Time Marches On
You ask me, brothers, why I flinch.
Well, I will tell you, inch by inch.
Is it not proper cause for fright
Evenings I flinch the selfsame way,
For what is night will soon be day.
At five o'clock it chills my gore
Simply to know it isn't four.
How Sunday into Monday melts!
And every month is something else.
If summer on the ladder lingers,
Autumn tramples upon her fingers,
Fleeing before the jostling train
Of Winter, and Spring, and Summer again.
Year swallows year and licks its lips,
Then down the gullet of next year slips.
We chip at Time with clocks and watches,
We flee him in love and double scotches;
Even as we scatter in alarm
He marches with us, arm in arm,
Though while we sleep, he forward rides,
Yet when we wake, he's at our sides.
Let men walk straight or let them err,
He never leaves them as they were.
While ladies draw their stockings on
The ladies they were are up and gone.
I pen my lines, I finish, I scan them,
I'm not the poet who began them.
Each moment Time, the lord of changers,
Stuffs our skin with ephemeral strangers.
Good heavens, how remote of me
The billion people I used to be!
Flinch with me, brothers, why not flinch,
Shirts caught in the eternal winch?
Come, let us flinch till Time stands still;
Although I do not think he will.
Hark brothers, to the dismal proof:
The seconds spattering on the roof!
- Ogden Nash page 228 The Best of Ogden Nash
Fate is Kismet
Ogden Nash is known primarily as a poet of great humor. On the contrary, Nash actually has in depth views over life and how it should be spent. “Time Marches On” is a poem that he uses personification of time in several different forms to alleviate his ill feelings toward the passing of time. Nash shows himself in this poem physically “flinching” at seasons changing as days “melt” into one another; “summer on the ladder lingers,/Autumn tramples upon her fingers,/Fleeing before the jostling train/Of Winter”(Nash 11-14). Most people “flee him (time), in love and double scotches”(Nash 18), but he infers that this is not the right thing to do. To elaborate on Nash’s sense of how valuable time is, and how one should not waste it in any way, “Look for the Silver Lining” must be mentioned. This is a poem where Nash states “Fate is kismet”; one makes his own destiny. Nash believes that time passes much too quickly, and so he urges people to “flinch” with him; to accomplish everything they desire in life before it comes to its unavoidable abrupt close. Ogden Nash urges people to not “repent” for the past, but rather to realize the value of each second of every day; to make use of these moments by doing what brings happiness in life and to make one’s own fate.
Ogden Nash lived a lifestyle full of work, obligations and changing environments, but he always managed to do what brought him joy. Nash grew up in an unstable family; they moved often in his childhood and he was forced to acclimate to various different schools over a short period of time. Nash was accepted into Harvard, only to drop out a short year later because he was not enjoying his experience in higher academia. He also refused to apply himself as a bond salesman because he, clearly, had an utter distaste for the position. Nash only managed to sell one bond in his entire stint as a bond salesman. In short, if Nash wasn’t a fan of something, he either quit or ignored it; this is the sort of ‘no regrets’ frame of mind he refers to in “Reminiscent Reflection”. This short limerick goes “When I consider how my life is spent,/ I hardly ever repent”. Rather than sulking in regret over past decisions, possibly over leaving Harvard or his first job, Nash looks at these decisions as having saved valuable time. Nash’s “Time Marches On” shows how Nash feels about time passing too quickly, and although some may say life is a game, Nash played by his own rules because “fate is kismet”. Ogden Nash lived his own life attempting to savor every moment, spending time only on the things he loved most in life, especially writing – his most prominent passion which prevailed through years of trial and error with other endeavors.