A master of light verse, Ogden Nash (1902-1971) was born in Rye, New York. The city of Nashville, Tennessee, was named in honour of one of his ancestors. Nash attended Harvard College, but dropped out after only one year. He worked briefly on Wall Street, and as a schoolteacher, before becoming a copywriter. In 1925, he took a job in the marketing department with the publishing house Doubleday.
Nash’s first published poems began to appear in The New Yorker magazine around 1930. His first collection of poems, Hard Lines, was published in 1931. It was a tremendous success and reprinted seven times in its first year alone. Nash quit his job with Doubleday and married Frances Rider Leonard with whom he had two children. A collection of his humorous “Loving Letters” to his family was published in 1990.
Nash worked briefly for The New Yorker in 1932, before deciding to devote himself full time to his verse. Nash appeared regularly on radio and television and he drew enthusiastic audiences for his public readings and lectures. Typically, when it came to sitting on the beach, Nash had his own take, revealed in “Pretty Halcyon Days”.
“How pleasant to sit on the beach,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun,
With ocean galore within reach,
And nothing at all to be done!
No letters to answer,
No bills to be burned,
No work to be shirked,
No cash to be earned,
It is pleasant to sit on the beach
With nothing at all to be done!
How pleasant to look at the ocean,
Democratic and damp; indiscriminate;
It fills me with noble emotion
To think I am able to swim in it.
To lave in the wave,
Majestic and chilly,
Tomorrow I crave;
But today it is silly.
It is pleasant to look at the ocean;
Tomorrow, perhaps, I shall swim in it.
How pleasant to gaze at the sailors
As their sailboats they manfully sail
With the vigor of vikings and whalers
In the days of the vikings and whale.
They sport on the brink
Of the shad and the shark;
If it’s windy, they sink;
If it isn’t, they park.
It is pleasant to gaze at the sailors,
To gaze without having to sail.
How pleasant the salt anesthetic
Of the air and the sand and the sun;
Leave the earth to the strong and athletic,
And the sea to adventure upon.
But the sun and the sand
No contractor can copy;
We lie in the land
Of the lotus and poppy;
We vegetate, calm and aesthetic,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun.”