The Frog and the Nightingale

(Based on a Poem by Vikram Seth)

A big, green frog used to live under a Sumac tree in an evergreen bog. The frog was fond of two things – singing and praising himself. He was under the illusion that his voice was the most beautiful in the bog and that he was the most important creature in the whole bog too. So every night, he cleared his throat and began to sing loudly. Now we all know that a frog actually croaks. And so from dusk to dawn, the animals in the bog were tortured by the frog belting out a crass cacophony (harsh, unpleasant sound) which he thought was melody (pleasing arrangement of sounds) divine.

The animals of the bog could not bear it beyond a certain limit. A delegation of the wiser animals met the frog one day and requested him to either bring his recital(a solo, public performance) to an end or find a new home to reside. The frog was surprised at their request since he thought he was doing them a favor every evening by singing for free. Instead he was of the opinion that they should pay him and send their children to him to learn the art of music and singing. The animals threatened him with dire consequences if he did not heed their advice to stop singing. But the frog did not budge. He was threatened again, insulted, bricks and stones thrown at him. When nothing worked the animals begged and beseeched him. But nothing in the world could shake his determination to loudly troll(sing in a full, hearty voice) when he was elated.

Then one night things changed. A beautiful nightingale was visiting the bog. She perched on a branch of the Sumac tree under which the frog used to live. In the cold and pale moonlight she cleared her throat and began to cantillate (chant in a musical tone) a beautiful hymn in her melodic voice. The frog rushed out of his home, trying to figure out where this angelic voice was originating from. When he saw the Nightingale, he was dumbstruck. She was as cherubic (heavenly) as her voice was. In fact, the whole bog was astounded. They stared towards the sumac tree, rapt with attention and admiration. And when the Nightingale ended, they all clapped. The ducks swam towards her and the herons waded and the toads and birds and all the animals came to her to congratulate her. Some even had tears in their eyes, a result of the wonderful way in which she serenaded (a musical performance) them. The cheered her and shouted “Encore(audience demanding for an additional performance).” And so the Nightingale, who was had never seen such praise and applause, sang for them once again till the first morning light.

The next night the Nightingale prepared to sing again. She shook her head, twitched her tail, closed her eyes and fluffed her wings. She had just cleared her throat to sing when she was startled by a dissonant (harsh and disagreeing sound) croak. She opened her eyes and saw the frog hopping towards her from the bog. She asked him, “Sorry, was it you who spoke?” “Yes,” replied the loquacious frog. “You see, I’m the owner of this sumac tree on which you’re singing. I’m surprised you didn’t hear of me in the one day that you’ve been here. I am renown in this bog for long for my splendid baritone (deep sounding voice). The animals just can’t stop praising me for the glorious voice I have. By the way, I also write for the weekly Music magazine, Bog Trumpet. ” The Nightingale enquired of the frog, “Did you like my song?” The frog puffed himself up in an important fashion and answered with an air of superiority, “Ah, well. It wasn’t bad. But it was far too long. You should have ended sooner. Your technique was of course fine, but it lacked a certain force.” “Oh,” said the Nightingale, very much impressed. She realized that she may be standing in the company of a great critic. She was greatly flattered. Then in a very heartfelt manner she replied, “I know my song is not of divine quality but at least it’s my own.”

“That’s not much to boast about,” said the heartless frog instead of appreciating the Nightingale. He hinted that without the proper training that maestros like him could give, she would remain an amateur (beginner), but with him she would rise to the top. The Nightingale couldn’t believe her good fortune. She called him a Mozart in disguise who had come to earth to teach her. She accepted the frog’s tutelage (teaching)in exchange for a small fee. Inspired by her new teacher and flushed with confidence, she started to sing on the sumac and became a huge sensation. From miles around, animals of all kinds flocked around to hear her mellifluous voice. And the self-centered frog very precisely charged admission for her show.

