The poem is short, humorous, and representative of Nash’s other animal poems. He often used humor in short bursts, as he does in ‘The Panther,’ in other examples of his writing. Readers are meant to quickly consume these poems and find some joy in them.
Explore The Panther
‘The Panther’ by Ogden Nash is a short children’s poem that uses humor to describe a leopard and a panther.
The poem addresses the similarities between panthers and leopards and then notes, with humor, that the panther is different because it hasn’t been “peppered.” Its coat is solid versus the leopard whose coat is spotted. The speaker also says that if “you,” the reader, ever see a panther “crouch,” that you need to be prepared to say “ouch.” The poem concludes with one more humorous moment that suggests readers should stay away from these powerful animals.
You can read the full poem here.
The panther is like a leopard,
Should you behold a panther crouch,
In the first lines of ‘The Panther,’ the speaker begins by acknowledging that the panther is “like a leopard.” This is a very direct example of a simile. It uses the word “like” to compare two things. Although the panther is “like” the leopard, it isn’t the exact same as a leopard. The two share similar features. One of the dissimilarities is highlighted, through humor, in the next line. The panther, the speaker notes, hasn’t been “peppered” as the “leopard” has. This is a reference to the cat’s spotted coat.
These lines are great representatives of Nash’s humorous writing style. His skill with words is displayed at the end of the poem as well. But first, he addresses “you,” the reader, and warns you about the dangers of beholding a “panther crouch.”
Prepare to say Ouch.
The speaker tells the reader if they should ever see a panther crouch, they should know it’s about to attack, and they should “Prepare to say Ouch.” Again, the use of rhyme here adds to the reader’s enjoyment of the text. The words are perfectly rhymed, and they’re also humorously rhymed.
The poem concludes with another two-line joke. This time, the speaker warns the reader that if they’re “called by a panther,” they shouldn’t “anther.” Rather than using the word “answer” and creating a half-rhyme, Nash used “anther” plain with sound and creating a full, perfect rhyme at the end of the poem. One final joke at a poem’s conclusion is quite common with Nash’s work.
Structure and Form
‘The Panther’ by Ogden Nash is a six-line poem that is contained within one stanza of text. The lines follow a rhyme scheme of AABBCC. This simple and direct rhyme scheme is a perfect choice for this poem. This animal poem, like Nash’s other animal poems, is aimed at young readers. Simple rhyme schemes make children’s poetry easier to read and more fun to hear read aloud.
Throughout this poem, the poet uses a variety of literary techniques. These include but are not limited to:
- Alliteration: can be seen when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “panther” and “peppered” in lines one and two.
- Caesura: occurs when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line. For example, “Better yet, if called by a panther.”
- Imagery: occurs when the poet makes use of especially interesting descriptions that are meant to catch the reader’s attention. They should inspire the reader’s senses and make scenes easy to imagine. For example, “The panther is like a leopard, / Except it hasn’t been peppered.”
The tone is upbeat and direct. The writer’s speaker is addressing the subject matter clearly. He also engages fluidly with the jokes, not saying anything that signals that he thinks they’re funny himself. They’re simply a part of his explanation about panthers and leopards.
The purpose of this poem is to entertain. The speaker is detailing the nature of a panther in very basic terms. Readers are far more likely to walk away with a smile than with a new piece of information about this big cat.
The speaker is someone who wants to tell “you” about the dangers of a panther but does so with humor in their voice.
Readers who enjoyed ‘The Panther’ should also consider reading some other Ogden Nash poems. For example:
- ‘The Cow’ – an entertaining short poem in which Nash describes a cow with amusing language.
- ‘The Duck’ – a short eight-line poem that humorously talks about the duck and its sound.
- ‘The Fly’ – a short poem in which the speaker speaks amusingly about a fly and how it is perceived by most people.