I think it's so interesting that the nightingale features in so much poetry. From English poetry to Turkish to Persian to South Asian. Here are a few poems and their significance.
Ode to a Nightingale
by John Keats
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?
The speaker opens with a declaration of his own heartache. He feels numb, as though he had taken a drug only a moment ago. He is addressing a nightingale he hears singing somewhere in the forest and says that his "drowsy numbness" is not from envy of the nightingale's happiness, but rather from sharing it too completely; he is "too happy" that the nightingale sings the music of summer from amid some unseen plot of green trees and shadows.
In the second stanza, the speaker longs for the oblivion of alcohol, expressing his wish for wine, "a draught of vintage," that would taste like the country and like peasant dances, and let him "leave the world unseen" and disappear into the dim forest with the nightingale. In the third stanza, he explains his desire to fade away, saying he would like to forget the troubles the nightingale has never known: "the weariness, the fever, and the fret" of human life, with its consciousness that everything is mortal and nothing lasts. Youth "grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies," and "beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes."
In the fourth stanza, the speaker tells the nightingale to fly away, and he will follow, not through alcohol ("Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards"), but through poetry, which will give him "viewless wings." He says he is already with the nightingale and describes the forest glade, where even the moonlight is hidden by the trees, except the light that breaks through when the breezes blow the branches. In the fifth stanza, the speaker says that he cannot see the flowers in the glade, but can guess them "in embalmed darkness": white hawthorne, eglantine, violets, and the musk-rose, "the murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves." In the sixth stanza, the speaker listens in the dark to the nightingale, saying that he has often been "half in love" with the idea of dying and called Death soft names in many rhymes. Surrounded by the nightingale's song, the speaker thinks that the idea of death seems richer than ever, and he longs to "cease upon the midnight with no pain" while the nightingale pours its soul ecstatically forth. If he were to die, the nightingale would continue to sing, he says, but he would "have ears in vain" and be no longer able to hear.
In the seventh stanza, the speaker tells the nightingale that it is immortal, that it was not "born for death." He says that the voice he hears singing has always been heard, by ancient emperors and clowns, by homesick Ruth; he even says the song has often charmed open magic windows looking out over "the foam / Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn." In the eighth stanza, the word forlorn tolls like a bell to restore the speaker from his preoccupation with the nightingale and back into himself. As the nightingale flies farther away from him, he laments that his imagination has failed him and says that he can no longer recall whether the nightingale's music was "a vision, or a waking dream." Now that the music is gone, the speaker cannot recall whether he himself is awake or asleep.
Like most of the other odes, "Ode to a Nightingale" is written in ten-line stanzas. However, unlike most of the other poems, it is metrically variable--though not so much as "Ode to Psyche." The first seven and last two lines of each stanza are written in iambic pentameter; the eighth line of each stanza is written in trimeter, with only three accented syllables instead of five. "Nightingale" also differs from the other odes in that its rhyme scheme is the same in every stanza (every other ode varies the order of rhyme in the final three or four lines except "To Psyche," which has the loosest structure of all the odes). Each stanza in "Nightingale" is rhymed ABABCDECDE, Keats's most basic scheme throughout the odes.
With "Ode to a Nightingale," Keats's speaker begins his fullest and deepest exploration of the themes of creative expression and the mortality of human life. In this ode, the transience of life and the tragedy of old age ("where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, / Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies") is set against the eternal renewal of the nightingale's fluid music ("Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird!"). The speaker reprises the "drowsy numbness" he experienced in "Ode on Indolence," but where in "Indolence" that numbness was a sign of disconnection from experience, in "Nightingale" it is a sign of too full a connection: "being too happy in thine happiness," as the speaker tells the nightingale. Hearing the song of the nightingale, the speaker longs to flee the human world and join the bird. His first thought is to reach the bird's state through alcohol--in the second stanza, he longs for a "draught of vintage" to transport him out of himself. But after his meditation in the third stanza on the transience of life, he rejects the idea of being "charioted by Bacchus and his pards" (Bacchus was the Roman god of wine and was supposed to have been carried by a chariot pulled by leopards) and chooses instead to embrace, for the first time since he refused to follow the figures in "Indolence," "the viewless wings of Poesy."
