The Frog and the Nightingale by Vikram Seth

The Frog and the Nightingale by Vikram Seth

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 night

Meaning … A sunmac tree stood inside the Bingle Bog. A bog is a wet soft muddy ground. Such place is the favored habitat for frogs. Comfortably seated at the feet of the tree, the frog sang away to its heart’s content from evening till morning. Its loud and relentless croaking was heard for quite a distance. The high decibel and hoarseness of the frog’s din caused considerable nuisances for other creatures living nearby.

Neither stones nor prayers nor sticks.
Insults or complaints or bricks
Stilled the frogs 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

Meaning … The creatures beseeched the frog to stop its noise that they found too disagreeable to put up with. But, the vainglorious frog paid no heed to them, and continued with its night-long rendering. Finally, the irate creatures could stand the nuisance anymore and began to use sticks and stones to subdue the irrepressible singer. Neither the neighbors’ taunts, nor their physical threats could deter the frog’s dusk-to-dawn guttural outpourings.
One night, a nightingale flew in from somewhere and perched on the branch of the sunmac tree. It began to sing in its natural melodious voice in the cold lonely night. Its voice left the frog flummoxed. All other inhabitants in the marshy land around began to listen to the new singer’s voice with great pleasure. At the end of her singing, she got a standing ovation from the audience listening in to it. Ducks swam and herons waded through the mud and slush to be nearer to the nightingale. She sang her way into the hearts of all the creatures in the bog.

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