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Common Cold -- Ogden Nash

Guest poem sent in by Anustup Datta
(Poem #325) Common Cold
  Go hang yourself, you old M.D,!
  You shall not sneer at me.
  Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
  Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
  I contemplate a joy exquisite
  In not paying you for your visit.
  I did not call you to be told
  My malady is a common cold.

  By pounding brow and swollen lip;
  By fever's hot and scaly grip;
  By those two red redundant eyes
  That weep like woeful April skies;
  By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
  By handkerchief after handkerchief;
  This cold you wave away as naught
  Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

  Give ear, you scientific fossil!
  Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
  The Cold of which researchers dream,
  The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
  This honored system humbly holds
  The Super-cold to end all colds;
  The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
  The Führer of the Streptococcracy.

  Bacilli swarm within my portals
  Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
  But bred by scientists wise and hoary
  In some Olympic laboratory;
  Bacteria as large as mice,
  With feet of fire and heads of ice
  Who never interrupt for slumber
  Their stamping elephantine rumba.

  A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
  Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
  Don Juan was a budding gallant,
  And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent;
  The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
  And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
  Oh what a derision history holds
  For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!
-- Ogden Nash
It is with a great sense of disquiet (and some surprise) that I notice that
we haven't yet covered that epitome of comic versification, Ogden Nash. I
will not trouble you with a biography of Nash, for everyone has heard of him
and read his poetry. Indeed, I consider that my first acquaintance with
comic poetry began with his delightful

  The Cobra

  The cobra's mouth is filled with venom,
  He walks upon his duodenum.
  He who attempts to tease a cobra
  Is soon a sadder he, and sobra.

It progressed through the famous and oft-anthologised "Reflections on
Ice-Breaking". His jarringly exact rhymes and biting social satire were only
matched by his delightfully human failings and wonderful whimsicality. His
celebrated brevity is exemplified in the

  Reflection On A Wicked World

  Purity
  Is obscurity.

This is the shortest poem I have ever read - may be the shortest ever
written. But the rapier thrust is ever the keener for that.

'Common Cold' is a longer and more substantial poem about a very mundane
subject. But what Nash does to it is far from common - with splendid
hypochondriac hyperbole, he elevates the everyday cold to Olympian heights.
I especially enjoy the last stanza and its withering humour - P G Wodehouse
couldn't have done it better - and calling his bacterium 'the Fuhrer of the
Streptococcracy' is nothing less than genius. I could go on - but you get
the picture.

Anustup

88 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

user said...

Anustup writes:
> His celebrated brevity is exemplified in the
>
> Reflection On A Wicked World
>
> Purity
> Is obscurity.
>
> This is the shortest poem I have ever read - may be the shortest ever
> written. But the rapier thrust is ever the keener for that.

Another recently read example; shorter still, if you count the word
length of the title as well.

The Bronx

The Bronx?
No thonx!
-- Ogden Nash

Ruth Lipow said...

I think the shortest poem every written was :

Title: Fleas
Adam had 'em

Rich Rostrom said...

The text in the last stanza appears to be
corrupt. The correct text is:

A common cold, forsooth, gadzooks!
Please to forgive my ribald looks,
But what derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

My source is the 1941 edition of _The Face Is
Familiar_.

On review, I find several more errors:

Common Cold The Common Cold

Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me. You shall no longer sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
In not paying you for your visit. In never paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever's hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes By these two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth! A common cold,
forsooth, gadzooks!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth; Please to forgive my
ribald looks,
Don Juan was a budding gallant, ----
And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent; ----
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish, ----
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish. ----
Oh what a derision history holds But what derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds! For the man who
belittled the Cold of Colds!

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