Poetry Monday: “A Carol For Children” by Ogden Nash

I spent a happy hour reading my mother’s old volume, The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash, It is now out of print, I believe, but there are several other collections of his poetry available.  The book I own is falling apart.  Originally published before I was born, it sold then for thirty-five cents.

Nash is best known for his wry and rhyming poems like his well-known “The Tale of Custard the Dragon,” but he could be serious too, as he was in “Old Men” which concludes, But the old men know when an old man dies.

One poem I stumbled upon today is a riff on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”:  “A Carol For Children.”

God rest you, merry Innocents,
Let nothing you dismay,
Let nothing wound an eager heart
Upon this Christmas day.

But it swiftly turns darker–

Oh dimly, dimly glows the star
Through the electric throng;
The bidding in temple and bazaar
Drown out the silver song.

Two ultimate laws alone we know,
The ledger and the sword–

It’s a rather traditional lamentation of the subordination of nobler values to avarice and conflict, and concludes with the usual supplication that we do better in the future:

God rest you, merry Innocents,
While innocence endures.
A sweeter Christmas than we to ours
May you bequeath to yours.

Christian-centric imagery aside, Nash’s poem is a touching plea.  The idea of bequeathing a more peaceful, less materialistic world to the next generation is nearly universal, though it’s one too easily lost sight of.

May you have all you need and enough to share this holiday season and in the year to come!

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