Part One: The Student in Love
In a nest, in a tree, in a garden a nightingale® sang. Her song was beautiful: she sang of love and happiness. One day she saw a young student in the garden.
“She says she will dance with me if I give her a red rose,” said the Student, “but in my garden there is no red rose.” And when he said this his eyes filled with tears. “Every day I study philosophy® and I read all the things that wise men say about happiness. Now my happiness depends on® a red rose!”
The Nightingale heard this and said to herself, “Finally, here is a true lover. Every night I sing of love and this young man suffers for love.”
The Student continued: “I love the Professor’s daughter and tomorrow there is a ball at the Prince’s palace. My love will be there. If I take her a red rose she will dance with me. If I have no red rose she will not speak to me.” The young student looked around the garden. There were yellow roses and white roses but no red roses. “Poor me,” he said. “I need one red rose but I cannot see any in this garden.”
“Ah,” said the Nightingale, “Love is a wonderful thing: it is more precious than emeralds®, opals® and pearls, you cannot buy love in the market place with gold coins.”
“The musicians will play their violins and my love will dance to their music. But she will not dance with me. I have no red rose to give her.” The Student fell onto the grass and started to cry.
A butterfly heard him and asked, “Why is he crying?”
A daisy asked her friend, “Why is he crying?”
“Why is he crying?” said a little green lizard.
“He is crying for a red rose,” said the Nightingale.
“A red rose?” they all replied. “That’s ridiculous®!”
The other animals laughed but the Nightingale understood. She watched the student sadly and thought of the mystery of love.
Part Two: The Nightingale’s Sacrifice®
In the middle of the garden there was a beautiful rose tree. The Nightingale flew to the rose tree and said, “Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest song.”
“I’m sorry, my roses are white like the snow on the mountain and the foam® of the sea,” he answered. “Ask my brother who grows round the sundial®. Perhaps he can help you.”
The Nightingale flew to the sundial and said to the rose tree, “Give me a red rose,’ she cried, ‘and I will sing you my sweetest song.”
“I’m sorry, my roses are yellow like the daffodil,” he answered. “Ask my brother who grows under the Student’s window. Perhaps he can help you.”
The Nightingale flew to the window and asked the rose, “Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest song.”
“I’m sorry, my roses are red like the coral® in the sea but the winter was cold and my branches are broken. This year I have no flowers.”
“But I only need one red rose. Is there nothing I can do?”
“There is one thing you can do but I won’t tell you. It is a terrible thing.”
“Tell me what it is. I am not afraid,” said the Nightingale.
“If you want a red rose you must build it by moonlight with music and color® it with your own blood. You must sing to me all night and press® your heart against one of my thorns. All night you must sing and your blood will become my blood.”
“Death is a big price to pay for a rose,” said the Nightingale. “Everybody likes life. I like life. I like to fly and to look at the flowers and to smell their perfumes in the wind. But love is better than life … and the heart of a man is much more important than the heart of a bird. The Student will have his rose.”
Part Three: The Red Rose
The Nightingale flew back to the garden and saw the student lying on the grass. His eyes were full of tears. “Be happy,” the bird said. “You will have your red rose and tomorrow night you will dance with your love at the Prince’s ball. I will make the rose for you by moonlight, with music and with my own heart’s blood. I ask you just one thing, you must promise to be a true lover.”
The Student looked up and listened but he didn’t understand what the Nightingale was saying: he only understood things in books. But the oak® tree understood and he said, “Sing me your sweetest song, little Nightingale. I will be sad when you are not here.” The Nightingale sang for the oak tree. The Student heard the song and said, “Yes, this music is very beautiful but can a bird really understand love? She sings well but she is like an artist and everybody knows that artists are not sincere®. She thinks only of music and could never do anything practical to help anybody.” He got up, went into his house, lay on his bed and slept.
When night came and the moon shone, the Nightingale flew to the rose tree. She pressed her heart against one of his thorns. All night she sang her sweetest songs. The cold crystal moon listened and the Nightingale’s blood slowly left her. At the top of the rose tree a flower started to grow. First it was pale, silver like the new day. But the tree cried “Come closer!”
The Nightingale came closer and sang louder, then the rose became pink like a red rose in a silver mirror.
“Come closer, little Nightingale,” said the rose bush. “Come closer. If not,
the day will come before the rose is finished.” The Nightingale came closer and as the thorn pierced® her heart she sang of a love that never dies. She felt a strong pain and her voice became softer and softer. Finally the rose was ready, a marvelous® red rose, red like the eastern skies.
Then the little Nightingale sang her most beautiful final song. The white moon heard it and she forgo the sun in the East and stayed in the sky to listen. The red rose heard the song and opened her petals in the cold morning air. The sleeping shepherds woke up when they heard it and the river carried its message to the sea. The rose tree heard the song and cried, “Look, little Nightingale, look. The rose is finished.”
But the Nightingale didn’t hear because she was dead on the grass with the thorn in her heart.
Part Four: The Professor’s Daughter
The next day, at lunchtime, the Student woke up and looked out of his window. “That’s lucky,” he said, “here is a red rose. It is an extremely beautiful red rose. I’m sure it has a long Latin name.” He took the rose from the tree. He put on his hat and ran to the Professor’s house. The Professor’s daughter was sitting near the color.
“Look, here is a red rose for you. Tonight you must dance with me as you promised. You will wear it next to your heart and I will say ‘I love you’.”
The girl didn’t smile but she looked at him. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t like the color. My dress is blue and the rose is red. And another thing, the Chamberlain’s son gave me jewels. Everybody knows that jewels are more expensive® than flowers. I don’t want your rose.”
“You are very ungrateful®,” said the Student angrily, and he threw the rose into the street. At that moment a cart passed and the wheels crushed® the flower.
“You are very rude,” said the girl. “I will dance with the Chamberlain’s son, not with you.” Then she stood up and went into her house.
The Student started to walk home. “Love is a stupid thing,” he said. “I prefer to study books. They are much more interesting and useful. Yes, logic® is much more useful than love. I will go home and study philosophy and metaphysics®.” And that’s what he did.