The rapture of poetic inspiration matches the endless creative rapture of the nightingale's music and lets the speaker, in stanzas five through seven, imagine himself with the bird in the darkened forest. The ecstatic music even encourages the speaker to embrace the idea of dying, of painlessly succumbing to death while enraptured by the nightingale's music and never experiencing any further pain or disappointment. But when his meditation causes him to utter the word "forlorn," he comes back to himself, recognizing his fancy for what it is--an imagined escape from the inescapable ("Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well / As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf"). As the nightingale flies away, the intensity of the speaker's experience has left him shaken, unable to remember whether he is awake or asleep.
Significance of the Rose and Nightingale
GOL O BOLBOL, rose and nightingale, a popular literary and decorative theme.
i. In Persian literature.
ii. As a decorative theme in Persian art.
I. IN PERSIAN LITERATURE
Individually, both the rose (gol; qv.) and the nightingale (bolbol; q.v.) are important motifs in Persian literature, and in the imagery of Persian poetry in particular. Alone, the rose served as a literary metaphor for perfection and beauty, and might fi;gure the beloved (either worldly or spiritual), the prince, or the Prophet Moháammad; the sweet-singing nightingale might represent the lover, or the poet (see BOLBOL ii; GOL iv; Meisami, pp. 66-67, 286-96). Together, rose and nightingale are the types of beloved and lover par excellence; the rose is beautiful, proud, and often cruel (roses do, after all, have thorns), while the nightingale sings endlessly of his longing and devotion. In panegyric, the poet-nightingale sang the praises of the prince-rose; in mystical poetry, the nightingale's yearning for the rose served as a metaphor for the soul's yearning for union with God (Schimmel, 1994, pp. 163-89). The use of this theme as a metaphor for spiritual and earthly love by Persian poets in epic and romance, lyrical and mystical works for nearly one thousand years attests to its deep signifi;cance in Persian culture. The theme of the rose in Persian mystical poetry has been the subject of detailed investigation since the beginnings of Orientalist studies in Europe in the late 18th century, and poets such as Goethe (q.v.) and Rilke have been inspired by their Persian counterparts.
II. AS A DECORATIVE THEME IN PERSIAN ART
The theme of rose and nightingale, gol o bolbol—a sub-theme of fl;ower and bird painting, gol o botta or gol o morg@—was the principal theme of the decorative repertory of the Safavid (1501-1722) and Qajar (1785-1925) eras. Gol o bolbol designs were used to beautify all manner of objects, from prosaic ceramics and woodwork to the most precious regalia and manuscripts. The literary theme enjoyed great popularity due to its universal appeal and the range of both earthly and divine meanings which it conveyed; as a decorative tradition, the continued vitality of the gol o bolbol design may be attributed to its stylistic and formal versatility.Origins and evolution of the bird and fl;ower theme in pre-Safavid Persia (ca.710-1501). The bird and fl;ower theme was a traditional one in both painting and poetry well before the Safavid period. The origins of this theme may be traced to the beginnings of Persian manuscript illustration in the 14th century, where the rose fi;rst appears as a discrete motif and a landscape element utilized in the illustration of epic and lyrical texts during the reign of the Il-khanids (1256-1353). Persian painters drew upon literary images of the rose as a metaphor for love and beauty to create symbolic compositions in the margins accompanying narrative scenes or lyrical landscapes evoking visions of springtime and young love (Cowen, pp. 41-43, 56-58, 67-70; Lentz and Lowry, p,117). Such landscapes also suggested the pleasures of the gardens of paradise as described in the Koran, with its streams and beautiful houris (Blair and Bloom, pp. 16-17).
At that time, the rose was not known as a theme in the decorative arts, which featured stylized vegetal designs or arabesques, geometric designs, and calligraphy (see DECORATION). Floral elements were limited to either conventionalized or composite types. Manuscript illustration refl;ects the infl;uence of Chinese brush painting and landscape painting traditions and motifs, including naturalistically rendered rose or peony bushes. This is not the case with the decorative arts, although the ornamental vocabulary is reinvigorated by Chinoiserie motifs (dragons, lotuses, qui'lins, cloud-bands).
