon Low (founder of the Girl Scouts); he wrote a poem about "Mrs. Low's House". After graduating from St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island, Nash entered Harvard University in 1920, only to drop out a year later.

Early career[]

He returned to St. George's to teach for a year and left to work his way through a series of other jobs, eventually landing a position as an editor at Doubleday publishing house, where he first began to write poetry.

Nash moved to Baltimore, Maryland, 3 years after marrying Frances Leonard, a Baltimore native. He lived in Baltimore from 1934 and most of his life until his death in 1971. Nash thought of Baltimore as home. After his return from a brief move to New York, he wrote "I could have loved New York had I not loved Balti-more."

His earliest job in New York was as a writer of the streetcar card ads for a company that previously had employed another Baltimore resident, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nash loved to rhyme. "I think in terms of rhyme, and have since I was six years old," he stated in a 1958 news interview.[2] He had a fondness for crafting his own words whenever rhyming words did not exist, though admitting that crafting rhymes was not always the easiest task.[2]

Writing career[]

In 1931 he published his debut collection of poems, Hard Lines, earning him national recognition.

When Nash wasn't writing poems, he made guest appearances on comedy and radio shows and toured the United States and England, giving lectures at colleges and universities.

Nash was regarded respectfully by the literary establishment, and his poems were frequently anthologized even in serious collections such as Selden Rodman's 1946 A New Anthology of Modern Poetry.

Nash was the lyricist for the Broadway musical One Touch of Venus, collaborating with librettist S.J. Perelman and composer Kurt Weill. The show included the notable song "Speak Low". He also wrote the lyrics for the 1952 revue Two's Company.

Nash and his love of the Baltimore Colts were featured in the December 13, 1968 issue of Life,[3] with several poems about the American football team matched to full-page pictures. Entitled "My Colts, verses and reverses," the issue includes his poems and photographs by Arthur Rickerby. "Mr. Nash, the league leading writer of light verse (Averaging better than 6.3 lines per carry), lives in Baltimore and loves the Colts" it declares. The comments further describe Nash as "a fanatic of the Baltimore Colts, and a gentleman." Featured on the magazine cover is defensive player Dennis Gaubatz, number 53, in midair pursuit with this description: "That is he, looming 10 feet tall or taller above the Steelers' signal caller...Since Gaubatz acts like this on Sunday, I'll do my quarterbacking Monday." Memorable Colts Jimmy Orr, Billy Ray Smith, Bubba Smith, Willie Richardson, Dick Szymanski and Lou Michaels contribute to the poetry.

Death and subsequent events[]

Nash died of Crohn's disease at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on May 19, 1971.[1] He is interred in North Hampton, New Hampshire's East Cemetery.[4]

A biography, Ogden Nash: the Life and Work of America's Laureate of Light Verse, was written by Douglas M. Parker, published in 2005 and in paperback in 2007. The book was written with the cooperation of the Nash family and quotes extensively from Nash's personal correspondence as well as his poetry.

His daughter Isabel was married to noted photographer Fred Eberstadt , and his granddaughter, Fernanda Eberstadt, is an acclaimed author.


Nash was best known for surprising, pun-like rhymes, sometimes with words deliberately misspelled for comic effect, as in his retort to Dorothy Parker's humorous dictum, Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses:

A girl who is bespectacled
She may not get her nectacled
But safety pins and bassinets
Await the girl who fassinets.

He often wrote in an exaggerated verse form with pairs of lines that rhyme, but are of dissimilar length and irregular meter:

Once there was a man named Mr. Palliser and he asked his wife, May I be a gourmet?
And she said, You sure may,
But she also said, If my kitchen is going to produce a Cordon Blue,
It won't be me, it will be you,
And he said, You mean Cordon Bleu?
And she said to never mind the pronunciation so long as it was him and not heu.

Some of his poems reflected an anti-establishment feeling. For example, a verse entitled "Common Sense" asks:

Why did the Lord give us agility,
If not to evade responsibility?

