The Nightingale and the Rose

“She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses,” cried the young Student; “but in my garden there is no red rose.” From her nest in the oak tree, the nightingale heard him, and she looked out through the leaves and wondered.

I lamented at my fate as I read these lines. As a student going through a new lesson, I was bored reading these two lines. The red rose, crying student, and the overhearing nightingale sounded like a story from then a famous children’s book named Campak (in India). Boring! I thought as I started reading the short story by Oliver Wilde. But I had to read and prepare a summary of the lesson as homework. The English teacher was supposed to teach us the lesson the next day.

But I read on, and soon I was gripped by the sheer intensity of love. This story moved me to tears…. It is a fable of love, sacrifice, and selfishness. As with all of Wilde’s short stories, it embodies strong moral values. It is a touching story of a lovestruck student who must provide the girl he loves with a red rose to win her heart. A nightingale overhearing his lament from a solitary oak tree is filled with sorrow and admiration for his emotions and decides to help him. She realizes that there is a way to make a red rose, but with grave consequences—but she goes ahead with it. But is her sacrifice of any value?

The nightingale could also feel the love in the student’s heart as she said, Here indeed is the true lover. What I sing of he suffers: what is joy to me, to him is pain. Surely Love is a wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds and dearer than fine opals. Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it, nor is it set forth in the market-place. It may not be purchased of the merchants, nor can it be weighed out in the balance for gold.

The nightingale then goes to the rose trees in the garden to ask for a red rose. She does not get any from the yellow rose tree and the white rose tree. Finally, she goes to the red rose tree who says, My roses are red, as red as the feet of the dove, and redder than the great fans of coral that wave and wave in the ocean-cavern. But the winter has chilled my veins, and the frost has nipped my buds, and the storm has broken my branches, and I shall have no roses at all this year. If you want a red rose, you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart’s blood. You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.

The nightingale feels that life is too much a price for a red rose and flies back. But as she watches the student cry for the probable loss of his love, the nightingale flies to the rose-tree, sets her breast against the thorn and sings all night long. As she sang, the thorn went deeper and deeper into her breast and her life-blood ebbed away from her. She sang first of the birth of love in the heart of a boy and a girl. And on the rose-tree, there blossomed a marvelous rose, petal following petal, as song followed song.

At noon, the student opened the doors of the window and was surprised to see a beautiful red rose on the frosted tree. Below the tree was a dead nightingale. He ran up to the Professor’s house with the rose in his hand and asked her for the dance. The girls said that the red rose would not go with her blue dress that she planned to wear for the dance. Someone lease had sent her real jewels, which she said was more precious than a red rose.

Angrily, the student threw the rose into the street and a cart-wheel went over it. As the student walked away he thought that love is an unpractical and a silly feeling which is not half as useful as logic, for it does not prove anything. So he decided to go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.

So he returned to his room and pulled out a great dusty book, and began to read. Just as I was busy reading my lesson. 🙂

The only difference is that the student opened the book after learning a lesson in life, I closed mine after learning one!

I was glad that the English teacher asked us to read the lesson at home. Else, the whole class would have seen a weeping Sajitha in the class 😦

The book

Oscar Wilde (an Irish writer and poet) has written poetry, essays, and plays. The happy Prince and the other stories is a collection of short stories by Oscar Wilde. Some of the stories in this book are: The happy prince, The selfish giant, The Nightingale and the rose, The remarkable rocket, and The devoted friend. It was published in the year 1888. But the nightingale and the rose will always remain close to my heart. It is the story of sacrifice and love.