25 July 2013


I've been seeing quite a few of these little brown creatures hopping rapidly around the greenhouse recently. I believe they're American toad(let)s. To give you an idea of scale, here's the same toadlet with my index finger. (Very obliging of it to sit still for this photo, I thought. Also, note the cleanliness of my nail - you can tell this was taken before I did my daily hour of weeding.)

I think toads have an undeservedly bad reputation. A prime example is to be found in the opening lines of Philip Larkin's poem Toads. They have been in my mind since I started noticing the toadlets (although I was convinced that the poem was by Ted Hughes - sorry Philip). I first read the poem at school and have only just reread it now. I appreciate its message more these days than I did when I was seventeen!


Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life? 
Can't I use my wit as a pitchfork 
And drive the brute off? 

Six days of the week it soils
With its sickening poison - 
Just for paying a few bills! 
That's out of proportion. 

Lots of folk live on their wits: 
Lecturers, lispers, 
Losels, loblolly-men, louts- 
They don't end as paupers; 

Lots of folk live up lanes 
With fires in a bucket, 
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines- 
They seem to like it. 

Their nippers have got bare feet, 
Their unspeakable wives 
Are skinny as whippets - and yet 
No one actually starves

Ah, were I courageous enough 
To shout Stuff your pension! 
But I know, all too well, that's the stuff 
That dreams are made on: 

For something sufficiently toad-like 
Squats in me, too; 
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
And cold as snow,

 And will never allow me to blarney
 My way of getting
 The fame and the girl and the money 
 All at one sitting. 

I don't say, one bodies the other 
One's spiritual truth; 
But I do say it's hard to lose either,
When you have both.

1 comment:

Terri said...