The next morning it was raining when the frog began to train her. She complained that she couldn’t sing in this weather but the frog wouldn’t hear anything of it. He cajoled (flattered) her into putting on her scarf and singing along with him. And so they went up and down the musical scale for hours till the Nightingale was shivering and her voice was hoarse and quivering. And though she had not rested, her throat somehow got better by night when she sang in front of a crowd that was full of royals and titled animals.

And this went on every day, for the cruel frog pushed her harder and harder to practice just for the money he was collecting in return. He scolded her that she needed to practice till her voice became robust (strong) like his. Instead of appreciating her, he criticized her and told her she had been slightly nervous the last time she sang. Telling her she owed him sixty shillings, he ordered her to sings with more trills and frills so that her audience would love her. And so the poor Nightingale grew sorrowful and pale. Her dulcet voice changed into a tired and uninspired one but she put in every effort to impress the audience till finally they too got bored and her shows started to flop. Now that she had become addicted to the applause, she became more morose till she lost all delight in singing alone.

The frog puffed up with rage. He mercilessly shouted at the Nightingale, “Brainless bird, you’re on the stage. Why don’t you use your wits and sing with passion?” The unfortunate Nightingale trembled and was terrified that she was failing. With tears in her eyes, she heard him out in silence and then trying for a last time, burst a vein and died. Alas, the frog didn’t have a change of heart. “Stupid creature she was,” he said. “I tried to teach her but she was far too nervous. Poor bird, she should have realized that her song should have been her own,” he said shamelessly. And so the raucous (rough-sounding) foghorn (a booming voice) of the frog continued unrivalled in the bog.

Pick the right Chord

The words in the following sentences have been used wrongly. Can you pick out the right sound? Choose the same option if you feel there is no error.

1. We had to cover our ears as the sound of the waterfall was rustling.

(a) Humming (b) rustling (c) deafening (d) spluttering

2.Was it necessary to roar the door?

(a) Shut (b) boom (c) muffle (d) slam

3.The security fence spluttered with electricity.

(a) Roared (b) crackled (c) swooshed (d) babbled

4.I’m tired and irritated of you groaning through the night.

(a) Snoring (b) roaring (c) whispering (d) shouting

Musical Guests

Guests arrived to hear the Nightingale sing. You have been given simple antonyms to the words below. Can you guess which guest the word should be used for?

Taciturn – talkative

Garrulous – tight-lipped

Loquacious – uncommunicative

Effusive – reserved

Prattling – to the point

  1. The Owl of Sandwich speaks excessively, often trivial things. He is ____________.
  2. The Duck of Kent speaks very few words. He is known to be _____________.
  3. Milady Trent chatters idly and meaninglessly. She is a _____________ woman.
  4. Martin Cardinal Mephistois a _____________ person since he talks all the time.
  5. The Coot of Monte Cristois generally ____________ and loves conversations.

The Sound Tree

Root words mean basic words from Latin and Greek from which words in English have been derived. You have been given a few root words here in the tree and one example each. Can you come up with more words in English which may have originated from these roots?


The Orchestra

Names of some Musical Instruments have been jumbled here. Can you un-jumble them?


Adding Notes

The meanings of some root words are given. Can you guess what they add up to?

  1. Mel – honey/sweet + Flous – flowing = Mellifluous

     (a) jarring noise (b) raucous voice (c) melodious sound (d) flowing instruments

  1. Somn – sleep + Loc/Loq – speech = Somniloquist

     (a) Puppet maker (b) Sleep specialist (c)(d) sleep walker

  1. Cacos – bad + phon – sound = Cacophonous

     (a) Jarring sound (b) sweet voice (c) bad telephone (d) round sound


The Frog and the Nightingale
The Frog and the Nightingale - By : | Date Published : 27-08-2014 | Category : Improve English |
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(Based on a Poem by Vikram Seth)

A big, green frog used to live under a Sumac tr

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