The World’s Most Beautiful Rose

“There once was a mighty queen in whose garden grew the most beautiful flowers. Every season there were some in bloom, and they had been collected in all the countries of the world. But roses she loved above all flowers, and in her garden there were many kinds, from the wild hedge rose with green leaves that smell like apples to the loveliest rose of Provence. Roses grew up the walls of the castle, twined themselves around the marble columns, and even entered the halls and corridors of the castle, where their ramblers crept across the ceilings and filled the rooms with the fragrance of their flowers.

But inside the castle sorrow lived, for the queen was dying. The wisest of all the doctors who were attending her said, ‘There is only one remedy that can save her. Bring her the world’s most beautiful rose, the one that symbolizes the highest and purest love, and when her eyes see that flower, then she will not die.’

The young and the old brought their roses–the most beautiful ones that grew in their gardens–but it was not such a flower that could cure the queen. From love’s garden the rose must be brought, but which flower would be the symbol of the highest and purest love? The poets sang of the world’s most beautiful rose, and each mentioned a different one. Word was sent to all, regardless of rank and class, whose hearts did best for love.

‘No one has as yet mentioned the right flower,’ said the wise man. ‘No one has pointed to that place where it grows, in all its glory and beauty. It is not the rose from Romeo’s and Juliet’s tomb or Valborg’s grave, though those roses will always bloom and shed their fragrance in stories and poetry. Nor is it the rose that blooms on Winkelried’s blood-covered lance. From the hero’s blood, shed in defense of his native land, the reddest rose springs; and it is said that such a death is sweet, but it is not the most beautiful rose in the world. The magical wonderful rose, which can only be grown under constant care, through days and years of sleepless nights: the rose of science, it is not either.’

‘I know where it blooms,’ exclaimed a happy mother who, carrying her babe, had entered the queen’s bedchamber. ‘I know where the world’s most beautiful rose is to be found, the rose of highest and purest love. It blooms on the cheeks of my child, when he wakes from his sleep and laughs up at me, with all his love.’

‘Yes, in truth, that rose is lovely, but there are those even more beautiful,’ said the wise man.

‘Yes, far more beautiful,’ said one of the ladies in waiting. ‘I have seen it, and a more exalted, sacred rose than that does not exist. It is as pale as the petals of a tea rose and I have seen it on our queen’s cheeks when, without her golden crown, she walked, carrying her sick child in her arms, back and forth across the room one whole long night. She kissed her babe and prayed to God as only a mother prays in her agony.’

‘Yes, wonderful and holy is the white rose of sorrow, but that is not the one.’

‘No, the world’s most beautiful rose I saw before the altar of Our Lord,’ a pious old priest said. ‘I saw it shine on an angel’s face. Among a group of young girls who had come to take communion, there was one who looked with such simple and innocent love up toward her God that on her face bloomed the rose of highest and purest love.’

‘Blessed is that rose too,’ said the wise man. ‘But none of you has yet mentioned the world’s most beautiful rose.’

At that moment into the room stepped a little boy, the queen’s son. His eyes were filled with tears and he was carrying a big book with silver clasps and bound in vellum. The book was open.

‘Mother!’ Said the little one. ‘Listen to what I have read.’ And the child sat down by his mother’s bedside and read about Him who suffered death on the Cross in order to save humanity. ‘Greater love there cannot be.’

The queen’s pale cheeks took on a pinkish shade, and her eyes became big and clear, as from the pages of the book grew the world’s most beautiful rose, the one that grew from Christ’s blood on the cross.

‘I see it,’ she said. ‘And those who have seen that rose, the most beautiful rose in the world, shall never die.'” -Hans Christian Andersen

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