“She said, “I will dance with you if you bring me a red rose”,” cried the young student, “but there are no red roses in my garden. I have studied everything that wise men have written. But my life is unhappy because I have no red rose!” His eyes filled with tears.
A little nightingale heard him from her old tree.
“Here, at last, is a true lover,” said the nightingale. “I have sung about true love night after night, but I have never seen a true lover!”
“There will be a dance at the palace tomorrow,” said the student. “The prince will be there, and my love will be there too. If I bring her a red rose, she will dance with me. If I bring her a red rose, I will hold her in my arms. But there are no red roses in my garden, so I will sit alone. She will not need me, and my heart will break.”
“Yes, he is a true lover, like the lovers in my songs,” said the nightingale. “Love is happiness to me, but it is pain to him. Love is a wonderful thing. Gold and jewels can never buy it.”
The student cried, “The musicians will play and my love will dance to the music. Rich men in their fine clothes will crowd round her. But she will not dance with me because I cannot give her a red rose.” He lay down on the grass, put his face in his hands and cried.
“Why is he crying?” asked the little animals in the garden. “Why is he crying? ” asked the flowers.
“He is crying for a red rose,” said the nightingale. “For a red rose!” they cried, and they laughed. But the nightingale understood. She opened her brown wings and flew up into the air. She passed across the garden like a shadow.
There was a beautiful rose tree standing in the centre of another garden. When she saw it, she flew down to it.
“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest song.”
“I am sorry,” said the rose tree. “My roses are white — as white as snow. Go to my brother on the other side of the garden. Perhaps he will give you what you want.”
So the nightingale flew to the other rose tree. “Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest song.”
“I am sorry,” answered the rose tree. “My roses are yellow-golden yellow. But go to my brother who grows below the student’s window. Perhaps he will give you what you want.”
So the nightingale flew to the rose tree which was growing below the student’s window.
“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest song.”
My roses are red,” it answered, “but the winter cold has frozen my flowers and they have fallen. I will have no roses this year.”
“I only want one red rose,” cried the nightingale, “only one red rose! How can I get it?”
“There is a way,” answered the tree. “But I do not want to tell you about it.”
“Tell me the way, please,” 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. The redness must come from your hearts blood. You must sing to me all night with your heart pressed against a thorn. The thorn must cut open your heart and your life blood must run into me and become mine.”
“Death is a great price to pay for a red rose,” cried the nightingale. “I enjoy life. I love sitting in the green trees and watching the golden sun go down. I love smelling the flowers. But love is better than life, and the heart of a man is more important than the heart of a bird.”
So she opened her brown wings and flew up into the air. She passed over the garden where the young student was still lying in the grass.The tears were not yet dry in his eyes.
“Be happy,” cried the nightingale. “You will have your red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and I will give my heart’s blood for it redness. But you must be a true lover, because love is the wisest aid strongest thing.”
The student locked up from the grass and listened. But he could not understand what the nightingale was saying. He only knew things that are written in books. But the old tree loved the little nightingale, and he understood.
“Sing me one last song,” he said. “I shall be sad and alone when you go.”
So the nightingale sang to the old tree. Her voice was like drops of water faling from a silver cup.
When she finished her song, the student took out a notebook.
“Her voice is beautiful, but her song does not mean anything. It is not really useful because she has no true feelings. She thinks only of her music, not about other people.”
He went into his room, lay down on his bed and thought about his love. After a time, he fell asleep.
When the moon shone in the sky, the nightingale flew to the rose tree. She pressed herself against a thorn. She sang all night, and the cold moon listened. All through the long night she sang, and the thorn went deeper and deeper, and the life-blood ran out of her.
First she sang about the birth of love in the heart of a boy and a girl — and a wonderful rose grew on the highest part of the rose tree. As song followed song, the rose opened. At first it was white – as white as a cloud on a river, as silver as the wings of the early morning.
The rose tree cried to the nightingale, “Press closer against the thorn, little nightingale. The rose must be red before daylight.”
So the nightingale pressed closer, and her song became louder. Now she sang about the birth of love in the hearts of a man and a woman. The rose became red. But the heart of the rose stayed white, because only the heart’s blood of a nightingale can colour the heart of a rose.
The rose tree cried to the nightingale, “Press closer against the thorn, little nightingale. Or the day will come before the rose is red.”
So the nightingale pressed closer against the thorn. The thorn touched her heart, and pain shot through her. As the pain became worse, her song became wilder. Now she sang of the love which is made perfect by death.
The rose became deep red. The heart of the rose was as red as a jewel. But the nightingale’s voice became weaker and weaker. Her little wings stopped moving; her eyes lost their brightness.
She sang a last, wonderful song. The moon heard it and waited in the sky. The red rose heard it and opened wide to the cold morning air.
“Look! Look!” cried the rose tree. “The rose is ready now.” But the nightingale did not answer, because she was lying dead in the long grass with the thorn in her heart.
At midday, the student opened his window and looked out. “Ha!” he cried. “Here is a red rose! It is exactly what I wanted! I have never seen a rose as beautiful as this. It probably has a long Latin name.” He put out his hand and took it.
Then he put on his hat and ran to the doctor’s house with the rose in his hand. The doctor was the student’s teacher, and the student loved the doctor’s daughter. She was sitting at the door, and her little dog was lying at her feet.
“You wanted me to bring you a red rose,” cried the student. “Here is the reddest rose in the world. You can wear it tonight next to your heart. Then we can dance together. And you will know how I love you.”
“I am sorry,” said the girl. “It will not go with the colour of my dress. And the officer has sent me some real jewels. Everyone knows that jewels cost more than flowers.”
“Thank you very much!” said the student angrily. “You are very kind!” He threw the rose into the street.
“You cannot speak to me like that,” said the girl. “Who are you? Only a student!” She got up from her chair and went into the house.
“Love is a very silly thing!” said the student, as he walked away. “It tells us things which are not going to happen. We believe things which are not true. It is useless. In these difficult times, we must learn useful things. I shall go back to my studies.”
So he returned to his room, took out a big old book, and began to read.