5 Days of Oscar Wilde – 2: The Devoted Friend

Welcome to day 2 of ‘5 Days of Oscar Wilde’! Today we have The Devoted Friend. I hope you enjoy it.

The Devoted Friend.

Hans and the Miller

One morning the old Water-rat put his head out of his hole.  He had bright beady eyes and stiff grey whiskers and his tail was like a long bit of black india-rubber.  The little ducks were swimming about in the pond, looking just like a lot of yellow canaries, and their mother, who was pure white with real red legs, was trying to teach them how to stand on their heads in the water.

“You will never be in the best society unless you can stand on your heads,” she kept saying to them; and every now and then she showed them how it was done.  But the little ducks paid no attention to her.  They were so young that they did not know what an advantage it is to be in society at all.

“What disobedient children!” cried the old Water-rat; “they really deserve to be drowned.”

“Nothing of the kind,” answered the Duck, “every one must make a beginning, and parents cannot be too patient.”

“Ah! I know nothing about the feelings of parents,” said the Water-rat; “I am not a family man.  In fact, I have never been married, and I never intend to be.  Love is all very well in its way, but friendship is much higher.  Indeed, I know of nothing in the world that is either nobler or rarer than a devoted friendship.”

“And what, pray, is your idea of the duties of a devoted friend?” asked a Green Linnet, who was sitting in a willow-tree hard by, and had overheard the conversation.

“Yes, that is just what I want to know,” said the Duck; and she swam away to the end of the pond, and stood upon her head, in order to give her children a good example.

“What a silly question!” cried the Water-rat.  “I should expect my devoted friend to be devoted to me, of course.”

“And what would you do in return?” said the little bird, swinging upon a silver spray, and flapping his tiny wings.

“I don’t understand you,” answered the Water-rat.

“Let me tell you a story on the subject,” said the Linnet.

“Is the story about me?” asked the Water-rat.  “If so, I will listen to it, for I am extremely fond of fiction.”

“It is applicable to you,” answered the Linnet; and he flew down, and alighting upon the bank, he told the story of The Devoted Friend.

“Once upon a time,” said the Linnet, “there was an honest little fellow named Hans.”

“Was he very distinguished?” asked the Water-rat.

“No,” answered the Linnet, “I don’t think he was distinguished at all, except for his kind heart, and his funny round good-humoured face.  He lived in a tiny cottage all by himself, and every day he worked in his garden.  In all the country-side there was no garden so lovely as his.  Sweet-william grew there, and Gilly-flowers, and Shepherds’-purses, and Fair-maids of France.  There were damask Roses, and yellow Roses, lilac Crocuses, and gold, purple Violets and white.  Columbine and Ladysmock, Marjoram and Wild Basil, the Cowslip and the Flower-de-luce, the Daffodil and the Clove-Pink bloomed or blossomed in their proper order as the months went by, one flower taking another flower’s place, so that there were always beautiful things to look at, and pleasant odours to smell.

“Little Hans had a great many friends, but the most devoted friend of all was big Hugh the Miller.  Indeed, so devoted was the rich Miller to little Hans, that he would never go by his garden without leaning over the wall and plucking a large nosegay, or a handful of sweet herbs, or filling his pockets with plums and cherries if it was the fruit season.

“‘Real friends should have everything in common,’ the Miller used to say, and little Hans nodded and smiled, and felt very proud of having a friend with such noble ideas.

“Sometimes, indeed, the neighbours thought it strange that the rich Miller never gave little Hans anything in return, though he had a hundred sacks of flour stored away in his mill, and six milch cows, and a large flock of woolly sheep; but Hans never troubled his head about these things, and nothing gave him greater pleasure than to listen to all the wonderful things the Miller used to say about the unselfishness of true friendship.

“So little Hans worked away in his garden.  During the spring, the summer, and the autumn he was very happy, but when the winter came, and he had no fruit or flowers to bring to the market, he suffered a good deal from cold and hunger, and often had to go to bed without any supper but a few dried pears or some hard nuts.  In the winter, also, he was extremely lonely, as the Miller never came to see him then.

“‘There is no good in my going to see little Hans as long as the snow lasts,’ the Miller used to say to his wife, ‘for when people are in trouble they should be left alone, and not be bothered by visitors.  That at least is my idea about friendship, and I am sure I am right.  So I shall wait till the spring comes, and then I shall pay him a visit, and he will be able to give me a large basket of primroses and that will make him so happy.’

