Waxed Poetic about Insects
Ogden Nash is one of America's best-known light-verse
poets. He was also a TV personality and regular panelist on the show "What's
My Line" in the 1950s.
Nash became popular as a poet because of his unconventional
and humorous poems about common things in daily life. He did not overlook
insects. These creatures became the target of some well-chosen Nash words.
Like most people, Nash was not fond of insects.
He asks the big question about insects in his poem, "The Fly."
"God in his wisdom created the fly
And then forgot to tell us why."
He acknowledges that some people appreciate the
wonderful world of insects, but not everyone does--including him! He begins
his poem, "Creeps and Crawls," with the lines:
"The insect world appealed to Fabre.
I find the insect world macabre."
He concludes with the lines:
"Someday, perhaps, my citronella
Will rank with Chamberlain's umbrella."
Unlike the French naturalist Fabre, who spent his
life studying insects, Nash's approach to insects was more practical.
He wanted to kill them, in this case, using citronella.
Apparently bees were attracted to Nash. At least,
he claimed in his poem, "The Bird to the Bees," that insects, which he
called bees, bothered him a lot. Nash, like a number of poets and other
people, probably misidentified honey bees as yellow jackets. Much of the
behavior he describes in the poem is more like yellow jackets than honey
bees. But the honey bee was what Nash had in mind.
The last two lines of the poem read:
"And so I am ridden through life with bees in the
saddle and stirrup,
So you take honey if you want, but Ill take
Nash begrudgingly acknowledges the ecological roles
of insects in "Good-By, Bugs."
"Some insects feed on rosebuds,
And others feed on carrion.
Between them they devour the earth.
Bugs are totalitarian."
Of course, some of those roles turn into problems
for humans. Such is the case with termites, which ecologically serve as
wood recyclers--not a problem to most of us unless they recycle the wood
in our structures!
When it comes to the threat of being bitten by
a mosquito, Nash knows that it is the female, not the male, that is the
threat. In "Boo!" he writes:
"But listen, kids, it's all right,
The male mosquito cannot bite."
Of course, insects like the mosquito have attacked
humans for a long time. Forever, according to Nash. He puts it this way
in his poem, "Fleas."
If you are wondering about the rest of the poem,
wonder no longer, because that is the entire poem.
Another human pest that has been included in poetry
is the louse. The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote such a poem. According
to Nash in his poem, "The Louse:"
"Robert Burns, the gifted souse,
Kindly immortalized the louse,
Who probably won't, when he is master
Immortalize his poetaster."
So what good is an insect? With apologies to Nash:
One reason for insects is no doubt
To give poets something to write about!