For the Birds Radio Program: Ogden Nash's Birthday

Original Air Date: Aug. 19, 1987

Laura reads several Ogden Nash poems in honor of his birthday. (3:23)

Audio missing


(Recording of a Wild Turkey)

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite poets, Ogden Nash. He was a New Yorker who satirized the infinite banalities of life in the city. He wrote a lot of poems about birds, many about barnyard species like “The Turkey”:

There is nothing more perky
Than a masculine turkey.
When he struts he struts
With no ifs or buts.
When his face is apoplectic
His harem grows hectic,
And when he gobbles
Their universe wobbles.

(Recording of a Wild Turkey)

Then there’s “The Gander”:

Be careful not to cross the gander,
A bird composed of beak and dander.
His heart is filled with prideful hate
Of all the world except his mate,
And if the neighbors do not err
He’s overfond of beating her.
Is she happy? What’s the use
Of trying to psychoanalyze a goose?

He didn’t limit himself entirely to farm and game birds–he also wrote about exotic species like “The Toucan.”

The toucan’s profile is prognathous,
It’s person is a thing of bathos.
If even I can tell a toucan
I’m reasonably sure that you can.

And then there’s “The Ostrich”:

The ostrich roams the great Sahara.
Its mouth is wide, its neck is narra.
It has such long and lofty legs,
I’m glad it sits to lay its eggs.

His poem “The Cuckoo” is about the European species–American cuckoos are not promiscuous.

Cuckoos lead Bohemian lives,
They fail as husbands and as wives,
Therefore they cynically disparage
Everybody else’s marriage.

He made fun of a lot of flowery old-fashioned poems. William Cullen Bryant’s classic poem about the Bobolink was an easy target for Nash:


He wrote one poem about the mallard.

Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It quacks.
It is specially fond
Of a puddle or pond.
When it dines or sups,
It bottoms ups.

Nash apparently didn’t think much of duck hunters. He wrote:

The hunter crouches in his blind
‘Neath camoflage 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.

(Recording of a Mallard laugh)

He thought even less of grackles:

The grackle’s voice is less than mellow,
His heart is black, his eye is yellow.
He bullies more attractive birds
With hoodlum deeds and vulgar words,
And should a human interfere,
Attacks that human in the rear.
I cannot help but deem the grackle
An ornithological debacle.

Ogden Nash was no ornithologist, but he knew exactly how the mind of a natural scientist works, as he showed in his poem, “The Purist.”

I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist.
Trustees exclaimed, “He never bungles!”
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
“You mean,” he said, “a crocodile.”

(Recording of a Mallard laugh)

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