The association of fl;owers with earthly and divine love continued in the 15th century in a group of large detached silk fl;ower and bird paintings, attributed variously to Eastern Persia or Central Asia. These paintings derive from Chinese bird-and-fl;ower painting, which enjoyed popularity from the mid-Sung period (960-1279) onwards and served to symbolize scholarly virtues, political events, or individual scholars (Barnhart, pp. 195-223; Bickford, pp. 293-315). This theme subsequently became a favored design for Chinese textiles, porcelains, tinted paper with gilt ornamental designs, and lacquerwork, examples of which were sent as diplomatic gifts or commercial exports to Persia during the Ming period. A number of these silk paintings faithfully follow their Chinese models; in others, the compositional elements are modifi;ed to correspond to the Persian association of fl;owers with love, wine, and spring (PLATE I). These paintings document the gradual adaptation of foreign prototypes and the interest in a new genre of painting distinct from text illustration; they ultimately provided the models for an authentically Persian interpretation of the theme of the rose and the nightingale.
The evolution of the bird and fl;ower theme in the Safavid period (1501-1722). In the 16th century, bird and fl;ower imagery continued to feature in manuscript illustration, in the form of fl;owering rose trees accompanied by clearly identifi;able nightingales singing in their branches. Illustrations to Ferdowsi's (q.v.) ˆa@h-na@ma evoke in visual terms his verses describing the nightingales and roses of Mazandaran (Welch, pp. 98-99; ˆa@h-na@ma, ed. Khaleghi, II, p. 4). Alternatively, roses and other fl;owers are found in court portraits as attributes symbolizing courtly elegance, refi;nement, and idealized beauty. While we see a gradual evolution in the illuminated designs and bindings of this period from the Chinoiserie style to a greater naturalism in the interpretation of the rose and nightingale theme, the design repertoire of the decorative arts continued to be characterized by Chinoiserie motifs and increasingly complex arabesque designs. The bird and fl;ower theme appeared only sporadically (Rogers, p. 127).
By the 17th century, the Safavid capital of Isfahan had become the center for all manner of goods traded from East to West, as well as an international emporium for ideas, tastes, and fashions. European interest in horticulture undoubtedly stimulated a pre-existing love of fl;owers in Safavid Persia. Travelers frequently refer to the magnifi;cent gardens in which the Safavid palaces were situated and to the abundance of roses (including the hundred-petalled rose and the bi-colored rose, pink and white or yellow and white, known in Persian as do-ru÷i, two-sided; Chardin, III, p. 348). At this time, the bird and fl;ower theme began to gain favor in a wider variety of media, including textiles and lacquer-painted objects. Bird and fl;ower imagery underwent a dramatic change and evolved into a novel hybrid style based on the European fl;ower painting genre. The age of exploration fostered a new "culture of fl;owers" in European society and in the arts, a process in which Persia and other Asian countries played a signifi;cant role (Goody, pp. 188-89, 213-14).
The popularity of the new decorative vocabulary may also be linked to the socio-economic importance of rose petals and especially rosewater (see ¿ATáR; GOLAÚB), a celebrated Persian export (Chardin, II, p. 66). The rose had traditionally played an integral role in the gracious customs of Persian social life and its refi;ned cuisine: rosewater is a common ingredient in Persian sweets, sherbets, and preserves (Wilber, p. 289; Sackville-West, pp. 277-79). Less well known is its use as an ingredient of the renowned pink enamels of Benares in 19th-century India, a production established by immigrant Persian craftsmen. The role of roses in Safavid cultural life may also be seen in references to customs now fallen into disuse, such as the "festival of roses" (¿id-e golrizi) and the presentation of fl;oral bouquets (Herbert, pp. 261-68; Della Valle, II/2, pp. 115-16; Francklin, I, p. 84; Tavernier, p. 144). These references, taken together, evoke a luxury- and pleasure-loving society. Such a "culture of fl;owers" was undoubtedly encouraged by the economic prosperity of the Safavid period. In a telling example, the bi-colored rose gave its name to an important Persian innovation in weaving technology, the two-sided (do-ru÷i ) silk.
