Once upon a time, a Nightingale, Oscar Wilde wrote, overheard a student that had fallen in love with a young girl. He was seeking a red rose for his beloved, in order to win her affections. That was very difficult, because it was winter and there were very few roses and even those were not red. The Nightingale trieδ very hard to find a red rose. Ιt managed for this purpose to bring to resurrection a dead rose bush. It did so by singing all night long, in order to give life to the half-dead plant, .while a thorn pierced its heart deeply. At the end, a pale rose blossomed, which turned red with the help of the Nightingale’s blood.
The red rose is born due to this mysterious transfusion and the union of the plant with the bird. Oscar Wilde makes us believe that it was the devotion of the Nightingale to the student that gave the strength to the bird to endure the martyrdom of death and to construct with its song an entire rose. This is the miracle that is accomplished with the beauty and the esthetic pleasure derived from music; the way one makes poems from metaphors and names from roses.
Actually, the story is told from the humans’ point of view, who think that birds and flowers and the Nature in its entirety have been created so that they can contemplate at will or show no interest eventually, at will.
What else would be the meaning of “The Nightingale and the Rose” since at the end of the story the girl rejects the student’s love and so he throws away the rose made of blood, which is eventually crushed under the wheels of a passing chariot? At the end of the story, we read with disgust, that the student, disappointed, abandons love and turns to the study of metaphysics and philosophy.
We mourn the poor Nightingale, an extra to a ridiculous love, since the student was ridiculous as well as his beloved, and we all think deep inside, even unadmittedly, reading Oscar Wilde’s the pompous phrases on love, that the Nightingale sacrificed itself for nothing, that it died in vain. It died for the ideal of Love in general. Even the unfulfilled, even the ridiculous.
Nevertheless, things are different if seen from the birds’ aspect. Love is not unfulfilled there, and the Nightingale plays a leading role.
The Nightingale did not care so much for the student, as we initially thought when we read the story. It was secretly in love with the Rose – this is why it became interested in this case when it heard that someone was looking for roses. Its death was the way that bird and plant have invented so that they should be united in love.
The Nightingale is a lover
“…Where the nightingale, spring’s lover,according to Poushkin in Eugene Onegin…
Sings all night, wild roses cover…”
Poets do recognise that strange love of the Nightingale for the Rose. It was this love that Oscar Wilde tried to cover and to present as a self – sacrifice, due to the love of the Nightingale for the student and the love of the student for the girl.
Whoever heard its song, which is so different from that of the other birds, understands how with one tone, a repeated took – took – took (that’s how Boris Pasternak has transcribed it) it can make every form of vegetation chill from happiness as it succumbs to a languor, as if covered by a magic, paralysing net, in deep recollection. In there, the breath of the leaves, the rustling and the sound of small twigs that break, articulate movements, gestures and feelings that stir the vegetal memory as they are fumbled about by the song that penetrates these depths.
When, during this magic ritual of the sound, the Nightingale turns its song to the other tone, the one composed of two syllables, calling Nature to wake up, those who know say that this is a supplication, a call for everything to wake up. Then, the vegetation responds and returns the images. Its language is awakened and its memory blossoms.
That’s how the rose of the story was born: It is the fruit of love of the Nightingale and the Rose. Every Nightingale dreams of a love such as this with its Rose. A love that is fulfilled by that painful piercing in the heart.
It is not only Poushkin:
“Mati picked a white rose and decorated her virginal chest”, writes Alexandros Papadiamantis, a Greek novelist of the 19th century. “The Nightingale, the sweet voiced singer, noticing this beautiful flower planted on such a “pot”, would fall doubly in love with that charming rose…”
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Posted by Poly Hatjimanolaki