Within ‘A Word to Husbands’ Nash describes relationships and what it takes to succeed in them. He speaks on themes of love, perseverance, honesty, and humility. The tone is light but direct and the mood uplifting and genuine, and at the same time humorous.
Explore A Word to Husbands
Summary of A Word to Husband
The poem is directed at men who want to continue their relationships with love and honesty. Nash’s speaker tells these men that they need to be truthful with their partners but also humble when it turns out that they’re in the right.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure and Poetic Techniques
‘A Word to Husbands’ by Ogden Nash is a short four-line poem that follows a rhyme scheme of ABCB. The lines are similar in length, five to six words and seven to eight syllables
Despite its brevity, Nash makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘A Word to Husbands’. These include alliteration, anaphora, metaphor, and repetition. The latter, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “Whenever” and “wrong” in line three and “love” and “loving” in line two.
Repetition is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. For example, anaphora, as will be expanded on next, as well as the structure of lines three and four. He also repeats the word “love” in the second line in order to reemphasize one of the main themes of the poem, love in relationships. Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. In lines three and four the poet repeats the phrase “Whenever you’re…”
Metaphor, or a comparison between two unlike things that does not use “like” or “as” is also present in the text. When using this technique a poet is saying that one thing is another thing, they aren’t just similar. In this poem love, marriage and relationships are compared to a “brimming” cup of coffee or tea.
Analysis of A Word to Husbands
To keep your marriage brimming
In the first two lines of the poem, the speaker sets up his metaphor comparing marriage to a beverage. He addresses the listener, a generalized husband (who is meant to represent all men who want to continue their marriages). The speaker tells him that if he wants to “keep” his marriage strong, or “brimming” with love then he needs to do two things.
Whenever you’re right, shut up
First, he says in line three of ‘A Word to Husbands’, that he needs to “admit it” whenever he’s wrong. This has to be done without hesitation or justification. He will only strengthen their relationship that way. Secondly, he has to control himself whenever he’s right. He shouldn’t celebrate when he’s correct about something or rub it in his partner’s face. Honesty and humility are key.