Bird and fl;ower designs played an increasingly important part in architectural decoration. The reception halls and side chambers of the Ùehel Sotun palace of Isfahan (q.v.), constructed between 1647 and the 1660s, were painted both with large narrative compositions and with fl;oral designs, trellises, and fl;owering gardens. Flower and bird painting and textile designs were given a new impetus by Dutch and English herbals available in Isfahan (Le Brun, p. 222; Gray, pp. 219-25; Farhad, pp. 196-97). As a result of the new imagery derived therefrom, Persian painters such as Moháammad-Zama@n b. Háa@ji Yusof Qomi (active 1649-1700) and Mohammad-ˆafi;¿ ¿Abba@si b. Rezµa@-ˆafi;¿ ¿Abba@si (active 1634-72) produced novel fl;oral compositions of botanically exact fl;owering plants which incorporated for the fi;rst time insects and butterfl;ies and prominently featured the earthy mound from which the plant emerges. The wealth of botanical details in the illustrations of Safavid botanical manuscripts is evidence that other local painters were inspired by the direct observation of indigenous fl;ora (Petrosyan et al., pp. 254-65). The majority of extant works resulted from courtly taste and patronage in a cosmopolitan atmosphere, and were intended either for practical use in manufacturing or for connoisseurs' albums and painting collections.
Textile designs, especially the sumptuous metal-ground woven silk brocades, display a variety of elegant design variations on the gol o bolbol pattern (PLATE II). This new hybrid fl;oral vocabulary was particularly widespread in lacquerwork, and was used extensively for penboxes, mirrors, and trays. In general, densely packed designs, often featuring nightingales, were set against a profusion of fl;owers and fruit and nut branches or tree trunks. In this medium, fl;ower and bird designs were commonly combined with fi;gural scenes and portrait designs in medallions and cartouches, or, alternatively, with poetic inscriptions. The theme exercised a lesser impact in ceramics, metalwork, and rugs, in which the traditional decorative repertoire still predominated.
The culmination of bird and fl;ower themes in post-Safavid times (1722-1925). From the Safavid period onwards, the theme of rose and nightingale began to predominate in the Persian decorative repertoire, so that the term gol o bolbol came to designate all bird and fl;ower designs. By the late Qajar period, it even came to be synonymous with the land of Persia and its culture. The city of Shiraz, the capital of the Zand dynasty (1750-79), played a key role in this development. The tilework revetments and marble dadoes of such Shiraz buildings as a pavilion in the garden of the haft tan (the burial place of seven mystics) were decorated with delicate tilework panels embellished with designs of fl;owering rose bushes and nightingales executed in the pastel palette of the Zand style. The gol o bolbol design tradition is best seen in the St. Petersburg album dated 1736-51 and other related works (PLATE III), and was frequently used for lacquer-painted bindings of religious texts and Korans (Diba, 1989, pp. 243-53; idem, 1996, pp. 100-12). Roses were especially favored as symbols of the prophets (particularly the Prophet Moháammad, who was said to have created the rose from a drop of his perspiration) and more generally with paradisal imagery (Schimmel, 1971, p. 31).
The ever-increasing popularity of bird and fl;ower designs in painting and the decorative arts of the Qajar period is largely a refl;ection of the period's cultural colonialism, when European travellers' tastes stimulated the production of fl;ower drawings and albums of fl;ower paintings in Persia, as it had previously in the 17th century and as it did elsewhere throughout Asia, most notably in India and China (Rich, II, p. 224). Now court painters produced variations on the theme of the rose (PLATE IV) linked to the Victorian fascination with that fl;ower as a symbol of mortality, a cliche‚ of Orientalist literature but also one aspect of the rose's meaning in Persian literature as well. In this painting, verses by the poet Sa¿di serve as commentary to the image, evoking the impermanence of life's rose garden and offering eternal happiness in the rosegarden of art. By contrast, the lacquerwork and architectural decoration of the later 19th century, although technically extremely profi;cient, exhibit considerable eclecticism and, increasingly, little discernable relationship between the fl;oral imagery and the accompanying portraiture (PLATE V; Diba, 1996, pp. 100-12).
The nightingale raises his head, drugged with passion,
Pouring the oil of earthly love in such a fashion
That the other birds shaded with his song, grow mute.
The leaping mysteries of his melodies are acute.
'I know the secrets of Love, I am their piper,'
He sings, 'I seek a David with broken heart to decipher
Their plaintive barbs, I inspire the yearning flute,
The daemon of the plucked conversation of the lute.
The roses are dissolved into fragrance by my song,
Hearts are torn with its sobbing tone, broken along
The fault lines of longing filled with desire's wrong.
My music is like the sky's black ocean, I steal
The listener's reason, the world becomes the seal
Of dreams for chosen lovers, where only the rose
Is certain. I cannot go further, I am lame, and expose
My anchored soul to the divine Way.
