Guest poem sent in by Dave Mueller
(Poem #1137) 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; It 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.
Comment: My favorite Robert Service poem: Without pretense, he simply, sardonically documents three men at a bar enjoying an inconsequential diversion. But how do we, the victim in this saga, endure our fate? Pleased, because our importance and the glory of our death ensures that our name will live on? Nope; Service tells us it is a 'Pasha' frog, and documents its suffering -- but, what was its name? Instead we stoically proceed to our ridiculous destiny for the horribly mundane reason that we cannot avoid it. In this poem, I think more than any other, Service skewers the concept of the benevolent Sunday-school God. Dave [Martin adds] While the last verse is clearly inspired by Shakespeare's As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods, They kill us for their sport from King Lear, I actually find Service's use of "laughter" more effective than the bard's "sport".