I Do, I Will, I Have*
How wise I am to have instructed the butler to instruct the first footman
to instruct the second footman to instruct the doorman to order my carriage;
I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage.
Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen,
I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance
entered into by a man who can’t sleep with the window shut
and a woman who can’t sleep with the window open.
just as I am unsure of the difference between flora and fauna and flotsam and jetsam,
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people
one of whom never remembers birthdays
and the other never forgetsam.
And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or the gas pipe
and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate or drown,
And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the windowsill,
it’s raining in, and he replies
Oh they’re all right, it’s only raining straight down.
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it’s the only known example
of the happy meeting of the immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue
to debate and combat over everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life,
particularly if he has income and she is pattable.
*Ogden Nash, who died in 1971, was a witty American poet and lyricist whose work bears comparison with Cole Porter which is not altogether surprising, as they were from roughly the same era.
I was conducting a wedding recently where, as he spoke his vows, the groom made the mistake of confusing ‘equity’ and ‘equality’: the last two lines of this poem shot back into my mind…