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The Purist -- Ogden Nash

Guest poem submitted by Sandeep Bhadra :
(Poem #1510) 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."
-- Ogden Nash
I can see that there are quite a few Ogden Nashes in your collection, but
this particular one is a personal favourite. Unlike his longer rambling
poems, this one captures so much, so humourously and so accurately in so
little. It is a wonder no one thought of suggesting this one for your

I can picture an old naturalist-academician in khakis through muddy swamps
in Central America, thoroughly devoted to newts and alligators and other
amphibians, with very little time for his loving bride. I think his almost
mathematical preciseness, even at a time of such utter loss, is not so much
an effect of sang-froid as it is of a habitual inclination to set the other
guy right - I have heard of that being called 'academic arrogance'. It's
pure reflex action for him - and the realisation that old habits die hard
bring out his smile. I should imagine that to be a very wry smile indeed!

The other cool thing is that with the first two lines, the poem is
introduced as an introduction. 'I give you now...' clearly indicates an
appearance on a dias/podium of some sort. What is so darkly funny is that
whoever is introducing Prof. Twist with these words had to chose this
anecdote to prove the professor's conscientiousness.

more on Ogden Nash (bio/poems) at:


67 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

joe gough said...

It's difficult believing the guide, who would have been an expert on the
geography and animal identification of the region, would have been
incorrect in naming the killer an alligator rather than a crocodile. But
of course he was very much alarmed and nervous; therefore, not aware
that he was incorrect. But, what difference did it make? The professor
was always correct and exact and wanted to correct the guide. The theme,
of course, clearly teaches that many of us, like the professor, are more
concerned about minor errors and the least important events in our lives
rather than centering in on what is really important. The tragedy is
that the professor's wife had been brutally killed . Whether or not it
was a crocodile, alligator or anything else was not at all important. I
also like..........."There once was a man dining at Crewe,
Who found a large mouse in his stew.
Said the waiter, "Don't shout and wave it about,
Or the rest will be wanting one too."
We want many things that others have, just because they have them;
regardless of whether these things are good for us or not.

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Anonymous said...

Surely, if Professor Twist is always right then he was in Africa and not in Central America as the first poster suggested.

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Anonymous said...

Professor Twist reminds the guys from Whitehouse

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