This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for April 22, 2021, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.
Frogmore Cottage was a wedding gift to Prince Harry and his bride from Queen Elizabeth. “Frogmore Cottage” always struck me as a rather undignified name for a royal dwelling at Windsor. Since, for several reasons, I have an affinity to frogs, and because I’m curious, I did some quick research on Frogmore Cottage.
Frogmore Cottage is a royal home on Frogmore Estate, which is part of Home Park, just a few minutes from Windsor Castle, Windsor England. Princess Charlotte, Queen Consort of King George III, had the “cottage” built in 1801 as a retreat. It was named after Frogmore Estate which got its name from the fact that this marshy area was known for its large frog population. Apparently, Princess Charlotte did not particularly like the sound she could hear the creatures make from nearby marshy ponds.
Now my affinity to frogs began many years ago when a beautiful, refined young woman (now my wife) agreed to marry me, a rather uncouth old bachelor. To dramatize my feelings after she said “yes,” I hid an engagement ring inside a stuffed, frog, and told her if she kissed the frog, it would turn into a prince. Naturally she wanted to see something as miraculous as that happen, so she kissed the stuffed frog, and found the ring, — whether I turned into a “prince” or not is a matter of conjecture.
Before I discuss my second affinity to frogs, let me make a distinction between “frogs” and “toads.” Toads are a sub-classification of frogs and seem to prefer land to water. Toads have dry, bumpy skin covered with wart-like growths, whereas frogs are smooth and slimy. Frogs have much, much longer and stronger legs than toads, and their eyes bulge more than a toad’s. Frogs do not secrete poisonous toxins as toads do.
So, while it’s unthinkable for a princess to kiss a warty, poisonous toad, she might, as princesses did in the ancient fairytales, kiss a slimy, bulging-eyed frog.
My second affinity to frogs has to do with my becoming an American haikuist (writer of the three-line haiku poem). The connection between frogs and haiku began with the ancient, famous, haikuist, Matsuo Basho, who wrote one of the first and most famous haiku, entitled, “The Old Pond.” Here is a literal English translation of that Japanese poem:
frog jumps into
The 32 other English translations I have read of that haiku are very similar. I’m told it’s better in Japanese.
Be that as it may, the current trend among American poets towards writing haiku reflects this beginning by Basho. No doubt, that is the reason the haiku journal published by the Haiku Society of America is entitled Frogpond, and the frog seems to have become a symbol for the haiku. Other haiku magazines and journals have such names as Mayfly, Heron’s Nest, Chrysanthemum, Hummingbird, Paper Wasp, Starfish, etc., all suggesting the haiku has an intimate tie to nature.
A good haiku should suggest more than it seems to state in those three short lines. Some interpreters think Basho’s old pond represents a person’s soul; so what do the frog and his splash represent? Each reader supplies his own answer.
Before I became a “prince,” my friend and I used to go out in a little boat on his pond and gig frogs, and occasionally whap them with the boat’s oar, then fry the legs and eat them. I still like to eat fried frogs’ legs, but as an aspiring haikuist, I suppose my gigging days are over. Haiku can be humorous; that’s why I’m still a haikuist.
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher, a retired LCMS pastor, and the author of two books, Open Prairies and It Must Be the Noodles