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12.The Frog and the Nightingale
– Vikram Seth
Poetry : – Part-1
Once upon a time a frog
Croaked away in Bingle Bog.
Every night from dusk to dawn
He croaked awn and awn and awn.
Other creatures loathed his voice,
But, alas, they had no choice,
And the crass cacophony
Blared out from the sumac tree
At whose foot the frog each night
Minstrelled on till morning light.
Neither stones nor prayers nor sticks,
Insults or complaints or bricks
Stilled the frog’s determination
To display his heart’s elation.
But one night a nightingale
In the moonlight cold and pale
Perched upon the sumac tree
Casting forth her melody.
Dumbstruck sat the gaping frog.
And the whole admiring bog
Stared towards the sumac, rapt,
And, when she had ended, clapped.
Ducks had swum and herons waded
To her as she serenaded,
And a solitary loon
Wept beneath the summer moon.
Toads and teals and tiddlers, captured
By her voice, cheered on, enraptured;
‘Bravo’ ‘Too divine!’ Encore,
So the nightingale once more,
Quite unused to such applause,
Sang till dawn without a pause.
Next night when the nightingale
Shook her head and twitched her tail,
Closed an eye and fluffed a wing
And had cleared her throat to sing
She was startled by a croak.
‘Sorry was that you who spoke?’
She enquired when the frog
Hopped towards her from the bog.
‘Yes,’ the frog replied. ‘You see
I’m the frog who owns this tree.
In this bog I’ve long been known
For my splendid baritone,
And, of course, I wield my pen
For Bog Trumpet now and then.’
‘Did you ….did you like my song?’
‘Not too bad – but far too long.
The technique was fine, of course,
But it lacked a certain force.’
Oh! ‘the nightingale confessed ,
Greatly flattered and impressed
That a critic of such note
Had discussed her art and throat;
‘I don’t think the song’s divine.
But -oh, well-at least it’s mine.’
‘That’s not much to boast about,
Said the heartless frog. ‘Without
Proper training such as I
And few others- can supply,
You’ll remain a mere beginner.
But with me you’ll be a winner,
‘Dearest frog,’ the nightingale
Breathed: This is a fairy tale
And you’re Mozart in disguise
Come to earth before my eyes,
‘Well, I charge a modest fee.’
‘Oh! “But it won’t hurt, you’ll see,