Very Like a Whale

by Ogden Nash

One thing that literature would be greatly the better for

Would be a more restricted employment by the authors of simile and


Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,

Can't seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have to

go out of their way to say that it is like something else.

What does it mean when we are told

That that Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?

In the first place, George Gordon Byron had enough experience

To know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it was a lot of


However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and

thus hinder longevity.

We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity.

Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were

gleaming in purple and gold,

Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a

wold on the fold?

In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy

there are great many things.

But I don't imagine that among them there is a wolf with purple

and gold cohorts or purple and gold anythings.

No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this Assyrian was

actually like a wolf I must have some kind of proof;

Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big red

mouth and big white teeth and did he say Woof Woof?

Frankly I think it is very unlikely, and all you were entitled to say,

at the very most,

Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian

cohorts about to destroy the Hebrew host.

But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no, he

had to invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolate them,

With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiers

to people they say Oh yes, they're the ones that a lot of

wolves dressed up in gold and purple ate them.

That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time by poets,

from Homer to Tennyson;

They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison,

And they always say things like that the snow is a white blanket

after a winter storm.

Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket of

snow and I'll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical

blanket material and we'll see which one keeps warm,

And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly

What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.