Gateway to the Classics: Andersen's Fairy Tales by Alice Lucas
Andersen's Fairy Tales by  Alice Lucas

A Rose from Homer's Grave

The nightingale's love for the rose pervades all the songs of the East; in those silent starlight nights the winged songster invariably brings a serenade to his scented flower.

Not far from Smyrna, under the stately plaintain trees where the merchant drives his laden camels, which tread heavily on hallowed ground, and carry their long necks proudly, I Saw a blooming hedge of roses. Wild doves fluttered from branch to branch of the tall trees, and where the sunbeams caught their wings they shone like mother of pearl. There was one flower on the rose hedge more beautiful than all the rest, and to this one the nightingale poured out all the yearning of its love. But the rose was silent, not a single dew-drop lay like a tear of compassion upon its petals, while it bent his head towards a heap of stones.

"Here rests the greatest singer the world has ever known!" said the rose. "I will scent his grave and strew my petals over it when the storms tear them off. The singer of the Iliad returned to earth here, this earth whence I sprang! I, a rose from Homer's grave, am too sacred to bloom for a mere nightingale!"

And the nightingale sang till from very grief his heart broke.

The camel driver came with his laden camels and his black slaves; his little boy found the dead bird, and buried the little songster in Homer's grave. The rose trembled in the wind. Night came; the rose folded her petals tightly and dreamt that it was a beautiful sunny day, and that a crowd of strange Frankish men came on a pilgrimage to Homer's grave. Among the strangers was a singer from the North, from the home of mists and northern lights. He broke off the rose and pressed it in a book, and so carried it away with him to another part of the world, to his distant Fatherland. And the rose withered away from grief lying tightly pressed in the narrow book, till he opened it in his home and said "here is a rose from Homer's grave!"

Now this is what the flower dreamt, and it woke up shivering in the wind; a dew-drop fell from its petals upon the singer's grave. The sun rose and the day was very hot, the rose bloomed in greater beauty than ever in the warmth of Asia.

Footsteps were heard and the strange Franks whom the rose saw in its dream came up. Among the strangers was a poet from the North, he broke off the rose and pressed a kiss upon its dewy freshness, and carried it with him to the home of mists and northern lights. The relics of the rose rest now like a mummy between the leaves of his Iliad, and as in its dream it hears him say when he opens the book, "here is a rose from Homer's grave!"

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