Ogden Nash

The Duck by Ogden Nash

‘The Duck’ by Ogden Nash is a poem about “the duck”. Like Nash’s other animal-poems it also features an animal and its specific behaviors. The poet refers to this special sound or nature of the animal to bring humor into his poem. The sense of laughter appears in the mind when the underlying idea becomes clear. However, the innuendo or irony used in Nash’s poetic refers to the unmindful follies of men. And, Nash was always best at writing such short but pithy poems. The apparent brevity of his poem says much more than the words can convey. Lastly, it makes readers think and thinking brings a smile.

The Duck by Ogden Nash


Summary of The Duck

‘The Duck’ by Ogden Nash is a short eight-line poem that humorously talks about the duck and its sound.

‘The Duck’ by Ogden Nash is a poem about the duck. The main concerns of the poet in this poem are the sound made by the duck, its habitat, and at the end, how it “sups”. In the beginning, the poet tells readers to “behold the duck”. It is a reference to consider the duck and its behaviors. The poet says it can’t “cluck” or make a short, low sound with its tongue to express concern or disapproval like human beings. The duck can only quack. Thereafter, in the second section of the poem, the poet refers to its habitats and where it can be easily found. And, at the last two lines, the poet implies an irony and refers to its dining and drinking style. The duck generally eats or drinks something while raiding its bottom upwards.

You can read the full poem here.


Structure of The Duck

‘The Duck’ by Ogden Nash is a short poem having only eight lines in it. There isn’t any stanza division in the poem. Here the poet uses end-stopped lines in the first section. While in the following section every two lines contain a single idea. That’s why the poet uses the full stop at the end of the sixth and last lines. However, the rhyme scheme is interesting to look into. In his other short poems, the poet introduces a pun in the rhyming words. Here, the pun lies in the last two lines that bring comic effect to the poem.

However, the poet uses an AABB CCDD rhyme scheme in the poem. It’s a conventional rhyme scheme in which the neighboring lines rhyme together. Apart from that, the poet uses a mixed metrical scheme in the poem. The majority of the poem is composed of the iambic dimeter and iambic trimeter respectively. But there is an iambic monometer in the fourth line. This variation marks a shift in the poem. However, the contraction at the end is used to bring attention to the poet’s idea in that line.


Literary Devices

‘The Duck’ by Ogden Nash being short doesn’t contain many literary devices. But the poetic devices that are present in the poem are significant regarding the sense of the overall text. Likewise, the poet uses repetition of words and the consonant sounds in the poem. The consonant sounds that are in juxtaposition present a consonance. However, in the second line, the poet uses a metaphor by using “cluck”. It refers to the clucking sound that humans make while expressing fussy concern about something. In the third line, the poet uses this sense of the word to present an irony in the poem. Apart from that, there is an onomatopoeia in the fourth line that refers to the quacking of the duck.

However, in the sixth line, Nash uses alliteration in “puddle or pond”. In the last line of the poem, “bottoms ups” is a pun. “Bottoms up!” is used to express friendly feelings towards one’s companion before drinking. However, the last line brings a twist to the poem. It seems that the poet uses the duck as a metaphor for a drunk man. As a reference, the ending of the lines imitates the talking style of a drunk person. So, in the end, it becomes clear what Ogden Nash intended in his poem.


Analysis of The Duck

Lines 1–4

Behold the duck.
It quacks.

‘The Duck’ by Ogden Nash revolves around the sound made by the duck in the first four lines. At first, the poet invokes the image of a duck in the poem. Thereafter, the poet gets into his familiar style of wordplay. As an example, the word “cluck” in the second line presents a pun. It refers to the fussing attitude of humans.

The poet makes it clear that a duck doesn’t make a fuss about all things. The duck leads a gentle and simple life, unlike human beings. There isn’t much concern about details in a duck’s life. In the end, the poet says the duck only quacks.


Lines 5–8

It is specially fond
It bottoms ups.

In the last four lines of the poem, the poet refers to the simple lifestyle of the duck. It doesn’t have to worry about its habitation. Men generally fuss about all such things. In contrast, a duck only needs a puddle or a pond to live their life happily.

In the last two lines, the poet refers to the posture a duck makes while eating. When a duck eats or drinks it leans forwards by lifting its back upwards. The poet uses this behavior of ducks to direct his irony towards men. And he uses the verbs “dine”, “sup”, and “bottoms up” as puns. Those verbs are generally associated with the activities of men, not ducks. That’s why in the last two lines the poet ironically refers to the resemblance between men and ducks. As men say “bottoms up” while having an alcoholic drink together and ducks raise their “bottoms up” to drink water.


Historical Context

‘The Duck’ by Ogden Nash is one of his poems that talk about animals. Ogden Nash preferred animals as he could easily direct his irony to men without saying anything directly. This mode of satire or laughing at the flaws of human beings is popular from the times of ancient Greece and Rome. Ogden Nash used humor to make people aware of the flaws that they commit inadvertently. In this poem, the poet also directs his irony towards men for their fussy attitude unlike that of ducks.


Similar Poetry

‘The Duck’ by Ogden Nash is an ironic animal-poem about a duck. Here is a list of some other poems of Ogden Nash that humorously talk about other animals or creatures.

You can read about 10 of the Best Ogden Nash Poems here.

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Sudip Das Gupta Poetry Expert
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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