Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Forty years ago I was the recipient of a little award in my school music class. Camille St Saens' Carnival of the Animals became music to my ears because I listened over and over to the recording in an effort to *distinguish* the sounds that mimicked different animals. Now whenever I hear these notes, my ears perk up and I imagine the parade.

Last Fall on NPR I heard the following Ogden Nash poems interspersed with the music and set out to buy one. Alas, the disc is not readily available (read it costs more than I want to pay) but here's a link to some fun activities related to St Saens' Carnival.


Camille Saint-Saens
Was wracked with pains,
When people addressed him,
As Saint-Saens.
He held the human race to blame,
Because it could not pronounce his name,
So, he turned with metronome and fife,
To glorify other kinds of life,
Be quiet please - for here begins
His salute to feathers, fur and fins.


The lion is the king of beasts,
And husband of the lioness.
Gazelles and things on which he feasts
Address him as your highoness.
There are those that admire that roar of his,
In the African jungles and velds,
But, I think that wherever the lion is,
I’d rather be somewhere else.


The rooster is a roistering hoodlum,
His battle cry is cock- a- doodleum.
Hands in pockets, cap over eye,
He whistles at pullets, passing by.


Have ever you harked to the donkey wild,
Which scientists call the onager?
It sounds like the laugh of an idiot child,
Or a hepcat on a harmoniger,
But do not sneer at the donkey wild,
There is a method in his heehaw,
For with maidenly blush and accent mild
The donkey answers shee-haw.


Come crown my brow with leaves of myrtle,
I know the tortoise is a turtle,
Come carve my name in stone immortal,
I know the turtoise is a tortle.
I know to my profound despair,
I bet on one to beat a hare,
I also know I’m now a pauper,
Because of its tortley, turtley, torper.


Elephants are useful friends,
Equipped with handles at both ends,
They have a wrinkled moth proof hide,
Their teeth are upside down, outside,
If you think the elephant preposterous,
You’ve probably never seen a rhinosterous.


The kangaroo can jump incredible,
He has to jump because he is edible,
I could not eat a kangaroo,
But many fine Australians do,
Those with cookbooks as well as boomerangs,
Prefer him in tasty kangaroomeringues.


Some fish are minnows,
Some are whales,
People like dimples,
Fish like scales,
Some fish are slim,
And some are round,
They don’t get cold,
They don’t get drowned,
But every fishwife
Fears for her fish,
What we call mermaids
They call merfish.


In the world of mules
There are no rules.
(Laughing, In the world of mules
There are no rules)


Cuckoos lead bohemian lives,
They fail as husbands and as wives,
Therefore, they cynically disparage
Everybody else’s marriage


Puccini was Latin, and Wagner Teutonic,
And birds are incurably philharmonic,
Suburban yards and rural vistas
Are filled with avian Andrew Sisters.
The skylark sings a roundelay,
The crow sings “The Road to Mandalay,”
The nightingale sings a lullaby,
And the sea gull sings a gullaby.
That’s what shepherds listened to in Arcadia
Before somebody invented the radia.


Some claim that pianists are human,
Heh, and quote the case of Mr. Truman.
Saint Saens on the other hand,
Considered them a scurvy band,
A blight they are he said, and simian,
Instead of normal men and wimian.


At midnight in the museum hall,
The fossils gathered for a ball,
There were no drums or saxophones,
But just the clatter of their bones,
Rolling, rattling carefree circus,
Of mammoth polkas and mazurkas,
Pterodactyls and brontosauruses
Sang ghostly prehistoric choruses,
Amid the mastodonic wassail
I caught the eye of one small fossil,
“Cheer up sad world,” he said and winked,
“It’s kind of fun to be extinct.”


The swan can swim while sitting down,
For pure conceit he takes the crown,
He looks in the mirror over and ovea,
And claims to have never heard of Pavlova.


Now we’ve reached the grand finale,
On an animalie, carnivalie,
Noises new to sea and land,
Issue from the skillful band,
All the strings contort their features,
Imitating crawly creatures,
All the brasses look like mumps
From blowing umpah, umpah, umps,
In outdoing Barnum and Bailey, and Ringling,
Saint Saens has done a miraculous thingling.

1 comment:

  1. Ogden Nash is one of my favorite poets! (I'm too fond of humorous verse, I think!)