Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
The Frogs of Windham
 
        
An old colony tale—founded on fact
By Arion
From the Providence Gazette
  
  “Much pleasantry,” says Mr. Barber, “has been indulged at the expense of the inhabitants of Windham, on account of a singular occurrence which happened in the year 1758, by which the inhabitants were very much frightened. There is probably some exaggeration in the account, though the foundation of the story is believed to be a matter of fact.” We copy it as an amusing relic.
  “On a dark, cloudy, dismal night in the month of July, A.D. 1758, the inhabitants of Windham, a small town in the eastern part of Connecticut, had retired to rest, and for several hours, all were wrapped in profound repose—when suddenly, soon after midnight, the slumbers of the peaceful inhabitants were disturbed by a most terrific noise in the sky right over their heads, which to many seemed the yells and screeches of infuriated Indians, and others had no other way of accounting for the awful sounds, which still kept increasing, but by supposing the day of judgment had certainly come; and to their terrified imaginations, the awful uproar in the air seemed the immediate precursor of the clangor of the last trumpet. At intervals, many supposed they could distinguish the calling out of particular names, as of Colonels Dyer and Elderkin, two eminent lawyers, and this increased the general terror. But soon there was a rush from every house, the tumult in the air still increasing—old and young, male and female, poured forth into the streets, “in puris naturalibus,” entirely forgetful, in their hurry and consternation, of their nether habiliments, and with eyes upturned tried to pierce the almost palpable darkness. Some daring “spirits,” concluding there was nothing supernatural in the hubbub and uproar over head, but rather, that they heard the yells of Indians commencing a midnight attack, loaded their guns and sallied forth to meet the invading foes. These valiant heroes, on ascending the hill that bounds the village on the east, perceived that the sounds came from that quarter, and not from the skies, as first believed, but their courage would not permit them to proceed to the daring extremity of advancing eastward, until they had discovered the real cause of alarm and distress, which pervaded the whole village. Towards morning the sounds in the air seemed to die away. In the morning, the whole cause of alarm, which produced such distressing apprehensions among the good people of the town, was apparent to all who took the trouble to go to a certain mill pond, situated about three-fourths of a mile eastward of the village. This pond, hereafter, in the annals of Fame, forever to be called the Frog Pond, in consequence of a severe drought, which had prevailed many weeks, had become nearly dry, and the bull frogs (by which it was densely populated) at the mill fought a pitched battle on the sides of the ditch which ran through it, for the possession and enjoyment of the fluid which remained. Long and obstinately was the contest maintained; and many thousands of the combatants were found defunct, on both sides of the ditch, the next morning. It had been uncommonly still, for several hours before the battle commenced, but suddenly, as if by a preconcerted agreement, every frog on one side of the ditch raised the war cry, Col. Dyer, Col. Dyer, and at the same instant, from the opposite side, resounded the adverse shout of Elderkin too, Elderkin too. Owing to some peculiar state of the atmosphere, the awful noises and cries appeared to the distressed Windhamite to be directly over their heads.”

WHEN these free states were colonies
  Unto the mother nation;
And, in Connecticut, the good
  Old Blue Laws were in fashion.
 
A circumstance which there occurr’d,        5
  (And much the mind surprises
Upon reflection,) then gave rise
  To many strange surmises.
*        *        *        *        *
You all have seen, as I presume,
  Or had a chance to see,        10
Those strange amphibious quadrupeds,
  Call’d bull-frogs commonly.
 
Well, in Connecticut ’tis said,
  By those who make pretensions
To truth; those creatures often grow        15
  To marvellous dimensions.
 
One night in July, ’58,
  They left their home behind ’em,
Which was an oak and chestnut swamp,
  About five miles from Windham.        20
 
The cause was this:—the summer’s sun
  Had dried their pond away there
So shallow, that to save their souls
  The bull-frogs could not stay there.
 
So in a regiment they hopp’d,        25
  With many a curious antic,
Along the road which led unto
  The river Minnomantic.
 
Soon they in sight of Windham came;
  All in high perspiration,        30
And held their course straight towards the same,
  With loud vociferation.
 
You know such kind of creatures are
  By nature quite voracious;
Thus they, impell’d by hunger, were        35
  Remarkably loquacious.
 
Up flew the windows, one and all,
  And then with ears erected
From every casement, gaping rows
  Of night-capp’d heads projected.        40
 
The children cried, the women scream’d,
  “O, Lord have mercy on us!
The French have come to burn us out!
  And now are close upon us.”
 
A few, upon the first alarm,        45
  Then arm’d themselves to go forth
Against the foe, with guns and belts,
  Shot, powder-horns, and so forth.
 
Soon, all were running here and there,
  In mighty consternation;        50
Resolving of the town to make
  A quiet evacuation.
 
Away they went across the lots,
  Hats, caps, and wigs were scatter’d;
And heads were broke, and shoes were lost;        55
  Shins bruised, and noses batter’d.
 
Thus having gained a mile or two,
  These men of steady habits,
All snug behind an old stone wall
  Lay, like a nest of rabbits.        60
 
And in this state, for half an hour
  With jaws an inch asunder,
They thought upon their goods at home,
  Exposed to lawless plunder.
 
They thought upon their hapless wives,        65
  Their meeting-house, and cattle;
And then resolved to sally forth
  And give the Frenchmen battle.
 
Among the property which they
  Had brought with them to save it,        70
Were found two trumpets and a drum,
  Just as good luck would have it.
 
Fifteen or twenty Jews-harps then
  Were found in good condition,
And all the longest winded men        75
  Were put in requisition.
 
Straightway, in long and loud alarm,
  Said instruments were clang—ed,
And the good old one hundredth psalm
  From nose and Jews-harp twang—ed.        80
 
Such as were arm’d, in order ranged,
  The music in the centre—
Declared they would not run away,
  But on the French would venture.
 
There might have been among them all,        85
  Say twenty guns or over—
How many pitchforks, scythes, and flails,
  I never could discover.
 
The rest agreed to close the rear,
  After some intercession,        90
And altogether made a queer
  And curious procession.
 
Some were persuaded that they saw
  The band of French marauders;
And not a few declared they heard        95
  The officers give orders.
 
These words could be distinguish’d then,
  “Dyer,” “Elderkin,” and “Tete,”
And when they heard the last, they thought
  The French desired a treaty.        100
 
So three good, sober-minded men
  Were chosen straight to carry
Terms to the French, as Ministers
  Plenipotentiary.
 
Those, moving on with conscious fear,        105
  Did for a hearing call,
And begg’d a moment’s leave to speak
  With the French general.
 
The advancing foe an answer made,
  But (it was quite provoking)        110
Not one of them could understand
  The language it was spoke in.
 
So there they stood in piteous plight,
  ’Twas ludicrous to see;
Until the bull-frogs came in sight,        115
  Which shamed them mightily.
 
Then all went home, right glad to save
  Their property from pillage;
And all agreed to shame the men
  Who first alarm’d the village.        120
 
Some were well pleased, and some were mad,
  Some turn’d it off in laughter;
And some would never speak a word
  About the thing thereafter.
 
Some vow’d, if Satan came at last,        125
  They did not mean to flee him;
But if a frog they ever pass’d,
  Pretended not to see him.
*        *        *        *        *
God save the State of Rhode Island
  And Providence plantations;        130
May we have ever at command
  “Good clothing, pay, and rations.”
 
One good old rule, avoiding strife,
  I’ve followed since my youth—
To always live an upright life,        135
  And tell the downright truth.
 
 
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