Nash's poetry was often a playful twist of an old saying or poem. He expressed this playfulness in what is perhaps his most famous rhyme. Nash observed the following in a turn of Joyce Kilmer's words: "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree."

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all.[5]

Similarly, in Reflections on Ice-Breaking he wrote:

Is dandy
But liquor
Is quicker.

He also commented:

I often wonder which is mine:
Tolerance, or a rubber spine?

His 1-line observations are often quoted.

People who work sitting down get paid more than people who work standing up.
Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.

Other poems[]

Nash was a baseball fan, and he wrote a poem titled "Line-Up for Yesterday", an alphabetical poem listing baseball immortals.[6] Published in Sport magazine in January 1949, the poem pays tribute to the baseball greats and to his own fanaticism, in alphabetical order. Here is a sampling from his A to Z list:[7]

C is for Cobb, Who grew spikes and not corn, And made all the basemen Wish they weren't born.
D is for Dean, The grammatical Diz, When they asked, Who's the tops? Said correctly, I is.
E is for Evers, His jaw in advance; Never afraid To Tinker with Chance.
F is for Fordham And Frankie and Frisch; I wish he were back With the Giants, I wish.

Nash particularly loved Baltimore sports.

Among his most popular writings were a series of animal verses, many of which featured his off-kilter rhyming devices. Examples include "If called by a panther / Don't anther"; "Who wants my jellyfish? / I'm not sellyfish!". This is his ode to the llama:

The one-L lama,
He's a priest.
The two-L llama,
He's a beast.
And I would bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
Three-L lllama.

(Nash appended a footnote to this poem: "The author's attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh."[8])

Nash wrote humorous poems for each movement of the Camille Saint-Saens orchestral suite The Carnival of the Animals, which are often recited when the work is performed.


Ogden Nash stamp[]

The U.S. Postal Service released a postage stamp featuring Ogden Nash and 6 of his poems on the centennial of his birth on 19 August 2002. The 6 poems are "The Turtle," "The Cow," "Crossing The Border," "The Kitten," "The Camel" and "Limerick One." It was the 1st stamp in the history of the USPS to include the word "sex," although as a synonym for gender. It can be found under the "O" and is part of "The Turtle". The stamp is the 18th in the Literary Arts section. 4 years later, the first issue took place in Baltimore on August 19. The ceremony was held at the home that he and his wife Frances shared with his parents on 4300 Rugby Road, where he did most of his writing.



  • The Cricket of Carador (by Nash & Joseph Alger). Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page, 1925.
  • Born in a Beer Garden; or, She troupes to conquer (by Nash, Christopher Morley, Cleon Throckmorton, and others). New York: Foundry Press / R.C. Rimington, 1930.
  • Hard Lines. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1931.
    • enlarged as Hard Lines, and others. London: Duckworth, 1932 (adds selections from Free Wheeling)
  • Free Wheeling. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1931.
  • Happy Days. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1933.
  • Four Prominent So and So's (lyrics by Nash, music by Robert Armbruster). New York: Simon & Schuster, 1934.
  • The Primrose Path. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1935.
  • The Bad Parents' Garden of Verse. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1936.
  • I'm a Stranger Here Myself. Boston: Little, Brown, 1938; London: Gollancz, 1938.
  • The Face is Familiar: the selected verse of Ogden Nash. Boston: Little, Brown, 1940; London: Dent, 1942
    • revised edition, London: Dent, 1954.
  • Good Intentions. Boston: Little, Brown, 1942
  • enlarged edition, London: Dent, 1942; revised edition, London: Dent, 1956.
  • Many Long Years Ago. Boston: Little, Brown, 1945; London: Dent, 1945.
  • Ogden Nash's Musical Zoo (music by Vernon Duke). Boston: Little, Brown, 1947.
  • Versus. Boston: Little, Brown, 1949; London: Dent, 1949.
  • Family Reunion. Boston: Little, Brown, 1950; London: Dent, 1951.
  • The Private Dining Room, and other new verses. Boston: Little, Brown, 1953; London: Dent, 1953.
  • You Can't Get There from Here. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1957; London: Dent, 1957.
  • Verse from 1929 on. Boston: Little, Brown, 1959
    • published in UK as Collected Verse from 1929 On. London: Dent, 1961.
  • Everyone But Thee and Me. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1962; London: Dent, 1963.
  • The New Nutcracker Suite, and other innocent verses. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1962.
  • Marriage Lines: Notes of a student husband. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1964; London: Dent, 1964.
  • Santa Go Home: A case history for parents. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1967; London: Dent, 1968.
  • There's Always Another Windmill. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1968; London: Deutsch, 1969.
  • Bed Riddance: A posy for the indisposed. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1970; London: Deutsch, 1971.
  • I Wouldn't Have Missed It: Selected poems (selected by Linnel Smith & Isabel Eberstadt). Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1972.

