In ‘Frogs’ the poet explores the history of the frog, its place in contemporary life, and how we value the creature. The poem challenges the reader to reevaluate how they see these little amphibians and whether or not they approve of the dissection of them.
Summary of Frogs
Throughout this poem, the poet takes the reader through a series of images that define the frog in different ways. In the first lines, he explains how the frog is important in the wider history of the earth. It was on the planet way before human beings were and now it is at the mercy of those same human beings in a dissection lab. Through graphic detail, the poet describes what dissection entails and then juxtaposes those terrible images with a grandiose vision of what a frog is and how it should be considered by human beings.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of Frogs
‘Frogs’ by Randolph Healy is a ten stanza poem that is separated into uneven sets of lines. The stanzas range in length from one line up to eight. There is no single rhyme scheme or metrical pattern that connects the lines together. Rather, the poem is written in what is known as free verse.
But, there are a few examples of rhyme in the text. For example, half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse. For instance, “seminary,” “screened,” and “trees” in lines one and two of stanza one.
Literary Devices in Frogs
Healy makes use of several literary devices in ‘Frogs’. These include but are not limited to anaphora, alliteration, and enjambment. The first, anaphora, is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This technique is often used to create emphasis. A list of phrases, items, or actions may be created through its implementation. For example, “I” at the beginning of lines four and five of the third stanza.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For instance, “Batrachos” and ”borders” in lines three and four of the third stanza as well as “breathe” and “back” in stanza five.
Enjambment occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. There are several good examples in this poem. For instance, the transition between lines three and four of stanza five.
Analysis of Frogs
On a grassy hill, in a luxury seminary in Glenart,
I found, screened by trees,
In the first stanza of the poem ‘Frogs, the speaker describes how he came upon “friends“ in a pond surrounded by stones. It was a solitary place that was presumably hard to find. Do you to the title of the poem and the reference to the pond in the first stanza it is easy to assume that the poet is referring to the frogs as friends.
since they first appeared.
In the second stanza, he speaks in elevated language using important phrases to Defined the frogs’ place in the white or history of the world. He explains that they are “10,000 times older than humanity”. This is a reference to the process of evolution in which amphibians involved before humans dead. The next two lines continue in the same way, suggesting to the reader that they should reconsider the importance of the frog in comparison to themselves.
Stanzas Three and Four
They get two grudging notices in the Bible:
Tsephardea in Exodus,
Their numbers have been hugely depleted,
And the third stanza, the speaker mentions references in the Bible. He refers to the Bible as a source that many humans turn to for moral and general life lessons. As an ancient book, the Bible should contain anything of importance. But, contrary to the already proven importance of the frog, they only get mentions. And, they are not positive ones. The last two lines of the stanza mention the same references to the frogs in the Bible.
These historical and mythological references are juxtaposed against the fourth stanza which is only two lines long. Here, the speaker brings in contemporary life in the dissection of these animals.
Sever its brain.
The frog continues to live.
It ceases to breathe, swallow or sit up
Sever the foot that wipes the acid away.
The fifth stanza is made up of a series of short sentences in which the poet describes and very graphic detail what it means to dissect a frog. Then dissection of animals in school is a controversial topic, and in this poem, the poet takes a very specific stance against the practice. He explains how the animals are cut to pieces, and tortured with acid.
Stanzas Six and Seven
It will grasp and hang from your finger.
by the sun and the stars.
The sixth stanza is a single line, moving and it’s simplicity and directness. It conveys the desperation of these animals as their lives come to an end. The seventh stanza contrast with us by returning to the elegance of their life and what the poet knows is their possible abilities. He states that there is evidence that they “navigate/buy the sun and stars”. This is something that should touch a reader’s heart and make them think more deeply about the practice in general.
This year, thirty–two, I said
“I’ll be damned if Maureen has frogs”
six shy survivors.
The eighth stanza is longer than the previous two. Here, the poet moves into a first-person narration. He describes a personal experience and which eighty frogs hatched in a pond at his home and then were eaten by cats. This is a simple dynamic playing out for all to see. It is life and death and in the end, survival. There were six “survivors” of this massacre Are frogs. Huge numbers depleted and a few personified remnants. He is using the very human emotion shyness to describe these frogs the poet is trying to tap into a reader’s empathy. They should hear this line and connect on a deeper level to the animal’s plight because they experience similar emotional states.
Stanzas Nine and Ten
for the number one hundred thousand
Light ripples down a smooth back.
The ninth stanza brings in the image of a higher glass. These and jammed lines inform the reader that the number 1000 is the image of a tadpole. The tadpole in itself is a symbol of new life and transformation. These themes and issues should no be taken lightly. By connecting them to a frog the poet is once again elevating the creature in the reader’s mind.
The final stanza, stanza ten, describes in three short lines the frog (Grenouille in French), the side of light rippling down its back, and the fact that at the end of this dissection process they die. The final line of the poem is one word “Gone”. It is a perfect ending to a dynamic and emotionally rocky experience.