My love for the rose is sufficient, I shall stay
In the vicinity of its petalled image, I need
No more, it blooms for me the rose, my seed.
The hoopoe replies: 'You love the rose without thought.
Nightingale, your foolish song is caught
By the rose's thorns, it is a passing thing.
Velvet petal, perfume's repose bring
You pleasure, yes, but sorrow too
For the rose's beauty is shallow: few
Escape winter's frost. To seek the Way
Release yourself from this love that lasts a day.
The bud nurtures its own demise as day nurtures night.
Groom yourself, pluck the deadly rose from your sight.
Farid ud-Din Attar
Throughout the Middle East and India the nightingale is associated with lovers and with longing. The bird's song is plaintive, longing, yet beautifully entrancing. And it sings at twilight, the meeting time of secret lovers. Yet, like the Mediterranean tradition of Eros, the nightingale can symbolize both mundane romantic desire and also the sacred yearning of the soul for the Divine Beloved.
As I've mentioned elsewhere, in Attar's masterpiece The Conference of the Birds, each bird represents a soul or soul-quality that aspires to journey toward God (the Simurgh), yet they must overcome their weaknesses and limitations. Here, the nightingale, longing, is at first so attached to worldly beauty and love that it hesitates, saying, "I cannot go further, I am lame, and expose / My anchored soul to the divine Way. / My love for the rose is sufficient, I shall stay..." The purity of its longing, even for worldly experiences of beauty, has granted it a sort of limited mystical realization, and it is on the verge giving up its quest for anything more eternal.
But the hoopoe (the spiritual guide) chides the nightingale, saying that such worldly attraction "is a passing thing," that it brings "pleasure, yes, but sorrow too / For the rose's beauty is shallow... To seek the Way / Release yourself from this love that lasts a day." Attar (through the words of the hoopoe) is reminding us to not become attached to outer forms, to not fall in love with "shallow" experiences of beauty. Instead, one must seek the eternal source of beauty, not its shifting surface shimmerings.
The Nightingale and the Rose
by Oscar Wilde
From The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888)
"She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses," cried the young Student; "but in all my garden there is no red rose."
From her nest in the holm-oak tree the Nightingale heard him, and she looked out through the leaves, and wondered.
"No red rose in all my garden!" he cried, and his beautiful eyes filled with tears. "Ah, on what little things does happiness depend! I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the secrets of philosophy are mine, yet for want of a red rose is my life made wretched."
"Here at last is a true lover," said the Nightingale. "Night after night have I sung of him, though I knew him not: night after night have I told his story to the stars, and now I see him. His hair is dark as the hyacinth-blossom, and his lips are red as the rose of his desire; but passion has made his face like pale ivory, and sorrow has set her seal upon his brow."
"The Prince gives a ball to-morrow night," murmured the young Student, "and my love will be of the company. If I bring her a red rose she will dance with me till dawn. If I bring her a red rose, I shall hold her in my arms, and she will lean her head upon my shoulder, and her hand will be clasped in mine. But there is no red rose in my garden, so I shall sit lonely, and she will pass me by. She will have no heed of me, and my heart will break."
"Here indeed is the true lover," said the Nightingale. "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 marketplace. It may not be purchased of the merchants, nor can it be weighed out in the balance for gold."
"The musicians will sit in their gallery," said the young Student, "and play upon their stringed instruments, and my love will dance to the sound of the harp and the violin. She will dance so lightly that her feet will not touch the floor, and the courtiers in their gay dresses will throng round her. But with me she will not dance, for I have no red rose to give her"; and he flung himself down on the grass, and buried his face in his hands, and wept.
"Why is he weeping?" asked a little Green Lizard, as he ran past him with his tail in the air.
"Why, indeed?" said a Butterfly, who was fluttering about after a sunbeam.
"Why, indeed?" whispered a Daisy to his neighbour, in a soft, low voice.
"He is weeping for a red rose," said the Nightingale.
"For a red rose?" they cried; "how very ridiculous!" and the little Lizard, who was something of a cynic, laughed outright.
But the Nightingale understood the secret of the Student's sorrow, and she sat silent in the oak-tree, and thought about the mystery of Love.
Suddenly she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air. She passed through the grove like a shadow, and like a shadow she sailed across the garden.
In the centre of the grass-plot was standing a beautiful Rose-tree, and when she saw it she flew over to it, and lit upon a spray.
