Feb. 21, 2003

Nonsense Song

by W. H. Auden

(RealAudio) | How to listen

"Nonsense Song," by W.H. Auden from As I Walked Out One Evening (Vintage).

Nonsense Song

My love is like a red red rose
Or concerts for the blind,
She's like a mutton-chop before
And a rifle-range behind.

Her hair is like a looking-glass,
Her brow is like a bog,
Her eyes are like a flock of sheep
Seen through a London fog.

Her nose is like an Irish jig,
Her mouth is like a 'bus,
Her chin is like a bowl of soup
Shared between all of us.

Her form divine is like a map
Of the United States,
Her foot is like a motor-car
Without its number plates.

No steeple-jack shall part us now
Nor fireman in a frock;
True love could sink a Channel boat
Or knit a baby's sock.

It's the birthday of Charles Scribner, born in New York City in 1821, the first of a long line of Charles Scribners. In 1846, he founded The Publishing House, which continues to this day. Over the last 150 years, Scribner's publishing house has published the works of such American authors as Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe.

It's the birthday of novelist and diarist Anais Nin, born in Neuilly, France in 1903. She wrote many novels and a great deal of poetry, but was best known for her diaries, which included accounts of her love affairs with Henry Miller and his wife June.

It's the birthday of columnist and author Erma Bombeck, born in Dayton, Ohio in 1927. She became a columnist for the Dayton Journal Herald right after graduating college, but left almost immediately to be a full-time mother. When all 3 of her children were finally in school, Bombeck resumed her journalism and humor writing for the Herald at the age 37 because she "was too old for a paper route, too young for Social Security, and too tired for an affair." Later in her life, she began writing novels, including the best-sellers The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank (1976) and If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? (1978), both of which made light of everyday suburban life. She once said, "Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the 'Titanic' who waved off the dessert cart." She also said, "Success is outliving your failures."

It's the birthday of poet W(ystan) H(ugh) Auden, born in York, Yorkshire, England (1907). He immigrated to the United States in 1939 and became a citizen. He decided to become a poet as a child while taking a walk with a friend. About the experience, Auden wrote, "Kicking a little stone, he turned to me/And said, 'Tell me, do you write poetry?'/I never had, and said so, but I knew/That very moment what I wished to do." He went to school at Oxford, where spent so much time writing poetry that he didn't prepare for his final examinations. Auden received only a third class degree at Oxford, but he had written hundreds and hundreds of poems in his time there. He published the poems for which he is best known, "Musée de Beaux Arts" and "On the Death of William Butler Yeats," when he was quite young. He was one of the great men of letters of our time. He was generous reviewer and a faithful editor. He served as the editor of the Yale Younger Poets series, selecting many poets that are now famous in their own right, including W. S. Merwin, John Ashbery, James Wright, John Hollander and Adrienne Rich. He was a tireless teacher and famous man who was instantly recognizable for his wrinkled face. Auden himself said, "My face looks like a wedding-cake left out in the rain."

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