To My Valentine by Ogden Nash

In ‘To My Valentine’ Nash explores themes of love and dedication through hyperbolic statements that testify to his devotion. The mood and tone are both joyous and optimistic throughout the poem.

 

Summary of To My Valentine 

‘To My Valentine’ by Ogden Nash is a warm and clever poem that discusses the dedication a speaker has for their intended listener. 

Throughout the five short stanzas of this poem, the speaker goes through several comparisons that depict their affection for their listener in different ways. No matter what the comparison is, it is always positive. They often contrast the hate of one particular person or thing against their love. The two emotions have a similar strength. Throughout, Nash uses a refrain to remind the listener that these comparisons are all meant to inform them about his love. 

 

Structure of To My Valentine

To My Valentine’ by Ogden Nash is a five stanza poem that is separated into sets of four stanzas. These stanzas follow a rhyme scheme of ABCB, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. This poem is lighthearted and humorous, therefore, the sing-song-like rhythm of the lines is perfect. It is used to make the lines more pleasing to read as well as listen to. The comparisons that he creates in ‘To My Valentine’ are equal parts moving and funny. 

 

Literary Devices in To My Valentine

Nash makes use of several literary devices in ‘To My Valentine’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, simile, and sibilance. The first of these, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “catbird” and “cat” in line one and “loathes” and “loved” in the last two lines of the final stanza.

A simile is a comparison between two unlike things that uses the words “like” or “as”. A poet uses this kind of figurative language to say that one thing is similar to another, not like metaphor, that it “is” another. For example, “As the High Court loathes perjurious oathes, / That’s how you’re loved by me” which appears as the last two lines of the poem. In this reversed simile the speaker is saying that they love “you” as much as the “High Court” hates people who commit perjury, or lie under oath.

Sibilance is similar to alliteration but it is concerned with soft vowel sounds such as “s” and “th”. This kind of repetition usually results in a prolonged hissing or rushing sound. It is often used to mimic another sound, like water, wind, or any kind of fluid movement. For example, “sailor” and “sea” in line one of stanza three. 

 

Analysis of To My Valentine 

Stanzas One and Two

In the first stanzas of ‘To My Valentine’ the speaker begins by describing how much he loves “you” in several clever statements. These are purposely outrageous and hyperbolic in order to stress the intensity of the speaker’s affection. He speaks about the “Axis” powers versus the United States and juxtaposes their hate against his love. Each statement builds upon the next, a technique known as accumulation. By the end of the poem the listener, “you,” should have a good idea of how the speaker feels. 

There are numerous funny comparisons, especially as they line up with one another. He juxtaposes gin rummy, a toothache, a duck, and grapefruit in the second stanza. 

 

Stanzas Three, Four, and Five

In the third stanza, there is a good example of a simile with the speaker stating that he loves the listener like “a hostess detests unexpected guests”. The odd-numbered stanzas all end with a similar line, reminding the listener that “this” is how much the speaker loves them. This is known as a refrain. There is a good example of sibilance in the first line of the third stanza with the words “sailor” and “sea”. 

Nash also creates humor through the reversal of the syntax in the majority of the lines. This was done in order to make the lines rhyme, but in the end, it adds to the unusual and sometimes strange comparisons. For instance, when the refrain is used and the traditional arrangement of the two clauses is reversed. 

Some of the comparisons are more easily understood than others. One of the more complicated comes at the end of the poem when the speaker refers to “perjurious oaths” (an example of an oxymoron) and how much the court “loathes” them. This line is also a good example of internal rhyme. This is the kind of rhyme that appears within lines, rather than at the ends. For instance, “loathes” and “oathes”. 

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