“‘You are certainly very thoughtful about others,’ answered the Wife, as she sat in her comfortable armchair by the big pinewood fire; ‘very thoughtful indeed.  It is quite a treat to hear you talk about friendship.  I am sure the clergyman himself could not say such beautiful things as you do, though he does live in a three-storied house, and wear a gold ring on his little finger.’

“‘But could we not ask little Hans up here?’ said the Miller’s youngest son.  ‘If poor Hans is in trouble I will give him half my porridge, and show him my white rabbits.’

“‘What a silly boy you are!’ cried the Miller; ‘I really don’t know what is the use of sending you to school.  You seem not to learn anything.  Why, if little Hans came up here, and saw our warm fire, and our good supper, and our great cask of red wine, he might get envious, and envy is a most terrible thing, and would spoil anybody’s nature.  I certainly will not allow Hans’ nature to be spoiled.  I am his best friend, and I will always watch over him, and see that he is not led into any temptations.  Besides, if Hans came here, he might ask me to let him have some flour on credit, and that I could not do.  Flour is one thing, and friendship is another, and they should not be confused.  Why, the words are spelt differently, and mean quite different things.  Everybody can see that.’

“‘How well you talk!’ said the Miller’s Wife, pouring herself out a large glass of warm ale; ‘really I feel quite drowsy.  It is just like being in church.’

“‘Lots of people act well,’ answered the Miller; ‘but very few people talk well, which shows that talking is much the more difficult thing of the two, and much the finer thing also’; and he looked sternly across the table at his little son, who felt so ashamed of himself that he hung his head down, and grew quite scarlet, and began to cry into his tea.  However, he was so young that you must excuse him.”

“Is that the end of the story?” asked the Water-rat.

“Certainly not,” answered the Linnet, “that is the beginning.”

“Then you are quite behind the age,” said the Water-rat.  “Every good story-teller nowadays starts with the end, and then goes on to the beginning, and concludes with the middle.  That is the new method.  I heard all about it the other day from a critic who was walking round the pond with a young man.  He spoke of the matter at great length, and I am sure he must have been right, for he had blue spectacles and a bald head, and whenever the young man made any remark, he always answered ‘Pooh!’  But pray go on with your story.  I like the Miller immensely.  I have all kinds of beautiful sentiments myself, so there is a great sympathy between us.”

“Well,” said the Linnet, hopping now on one leg and now on the other, “as soon as the winter was over, and the primroses began to open their pale yellow stars, the Miller said to his wife that he would go down and see little Hans.

“‘Why, what a good heart you have!’ cried his Wife; ‘you are always thinking of others.  And mind you take the big basket with you for the flowers.’

“So the Miller tied the sails of the windmill together with a strong iron chain, and went down the hill with the basket on his arm.

“‘Good morning, little Hans,’ said the Miller.

“‘Good morning,’ said Hans, leaning on his spade, and smiling from ear to ear.

“‘And how have you been all the winter?’ said the Miller.

“‘Well, really,’ cried Hans, ‘it is very good of you to ask, very good indeed.  I am afraid I had rather a hard time of it, but now the spring has come, and I am quite happy, and all my flowers are doing well.’

“‘We often talked of you during the winter, Hans,’ said the Miller, ‘and wondered how you were getting on.’

“‘That was kind of you,’ said Hans; ‘I was half afraid you had forgotten me.’

“‘Hans, I am surprised at you,’ said the Miller; ‘friendship never forgets.  That is the wonderful thing about it, but I am afraid you don’t understand the poetry of life.  How lovely your primroses are looking, by-the-bye!”

“‘They are certainly very lovely,’ said Hans, ‘and it is a most lucky thing for me that I have so many.  I am going to bring them into the market and sell them to the Burgomaster’s daughter, and buy back my wheelbarrow with the money.’

“‘Buy back your wheelbarrow?  You don’t mean to say you have sold it?  What a very stupid thing to do!’

“‘Well, the fact is,’ said Hans, ‘that I was obliged to.  You see the winter was a very bad time for me, and I really had no money at all to buy bread with.  So I first sold the silver buttons off my Sunday coat, and then I sold my silver chain, and then I sold my big pipe, and at last I sold my wheelbarrow.  But I am going to buy them all back again now.’

“‘Hans,’ said the Miller, ‘I will give you my wheelbarrow.  It is not in very good repair; indeed, one side is gone, and there is something wrong with the wheel-spokes; but in spite of that I will give it to you.  I know it is very generous of me, and a great many people would think me extremely foolish for parting with it, but I am not like the rest of the world.  I think that generosity is the essence of friendship, and, besides, I have got a new wheelbarrow for myself.  Yes, you may set your mind at ease, I will give you my wheelbarrow.’