"Give me a red rose," she cried, "and I will sing you my sweetest song."
But the Tree shook its head.
"My roses are white," it answered; "as white as the foam of the sea, and whiter than the snow upon the mountain. But go to my brother who grows round the old sun-dial, and perhaps he will give you what you want."
So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing round the old sun-dial.
"Give me a red rose," she cried, "and I will sing you my sweetest song."
But the Tree shook its head.
"My roses are yellow," it answered; "as yellow as the hair of the mermaiden who sits upon an amber throne, and yellower than the daffodil that blooms in the meadow before the mower comes with his scythe. But go to my brother who grows beneath the Student's window, and perhaps he will give you what you want."
So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing beneath the Student's window.
"Give me a red rose," she cried, "and I will sing you my sweetest song."
But the Tree shook its head.
"My roses are red," it answered, "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."
"One red rose is all I want," cried the Nightingale, "only one red rose! Is there no way by which I can get it?"
"There is away," answered the Tree; "but it is so terrible that I dare not tell it to you."
"Tell it to me," said the Nightingale, "I am not afraid."
"If you want a red rose," said the Tree, "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."
"Death is a great price to pay for a red rose," cried the Nightingale, "and Life is very dear to all. It is pleasant to sit in the green wood, and to watch the Sun in his chariot of gold, and the Moon in her chariot of pearl. Sweet is the scent of the hawthorn, and sweet are the bluebells that hide in the valley, and the heather that blows on the hill. Yet Love is better than Life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?"
So she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air. She swept over the garden like a shadow, and like a shadow she sailed through the grove.
The young Student was still lying on the grass, where she had left him, and the tears were not yet dry in his beautiful eyes.
"Be happy," cried the Nightingale, "be happy; you shall have your red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart's-blood. All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though she is wise, and mightier than Power, though he is mighty. Flame- coloured are his wings, and coloured like flame is his body. His lips are sweet as honey, and his breath is like frankincense."
The Student looked up from the grass, and listened, but he could not understand what the Nightingale was saying to him, for he only knew the things that are written down in books.
But the Oak-tree understood, and felt sad, for he was very fond of the little Nightingale who had built her nest in his branches.
"Sing me one last song," he whispered; "I shall feel very lonely when you are gone."
So the Nightingale sang to the Oak-tree, and her voice was like water bubbling from a silver jar.
When she had finished her song the Student got up, and pulled a note-book and a lead-pencil out of his pocket.
"She has form," he said to himself, as he walked away through the grove - "that cannot be denied to her; but has she got feeling? I am afraid not. In fact, she is like most artists; she is all style, without any sincerity. She would not sacrifice herself for others. She thinks merely of music, and everybody knows that the arts are selfish. Still, it must be admitted that she has some beautiful notes in her voice. What a pity it is that they do not mean anything, or do any practical good." And he went into his room, and lay down on his little pallet-bed, and began to think of his love; and, after a time, he fell asleep.
And when the Moon shone in the heavens the Nightingale flew to the Rose-tree, and set her breast against the thorn. All night long she sang with her breast against the thorn, and the cold crystal Moon leaned down and listened. All night long she sang, and 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 top-most spray of the Rose-tree there blossomed a marvellous rose, petal following petal, as song followed song. Pale was it, at first, as the mist that hangs over the river - pale as the feet of the morning, and silver as the wings of the dawn. As the shadow of a rose in a mirror of silver, as the shadow of a rose in a water-pool, so was the rose that blossomed on the topmost spray of the Tree.
But the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn. "Press closer, little Nightingale," cried the Tree, "or the Day will come before the rose is finished."
So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and louder and louder grew her song, for she sang of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid.
And a delicate flush of pink came into the leaves of the rose, like the flush in the face of the bridegroom when he kisses the lips of the bride. But the thorn had not yet reached her heart, so the rose's heart remained white, for only a Nightingale's heart's-blood can crimson the heart of a rose.
And the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn. "Press closer, little Nightingale," cried the Tree, "or the Day will come before the rose is finished."
So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and the thorn touched her heart, and a fierce pang of pain shot through her. Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.
And the marvellous rose became crimson, like the rose of the eastern sky. Crimson was the girdle of petals, and crimson as a ruby was the heart.
But the Nightingale's voice grew fainter, and her little wings began to beat, and a film came over her eyes. Fainter and fainter grew her song, and she felt something choking her in her throat.
