Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Almanac For Moderns: March Twenty-First

The first entry in An Almanac for Moderns by Donald Culross Peattie.

March Twenty-First

On this chill uncertain spring day, toward twilight, I have heard the frog quaver from the marsh. That is a sound that Pharoah listened to as it rose from the Nile, and it blended, I suppose, with his discontents and longings, as it does with ours. There is something lonely in that first shaken and uplifted trilling croak. And more than lonely, for I hear a warning in it, as Pharoah heard the sound of plague. It speaks of the return to life, animal life, to the earth. It tells of all that is most unutterable in evolution--the terrible continuity and fluidity of protoplasm, the irrepressible forces of reproduction--not mystical human love, but the cold batrachian jelly by which we vertebrates are linked to the things that creep and writhe and are blind yet breed and have being. More than half it seems to threaten that when mankind has quite thoroughly shattered and eaten and debauched himself with his own follies, that voice may still be ringing out in the marshes of the Nile and the Thames and the Potomac, unconscious that Pharoah wept for his son.

It always seems to me that no sooner do I hear the first frog trill than I find the first cloud of frog's eggs in a wayside pool, so swiftly does the emergent creature pour out the libation of its cool fertility. There is life where before there was none. It is as repulsive as it is beautiful, as silvery-black as it is slimy. Life, in short, raw and exciting, life almost in primordial form, irreducible element.