Oliver Pritchett, Ogden Nash - Slightly Foxed Issue 24

A Pash for Nash

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When I was about 12 my father gave me the Penguin collection, Comic and Curious Verse, selected by J. M. Cohen and priced three shillings and sixpence. Being a rather over-heated adolescent I was immediately enchanted by a short verse by Gavin Ewart:

Miss Twye was soaping her breasts in the bath
When she heard behind her a meaning laugh
And to her amazement she discovered
A wicked man in the bathroom cupboard.

Miss Twye – what a wonderful name. She could have been a librarian, or perhaps a superior shop assistant. Quite soon, however, I gave up imagining myself in that cupboard and moved on to another bath-time poem, ‘Samson Agonistes’, in the same collection.

I test my bath before I sit,
And I’m always moved to wonderment
That what chills the finger not a bit
Is so frigid upon the fundament

This is by Ogden Nash, of course. As well as expressing a profound truth, it did wonders for a boy’s vocabulary. Since then Nash’s couplets have always been floating about in my mind like notes of old favourite tunes. I fondly remember the turtle living ’twixt plated decks, or the ostrich with its lofty legs, and I’m happily stuck with the last two lines of ‘The Panther’:

Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don’t anther.

And also by the whole of his ‘Geographical Reflection’:

The Bronx?
No thonx!

Quite recently, I decided I needed more than these snippets and I bought a copy of Candy Is Dandy: The Best of Ogden Nash. This collection has an introduction by Anthony Burgess and, as well as an index of first lines, an index of last lines which is a brilliant service for those of us who are plagued by half-remembered poems.

In his introduction, Burgess has a plucky

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About the contributor

After being on the staff of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph for thirty years, Oliver Pritchett is now a freelance writer. People have tried to come up with rhymes for his surname, but they are seldom flattering.

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