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The Nightingale and the Rose
(adapted by Marek Vít, read by Laurie Bram)
“She said: ‘I will dance with you if you bring me a red rose.’ But in all my garden there are no red roses,” the young Student cried. The Nightingale heard him from her nest in an old tree. She looked out through the leaves and listened.
“No red rose in all my garden!” he cried, and his beautiful eyes filled with tears. “Happiness depends on such little things! I have read everything that is written in books, but my life is unhappy because of a red rose.”
“Here at last is a true lover,” said the Nightingale. "I have sung of such love night after night, although I have never seen a true lover.
“There is a dance at the castle tonight,” said the young Student quietly. “My love will be there. If I bring her a red rose, she will dance with me all night. If I bring her a red rose, I will hold her in my arms, and she will put her head on my shoulder, and her hand will be in mine. But there is no red rose in my garden, so she will not notice me and my heart will break.”
“He really is a true lover,” said the Nightingale. “What is joy to me is pain to him. Love is a wonderful thing. Gold and pearls can never buy it.”
“The musicians will play and my love will dance,” said the young Student, “she will dance lightly and beautifully. 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 started crying.
“Why is he crying?” asked a little Green Lizard, as he ran past.
“Why?” said a Butterfly, who was flying happily in the sunlight.
“Why?” whispered a little Flower softly.
“He is crying for a red rose,” said the Nightingale.
“For a red rose?” they cried and laughed.
But the Nightingale understood why the Student was so sad. She opened her wings and flew up into the air. She passed through the trees and across the garden like a shadow.
Suddenly, she saw a beautiful rose-tree standing in another garden and flew over to it.
“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. “They are whiter than the snow on the mountain. But go to my brother and perhaps he will give you what you want.”
So the Nightingale flew over to the other rose-tree.
“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. “But go to my brother who grows under 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 under 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. “But the winter has frozen my flowers and the storm has broken my branches. I will have no roses at all this year.”
“One red rose is all I want,” cried the Nightingale. “Only one red rose! Tell me, please, how can I get it?”
“There is a way,” answered the Tree. “But it is so terrible that I do not want to tell you.”
“Tell me about it,” 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 colour it with the blood of your heart. You must sing to me with your heart pressed against a thorn. You must sing to me all night long, and the thorn must cut into your heart, and your blood must flow into me.”
“Death is a great price to pay for a red rose,” cried the Nightingale, “and Life is very precious. It is nice to sit in the tree, watch the golden Sun and the Moon, and smell the sweet flowers . Yet Love is better than Life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?”
So she opened her brown wings and flew up into the air. She passed over the garden and through the trees like a shadow.
The young Student was still lying on the grass, where she had left him, and his eyes were still wet with tears.
“Be happy!” cried the Nightingale. “Be happy, because you will have your red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and colour it with the blood of my own heart. All that I ask of you is that you will be a true lover, because Love is wiser, stronger and more powerful than anything in this world.”
The Student looked up from the grass, and listened, but he could not understand what the Nightingale was saying to him. He only knew the things that are written down in books.
But the old tree understood, and felt sad, because he loved the little Nightingale who lived in his branches.
“Sing me one last song,” he whispered. “I will feel very lonely when you are gone.”
So the Nightingale sang to the old tree with a soft voice.
When she had finished her song, the Student got up and took a notebook and a pencil out of his pocket.
“Her song is really beautiful,” he said to himself as he walked away. “But she is like other artists. She only cares about her music, not about other people. Her song is beautiful, but it doesn't mean anything.” And he went into his room, lay down on his bed, and began to think of his love. He soon fell asleep.
When the Moon shone in the sky, the Nightingale flew to the Rose-tree, and pressed her heart against the thorn. All night long she sang with her heart against the thorn, and the cold crystal Moon listened. All night long she sang, and the thorn went deeper and deeper into her heart.
She sang first of the birth of love in the heart of a boy and a girl. A beautiful rose appeared on the topmost branch of the Rose-tree. It grew as she continued her song. At first it was all white, white as the mist, pale as silver.
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 her song was louder. She sang of the birth of love in the heart of a man and a woman. But the thorn had not cut into her heart, so the rose stayed white, because only a Nightingale's blood could colour the rose red.
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 terrible pain shot through her. The pain got worse and her song wilder. She sang of the Love that is made perfect by death.
And the beautiful rose became dark red. But the Nightingale's voice was weaker and her little wings stopped. She sang the last song. The white Moon heard it, forgot about the morning, and stayed in the sky. The red rose heard it, and opened its petals to the cold morning air. The echo of the wonderful song woke the sleeping people from their dreams. It was carried by the river to the sea.
“Look, look!” cried the Tree, “the rose is finished now!” But the Nightingale made no answer, because she was lying dead in the long grass, with the thorn in her heart.
At noon the Student opened his window and looked out.
“Look, how lucky I am!” he cried. “Here is a red rose! I have never seen any rose like this in all my life. It is so beautiful that I am sure it has a long Latin name”. He reached out and took it in his hand.
Then he put on his hat, and ran to the Professor's house with the rose in his hand.
The daughter of the Professor was sitting in the doorway 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 can wear it tonight next to 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, anyway, the Chamberlain's nephew has sent me some real jewels, and everybody knows that jewels are more expensive than flowers.”
“You are very ungrateful,” said the Student angrily. He threw the rose into the street, where it was crushed under the wheels of a cart.
“Ungrateful!” said the girl. “I tell you what,” said the girl. “You are very rude. But you are only a student. Look at the Chamberlain's nephew, look what he has got!” She got up from her chair and went into the house.
“Love is a very silly thing,” said the Student as he walked away. “Love is not as useful as Logic, because it does not prove anything. It says things that are never going to happen and it makes people believe things that are not true. In fact, it is very unpractical. I will go back to my studies and learn about practical things.”
So he returned to his room and pulled out a great old book, and started to read.
Original written by Oscar Wilde (public domain)
Adapted by Marek Vít, © 2006
Recorded by Laurie Bram © 2006
Illustrated by Markéta Vydrová © 2006
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