“‘Well, really, that is generous of you,’ said little Hans, and his funny round face glowed all over with pleasure.  ‘I can easily put it in repair, as I have a plank of wood in the house.’

“‘A plank of wood!’ said the Miller; ‘why, that is just what I want for the roof of my barn.  There is a very large hole in it, and the corn will all get damp if I don’t stop it up.  How lucky you mentioned it!  It is quite remarkable how one good action always breeds another.  I have given you my wheelbarrow, and now you are going to give me your plank.  Of course, the wheelbarrow is worth far more than the plank, but true, friendship never notices things like that.  Pray get it at once, and I will set to work at my barn this very day.’

“‘Certainly,’ cried little Hans, and he ran into the shed and dragged the plank out.

“‘It is not a very big plank,’ said the Miller, looking at it, ‘and I am afraid that after I have mended my barn-roof there won’t be any left for you to mend the wheelbarrow with; but, of course, that is not my fault.  And now, as I have given you my wheelbarrow, I am sure you would like to give me some flowers in return.  Here is the basket, and mind you fill it quite full.’

“‘Quite full?’ said little Hans, rather sorrowfully, for it was really a very big basket, and he knew that if he filled it he would have no flowers left for the market and he was very anxious to get his silver buttons back.

“‘Well, really,’ answered the Miller, ‘as I have given you my wheelbarrow, I don’t think that it is much to ask you for a few flowers.  I may be wrong, but I should have thought that friendship, true friendship, was quite free from selfishness of any kind.’

“‘My dear friend, my best friend,’ cried little Hans, ‘you are welcome to all the flowers in my garden.  I would much sooner have your good opinion than my silver buttons, any day’; and he ran and plucked all his pretty primroses, and filled the Miller’s basket.

“‘Good-bye, little Hans,’ said the Miller, as he went up the hill with the plank on his shoulder, and the big basket in his hand.

“‘Good-bye,’ said little Hans, and he began to dig away quite merrily, he was so pleased about the wheelbarrow.

“The next day he was nailing up some honeysuckle against the porch, when he heard the Miller’s voice calling to him from the road.  So he jumped off the ladder, and ran down the garden, and looked over the wall.

“There was the Miller with a large sack of flour on his back.

“‘Dear little Hans,’ said the Miller, ‘would you mind carrying this sack of flour for me to market?’

“‘Oh, I am so sorry,’ said Hans, ‘but I am really very busy to-day.  I have got all my creepers to nail up, and all my flowers to water, and all my grass to roll.’

“‘Well, really,’ said the Miller, ‘I think that, considering that I am going to give you my wheelbarrow, it is rather unfriendly of you to refuse.’

“‘Oh, don’t say that,’ cried little Hans, ‘I wouldn’t be unfriendly for the whole world’; and he ran in for his cap, and trudged off with the big sack on his shoulders.

“It was a very hot day, and the road was terribly dusty, and before Hans had reached the sixth milestone he was so tired that he had to sit down and rest.  However, he went on bravely, and as last he reached the market.  After he had waited there some time, he sold the sack of flour for a very good price, and then he returned home at once, for he was afraid that if he stopped too late he might meet some robbers on the way.

“‘It has certainly been a hard day,’ said little Hans to himself as he was going to bed, ‘but I am glad I did not refuse the Miller, for he is my best friend, and, besides, he is going to give me his wheelbarrow.’

“Early the next morning the Miller came down to get the money for his sack of flour, but little Hans was so tired that he was still in bed.

“‘Upon my word,’ said the Miller, ‘you are very lazy.  Really, considering that I am going to give you my wheelbarrow, I think you might work harder.  Idleness is a great sin, and I certainly don’t like any of my friends to be idle or sluggish.  You must not mind my speaking quite plainly to you.  Of course I should not dream of doing so if I were not your friend.  But what is the good of friendship if one cannot say exactly what one means?  Anybody can say charming things and try to please and to flatter, but a true friend always says unpleasant things, and does not mind giving pain.  Indeed, if he is a really true friend he prefers it, for he knows that then he is doing good.’

“‘I am very sorry,’ said little Hans, rubbing his eyes and pulling off his night-cap, ‘but I was so tired that I thought I would lie in bed for a little time, and listen to the birds singing.  Do you know that I always work better after hearing the birds sing?’

“‘Well, I am glad of that,’ said the Miller, clapping little Hans on the back, ‘for I want you to come up to the mill as soon as you are dressed, and mend my barn-roof for me.’

“Poor little Hans was very anxious to go and work in his garden, for his flowers had not been watered for two days, but he did not like to refuse the Miller, as he was such a good friend to him.

