August 19, 2009
OGDEN NASH (1902-71) was the American master of light verse, an art that has fallen on hard times, since it requires both gentle jokes that everyone can find amusing and barnstorming verbal agility of the kind more often reserved these days for poetic performances that objurgate populist goofiness. Nash leaned heavily on a few surefire tricks: the mock-portentous title (“Further Reflections on Parsley”), the rhyme attained by Procrustean mangling (the aforementioned poem in its entirety: “Parsley/Is gharsley”), the line that rambles myopically along until it finds a potential rhyme and pounces (“Hypochondriacs/Spend the winter at the bottom of Florida and the summer on top of the Adirondriacs”). Still, his command of language has a deep dazzle that shines through his comedy’s glitter. “Objurgate” made its most memorable appearance in “The Centipede,” and not even as a rhyme — it just makes the first line funnier. And once you’ve read “I Do, I Will, I Have,” it’s difficult to see the word “incompatibility” without thinking of Nash’s “particularly if he has income and she is pattable.”
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | Skip Williamson |
READ MORE about members of the Hardboiled Generation (1894-1903).