Tale of The Toad's Frown

by Jonathan Broadus

Following the dusty road
A farmer going into town
Chanced upon a sitting toad,
Who looked at him with ugly frown.

The farmer chancing to look down
And puzzled by the toad's foul look
Climbed from the cart onto the ground
And asked it what offense it took.

The toad said not a word's reply
But frowned at the farmer all the more,
It paused to snare a passing fly
Then winced as if the taste was poor.

The farmer climbed into his cart,
said, "Toad, I must be on my way.
I hate with thou in frown to part,
But I have miles to go today."

A preacher riding down the road
Saw the sitting toad's foul gaze.
He stopped his horse there by the road
At which the horse began to graze.

This preacher was not a pious man,
Though he spoke with words most bold.
His pride was known throughout the land
To all the people both young and old.

He preached a sermon quite his best,
But still the toad would not repent.
"Thou art fouler than a serpent's nest,"
Quoth he with pride severely bent.

He got back up upon his steed
And rode away muttering to no one there
about the toad that would not heed
the finest sermon he'd given e'er.

An aristocrat soon arrived on the scene
With his servants and carriage attending;
When he saw the toad with his frown so mean
He said, "Toad, your expression needs mending."

"Do you know," he asked, "Just who I am?"
"I'm the duke, a man you must not displease.
My table is filled with wine and fine ham;
I use silken kerchiefs whenever I sneeze."

The toad, unimpressed, frowned at him still;
"'Tis an impudent creature," the duke did declare;
And his servants agreed as they topped the next hill,
"What use is a toad with an impudent glare?"

A French cook came who made soup for the crown,
Said, "Toad, I could put you in a pot,
But to serve a toad with such ugly frown
Would get me beheaded on the spot."

A miller came with bended back
Walking steadily with heavy load,
'Till in surprise he dropped his sack
When he saw the frowning toad.

"Here now," he said, "what's with this frown?"
"I work all day a'grinding flour,
But when I lay my tired head down,
You'll find on it no look so sour."

"What thing has caused thee to scowl so,
When thou but sittest by the road?"
With that he prepared his sack to go,
And leave the sitting, frowning toad.

A solider walked past in full dress
(He seemed unworried by the toad's foul frown).
Of soldiers he was quite the best;
A personal favorite of the crown.

The soldier saluted the toad, at which,
Methinks the foul frown for a moment eased;
Perhaps it was merely a muscle twitch
Or a move to stifle a coming sneeze.

The soldier continued on his way,
Leaving the toad with fierce frown still.
No more people passed by that day
After the soldier topped the hill.

When the next day came,
The toad was still there.
His frown was the same
As it had been e'er.

An elegant lady passed by on the road,
Squeaked, "oh!" when she saw the toad's foul frown.
"Get away!" she yelled at the frowning toad,
And picked up her skirts and ran around.

Her maid waved at the toad and stomped her feet,
Then her lady went into a swoon and fell.
"Such a horrible toad I never did meet,
To frighten milady when she's quite unwell."

The maid ran and brought her lady 'round,
And they hurried past the frowning toad.
They went on their way to their distant town,
Over the hill and down the road.

A boy with a smirk betwixt his ears
Made a face at the frowning toad;
The toad glared at him with look so fierce
He ran all the way to his abode.

A local inventor wandered by
Who most folks thought to be quite mad.
He carried diagrams of the common fly
And of a machine built into a hat.

The inventor mumbled to himself,
Hardly seeing the frowning toad,
Of things upon his workroom shelf
And whether he'd eaten his pie a' la mode.

A blind man came with begging cup
And upon his arm a wooden cane.
He stopped and pushed his eye cover up
And inspected the sky for signs of rain.

He squinted hard at a distant cloud,
Then calculated the time of day.
He hopped over furoughs the ox had plowed
And ran home across a field of hay.

A small mouse or perhaps a vole
Scuttled through the grass beside the road.
And slipped into a small round hole
A short distance from the frowning toad.

A little girl came with tears in her eyes;
To others on the road not a word she spoke,
And as she began to sniffle by,
The toad opened its mouth for a single croak.

The girl, startled, looked around
first on one side and then the other.
Then she heard another sound...
Her name being called by her mother.

She ran up the road to her mother's call,
A little girl no longer lost;
The toad leaped up on a crumbling wall,
And sat upon a tuft of moss.

A farmer returning along the road,
Paused his slowly rumbling cart,
And called out to the sitting toad,
"Tis good with thee in smile to part."