Guiana - Bahmoo And The Frog
"OH, what mean these croaks, like a concert of frogs, Such as we, oftentimes, near our marshes and bogs, May hear at still evening's close?" "'Tis the chorus to one of our popular tales, Levelled at a division of race which prevails, And pretending to show how it rose."
"Come with us, O Bahmoo, to hunt the huge frogs, Which are found nowhere else in our rivers and bogs: Good food; though in size they approach the bush-hogs: Some excellent sport you may find." Thus our young men addressed Their friend Bahmoo, a guest, Who had come to their "place" of adventures in quest, And, perhaps, of a wife to his mind. For, as you may know, our young men often rove A long distance in search of a girl they can love.
And now these young hunters set forth on their way; Each one with his weapons and ornaments gay.
"Take a cudgel, O Bahmoo!" said they, "if you go, For those creatures are sturdy, and take a hard blow." Then answered Bahmoo, "I leave weapons to you, And tell you beforehand what I mean to do.
The first frog that is found Upon yon marshy ground, I will jump on his back, and will twist his neck round, And so kill him without more ado!"
Now the chief of those frogs was a spirit, they say, Who o'erheard Bahmoo's boast, and forthwith, in the way, Full of fun, near the river, he squatted or lay. There he seemed half asleep; while around him awoke A deafening chorus of croak upon croak.
Our young men, well used to it, were not afraid, But Bahmoo half shrunk from the row those frogs made, It was such a wild hullabaloo. As from each monstrous throat
Pealed the long rolling note; And he heard it resound, Far and near, all around, "Boro-ohk," dying off in "boro-oo!"
When the boaster looked grave, it was thought a good joker And his comrades enjoyed it. Although no one spoke, He knew they were laughing aside. So he ran at that first frog, and sprang on his back, And, to twist round his head, threw his arms round his neck, And thenófound himself in the tide! For the frog-chief, returning his ardent embrace, Said," Come, my dear friend, with me, home to my place, Just to see it, if not to abide." Then he sprang off the ground, And with wonderful bound And a splash, that was heard a long distance around, They plunged in where the deep waters glide.
Bahmoo tried to escape, but the frolicsome sprite, Which possessed that huge frog, in his paws held him tight; And, when they emerged from below, He said," Mount on my back, it is much the best way, And we will enjoy ourselves this pleasant day, As over the river we go. We will sing, as we swim along, merry and gay: And my people, as chorus, shall join in the lay, Each chanting his loud 'boro-oo.'"
So each neighbouring frog lifts his head from the tide, And the others respond from the banks, far and wide; At the voice of their king They all merrily singó "Boro-ohk, boro-ohk, boro-oo!"
But meanwhile, Bahmoo's comrades, pray what have they done? Well, at first I must say that they thought it no fun: To see their friend caught by the frog. But as soon as they saw him upon the frog's back, With loud peals of laughter, they cried, "Twist his neck, And bring him here dead as a log. Then, when he is dead, And you've done what you said, Of all our bold hunters we'll make you the head, Our champion in forest and bog!"
'Twas severe, I must own; But 'tis very well known, That to braggarts who fail little mercy is shown. And so Bahmoo, when mocked by the frogs' "boro-oo," Heard his comrades laugh loudly, and join in it too.
At length he arrived at the opposite shore; The frog had sung merrily all the way o'er (Such a jolly old frog none e'er knew). "You see I have carried you safely," said he. "How pleasant to swim in such good company!" Then o'er his head Bahmoo he threw, Saying, "Though it be painful to part, I must go, For your people are killing mine yonder, I know. Adieu, my good Bahmoo, adieu!"
He then dived below; the man saw him no more, But remained there alone on that desolate shore.
When the young men had finished their frog-hunt, they hailed For Bahmoo to swim back; but entreaties all failed To draw him from that other side. He dreaded their laughter, and would not again Adventure himself in the tide, Lest that frog he should meet. So he had to remain, And there for himself to provide.
"And that is the reason," our old people say, "Why his children are separate from us this day."
"His children? Why, where could Bahmoo find a bride?" "Well, most likely he'd found one ere quitting our side, Who would not quite approve That the man of her love Should be there day and night quite alone. She might not have a boat, But a 'woodskin' will float, Which her woman's wit would most surely provide; And, paddling herself, she would be at his side. Woman's love greater wonders has done, And few things, we find, Will deter woman-kind, When once it has thoroughly made up its mind, As the wisest of Indians own." 1
When tempted to boast of what you "mean to do," Pray remember the frog, and vain-glorious Bahmoo.
1 The spotted "arua" (or harua) of the Araw‚ks, spelt jaguar by the Spanish discoverers, is commonly called "tiger" by the colonists who frequent the bush. It is called "tobi" by the Waraus, and "kaikusi" by the Caribs and Acawoios.
William Henry Brett,
Legends and Myths of the Aboriginal Indians of British Guiana, William Henry Brett, [London, 1880], and is now in the public domain. [south america]