The Frog and the Nightingale Summary by Vikram Seth

A Frog That Croaked

The poem is set around a wild marsh. It is a house of a frog who perpetually croaks endlessly. His loud croaks stretch from morning to evening.

This made the rest of the animals angry but they were helpless. They had no choice but to bear the horrible and loud moans of the frog whose singing was like that of old sophists and minstrels.

The frog was undeterred by their appeals or threats or invectives. He was obstinate in his ways and refused to change them. He sang because it made his heart leap with delight and was not going to give that up.

The Nightingale

Then the sumac tree was visited by a nightingale that serenades beautifully and transfixed all the animals with her voice. The frog was stunned himself.

The animals were overwhelmed by the sweetness of her voice. Some came from far, swam and flew. Some were brought to tears while others to winsome smiles.

They all were enamored and addicted to her songs. As soon she finished they demanded more and appealed for repeat performances. The bird was humbled and granted their requests and sang till the morning.

Their Meet

The next day she prepared herself for another marathon of songs. She breathed in and adjusted her tail when suddenly she was interrupted by the frog. He asserted himself as a fellow singer and a proprietor of the tree. He even claimed to have written some popular songs.

Unaware of his reality, the nightingale expressed her desire for evaluation of her songs. The frog praised her efforts but commented that it lacked real power. The bird believed every word he uttered and accepts the uninformed criticism.

Frog’s Trick

The frog hinted that he is a master at teaching the art of vocals and the bird took his bait. She implored him to teach her. He tries to belittle her talents and attack her confidence and she is none the wiser.

She believes him to be a maestro like Mozart and her Messiah. The frog devised a plan to make a profit out of the situation. He asked to pay him for his lessons which were not too exorbitant.

The bird accepted the proposal and then her fame and popularity rose through the ranks as animals flocked in from far and wide to hear her sing. The frog even charged an admission fee from the enraptured audience.

Nightingale’s Training

The training went ahead as well even in tumultuous rain. The bird was worried about her throat but the frog insisted on relentless ambition and training.

He asked her to cover herself and force her body to respond even in adverse weather conditions. They sang for hours at a stretch until the bird started quivering and shaking.

Even though she had rested for the adequate time she struggled on and put a riveting performance for the crowd at night gala. The audience was fixated on her tunes, be it the rich or the poor, the big or the small.

Frog’s Jealousy

The frog counted his profits with a tinge of burning jealousy. He had mixed feelings of greed and envy. But his greed was growing unfettered. He reprimanded the bird every day for not giving her best.

He entreated her to sing better and try new ways to enthrall her audience. He kept her aware of her debt to him as tuition and continuously critiqued her previous performances.

This started taking a toll on the little nightingale who kept on trying her hardest. She lost all the joy in her singing and it was observed by her audience. They grew disenchanted with her tired and melancholy strain.

This hampered her confidence even further as she had gotten hooked on their unending applause and praise. She hated to sing in solitude devoid of teeming audiences.

Nightingale Dies

The frog grew restless with plummeting ticket collections. He goaded her to puff out her chest and sing her lungs out. Tired but unyielding, the bird drew one last breath and as she sang, popped a blood vessel.

Unfazed and unashamed at his cruel intentions and misdeed, the frog called the departed a lost cause. He claimed that he did his best but the bird lacked confidence, wits, and strength of character to make it big as an artist.

He mocked at her impressionable nature and compared his own originality to her meekness. Thus, the frog regained his spot in the bog, signing triumphantly his ‘cacophonous song’.

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