Thursday, February 14

Columbus, a Poem by Ogden Nash

One of my favorite books is "100 Essential Modern Poems". A hundred fantastic poems, and introducing each author is a short and well written biography. I'm always resolving to read more poetry, and on occasion I'll buy the odd book, but never yet have I actually read them. Well, quite rarely. In this book there are no dud poems, every one is a zinger, pretty much. And I don't care if I'm admitting my ignorance of literary figures, it's all the more interesting when a poem is, to a certain degree, contextualized within an author's life and record.

And so I present to you the last poem I read:

COLUMBUS, a poem by Ogden Nash

Once upon a time there was an Italian,
And some people thought he was a rapscallion,
But he wasn't offended,
Because other people thought he was splendid,
And he said the world was round,
And everybody made an uncomplimentary sound,
But he went and tried to borrow some money from Ferdinand,
But Ferdinand said America was a bird in the bush and he'd rather have a bird in 'and,
But Columbus' brain was fertile, it wasn't arid,
And he remembered that Ferdinand was married,
And he thought, there is no wife like a misunderstood one,
Because if her husband thinks something is a terrible idea she is bound to think it a good one,
So he perfumed his handkerchief with rum and citronella,
And he went to see Isabella,
And he looked wonderful but he had never felt sillier,
And she said, I can't place the face but the aroma is familiar,
And Columbus didn't say a word,
All he said was, I am Columbus ,the fifteenth-century Admiral Byrd,
And, just as he thought, her disposition was very malleable,
And she said, Here are my jewels, and she wasn't penurious like Cornelia the mother of the Gracchi, she wasn't referring to her children, no, she was referring to her jewels, which were very very valuable,
So Columbus said, Somebody show me the sunset and somebody did and he set sail for it,
And he discovered America and they put him in jail for it,
And the fetters gave him welts,
And they named America after somebody else,
So the sad fate of Columbus ought to be pointed out to every child and every voter,
Because it has a very important moral, which is, Don't be a discoverer, be a promoter.

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