Plays and screenplays[]

  • The Firefly MGM, 1937.
  • The Shining Hair (by Nash & Jane Murfin). MGM, 1938.
  • The Feminine Touch (by Nash, George Oppenheimer, & Edmund L. Hartman). MGM, 1941.
  • One Touch of Venus (by Nash & S.J. Perelman; music by Kurt Weil). (New York: Imperial Theatre, October 7, 1943). Boston: Little, Brown, 1944.


  • Parents Keep Out: Elderly poems for youngerly readers. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951;
    • enlarged edition, London: Dent, 1962.
  • The Christmas That Almost Wasn't. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1957; London: Dent, 1958.
  • Custard the Dragon. Boston: Little, Brown, 1959; London: Dent, 1960.
  • A Boy Is a Boy: The fun of being a boy. New York: Watts, 1960; London: Dent, 1961.
  • Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1961.
  • Scrooge Rides Again. Berkeley, CA: Hart, 1960.
  • Girls Are Silly. New York: Watts, 1962; London: Dent, 1964.
  • The Adventures of Isabel. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1963.
  • A Boy and His Room. New York: Watts, 1963.
  • A Boy and His Room, and The adventures of Isabel. London: Dent, 1964.
  • The Untold Adventures of Santa Claus. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1964; London: Dent, 1965.
  • The Animal Garden. New York: Evans, 1965; London: Deutsch, 1972.
  • The Mysterious Ouphe. New York: Spadea Press, 1965.
  • The Cruise of the Aardvark. New York: Evans, 1967; London: Deutsch, 1972.
  • The Old Dog Barks Backwards. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1972; London: Deutsch, 1973.


  • P.G. Wodehouse, Nothing But Wodehouse. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1932.

Except where noted, biliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[9]

Audio / video[]


Ogden Nash recites 'Oh, Please Don't Get Up!'

  • Ogden Nash reads Ogden Nash. Caedmon, 1973.[10]

See also[]




  1. 1.0 1.1 Albin Krebs (1971-05-20). "Ogden Nash, Master of Light Verse, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hal Boyle (1958-12-01). "Ogden Nash Finds Light Verse Doesn't Flow Easy" (Reprint). Prescott Evening Courier. Associated Press.,1365475. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  3. Nash, Ogden (1968-12-13). "My Colts, verses and reverses" (- Scholar search). Life. Retrieved 2008-05-29.  Template:Dead link Template:Dead link
  4. "Ogden Nash ,", Web, July 3, 2011.
  5. Nash, Ogden, "Song of the Open Road, The Face Is Familiar (Garden City Publishing, 1941), p. 21.
  6. Tim Wiles (1996-03-31). "Who's on Verse?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 17, 2000. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  7. "Baseball Almanac". Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  8. "[minstrels] The Lama - Ogden Nash"]. 
  9. Bibliography, Ogden Nash 1902-1971, The Poetry Foundation. Web, Apr. 20, 2014.
  10. Search results = au:Ogden Nash, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 20, 2014.

External links[]

Audio / video
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