Friday, February 12, 2010

Mr. Ballantine's Valentine by Ogden Nash

The Strange Case of Mr. Ballantine's Valentine

Once upon a time there was an attorney named Mr. Ballantine.
He lived in the spacious gracious days of the nineteenth century.
Mr. Ballantine didn't know they were spacious and gracious.
He thought they were terrible.
The reason he thought they were terrible was that love had passed him by.
Mr. Ballantine had never received a valentine.
He said to his partner, My name is Mr. Ballantine and I have never received a valentine.
His partner said, Well my name is Mr. Bogardus and I have received plenty of valentines and I just as soon wouldn't.
He said Mr. Ballantine didn't know when he was well off.
Mr. Ballantine said, I know my heart, I know my mind, I know I long for a valentine.
He said here it was St. Valentine's day and when he sat down at his desk what did he find?
I find affidavits, said Mr. Ballantine.
That's the kind of valentine I get, said Mr. Ballantine.
Mr. Bogardus said that affidavit was better than no bread.
Mr. Ballantine said that affidavit, affidavit, affidavit onward, into the valley of death rode the six hundred.
Mr. Bogardus said that any many who would rhyme "onward" with "six hundred" didn't deserve any affidavits at all.
Mr. Ballantine said coldly that he was an attorney, not a poet, and Mr. Bogardus had better take the matter up directly with Lord Tennyson.
Mr. Bogardus said Oh all right, and speaking of lords, he couldn't remember who was the king before David, but Solomon was the king affidavit.
Mr. Ballantine buried Mr. Bogardus in the cellar and went out in search of love.
Towards evening he encountered a maiden named Herculena, the Strongest Woman in the World.
He said, Madam my name is Mr. Ballantine and I have never received a valentine.
Herculena was delighted.
She said, My name is Herculena the Strongest Woman in the World, and I have never received a valentine either.
Mr. Ballantine and Herculena decided to be each other's valentine.
All was merry as a marriage bell.
Mr. Ballantine nearly burst with joy.
Herculena nearly burst with pride.
She flexed her biceps.
She asked Mr. Ballantine to pinch her muscle.
Mr. Ballantine recovered consciousness just in time to observe the vernal equinox.
He thought she said bustle.

Copyright © by Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt.

Published in 1938, Samantha posted this wonderful Nash verse on her blog, Perched in the Search . She discovered the poem in "I'm a Stranger here Myself" which was cherished by her grandparents and handed down to her.

I'm grateful to Renne for the suggestion to include it in my Og Blog. ( Nickname courtesy of Darryl Rehr)

If you'd like to learn more about Ogden Nash's lifelong valentine read 'Loving Letters from Ogden Nash'.


K.S. said...

Hello. My name is Kimberly Stickrath, and I have been following your site for some time. I wanted you to know that I have nominated your site for The Sunshine Award , which is a blogger-created award, given to those whose "Positivity and Creativity Inspire Others."

For more information about this award, you may go to my blog, The Knack of Flying at

Thank you for your kindness in sharing your site with me.
Sincerely, Kim Stickrath

John said...

Hi Kim, Thank you for your support and kind praise. Your recognition of Ogden Nash's positive influence is aligned with how Nash wanted his work to impact others. Ever the teacher, even when Nash wrote gripes and satire, he still was very much focused on creating positive change.



Don Quickoats said...

I just did a search for this poem and this is the only hit that I found. I am a lifetime fan of Ogden Nash but was unaware of this blog. Thanks for setting it up and keeping it! I learned Ogden Nash in the days when one learned things from books. I have a number of his poems committed to memory (not on purpose). I hope to emulate the best of Mr. Nash's unexpected and generous poems.

I found "The Strange Case of Mr. Ballantine's Valentine" in a thin paperback book of his poems that I bought about 1977 or so. Friendly suggestion: I caught one error in here -- the line that reads [any many who would rhyme "onward" with "six hundred"] should be "any man."

If I recall correctly, and I'm not sure that I do, the original poem had some stanza breaks, which helped read through the long lines and made them even more humorous by contrast.

Thanks again!

Daniel Galef said...

Happy Valentine's Day! In case you are still curious, here is how the poem is formatted as it is reprinted in one collection, with no stanzas but every single line separated by a section break and fleuron.

Is it known whether Nash explicitly considered these narrative forms to be "poems"? I've never seen them labelled as anything else.

Poetry Blog Directory