The Solitary Flower

A Cloudy Day. Bluebonnets near San Antonio, Texas, 1918


The Solitary Flower

It sometimes happens that seed of flowers falls where none would look for it, and that flowers grow where no eye ever sees them; but on the sky these words are written: "No flower is blooming in vain." So it happened that a flower opened its blue eye, close to the roadside, among sand, and stones, and thorny shrubs, just when the sun was rising.
"Good morning, Flowret," the Sun said, " what are you doing there?"
"I only am blooming and spreading my odour."
"Not worth the trouble; nobody can see you here, and nobody smells your perfume: nay, nobody gathers you even. Now, you should see the flowers yonder, in the gardens of the Sultan. I just see them awake from their sleep: they are leading a magnificent life, quite different to what you will do. The gardener's hand nurses them carefully; they are reflecting their laughing beauty in the water of clear fountains,—the brightest eyes look down upon them,—the softest hands gather them at last,—and after a beautiful life they die a beautiful death in vases of gold or precious stones, or, what is more beautiful still, in the girdle of some young sultana."
"It must be very fine indeed," said the Flower by the roadside. "I am glad they are so happy; and how could it be otherwise 1—on the sky there is written: 'No flower is blooming in vain.'"
The Sun laughed at this simple sagacity, and passed on.
A horseman rode past, the first to-day, and the Flower welcomed him with its perfume. His face brightened, he waved his hand, and said:
"Blue eye of her I love, I greet you,"—spurred his horse, passed, and gathered it not; and the muezzin called the hour from the minaret of the neighbouring town.
A foot-passenger came, and saw the Flower.
"How sweetly you smell; how delicate is the colour of your chalice !" he said, bending over it. "You tremble at my touch. Oh, do not fear me, I shall not cruelly injure you. What should become of you on my solitary dusty path, in my burning and weary hand.  Bloom on, sweet Flower by the roadside, you did not open for me."
And on he went, and broke it not; and the muezzin called the hour from the minaret.
Two wanderers came. One of them carried a tin box, filled with dead flowers—a whole cemetery, indeed, he was running about with; the second, however, carried only his merry young heart through the world.
The blue Flower saw the cemetery from afar, shuddered, and turned away.
"Oh, such a grave I should not like to have," the Flower whispered.
The grave-digger now called the Flower by a barbarous name, that sounded like dry leaves with which the wind is playing,—the Flower had never heard it.
"Oh, that is not my name: go on, I am not called so," it said, trembling. "What a dear, blue-eyed thing! how did it come here, at the roadside?" said the second -wanderer, who only now remarked it.
"I will put it into my botanical collection; go out of my way, friend."
"Beware !" thundered the other. "Have not you robbed Asia of all its flowers already, and yet you cannot spare this poor solitary flower? Have not you whole pyramids of flower-mummies at home, and yet you cannot let this dear little thing enjoy its short life? Get you gone, I say; this eastern beauty 1 take under my protection; this lady is too fair for your tin flower-coffin."
Then both went away laughing, but gathered it not, and the muezzin called the hour from the minaret.
"Ah, a blue stone, blue like a sapphire, upon my honour," said a short-sighted collector of stones, who was fetching stones from all parts of the world; and he rushed upon it so hastily that he had nearly destroyed it, for his learned spectacles fell from his nose in his hurry, and he only now saw this lonely child of nature.
"Pooh! nothing but a wretched flower," he said, and felt too much contempt to look at it any more. He put on his spectacles again, continued his way, but gathered it not, and the muezzin called the hour from the minaret. ,
Higher and higher rose the Sun, prouder and
prouder it laughed at the poor solitary Flower at the roadside.
Many busy merchants came this way: they were talking loudly and vehemently, but not one of them took any notice of the solitary Flower, or remarked its perfume. The camel, the horse, the mule passed the spot, but not one of them did so much as bend down the head to it.
"Yes, if it had been a thistle I should have eaten it," said the Camel, "but so, it is not worth the trouble of stooping down to it."
"Thanks to Heaven that I am a flower," said the modest perfume-giver; "often already the muezzin has been calling the hour from the minaret, but on the sky there is written: 'No flower is blooming in vain.'"
Slowly the Evening rose from the valleys, saw the burning eyes of Afternoon scorching the ground, and drove it away from the land, chasing it beyond the summits of the mountains, and beyond the blue sea, then shook its own locks till the bright dewdrops fell from them. And now, placing itself before its own famous easel, Evening, the great painter, began to paint the sky with rosy red and gold, with light green, violet, and purple. To the Flower it said, looking down from its work:
"Well, Blue-eye, are you awake still.  Now I paint the sky much more beautiful still for your sake. Look here."

But because he did it so surpassingly lovely, the Sun grew red with anger, and went down. Evening laughed at it, till, dying of the excitement, it sank into the arms of Night. The Flower beheld it all, continued blooming and spreading its perfume, smiling into the face of Night. The mild lip of Night kissed the flower gratefully, and said:
"What have you been doing here at the roadside the whole of the day, my solitary Flower 1"
"Blooming and spreading my perfume."
"And what are you waiting for here in the hour of night?"
"For the end of my bloom and my perfume."
Night now opened its wide mantle, and pressed the Flower to the heart. Under this wide mantle the Flower now saw sparkling star by star.
"Who are those?" it asked the Night; it had lived but a single day, and did not know the stars.
"Those are the flowers of the sky, that open when the flowers of earth close."
Brightly shone the flowers of heaven, silvery blue, like the tear of night in the eye of the solitary Flower.
And the Stars above said,—
"There is a Star fallen upon the earth; see how it sparkles far below on the yellow road."
"Come," said the Night to the Flower, "the end of your bloom and your perfume is come. Here below your eye closes, there above it opens again. The hour of morning will find you faded here below, but every night wakes your eye with a kiss there above. Of solitary, forlorn flowers heaven makes its stars; of their lost bloom and perfume heaven weaves their rays."
The Flower smiled once more, and said,—
"I knew it. On the sky there is written—' No flower is blooming in vain.'"
Then it bent its little head, and died; but in the same moment a new star flashed from the dark-blue sky. Night has said it—
"As often as a flower of earth closes, a flower of heaven opens."