Sunday, 25 April 2010

Falling in love: The Νightingale’s tale

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,
Sings all night, wild roses cover…”
according to Poushkin in Eugene Onegin…

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…”

Internet sources :

Posted by Poly Hatjimanolaki

Friday, 16 April 2010

Hami and his falcon: facing the “other” Kabul

In the loving memory of Hami Najafi

“Walk with me”, said the bird. Hami could not distinguish at a glance whether it was a North Gyrfalcon accompanying him or just an Asiatic Saker, like those that his father used to show him in the encyclopedia.

The bird flew low, along with him and kept talking to him. His voice sounded like a thirty – years - old man’s, chirping, in warm waves. The boy’s ears were full of monotonous mournings, recitations of Suras from the Koran and women’s weeping. Hence, he found relief in the indifferent, though reassuring , air of his companion.

They were surrounded by trees. Planetrees, mulberries, willows, poplars and ash trees…A strange forest into the snow, that under his feet looked black and steaming…Trees of his country gathered together in a giant orchard where they had been walking for a week in order to cross it. The bird perched on his shoulder. Hami took a deep breath. What he really wanted now was to be seen by his sister…

The snow below was black. Puddles and mud were reflecting sunlight, sending back the image of the boy, dressed in traditional costume, wearing a green turban with a golden cameo on his head. The voices tried to draw his attention:

“Hami stop day dreaming! You have to do your homework!”

“Hami, can I borrow your bike?”

“Mom, can I sleep over at Khaled’s?”

“Look what I brought you today! A geography atlas!”

“Mom, I’m scared in the dark. Why is this boat rocking like that?”

“Again we did not make it to reach the city centre in order to get the political refugee papers”

“Mr. Najafi is one of the best teachers. He also teaches young girls”

“Good for you Hami! You are not any longer ashamed to look into the garbage!”

“Oh! I my son is gone!”

“We are going to see it soon”, said the bird.
“What do you want me to call you?” Hami asked. His courage seemed strange to him.
“Morya”, answered the bird shaking its wings but it did not leave the boy’s shoulder.

The trees were now thinning out. In front of him, he could see, far in the horizon, the mountain and at the top, the Celestial City. From that distance the minarets and the walls of the city could be discerned clearly. A thousand reflections from the windows made the city look brighter and fairylike . A splendid city.

“Are we going there?”, he asked, although he was certain that he would not get an answer.

“It is Kabul, the celestial City. She gets her name from the Farsi Ab (water) and gul (flower). The Ptolemy’s Kabura was the Celestial City of Indian hymns, a City of outstanding beauty, where all dreams come true…

Hami, rubbed his eyes and looked around him puzzled. The light of the sun blurred his vision, now that they had crossed the orchard.
The buzz from the voices in his ears was getting quitter.

He started to forget. First he forgot Athens, the neighborhood, their small apartment. He even forgot his sister’s doll. He forgot his parents and his brothers and his sisters. Their remembrance all that time had brought him a painful sensation, a lump in the throat that would not let him find peace.

Then, he forgot what was the most precious. His neighborhood in Kabul. The school, his teacher, the dentist that he had visited to have his teeth checked, the waste ground where children played football.

After that, the Kabul of his childhood was completely erased from his memory. The pandemonium in the streets, the hooting of the cars, women wearing burkas, walking in the streets.
The war, bombs, exile…When they had sold their belongings in order to leave…

To get away from all that...

It was just this mountain. The Celestial City was waiting for him, a City whose beauty made her all the more desirable. It was his destination. He was going to reach it. This time the City would not let him down. He would not be in exile any longer exile….

Morya, the falcon with the human voice, was reciting a Sura from the Koran:

“My beloved.
You have been given Al – Khautar, the river of Paradise to walk along. Its banks are gold and its bed is of pearls. And milk flows in it, sweeter than the sweetest milk…”

But Hami was not yet delivered from all human passions. It was his mother’s tender voice he was listening to. And he was not able to forget that…

P. S.

On Sunday 28 March a bomb exploded in a rubbish bin in a neighborhood of Athens:
It had been placed by a relatively newly formed terrorist organization.
Hami Najafi, a 15 year old Afghani immigrant boy had been rummaging in it and has been killed. His 11 year old sister is seriously injured and there are fears that she will lose her eyesight. The  terrorist organization has been now dismantled by the police and its members are brought to justice.

Images from the internet: