Ogden Nash

Now that school’s out for summer, I think that we should have another beach related poem to nudge us a little  nearer towards the end of the month. Ogden Nash (1902-1971) has given his own inimitable take on the urge we have to go down to the beach. His poem Seaside Serenade was originally published in The Bad Parents’ Garden of Verse (1936). I have this poem in Candy is Dandy: the Best of Ogden Nash (Andre Deutsch, 1994) which has an introduction by Anthony Burgess. I bought this collection a few years ago when I was working in Dún Laoghaire. This was another case of a customer bringing a book to my attention; the great thing about working in a bookshop is that you gain much inspiration from customers.

I like the parody of R.L. Stevenson in the title of the 1936 collection, so I thought that would be an additional reason to include this particular poem at the start of the school holidays:

Seaside Serenade

But liquor is quicker..

But liquor is quicker..

It begins when you smell a funny smell,
And it isn’t vanilla or caramel,
And it isn’t forget-me-not or lilies,
 Or new-mown hay, or daffy-down-dillies,
And it’s not what the barber rubs on Father,
And it’s awful, and yet you like it rather.
No, it’s not what the barber rubs on Daddy,
It’s more like an elderly finnan haddie,
Or, shall we say, an electric fan
Blowing over a sardine can.
It smells of seaweed, it smells of clams,
It’s as fishy as ready-made-telegrams,
It’s as fishy as millions of fishy fishes,
 In spite of which you find it delishes,
You could do with a second helping, please,
And that, my dears is the ocean breeze.


The poem goes on to describe the sights usually seen on a beach: ‘Is people reclining upon their abdomen’ and ‘Kiddies in clamorous crowds that swarm’. It finishes with a riff on John Masefield and Sea Fever:

Oh, I must go down to the beach, my lass,
And step on a piece of broken glass.

If you go down to the beach this holiday, I hope that you don’t step on any broken glass, but that you do enjoy the sea breezes.

I have only one more day of #PoetryinJune left and I hope that you have enjoyed the poetic offerings this month and Ogden Nash’s verse today.