Music and Literature continually Snub the Pangolin!
Camille Saint-Saëns, the famous French composer, brought us the musical work the Carnival of the Animals, a wonderful work of animal imagery in many small movements. It was one of the most expression, programmatic, and illustrative pieces of its time.
Half a century later, American poet Ogden Nash took it upon himself to curate the musical masterpiece by adding poems to each movement. If you’ve ever read Nash’s poetry (look here) you would know humor was important to him.
Together this became a favorite instructional book for children, introducing them both the classical music, the orchestra, and animals and poetry!
However, both composer and poet completely neglected the pangolin.
Today, April 30th, is “Poem in Your Pocket Day” as was declared by the Office of the NYC Mayor in 2002, and recognized by the Academy of American poets. For this reason I present to you the following.
Please find below the complete narration of Ogden Nash’s poetry followed by the appended ode to the pangolin!
And before we jump in, be sure to check out this full length poem by Marrianne Moore about the pangolin from which the cover art was taken.
Ogden Nash: Verses for Camille Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals Introduction Camille Saint-Saëns Was wracked with pains, When people addressed him, As Saint Sanes. He held the human race to blame, Because it could not pronounce his name. So, he turned with metronome and fife, To glorify other kinds of life. Be quiet please - for here begins His salute to feathers, fur, and fins. Royal March of the Lion The lion is the king of beasts, And husband of the lioness. Gazelles and things on which he feasts Address him as your highoness. There are those that admire that roar of his, In the African jungles and velds, But, I think that wherever the lion is, I'd rather be somewhere else. Hens and Roosters The rooster is a roistering hoodlum, His battle cry is "cock-a-doodleum". Hands in pockets, cap over eye, He whistles at pullets, passing by. Wild Asses Have ever you harked to the jackass wild, Which scientists call the onager? It sounds like the laugh of an idiot child, Or a hepcat on a harmoniger. But do not sneer at the jackass wild, There is a method in his heehaw. For with maidenly blush and accent mild The jenny-ass answers shee-haw. Tortoises Come crown my brow with leaves of myrtle, I know the tortoise is a turtle, Come carve my name in stone immortal, I know the turtoise is a tortle. I know to my profound despair, I bet on one to beat a hare. I also know I'm now a pauper, Because of its tortley, turtley, torper. The Elephant Elephants are useful friends, Equipped with handles at both ends. They have a wrinkled moth-proof hide. Their teeth are upside down, outside. If you think the elephant preposterous, You've probably never seen a rhinosterous. Kangaroos The kangaroo can jump incredible, He has to jump because he is edible. I could not eat a kangaroo, But many fine Australians do. Those with cookbooks as well as boomerangs, Prefer him in tasty kangaroomeringues. Aquarium Some fish are minnows, Some are whales. People like dimples, Fish like scales, Some fish are slim, And some are round, They don't get cold, They don't get drowned. But every fishwife Fears for her fish. What we call mermaids They call merfish. People With Long Ears In the world of mules There are no rules. The Cuckoo in the Middle of the Wood Cuckoos lead bohemian lives, They fail as husbands and as wives, Therefore, they cynically dispariage Everybody else's marriage. Aviary Puccini was Latin, and Wagner Teutonic, And birds are incurably philharmonic, Suburban yards and rural vistas Are filled with avian Andrew Sisters. The skylark sings a roundelay, The crow sings "The Road to Mandalay," The nightingale sings a lullaby, And the sea gull sings a gullaby. That's what shepherds listened to in Arcadia Before somebody invented the radia. Pianists Some claim that pianists are human, And quote the case of Mr Truman. Saint Saëns, upon the other hand, Considered them a scurvy band. A blight they are, he said, and simian, Instead of normal men and womian. Fossils At midnight in the museum hall, The fossils gathered for a ball. There were no drums or saxophones, But just the clatter of their bones, A rolling, rattling carefree circus, Of mammoth polkas and mazurkas. Pterodactyls and brontosauruses Sang ghostly prehistoric choruses. Amid the mastodonic wassail I caught the eye of one small fossil, "Cheer up sad world," he said and winked, "It's kind of fun to be extinct." The Swan The swan can swim while sitting down, For pure conceit he takes the crown, He looks in the mirror over and over, And claims to have never heard of Pavlova. Finale Now we've reached the grand finale, Animale carnivale. Noises new to sea and land, Issue from the skillful band. All the strings contort their features, Imitating crawly creatures. All the brasses look like mumps From blowing umpah, umpah, umps. In outdoing Barnum and Bailey, and Ringling, Saint-Saëns has done a miraculous thingling. The Pangolin Appendix! Pangolins are silly creations, Among the Africans and Asians. Along the ground they slowly crawl, Until they roll up in a ball. Beside them the anteater pales, Since it lacks those hardened scales. They're so unique and so exotic, Both land-based and a touch aquatic. But sadly they may be extinct, Before the world has even blinked! They're sought after because they're edible, But save them 'cuz they're pangolincredible!