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A Rose from Homer's Grave
Through all the songs of the east, the eternal
theme is the nightingale's love for the rose. In the silent, starlit
nights, the winged songster sings his serenade to his beautiful
Under stately plantain trees, not far from
Smyrna, where the merchant drives his heavily loaded camels, proudly
raising their long necks and clumsily walking over the hallowed
ground, I saw a hedge of blooming roses. Wild doves fluttered among
the branches of the tall trees, and when the sunbeams floated on
their wings they shone like mother-of-pearl. In that rose hedge one
flower was more beautiful than all the rest, and to this the
nightingale poured out its song of grief. But the rose was silent;
no dewdrop lay like a tear of pity on her petals, and with the
branch on which she grew, she bent down toward a heap of large
"Here lies the sweetest singer the world has
ever heard," said the rose proudly. "I will scent his grave, and
when the storms tear off my petals, they shall fall on him. For the
singer of the Iliad returned to this good earth whence I sprang! I,
a rose from Homer's grave, am too sacred a bloom for a poor mere
And the nightingale sang himself to death.
Then came the bearded camel driver with his
laden camels and his black slaves. His little boy found the dead
bird, and in pity buried it in the grave of the great Homer while
the rose trembled slightly in the wind.
The evening came, and the rose folded her
petals tightly and dreamed. It dreamed that it was a beautiful sunny
day and that a caravan of foreign Frankish men had come on a
pilgrimage to the grave of Homer. And among the strangers was a
singer from the north, from the land of drifting mists and crackling
northern lights. He broke off the rose, and pressed it between the
leaves of a book, and so carried it off with him to his own country,
in that far part of the world. Tightly pressed in the narrow book,
the rose withered away in grief until, in his own home, a poet
opened the book and said, "Here is a rose from Homer's grave!"
This the flower dreamed, and in the morning
the rose woke up shivering in the wind; a dewdrop fell gently from
her petals upon the grave of the poet. Then the sun rose, and the
day was hot, and the rose bloomed in greater beauty than ever; it
was still in her warm Asia.
Then the rose heard footsteps. The strange
Franks she had seen in her dream came by, and among them was the
poet of the north.
He did indeed break off the rose and press a
kiss upon her fresh mouth, and carry her off with him to his distant
home of mists and northern lights. The rose rests now like a mummy
between the leaves of his Iliad, and as in her dream she hears him
say as he opens the book, "Here is a rose from Homer's grave!"