A Rose from Homer’s Grave
By Hans Christian Andersen (1862)
All the songs of the East tell of the love of the nightingale for the rose ; in the silent starlit nights the winged songster serenades his fragrant flower.
Not far from Smyrna, under the lofty plane trees, where the merchant drives his loaded camels, that proudly lift their long necks and tramp clumsily over the holy ground, I saw a hedge of roses. Wild pigeons flew among the branches of the high trees, and their wings glistened, while a sunbeam glided over them, as if they were of mother-o’ -pearl.
The rose hedge bore a flower which was the most beautiful among all, and the nightingale sang to her of his woes ; but the Rose was silent not a dewdrop lay, like a tear of sympathy, upon her leaves : she bent down over a few great stones.
‘ Here rests the greatest singer of the world ! ‘ said the Rose : ‘ over his tomb will I pour out my fragrance, and on it I will let fall my leaves when the storm tears them off. He who sang of Troy became earth, and from that earth I have sprung. I, a rose from the grave of Homer, am too lofty to bloom for a poor nightingale ! ‘
And the nightingale sang himself to death.
The camel driver came with his loaded camels and his black slaves : his little son found the dead bird, and buried the little songster in the grave of the great Homer. And the Rose trembled in the wind. The evening came, and the Rose wrapped her leaves more closely together, and dreamed thus :
‘ It was a fair sunshiny day ; a crowd of strangers drew near, for they had undertaken a pilgrimage to the grave of Homer. Among the strangers was a singer from the North, the home of clouds and of the Northern Lights. He plucked the Rose, placed it in a book, and carried it away into another part of the world, to his distant fatherland. The Rose faded with grief, and lay in the narrow book, which he opened in his home, saying, ” Here is a rose from the grave of Homer.”
This the flower dreamed ; and she awoke and trembled in the wind. A drop of dew fell from the leaves upon the singer’s grave. The sun rose, the day became warm, and the Rose glowed more beauteous than before ; she was in her own warm Asia. Then footsteps were heard, and Frankish strangers came, such as the Rose had seen in her dream ; and among the strangers was a poet from the North : he plucked the Rose, pressed a kiss upon her fresh mouth, and carried her away to the home of the clouds and of the Northern Lights.
Like a mummy the flower corpse now rests in his Iliad, and, as in a dream, she hears him open the book and say, ‘ Here is a rose from the grave of Homer.’