Then she gave one last burst of music. The white Moon heard it, and she forgot the dawn, and lingered on in the sky. The red rose heard it, and it trembled all over with ecstasy, and opened its petals to the cold morning air. Echo bore it to her purple cavern in the hills, and woke the sleeping shepherds from their dreams. It floated through the reeds of the river, and they carried its message to the sea.
"Look, look!" cried the Tree, "the rose is finished now"; but the Nightingale made no answer, for she was lying dead in the long grass, with the thorn in her heart.
And at noon the Student opened his window and looked out.
"Why, what a wonderful piece of luck!" he cried; "here is a red rose! I have never seen any rose like it in all my life. It is so beautiful that I am sure it has a long Latin name"; and he leaned down and plucked it.
Then he put on his hat, and ran up to the Professor's house with the rose in his hand.
The daughter of the Professor was sitting in the doorway winding blue silk on a reel, and her little dog was lying at her feet.
"You said that you would dance with me if I brought you a red rose," cried the Student. "Here is the reddest rose in all the world. You will wear it to-night next your heart, and as we dance together it will tell you how I love you."
But the girl frowned.
"I am afraid it will not go with my dress," she answered; "and, besides, the Chamberlain's nephew has sent me some real jewels, and everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers."
"Well, upon my word, you are very ungrateful," said the Student angrily; and he threw the rose into the street, where it fell into the gutter, and a cart-wheel went over it.
"Ungrateful!" said the girl. "I tell you what, you are very rude; and, after all, who are you? Only a Student. Why, I don't believe you have even got silver buckles to your shoes as the Chamberlain's nephew has"; and she got up from her chair and went into the house.
"What I a silly thing Love is," said the Student as he walked away. "It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true. In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics."
So he returned to his room and pulled out a great dusty book, and began to read.
From Bengali by Nazrul Islam:
In Garden Plot, O Nightingale, do not
rock upon this flower stem today;
For these buds swinging in deep sleep,
Unbroken dozing slumber lay.
Oh how north winds blow now!
Empty branches bow, day and night!
Absent is the southern breeze,
singing melodies, honey bees are in dismay!
When will that virgin flower
sunder sleeps power, opening wide in blossom?
By morning cheeks in red, breaking slumber's stay.
Springtime wakes the bud wide,
breaking each side, bringing a flowering flood.
Flowering bud's, parting lips pursed
into laughter burst, dimpled cheeks display.
Oh poet! you forgot the scent, so
sinking down low, fail to find that shore.
The flower in past, that had filled your breast,
Now, o'erflowed it lies, 'neath a flood of watering eyes.
The Rose by Ummi Sinan
I dreamt I came to a magnificent city
whose palace was the rose, rose.
The crown and throne of the great sultan,
his garden and chambers
were the rose, rose.
Here they buy and sell but roses
and the roses are the scales they use,
Weighing roses with more roses,
the marketplace and bazaar
are all roses, rose.
The white rose and the red rose
grew coupled in one garden.
Their faces turn as one toward the thorn.
Both thorn and blossom
are the rose, rose.
Soil is the rose and stone is the rose,
withered is the rose, fresh is the rose.
Within the Lord's private gardens
both slender cypress and old maple
are the rose, rose.
The rose is turning the waterwheel
and gets ground between the stones.
The wheel turns round as the water flows.
Its power and its stillness
are the rose, rose.
From the rose a tent appears
filled with an offering of everything.
Its gatekeepers are the holy prophets.
The bread and the wine they pour
are the rose, rose.
Oh Ummi Sinan, heed the mystery
of the sorrow of nightingale and rose.
Every cry of the forlorn nightingale
is for the rose, the rose.
(VII) The flowers are once more in radiant bloom,
And the nightingale’s rapture inspires me to sing.
Flowers have decked themselves like fairies in a row;
In colours divine-purple and yellow and blue.
Pearl-like dew on the rose is stirred by the breeze,
And the pearls glisten like the rays of the morning sun.
Beauty doth reveal itself in nature’s guise,
Not in the city’s tumult, but in rural peace.
The mind’s world is absorption, yearning, and ecstasy,
And the body’s world is profit and loss, greed and cunning.
The mind’s world has no place for tyrants and their subjects,
It has no place for the clash between the sheikh and the Brahmin.