424 THE LOVELIEST ROSE IN THE WORLD
And young and old came from every side with roses, the loveliest that bloomed in each garden ; but they were not the right sort. The flower was to be brought out of the garden of Love ; but what rose was it there that expressed the highest and purest love ?
And the poets sang of the loveliest rose in the world, and each one named his own ; and intelligence was sent far round the land to every heart that beat with love, to every class and condition, and to every age.
1 No one has till now named the flower,' said the wise man. * No one has pointed out the place where it bloomed in its splendour. They are not the roses from the coffin of Romeo and Juliet, or from the Walborg's grave, though these roses will be ever fragrant in song and story. They are not the roses that sprout forth from Winkelried's bloodstained lances, from the blood that flows in a sacred cause from the breast of the hero who dies for his country; though no death is sweeter than this, and no rose redder than the blood that flows then. Nor is it that wondrous flower, to cherish which man devotes, in a quiet chamber, many a sleepless night, and much of his fresh life—the magic flower of science.'
' I know where it blooms,' said a happy mother, who came with her tender child to the bed-side of the Queen. ' I know where the loveliest rose of the world is found ! The rose that is the expression of the highest and purest love springs from the blooming cheeks of my sweet child when, strengthened by sleep, it opens its eyes and smiles at me with all its affection !'
1 Lovely is this rose ; but there is still a lovelier,' said the wise man.
' Yes, a far lovelier one,' said one of the women. ' I have seen it, and a loftier, purer rose does not bloom, but it was pale like the petals of the tea-rose. I saw it on the cheeks of the Queen. She had taken off her royal crown, and in the long dreary night she was carrying her sick child in her arms : she wept, kissed it, and prayed for her child as a mother prays in the hour of her anguish.'
' Holy and wonderful in its might is the white rose of grief ; but it is not the one we seek.'
1 No, the loveliest rose of the world I saw at the altar