Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mocking Frogs and Men

"Though boys throw stones at frogs in sport, the frogs die not in sport but in earnest." --Bion of Smyrna

I am reminded of a line from King Lear: "As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods, They kill us for their sport." -- Shakespeare

In the poem that follows Robert Service takes up the theme of the carelessness of the "gods" toward mankind, only here it is less than human men who play "gods" with the lowly frog.

The Smoking Frog

Three men I saw beside a bar,
Regarding o'er their bottle,
A frog who smoked a rank cigar
They'd jammed within its throttle. 

A Pasha frog it must have been
So big it was and bloated;
And from its lips the nicotine
In graceful festoon floated. 

And while the trio jeered and joked,
As if it quite enjoyed it,
Impassively it smoked and smoked,
(It could not well avoid it).

A ring of fire its lips were nigh
Yet it seemed all unwitting;
It could not spit, like you and I,
Who've learned the art of spitting. 

It did not wink, it did not shrink,
As there serene it squatted'
Its eyes were clear, it did not fear
The fate the Gods allotted.

It squatted there with calm sublime,
Amid their cruel guying;
Grave as a god, and all the time
It knew that it was dying. 

And somehow then it seemed to me
These men expectorating,
Were infinitely less than he,
The dumb thing they were baiting.
It seemed to say, despite their jokes:
"This is my hour of glory.
It isn't every frog that smokes:
My name will live in story."

Before its nose the smoke arose;
The flame grew nigher, nigher;
And then I saw its bright eyes close
Beside that ring of fire.

They turned it on its warty back,
From off its bloated belly;
Its legs jerked out, then dangled slack;
It quivered like a jelly.

And then the fellows went away,
Contented with their joking;
But even as in death it lay,
The frog continued smoking. 

Life's like a lighted fag, thought I; 
We smoke it stale; then after 
Death turns our belly to the sky: 
The Gods must have their laughter.

No comments: