Today we have a very humorous and witty poem by Ogden Nash.
A few points that will help you understand the poem or the context
of certain lines better:
1) Wordsworth wrote the poem, “An Ode to Duty” which had the exclamatory
phrase ” O Duty!” and that poem referred to Duty with “thou”. Nash
has used this in his poem as he also used the title and modified it
to suit the mood of his poem.
2) “Albatross around the neck” is a phrase that means, an unwanted burden that
one is forced to carry. This comes from Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of
the ancient mariner”.
3) A famous quote by Emerson is : When duty whispers low, “Thou must!”, The
youth replies, “I can!”. Nash has modified this in his poem.
4) Nash refers to Aunt Agatha who is Bertie Wooster’s least favorite aunt
from the Jeeves stories by P.G Wodehouse. Bertie has the following to
say about his aunt: “When Aunt Agatha wants you to do a thing you do
it, or else you find yourself wondering why those fellows in the olden
days made such a fuss when they had trouble with the Spanish
Here is the poem:
Kind Of An Ode To Duty
Why hast thou not the visage of a sweetie or a cutie?
Why glitter thy spectacles so ominously?
Why art thou clad so abominously?
Why are thou so different from Venus
And why do thou and I have so few interests mutually
in common between us?
Why art thou fifty per cent martyr
And fifty-one per cent Tartar?
Why is it thy unfortunate wont
To try to attract people by calling on them either to
leave undone the deeds they like, or to do the deeds
Why art thou so like an April post-mortem
Of something that died in the ortumn?
Above all, why dost thou continue to hound me?
Why art thou always albatrossly hanging around me?
Thou so ubiquitous,
And I so iniquitous,
I seem to be the one person in the world thou art
perpetually preaching at who or to who;
Whatever looks like fun, there art thou standing
between me and it, calling “you-hoo”.
O Duty, Duty!
How noble a man should I be hadst thou the visage of
a sweetie or a cutie!
But as it is thou art so much forbiddinger than a
Wodehouse hero’s forbiddingest aunt
That in the words of the poet, When Duty whispers low
“Thou must,” this erstwhile youth replies, “I just can’t”.
Milton: When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide…….
Nash: When I consider how my life is spent,
I hardly ever repent.