Monday, April 03, 2006

The Legendary Peeper

The following is by Hal Borland:

"The scientific name of Hyla crucifer, the tiny tree toad with the shrill, bell-toned April voice, reaches back into Greek legend. Hercules, says the legend, was fond of a boy named Hylas. While they were adventuring with the Argonauts, Hercules sent the boy to bring water from a spring, but the water nymphs captured Hylas and thereafter he lived in the water, calling for Hercules in his sweet young voice. Ever since, that voice has been heard in swamp and bogland in the Spring of the year.

There is really nothing very strange about the hyla we know except that it is a very small frog with a very large voice. It lives and grows much as any other frog, from egg to tadpole to adult frog. It hibernates, and it emerges in the burgeoning Spring hungry for food and a mate. It belongs to a family very old upon this earth, and in a sense it represents the very Springtime of life.

We usually call this small tree frog the Spring peeper, but there are other common names. On Martha's Vineyard it is the pinkle-tink, and on Cape Cod it is the pinkwink. Both names are, to a degree, imitative of the hyla's call. But no name can more than hint at the sound, which is at once clamorous and exultant and stragely musical and yet quite unmelodic. A chorus of Spring peepers close at hand can be a din of disorganized sound; yet from a little distance this same chorus can be pulse-lifting and rich with the warmth of Spring itself. There's nothing else quite like it. That is why we listen for it year after year, personify it into legend, cherish it as the very voice of another Spring." --from Sundial of the Seasons 1964

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