“‘Do you think it would be unfriendly of me if I said I was busy?’ he inquired in a shy and timid voice.

“‘Well, really,’ answered the Miller, ‘I do not think it is much to ask of you, considering that I am going to give you my wheelbarrow; but of course if you refuse I will go and do it myself.’

“‘Oh! on no account,’ cried little Hans and he jumped out of bed, and dressed himself, and went up to the barn.

“He worked there all day long, till sunset, and at sunset the Miller came to see how he was getting on.

“‘Have you mended the hole in the roof yet, little Hans?’ cried the Miller in a cheery voice.

“‘It is quite mended,’ answered little Hans, coming down the ladder.

“‘Ah!’ said the Miller, ‘there is no work so delightful as the work one does for others.’

“‘It is certainly a great privilege to hear you talk,’ answered little Hans, sitting down, and wiping his forehead, ‘a very great privilege.  But I am afraid I shall never have such beautiful ideas as you have.’

“‘Oh! they will come to you,’ said the Miller, ‘but you must take more pains.  At present you have only the practice of friendship; some day you will have the theory also.’

“‘Do you really think I shall?’ asked little Hans.

“‘I have no doubt of it,’ answered the Miller, ‘but now that you have mended the roof, you had better go home and rest, for I want you to drive my sheep to the mountain to-morrow.’

“Poor little Hans was afraid to say anything to this, and early the next morning the Miller brought his sheep round to the cottage, and Hans started off with them to the mountain.  It took him the whole day to get there and back; and when he returned he was so tired that he went off to sleep in his chair, and did not wake up till it was broad daylight.

“‘What a delightful time I shall have in my garden,’ he said, and he went to work at once.

“But somehow he was never able to look after his flowers at all, for his friend the Miller was always coming round and sending him off on long errands, or getting him to help at the mill.  Little Hans was very much distressed at times, as he was afraid his flowers would think he had forgotten them, but he consoled himself by the reflection that the Miller was his best friend.  ‘Besides,’ he used to say, ‘he is going to give me his wheelbarrow, and that is an act of pure generosity.’

“So little Hans worked away for the Miller, and the Miller said all kinds of beautiful things about friendship, which Hans took down in a note-book, and used to read over at night, for he was a very good scholar.

“Now it happened that one evening little Hans was sitting by his fireside when a loud rap came at the door.  It was a very wild night, and the wind was blowing and roaring round the house so terribly that at first he thought it was merely the storm.  But a second rap came, and then a third, louder than any of the others.

“‘It is some poor traveller,’ said little Hans to himself, and he ran to the door.

“There stood the Miller with a lantern in one hand and a big stick in the other.

“‘Dear little Hans,’ cried the Miller, ‘I am in great trouble.  My little boy has fallen off a ladder and hurt himself, and I am going for the Doctor.  But he lives so far away, and it is such a bad night, that it has just occurred to me that it would be much better if you went instead of me.  You know I am going to give you my wheelbarrow, and so, it is only fair that you should do something for me in return.’

“‘Certainly,’ cried little Hans, ‘I take it quite as a compliment your coming to me, and I will start off at once.  But you must lend me your lantern, as the night is so dark that I am afraid I might fall into the ditch.’

“‘I am very sorry,’ answered the Miller, ‘but it is my new lantern, and it would be a great loss to me if anything happened to it.’

“‘Well, never mind, I will do without it,’ cried little Hans, and he took down his great fur coat, and his warm scarlet cap, and tied a muffler round his throat, and started off.

“What a dreadful storm it was!  The night was so black that little Hans could hardly see, and the wind was so strong that he could scarcely stand.  However, he was very courageous, and after he had been walking about three hours, he arrived at the Doctor’s house, and knocked at the door.

“‘Who is there?’ cried the Doctor, putting his head out of his bedroom window.

“‘Little Hans, Doctor.’

“’What do you want, little Hans?’

“‘The Miller’s son has fallen from a ladder, and has hurt himself, and the Miller wants you to come at once.’

“‘All right!’ said the Doctor; and he ordered his horse, and his big boots, and his lantern, and came downstairs, and rode off in the direction of the Miller’s house, little Hans trudging behind him.

“But the storm grew worse and worse, and the rain fell in torrents, and little Hans could not see where he was going, or keep up with the horse.  At last he lost his way, and wandered off on the moor, which was a very dangerous place, as it was full of deep holes, and there poor little Hans was drowned.  His body was found the next day by some goatherds, floating in a great pool of water, and was brought back by them to the cottage.

“Everybody went to little Hans’ funeral, as he was so popular, and the Miller was the chief mourner.

“‘As I was his best friend,’ said the Miller, ‘it is only fair that I should have the best place’; so he walked at the head of the procession in a long black cloak, and every now and then he wiped his eyes with a big pocket-handkerchief.

“‘Little Hans is certainly a great loss to every one,’ said the Blacksmith, when the funeral was over, and they were all seated comfortably in the inn, drinking spiced wine and eating sweet cakes.

“‘A great loss to me at any rate,’ answered the Miller; ‘why, I had as good as given him my wheelbarrow, and now I really don’t know what to do with it.  It is very much in my way at home, and it is in such bad repair that I could not get anything for it if I sold it.  I will certainly take care not to give away anything again.  One always suffers for being generous.’”

“Well?” said the Water-rat, after a long pause.

“Well, that is the end,” said the Linnet.

“But what became of the Miller?” asked the Water-rat.

“Oh!  I really don’t know,” replied the Linnet; “and I am sure that I don’t care.”

“It is quite evident then that you have no sympathy in your nature,” said the Water-rat.

“I am afraid you don’t quite see the moral of the story,” remarked the Linnet.

“The what?” screamed the Water-rat.

“The moral.”

“Do you mean to say that the story has a moral?”

“Certainly,” said the Linnet.

“Well, really,” said the Water-rat, in a very angry manner, “I think you should have told me that before you began.  If you had done so, I certainly would not have listened to you; in fact, I should have said ‘Pooh,’ like the critic.  However, I can say it now”; so he shouted out “Pooh” at the top of his voice, gave a whisk with his tail, and went back into his hole.

“And how do you like the Water-rat?” asked the Duck, who came paddling up some minutes afterwards.  “He has a great many good points, but for my own part I have a mother’s feelings, and I can never look at a confirmed bachelor without the tears coming into my eyes.”

“I am rather afraid that I have annoyed him,” answered the Linnet.  “The fact is, that I told him a story with a moral.”

“Ah! that is always a very dangerous thing to do,” said the Duck.

And I quite agree with her.

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Come back tomorrow for more Oscar Wilde!

 

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5 Days of Oscar Wilde – 1: The Nightingale and the Rose

Let’s have five days of reading (a handful of) the works of Oscar Wilde.

The Nightingale and the Rose.

Decorative graphic of young man lying on grass

She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses,” cried the young Student; “but in all my garden there is no red rose.”

From her nest in the holm-oak tree the Nightingale heard him, and she looked out through the leaves, and wondered.

“No red rose in all my garden!” he cried, and his beautiful eyes filled with tears.  “Ah, on what little things does happiness depend!  I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the secrets of philosophy are mine, yet for want of a red rose is my life made wretched.”

“Here at last is a true lover,” said the Nightingale.  “Night after night have I sung of him, though I knew him not: night after night have I told his story to the stars, and now I see him.  His hair is dark as the hyacinth-blossom, and his lips are red as the rose of his desire; but passion has made his face like pale ivory, and sorrow has set her seal upon his brow.”

“The Prince gives a ball to-morrow night,” murmured the young Student, “and my love will be of the company.  If I bring her a red rose she will dance with me till dawn.  If I bring her a red rose, I shall hold her in my arms, and she will lean her head upon my shoulder, and her hand will be clasped in mine.  But there is no red rose in my garden, so I shall sit lonely, and she will pass me by.  She will have no heed of me, and my heart will break.”

“Here indeed is the true lover,” said the Nightingale.  “What I sing of, he suffers—what is joy to me, to him is pain.  Surely Love is a wonderful thing.  It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer than fine opals.  Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it, nor is it set forth in the marketplace.  It may not be purchased of the merchants, nor can it be weighed out in the balance for gold.”

“The musicians will sit in their gallery,” said the young Student, “and play upon their stringed instruments, and my love will dance to the sound of the harp and the violin.  She will dance so lightly that her feet will not touch the floor, and the courtiers in their gay dresses will throng round her.  But with me she will not dance, for I have no red rose to give her”; and he flung himself down on the grass, and buried his face in his hands, and wept.

“Why is he weeping?” asked a little Green Lizard, as he ran past him with his tail in the air.

“Why, indeed?” said a Butterfly, who was fluttering about after a sunbeam.

“Why, indeed?” whispered a Daisy to his neighbour, in a soft, low voice.

“He is weeping for a red rose,” said the Nightingale.

“For a red rose?” they cried; “how very ridiculous!” and the little Lizard, who was something of a cynic, laughed outright.

But the Nightingale understood the secret of the Student’s sorrow, and she sat silent in the oak-tree, and thought about the mystery of Love.

Suddenly she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air.  She passed through the grove like a shadow, and like a shadow she sailed across the garden.

In the centre of the grass-plot was standing a beautiful Rose-tree, and when she saw it she flew over to it, and lit upon a spray.

“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; “as white as the foam of the sea, and whiter than the snow upon the mountain.  But go to my brother who grows round the old sun-dial, and perhaps he will give you what you want.”

So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing round the old sun-dial.

“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; “as yellow as the hair of the mermaiden who sits upon an amber throne, and yellower than the daffodil that blooms in the meadow before the mower comes with his scythe.  But go to my brother who grows beneath 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 beneath 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, “as red as the feet of the dove, and redder than the great fans of coral that wave and wave in the ocean-cavern.  But the winter has chilled my veins, and the frost has nipped my buds, and the storm has broken my branches, and I shall have no roses at all this year.”

“One red rose is all I want,” cried the Nightingale, “only one red rose!  Is there no way by which I can get it?”

“There is a way,” answered the Tree; “but it is so terrible that I dare not tell it to you.”

“Tell it to me,” 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 stain it with your own heart’s-blood.  You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn.  All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.”

“Death is a great price to pay for a red rose,” cried the Nightingale, “and Life is very dear to all.  It is pleasant to sit in the green wood, and to watch the Sun in his chariot of gold, and the Moon in her chariot of pearl.  Sweet is the scent of the hawthorn, and sweet are the bluebells that hide in the valley, and the heather that blows on the hill.  Yet Love is better than Life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?”

So she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air.  She swept over the garden like a shadow, and like a shadow she sailed through the grove.

The young Student was still lying on the grass, where she had left him, and the tears were not yet dry in his beautiful eyes.

“Be happy,” cried the Nightingale, “be happy; you shall have your red rose.  I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart’s-blood.  All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though she is wise, and mightier than Power, though he is mighty.  Flame-coloured are his wings, and coloured like flame is his body.  His lips are sweet as honey, and his breath is like frankincense.”

The Student looked up from the grass, and listened, but he could not understand what the Nightingale was saying to him, for he only knew the things that are written down in books.

But the Oak-tree understood, and felt sad, for he was very fond of the little Nightingale who had built her nest in his branches.

“Sing me one last song,” he whispered; “I shall feel very lonely when you are gone.”

So the Nightingale sang to the Oak-tree, and her voice was like water bubbling from a silver jar.

When she had finished her song the Student got up, and pulled a note-book and a lead-pencil out of his pocket.

“She has form,” he said to himself, as he walked away through the grove—“that cannot be denied to her; but has she got feeling?  I am afraid not.  In fact, she is like most artists; she is all style, without any sincerity.  She would not sacrifice herself for others.  She thinks merely of music, and everybody knows that the arts are selfish.  Still, it must be admitted that she has some beautiful notes in her voice.  What a pity it is that they do not mean anything, or do any practical good.”  And he went into his room, and lay down on his little pallet-bed, and began to think of his love; and, after a time, he fell asleep.

And when the Moon shone in the heavens the Nightingale flew to the Rose-tree, and set her breast against the thorn.  All night long she sang with her breast against the thorn, and the cold crystal Moon leaned down and listened.  All night long she sang, and the thorn went deeper and deeper into her breast, and her life-blood ebbed away from her.

She sang first of the birth of love in the heart of a boy and a girl.  And on the top-most spray of the Rose-tree there blossomed a marvellous rose, petal following petal, as song followed song.  Pale was it, at first, as the mist that hangs over the river—pale as the feet of the morning, and silver as the wings of the dawn.  As the shadow of a rose in a mirror of silver, as the shadow of a rose in a water-pool, so was the rose that blossomed on the topmost spray of the Tree.

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 louder and louder grew her song, for she sang of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid.

And a delicate flush of pink came into the leaves of the rose, like the flush in the face of the bridegroom when he kisses the lips of the bride.  But the thorn had not yet reached her heart, so the rose’s heart remained white, for only a Nightingale’s heart’s-blood can crimson the heart of a rose.

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 a fierce pang of pain shot through her.  Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.

And the marvellous rose became crimson, like the rose of the eastern sky.  Crimson was the girdle of petals, and crimson as a ruby was the heart.

But the Nightingale’s voice grew fainter, and her little wings began to beat, and a film came over her eyes.  Fainter and fainter grew her song, and she felt something choking her in her throat.

Then she gave one last burst of music.  The white Moon heard it, and she forgot the dawn, and lingered on in the sky.  The red rose heard it, and it trembled all over with ecstasy, and opened its petals to the cold morning air.  Echo bore it to her purple cavern in the hills, and woke the sleeping shepherds from their dreams.  It floated through the reeds of the river, and they carried its message to the sea.

“Look, look!” cried the Tree, “the rose is finished now”; but the Nightingale made no answer, for she was lying dead in the long grass, with the thorn in her heart.

And at noon the Student opened his window and looked out.

“Why, what a wonderful piece of luck!” he cried; “here is a red rose!  I have never seen any rose like it in all my life.  It is so beautiful that I am sure it has a long Latin name”; and he leaned down and plucked it.

Then he put on his hat, and ran up to the Professor’s house with the rose in his hand.

The daughter of the Professor was sitting in the doorway winding blue silk on a reel, 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 will wear it to-night next 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, besides, the Chamberlain’s nephew has sent me some real jewels, and everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers.”

“Well, upon my word, you are very ungrateful,” said the Student angrily; and he threw the rose into the street, where it fell into the gutter, and a cart-wheel went over it.

“Ungrateful!” said the girl.  “I tell you what, you are very rude; and, after all, who are you?  Only a Student.  Why, I don’t believe you have even got silver buckles to your shoes as the Chamberlain’s nephew has”; and she got up from her chair and went into the house.

“What a silly thing Love is,” said the Student as he walked away.  “It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true.  In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.”

So he returned to his room and pulled out a great dusty book, and began to read.

Author Interview: Lauren Jimerson

Today we have an interview with author Lauren Jimerson!

What were you like at school?

I was the quiet kid in school with a popular big brother. No one knew that I existed.

Which writers inspire you?

JK Rowling. Harper Lee. Octavia Butler. George RR Martin. Christopher Paul Curtis.

Some nice choices there. Martin’s Fevre Dream is my current bath book!

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

I created Siobhan June out of this need to read about a character like me. She’s the protagonist of The Sarea Legends. She’s not your traditional female protagonist in a fantasy novel. She’s an adult with real life problems like family and finances.  Creating someone who is classy, elegant and prudish and then making them unravel is so much fun.

What are you working on at the minute?

Currently, I’m working on The Sarea Legends Book Two and a shorter novel called The Lavish Northrup Hall. It’s about the hunting party of Lord Benton’s heir are being haunted by a mysterious entity in 1920s England.

Oo, sounds like an intriguing one. 1920s England is always an interesting setting.

What genre are your books?

I love speculative fiction, particularly urban fantasy and paranormal. I always write from the perspective of a black woman encountering the supernatural. Another favorite genre of mine is southern gothic literature.

What draws you to this genre?

I was in the 6th grade when I first read Harry Potter and the experience really made fall in love with fantasy. You can create any type of world that you want. That was the initial appeal. But there is a lack diversity in the genre. So I started inserting it in my books.

How much research do you do?

A lot. One can never do enough.

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?

No. But I’m most definitely interested.

Why do you write?

I write because I have all of these stories and ideas in my head. As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a lot of main characters that look like me in mainstream fantasy. I write for the shy and quiet little black girl in school who needs a role model. I write for diverse storytelling.

This is a great answer Lauren. I hope it inspires others to do the same!

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

Short answer: I was getting old. There was a lot that I wanted to do in life but hadn’t. At a certain point I became disappointed in myself. That’s when I sat down and started writing They Came from the River.


Follow Lauren on Instagram and Twitter.

Thanks to Lauren for taking part in this interview.

The Sarea Legends Book One – They Came from the River

Review: The Adversary’s Good News by Israfel Sivad

I’ve just finished the amazingly exciting adventure that is Israfel Sivad’s fantasy horror, The Adversary’s Good News. This considerably fascinating book is about death. And more death. It exceeded my expectations.

This extraordinarily original novel follows Christian Michael Anderson, a suicidal alcoholic and addict, as he goes on the trip of his (after)life. He travels with his guide, Evius (also the possessor of many other names), an extremely cool and laid back guy with enough substances to lead Christian on his way.

This novel is based on their journey, where they discover highly beautiful women (of all colours, including blue), incontinent old men, terrifyingly well-hung demons, torn-out hearts (both literal and poetic), dog food, damaged young girls and giant spiders.

Considering how radically outrageous this book is, the story is totally convincing. What I liked best were the remarkably powerful scenes, full of bright colours, tempting textures and overpowering stench. I’m actually not a fan of over-description, but this book is much steeped in it and it works. There may be the occasional sentence that I wish was totally different or omitted, but the read is a crazy roller-coaster, so it really doesn’t matter.

The Adversary’s Good News is a truly powerful novel by Israfel Sivad and I really enjoyed it from beginning to end. It’s an intelligent and utterly thought-provoking read, but it’s also fun and un-put-down-able.

The Adversary’s Good News is rich and detailed in plot; a feast for all the senses and I really felt involved in so many crazy and vivid situations. The character I like best is Evius, a genuinely shady guy with a possible heart of gold… but probably not.

Christian is very well presented to the reader, making him an easy protagonist to identify with. The story has a dramatic and tragic ending (an ending which begins about a fifth of the way in to the book) and there are twists and turns at every door, tunnel, corridor and bridge.

The Adversary’s Good News is a highly entertaining must-read and I really want to talk to other fans of the book. You need to go out and get a copy. I highly recommend it and place it in the top three books of 2017. It will change the way you see dog food.

The Adversary's Good News by Israfel Sivad

The Adversary’s Good News by Israfel Sivad

Review: Dead Men Naked by Dario Cannizzaro

Dead Men Naked by Dario Cannizzaro

Dead Men Naked by Dario Cannizzaro

Dead Men Naked is a brilliant piece of fantasy fiction with surrealist elements. The story revolves around Louis, an everyday guy who has just lost his near and dear friend, Neil. This leads him on to an adventure with a pair of twins and death himself.

Despite reflecting on death and loss, Dead Men Naked is a gentle reminder that there is positivity in these themes. What happens after we die? What happens when our loved ones die? Does it matter if what I believe is different to what you believe?

For the most part, Dead Men Naked is a really fun and easy read. At no point did reading this story feel like a chore. Having said that, this is still a book of substance and it has a beautiful and original writing style. I would recommend this book to fans of Terry Pratchett or David Lynch. I say or as I haven’t met many people who love both (although I certainly do). In fact, you may be wondering how a book can remind me of both: it has the wit and warmth of Pratchett and the surreal imagery of Lynch.

The Monday Poem: Life-Saving Medal by Philippe Soupault

Life-Saving Medal (Médaille de sauvetage)

My nose is long like a knife

And my eyes are red from laughing

At night I collect the milk and the moon

And run without looking round

If the trees are afraid behind me

I don’t care

How beautiful indifference is at midnight

Where are they going these folk

Pride of the cities

Village musicians

The crowd wildly dance

And I’m only this anonymous passer-by,

Or someone else whose name I’ve forgot

6008019


Philippe Soupault was a writer and poet, and one of the founders of Surrealism.

On this day (1911), French poet Guillaume Apollinaire is arrested and jailed on suspicion of stealing Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris… The 31-year-old poet was known for his radical views and support for extreme avant-garde art movements, but his origins were shrouded in mystery. Today, it is believed he was born in Rome and raised in Italy. He appeared in Paris at age 20 and quickly mixed into the city’s bohemian set. History.com

Let’s take a look at this poem from Guillaume Apollinaire. By the way, Apollinaire was not guilty of the crime and was released after five days when no evidence could be produced. I hope you enjoy the poem!

Twilight

Brushed by the shadows of the dead

On the grass where day expires

Columbine strips bare admires

her body in the pond instead

A charlatan of twilight formed

Boasts of the tricks to be performed

The sky without a stain unmarred

Is studded with the milk-white stars

From the boards pale Harlequin

First salutes the spectators

Sorcerers from Bohemia

Fairies sundry enchanters

Having unhooked a star

He proffers it with outstretched hand

While with his feet a hanging man

Sounds the cymbals bar by bar

The blind man rocks a pretty child

The doe with all her fauns slips by

The dwarf observes with saddened pose

How Harlequin magically grows


Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2002 All Rights Reserved

A Poem From Guillaume Apollinaire

Interview with Mike Russell

Panda's Book Life

AuthorMike.jpg

Hello, book pandas 🐼

Today I’m here with something completely different and new – INTERVIEW!

This is something big for me, because although it’s taken personally and you have no chance to get to know the person while talking, he still gave you some of his time.

After reading Nothing is strange, I don’t know why, but I decided to try and ask the author for interview. Mike gladly agreed to this. So here it is…

1. The passion for writing comes with the passion for reading. When and how you found the magic of the books? 

As a child I loved reading. I loved Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl. I then moved on to HG Wells, then Philip K Dick and Angela Carter, then Franz Kafka and Bruno Schultz. These are all writers who explore the mysteries of life and who enjoy the strange.

Mike Russell Author

‘Magic’ is a good word. If…

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