Bill Moeller Commentary: A Poem Remembering Love Caught My Eye

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You may recall I made a pledge around the beginning of winter that for the duration of its nasty days and evenings, I would concentrate on re-reading books that I had saved because I enjoyed them so much the first time around.

Winter is over now — at least on the calendar — and I am near the end of the penultimate book on my list, “The Best of Ogden Nash,” a book compiled by his daughters.

Nash was a poet in the sense of writing lines that rhyme but often threw length and rhythm to the winds.

Old timers — and I mean really old timers — may remember seeing many of those “poems” frequently printed on the comedy page of The Saturday Evening Post magazines back in the 1930s and 1940s.

What caught my eye was “Speak Low,” a poem with short lines that had a familiar ring to them. “Speak low when you speak love. Our summer day withers away, too soon, too soon.” 

Then memory took over and a visit to Wikipedia confirmed that they were the first lines of a song from a hit Broadway show in 1943, “One Touch of Venus.”

Kurt Weill is credited with the melody, but Nash, that squirrely poet, is rightfully given credit for the tender words.

For a little background, the show played for 567 performances and was written by Nash and humorist S. J. Perelman.

Of the 18 songs in the show, only one — “Speak Low” — is remembered today. Even that one seems to be recalled only by people such as would-be romantics who write columns for small town newspapers!

This isn’t my first attempt to write about Nash.

I started a column about him several weeks ago, based on my reading of the book “The Best of Ogden Nash” compiled by his daughters with 548 pieces of what some would call poetry while others might label it doggerel.

I was amazed how affected I was by reading one of those pieces. It’s called “For a Good Dog,” a three-stanza poem about a man — probably Nash himself — and his relationship with his dog over the years.

Here is the last verse:

“Ten years ago she split the air to seize what she could spy; Tonight she bumps against a chair, betrayed by milky eye. She seems to pant, time up, time up! My little dog must die, and lie in dust with Hector’s pup; so, presently, must I.”

By the way, Timberland Library does have one copy of that book.

I’d like to switch to the topic of Wikipedia, a service that has been a boon to many writers, including myself, in finding information or confirmation on material I’ve used over the years spent writing these columns.

When the service was first started, it was considered to be incorrect in many respects because so much of the information was submitted by users of the system without proof or verification. Those inconsistencies have been pretty much weeded out but one problem remains:  there is no sponsor to provide the money needed to run the system.

So — at certain intervals — a message appears on their site reminding readers of their need for donations.

A list of the number of credit cards that will be acceptable also appears but none of them reside in my billfold and — until recently —there had never been an address where one can send an old fashioned personal check.

I sent one but I’ve lost the address since then so I can’t pass it on. Maybe it’ll turn up again someday unless maybe my cat, Sam, who loves to chew on important papers has disposed of it?

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Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at bookmaven321@comcast.net.

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