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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Wednesday, October 23

Longfellow & Ogden Nash

I just began reading a Laura Lippman novel, And When She Was Good, and was reminded of the Longfellow poem “There Was a Little Girl.” Such a simple little poem and yet one that’s had a bunch of fellow writers alluding to it, nearly as often as Macbeth’s soliloquy is alluded to in title after title (most famous, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury). Normally, when we think of Longfellow, we think of the Longfellow stuff I used to teach in high school: “The Village Blacksmith,” “Paul Revere’s Ride,” “Excelsior,” and Hiawatha. But he also wrote quite a few poems for children, playing word games just as Ogden Nash did, finding fun in the surprising rhyme, “forehead”—“horrid.” Nash did it over and over with such well-known lines as “Candy is dandy, / But liquor is quicker” (his comment about seducing women), “If called by a panther, / Don’t anther” (excellent advice), or this advice for old people like me:
“Come on in, the Senility is Fine”

People live forever in Jacksonville and St. Petersburg and Tampa,
But you don't have to live forever to become a grampa.
The entrance requirements for grampahood are comparatively mild,
You only have to live until your child has a child.
From that point on you start looking both ways over your shoulder,
Because sometimes you feel thirty years younger and sometimes thirty years older.
Now you begin to realize who it was that reached the height of imbecility,
It was whoever said that grandparents have all the fun and none of the responsibility.
This is the most enticing spiderwebs of a tarradiddle ever spun,
Because everybody would love to have a baby around who was no responsibility and lots of fun,
But I can think of no one but a mooncalf or a gaby
Who would trust their own child to raise a baby.
So you have to personally superintend your grandchild from diapers to pants and from bottle to spoon,
Because you know that your own child hasn't sense enough to come in out of a typhoon.
You don't have to live forever to become a grampa, but if you do want to live forever,
Don't try to be clever;
If you wish to reach the end of the trail with an uncut throat,
Don't go around saying Quote I don't mind being a grampa but I hate being married to a gramma Unquote.

But back to Longfellow and his horrid little girl. Most people don’t realize there’s more to the poem than those first six lines, two more stanzas, in fact, sounding very Ogden Nash-ish.

There was a little girl,
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good
She was very, very good,
And when she was bad she was horrid.

One day she went upstairs,
When her parents, unawares,
In the kitchen were occupied with meals,
And she stood upon her head
In her little trundle-bed,
And then began hooraying with her heels.

Her mother heard the noise,
And she thought it was the boys
A-playing at a combat in the attic;
But when she climbed the stair,
And found Jemima there,
She took and she did spank her most emphatic.

There, that’s enough poetry for one day. I must get back to Laura Lippman’s novel and her version of the horrid little girl.
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