For the Birds Radio Program: Mother's Day: Odgen Nash's "Birdies, Don't Make Me Laugh"

Original Air Date: May 8, 1987

Ogden Nash wrote a poem about little birdies in the nest.

Duration: 3′03″


(Recording of an American Robin)

Mothers’ Day is Sunday–an appropriate time to consider the evolutionary advantages of raising babies to adulthood over a four month period, and then taking eight months off to recover before starting afresh with a whole new brood. I’ve only been a mother for five years, so I’m hardly an expert at human child-rearing, but I suspect we share some common difficulties with birds.

Ogden Nash wrote a poem which is an appropriate commentary on avian motherhood, titled “Birdies, Don’t Make Me Laugh.”

Once there was a poem, and it was serious and not in jest,
And it said children ought to agree like little birdies in their nest.
Oh forsooth forsooth!
That poem was certainly more poetry than truth,
Because do you believe that little birdies in their nest agree?
It doesn’t sound very probable to me.
Ah no, but I can tell you what does sound probable,
And that is that life in a nest is just one long quarrel and squabbable.
Look at that young mother robin over in that elm, or is it a beech,
She has two little robins and she thinks she has solved her problem
Because she has learned not to bring home just one worm but a worm for each.
She is very pleased with her understanding of fledgling psychology, but
In just about two minutes she is going to lose a year’s growth,
Because she’s going to find that one little robin gets no worms and the other little robin gets both,
And if one little robin gets out of the nest on the wrong side and nothing can please it,
Why the other little robin will choose that moment to tease it,
And if one little robin starts a game the other little robin will stop it,
And if one little robin builds a castle the other little robin will knock it down
And if one little robin blows a bubble the other little robin will pop it.
Yes, I bet that if you walked up to any nest and got a good revealing glimpse,
Why, you would find that our little feathered friendlets disagree just like human imps,
And I also bet that their distracted feathered parents quote feathered
Poetry to them by whoever the most popular feathered poet may be,
All about why don’t they like little children in their nurseries agree.
Well, to put the truth about youth in a very few words,
Why the truth is that little birds do agree like children and children do agree like little birds,
Because you take offspring, and I don’t care whether a house or a tree is their abode,
They may love each other but they aren’t going to agree with each other anywhere except in an ode.
It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the poet,
That nobody agrees with anybody else anyhow, but adults conceal it and infants show it.

(Recording of an American Robin)

That was Ogden Nash, this is Laura Erickson, and this Mothers’ Day program has been “For the Birds.