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Read an Excerpt
From Chapter One: Versus
The hunter crouches in his blind
'Neath camouflage of every kind,
And conjures up a quacking noise
To lend allure to his decoys.
This grown-up man, with pluck and luck
Is hoping to outwit a duck.
A WORD ABOUT WINTER
Now the frost is on the pane,
Rugs upon the floor again,
Now the screens are in the cellar,
Now the student cons the speller,
Lengthy summer noon is gone,
Twilight treads the heels of dawn,
Round-eyed sun is now a squinter,
Tiptoe breeze a panting sprinter,
Every cloud a blizzard hinter,
Squirrel on the snow a printer,
Rain spout sprouteth icy splinter,
Willy-nilly, this is winter.
Summer-swollen doorjambs settle,
Ponds and puddles turn to metal,
Skater whoops in frisky fettle,
Golf-club stingeth like a nettle,
Radiator sings like kettle,
Hearth is Popocatepetl.
Runneth nose and chappeth lip,
Draft evadeth weather strip,
Doctor wrestleth with grippe
In never-ending rivalship.
Rosebush droops in garden shoddy,
Blood is cold and thin in body,
Weary postman dreams of toddy,
Head before the heart grows noddy.
On the hearth the embers gleam,
Glowing like a maiden's dream,
Now the apple and the oak
Paint the sky with chimney smoke,
Husband now, without disgrace,
Dumps ash trays in the fireplace.
HOW DO YOU SAY HA-HA IN FRENCH?
There are several people who I can claim I am glad I am not, without being accused of pride and effrontery,
And one of them is the bartender of a French restaurant in an English-speaking country.
The conversation of the customers isn't calculated to keep a bao develop a hearty appetite for dinner because it's unhealthy to drink without eating.
Life being what it is I don't see why everybody doesn't develop an ulcer,
Particularly Mrs. Martingale, the wife of a prominent pastry cook from Tulsa.
He had risen to fame and fortune after starting as a humble purveyor of noodles,
So he asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she said a new Studebaker and he thought she said a new strudel baker and she hated strudels.
So all I know about life is that it has been well said
That such things can't happen to a person when they are dead.
An old person of Troy
Is so prudish and coy
That it doesn't know yet
If it's a girl or a boy.
THE STRANGE CASE OF MR. PALLISER'S PALATE
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.
But he wasn't discouraged; he bought a white hat and The Cordon Bleu Cook Book and said, How about some Huîtres en Robe de Chambre?
And she sniffed and said, Are you reading a cookbook or Forever Ambre?
And he said, Well, if you prefer something more Anglo-Saxon,
Why suppose I whip up some tasty Filets de Sole Jackson,
And she pretended not to hear, so he raised his voice and said, Could I please you with some Paupiettes de Veau à la Grecque or Cornets de Jambon Lucullus or perhaps some nice Moules à la Bordelai se?
And she said, Kindly lower your voice or the neighbors will think we are drunk and disordelaise,
And she said, Furthermore the whole idea of your cooking anything fit to eat is a farce. So what did Mr. Palliser do then?
Well, he offered her OEufs Farcis Maison and Homard Farci St. Jacques and Tomate Farcie à la Bayonne and Aubergines Farcies Provençales, as well as Aubergines Farcies Italiennes,
And she said, Edward, kindly accompany me as usual to Hamburger Heaven and stop playing the fool,
And he looked in the book for one last suggestion and it suggested Croques Madame, so he did, and now he dines every evening on Crème de Concombres Glacée, Côtelettes de Volaille Vicomtesse, and Artichauds à la Barigoule.
WILL YOU HAVE YOUR TEDIUM RARE OR MEDIUM?
Two things I have never understood: first, the difference between a Czar and a Tsar,
And second, why some people who should be bores aren't, and others, who shouldn't be, are.
I know a man who isn't sure whether bridge is played with a puck or a ball,
And he hasn't read a book since he bogged down on a polysyllable in the second chapter of The Rover Boys at Putnam Hall.
His most thrilling exploit was when he recovered a souvenir of the World's Fair that had been sent out with the trash,
And the only opinion he has ever formed by himself is that he looks better without a mustache.
Intellectually speaking, he has neither ears to hear with nor eyes to see with,
Yet he is pleasing to be with,
I know another man who is an expert on everything from witchcraft and demonology to the Elizabethan drama,
And he has spent a week end with the Dalai Lama,
And substituted for a mongoose in a fight with a cobra, and performed a successful underwater appendectomy,
And I cannot tell you how tediously his reminiscences affect me.
I myself am fortunate in that I have many interesting thoughts which I express in terms that make them come alive,
And I certainly would entertain my friends if they always didn't have to leave just when I arrive.
Any hound a porcupine nudges
Can't be blamed for harboring grudges.
I know one hound that laughed all winter
At a porcupine that sat on a splinter.
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE INSTINCT.
I suppose that plumbers' children know more about plumbing than plumbers do, and welders' children more about welding than welders,
Because the only fact in an implausible world is that all young know better than their elders.
A young person is a person with nothing to learn,
One who already knows that ice does not chill and fire does not burn.
It knows that it can read indefinitely in the dark and do its eyes no harm,
It knows it can climb on the back of a thin chair to look for a sweater it left on the bus without falling and breaking an arm.
It knows it can spend six hours in the sun on its first day at the beach without ending up a skinless beet,
And it knows it can walk barefoot through the barn without running a nail in its feet.
It knows it doesn't need a raincoat if it's mining or galoshes if it's snowing,
And knows how to manage a boat without ever having done any sailing or rowing.
It knows after every sporting contest that it had really picked the winner,
And that its appetite is not affected by eati ng three chocolate bars covered with peanut butter and guava jelly, fifteen minutes before dinner.
Most of all it knows
That only other people catch colds through sitting around in drafts in wet clothes.
Meanwhile psychologists grow rich
Writing that the young are ones parents should not undermine the self-confidence of which.
THE PEOPLE UPSTAIRS
The people upstairs all practice ballet.
Their living room is a bowling alley.
Their bedroom is full of conducted tours.
Their radio is louder than yours.
They celebrate week ends all the week.
When they take a shower your ceilings leak.
They try to get their parties to mix
By supplying their guests with Pogo sticks,
And when their orgy at last abates,
They go to the bathroom on roller skates.
I might love the people upstairs wondrous
If instead of above us, they just lived under us.
TABLEAU AT TWILIGHT
I sit in the dusk. I am all alone.
Enter a child and an ice-cream cone.
A parent is easily beguiled
By sight of this coniferous child.
The friendly embers warmer gleam,
The cone begins to drip ice cream.
Cones are composed of many a vitamin.
My lap is not the place to bitamin.
Although my raiment is not chinchilla,
I flinch to see it become vanilla.
Coniferous child, when vanilla melts
I'd rather it melted somewhere else.
Exit child with remains of cone.
I sit in the dusk. I am all alone,
Muttering spells like an angry Druid,
Alone, in the dusk, with the cleaning fluid.
Copyright © 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, &c opy; 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958 by Ogden Nash. Copyright 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, © 1955, 1956 by the Curtis Publishing Company. Copyright 1952 by Cowles Magazines, Inc.