Beneath the tree of knowledge in the garden of paradise stood a rosebush. And here, in the first rose, a bird was born. His plumage was beautiful, his song glorious, and his flight was like the flashing of light. But when Eve plucked the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and she and Adam were driven from paradise, a spark fell from the flaming sword of the angel into the nest of the bird and set it afire. The bird perished in the flames, but from the red egg in the nest there flew a new bird, the only one of its kind, the one solitary phoenix bird. The legend tells us how he lives in Arabia and how every century he burns himself to death in his nest, but each time a new phoenix, the only one in the world, flies out from the red egg.
The bird darts about as swift as light, beautiful in color, glorious in song. When a mother sits beside her infant's cradle, he settles on the pillow and forms a glory with his wings about the head of the child. He flies through the room of contentment and brings sunshine into it, and he makes the violets on the humble cupboard smell sweet.
There once was a man who held an office that required good penmanship. While he filled the office ably otherwise, he was incapable of good penmanship. So he advertised in the newspaper for someone with a fine handwriting; and so many applied that the applications could have filled a whole bucket. But one was all he needed. And so he chose the first he came to, one with a script as beautiful as that of the finest writing machine. The man in office was an excellent writer. And when his writings appeared in the handsome lettering, everyone said, "That is beautifully written."
"That's my work," said the fellow, whose mind wasn't worth a penny.
In a poet's study, somebody made a remark as he looked at the inkstand that was standing on the table: "It's strange what can come out of that inkstand! I wonder what the next thing will be. Yes, it's strange!"
"That it is!" said the Inkstand. "It's unbelievable, that's what I have always said." The Inkstand was speaking to the Pen and to everything else on the table that could hear it. "It's really amazing what comes out of me! Almost incredible! I actually don't know myself what will come next when that person starts to dip into me. One drop from me is enough for half a piece of paper, and what may not be on it then? I am something quite remarkable. All the works of this poet come from me. These living characters, whom people think they recognize, these deep emotions, that gay humor, the charming descriptions of nature - I don't understand those myself, because I don't know anything about nature - all of that is in me. From me have come out, and still come out, that host of lovely maidens and brave knights on snorting steeds. The fact is, I assure you, I don't know anything about them myself."
It is unbelievable all that children know nowadays; one can scarcely say what they don't know. They no longer believe the old story that the stork brought them to father and mother out of the well or the millpond when they were little, and yet it is really true.
But how did the little ones get down into the millpond or the well? Ah, not everyone knows that, but there are some who do. Have you ever gazed at the sky on a clear, starry night and watched the many shooting stars? It is as if the stars fall from and disappear into nowhere. Even the most learned persons can't explain what they don't know themselves; but one can explain this when he knows it. It is like a little Christmas-tree candle that falls from heaven and is blown out. It is a soul spark from our Lord that flies toward the earth, and when it reaches our thick, heavy air, it loses its brilliancy, becoming something that our eyes cannot see, something much finer than air itself; it is a little child from heaven, a little angel, but without wings, for it is to become a human child.
The most solemn of all the days of our life is the day we die. It is judgment day, the great sacred day of transfiguration. Have you really seriously given a fleeting thought to that grave and mighty last hour we shall spend on earth?
There was once a man, a stanch upholder of truth, as he was called, to whom the word of his God was law, a zealous servant of his zealous God. With a stern but heavenly look, the Angel of Death stood at his bedside.
"The hour has come; you shall follow me!" said Death, and touched the man's feet with ice-cold fingers, and his feet became like ice. Then Death touched his forehead, and lastly his heart, and when it burst, the soul was free to follow the Angel of Death.
"In this world things go up and down and down and up!" said Ole, the tower keeper. "Now I can't get any higher! Up and down and down and up; that's the fate of most of us; in fact, we all become tower keepers at last; we look at life and things from above."
Thus spoke my friend Ole, in his tower - a chatty, jolly fellow who seemed to say whatever came into his head yet had so many serious thoughts concealed deep in his heart. He came from a good family; there were some who said that he was a conference councilor's son, or might have been. He had a good education, had been the assistant to a schoolmaster, the deputy of a parish clerk, but what help could that have been! When he lived with the parish clerk it was agreed that he should have free use of everything in the house. He was then young and a bit of a dandy as we call it, and he wanted shoe polish to brush and shine his boots with; but the parish clerk would only allow him grease, and so they had a quarrel. One spoke of stinginess, the other of vanity; the shoe polish became the black cause of their strife, and so they separated.
There's no one on earth who knows so many stories as Ole Lukoie-he certainly can tell them!
When night comes on and children still sit in good order around the table, or on their little stools, Ole Lukoie arrives. He comes upstairs quietly, for he walks in his socks. Softly he opens the door, and flick! he sprinkles sweet milk in the children's eyes-just a tiny bit, but always enough to keep their eyes closed so they won't see him. He tiptoes behind them and breathes softly on their necks, and this makes their heads hang heavy. Oh yes! But it doesn't hurt them, for Ole Lukoie loves children and only wants them to be quiet, and that they are only when they have been put to bed. He wants them to be quiet so that he can tell them stories.
In a small provincial town lived a man who owned his own house. There one evening he and his whole family were gathered together. It was the time of year when people say, "The evenings are growing longer," and it was still pleasant and warm; the lamp was lit, long curtains hung down before the windows-by which stood several flowerpots-and bright moonlight flooded the world outside.
But they were not talking about the moonlight; they were discussing a huge old stone that lay out in the yard, near the kitchen door, where the servants often placed their copper utensils, when they had been washed, to dry in the sun, and where the children usually played. As a matter of fact, it was an old tombstone.
Have you ever heard the story of the old Street Lamp? It's really not very amusing, but you might listen to it for once.
It was such an honest lamp, which had done its duty for many, many years and which was now going to be discarded. It was the last evening it hung on its post and gave light to the street beneath it. The Lamp felt like an old ballet dancer who is performing for the last time and who knows that tomorrow she will be in a cold garret. The Lamp dreaded the morrow, for then it was to appear in the town hall and be inspected by the thirty-six council members, to see whether or not it was fit for further service.
It would be decided whether in the future the Lamp was to give light for the inhabitants of some suburb, or perhaps for some manufacturing plant in the country. But it might go at once to be melted down in an iron foundry! In that case it might become anything, but the Lamp was terribly troubled wondering whether, in some new state, it would remember it had once been a Street Lamp. In any case, the Lamp would be separated from the watchman and his wife, whom it had come to consider part of its family. It became a Lamp at the same time that he became a watchman.
In the woods, on a high bank near the open seashore, there stood such a very old oak tree. It was exactly three hundred and sixty-five years old, but this long span of years seemed to the tree scarcely longer than as many days do to people like us. A tree's life is not the same as a man's. We are awake during the day, and sleep at night, and we have our dreams.
It is different with a tree; it is awake throughout three seasons, and not until winter comes does it go to sleep. Winter is its time for sleeping; that is its night after the long day which we call spring, summer, and autumn.