Carnival of the Animals Poems

By Charlotte Headrick (2019) and Ogden Nash (1950)


By Ogden Nash

Camille Saint-Saëns was wracked with pains

When people addressed him as “Saint Sains.”

He held the human race to blame

Because it could not pronounce his name.

So he turned with metronome and fife

To glorify other forms of life.

Be quiet, please, for here begins

His salute to feathers, furs, and fins.


Royal March of the Lion

By Ogden Nash

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 who admire that roar of his

In the African jungles and veldts,

But I think, wherever a lion is,

I’d rather be somewhere else.



By Charlotte Headrick

Not a swan, nor a grey goose, this is a duck.

Not a beaver, nor a turkey, full of luck.

With a waddle on the ground,

And a quack on the water,

The duck goes round and round.



By Charlotte Headrick

Flash! Did you see her?

Flash! Did you see her? Flash!

This is the cheetah, fastest on the earth

If you are in her way, all will go smash

But as she runs, she is full of mirth

Sleek as silk, full of grace

Huntress she is, with a smile on her face.



By Ogden Nash

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 tortoise 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, turtle, torpor.


The Elephant

By Ogden Nash

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.



By Charlotte Headrick

Oh, the cat moves through the night,

Graceful, she is at first sight,

But we must take exquisite care

She hides her claws on a dare

She cuddles, she hisses,

She covers you with kisses,

Take care, her teeth are sharp, and she may bite!


The Aquarium

By Ogden Nash

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 fish wife

Fears for her fish.

What we call mermaids

And they call merfish.


Ballet Teachers

(Personages with long ears and big eyes)

By Charlotte Headrick

And all the ballet teachers watch and pout

Loudly chanting, “Turnout, turnout, turnout!”

As they watch with big eyes, checking those steps,

Counting as they do  those repeated reps.

Yes, Tour jeté, tour jeté, tour jeté,

Carriage, port de bras, where do those arms lay?

Listening with long ears for mute landings,

And this they study among other things:

Repétition, repétition, repétition,

They closely watch bunheads soon to be gone.


Wolf & Cuckoo in the Woods

By Charlotte Headrick

The wolf, who mates for life,

Not like the cuckoo’s fickle style

But the cuckoo doesn’t care,

Running circles in the wolf’s hair

Round and round the cuckoo flies,

And the wolf is filled with huge sighs.


The Birds

By Ogden Nash

Puccini was Latin, and Wagner Teutonic,

And birds are incurably philharmonic.

Suburban yards and rural vistas

Are filled with avian Andrews Sisters.

The skylark sings a roundelay,

The crow sings “The Road to Mandalay.”

The nightingale sings a lullaby,

And the seagull sings a gullaby.

That’s what shepherds listened to in Arcadia

Before somebody invented the radia.


Ballet Students

By Charlotte Headrick

See the ballet students, all in a row,

Pirouette, arabesque, ronds de jambe, go!

Cambré, battement, first position, plié,

Ballet students, run, run, run, leap, and stay,

All the lovely ones gliding on the stage

All together, rhythmic, not on some page

Jeté, tendu, allegro, assemblé

Cabriole, changé, chassé, balancé

See the ballet students; this is their day.


Ballet Fossils

By Charlotte Headrick

Marius Petipa, a genius man

Swan Lake, La Bayadere were his great plan

Are they ballet fossils?,  holding the stage

Classics but often reworked from the page

The “Shades” in their long lines dance their old way

More memorable the critics say

Nijinsky, Nureyev, Barishnikov

All great dancers but those “shades” still lead off


The Swan

By Ogden Nash

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.



By Ogden Nash

Now we reach the grand finale,

Animale, carnival.

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