The Last Dream of an Oak Tree

The Last Dream of an Oak Tree

In the forest high up on the steep shore and not far from the open sea coast stood

a very old oak tree; it was just 365 years old, but that long time was to the tree as

the same number of days might be to us; we wake by day in sleep by night

and then we have our dreams; it is different with the tree; it is obliged to keep awake

through three seasons of the year and does not get any sleep until winter comes.

Winter is its time for rest; it’s the night after the long day of spring, summer, 

and autumn during many a warm summer, the ephemera, which are flies that exist for 

only a day had fluttered about the oak, enjoyed life, and felt happy, and if for a 

moment, one of the little creatures rested on the large fleshy leaves, the tree would 

always say

“poor little creature, your whole life consists of but a single day; how very short
it must be quite melancholy”,

“Melancholy! What do you mean?” the creature would always reply, “Why do you say that? everything around me is so wonderfully bright and warm and
beautiful that it makes me joyous,”

“but only for one day, and then it is all over.”

“over?!” repeated the fly; what is the meaning of all over,
 are you all over too?”

“no, I shall very likely live for thousands of your days, and my day is whole seasons long indeed; it is so long that you could never reckon it up.”

“No then, I don’t understand you; you may have thousands of my days, but I have thousands of moments in which I can be merry and happy.”

“does all the beauty of the world cease when you die? No, replied the tree; it will certainly last much longer, infinitely longer than I can think of.”

“Well then,” said the little fly, “we have the same time to live, only we reckon it differently.”

and the little creature danced and floated in the air rejoicing in its delicate wings

of gauze and velvet rejoicing in the balmy breezes laden with the fragrance from

the clover fields and wild roses, elder blossoms and honeysuckle, and from the garden

hedges of wild thyme primroses and mint, the perfume of all these was so strong

that it almost intoxicated the little fly the long and beautiful day had been so full of joy

and sweet delights that when the sun sank, the fly felt tired of all its happiness

and enjoyment, its wings could sustain it no longer, and gently and slowly, it glided

down to the soft waving blades of grass nodded this little head as well as it could

and slept peacefully and sweetly; the fly was dead.

“poor little ephemera,” said the oak. What a short life!!?”

And so, on every summer day, the dance was repeated the same questions were asked

and the same answers were given, and there was the same peaceful falling asleep at

sunset, this continued through many generations of ephemera, and all of them felt

merry and happy.

The oak remained awake through the morning of spring and the noon of summer

and the evening of autumn is a time of rest; the night grew near, and its winter coming

here fell a leaf, and there fell a leaf; already, the storms were singing

“good night, good night, we will rock and lull you, go to sleep, go to sleep, we will sing you to sleep and shake you to sleep, and it will do your old twigs good they will even crackle with pleasure, sleep sweetly, sleep sweetly, it is your 365th night, you are still very young in the world, sleep sweetly the clouds will drop snow on you which will be your cover lid warm and sheltering to your feet, sweet sleep to you and pleasant dreams.”

and there stood the oak stripped of all its leaves left to rest during the fall of a long

winter and to dream many dreams of events that had happened just as men dream,

the great tree had once been small, indeed, in its cradle; it had been an acorn, 

according to human reckoning, it was now in the fourth century of its existence, 

and it was the largest and the best tree in the forest; its summit towered above all the 

other trees and could be seen far out to the sea so that it served as a landmark 

to the sailors, it had no idea how many eyes looked eagerly for it; in its topmost 

branches, the wood pigeon built her nest, and the cuckoo said it’s a well-known 

song, the familiar notes equine among the bowels, and in autumn, when the leaves 

look like beaten copper plates, the birds of passage came and rested on the branches 

before beginning their flight across the sea.

But now that it was winter, the tree stood leafless so that everyone could see

how crooked and bent were the branches that sprang forth from the truck, crows

and rooks came by turns and sat on them and talked of the hard times that were

beginning and how difficult it was in winter to obtain a living.

It was just at the holy Christmas time that the tree dreamt a dream the tree had 

doubtless of feeling that the festive time had arrived, and in its dream fencing, it heard 

the bells of the churches ringing, and yet it seemed to be a beautiful summer’s day, 

mild and warm, the tree’s  mighty summit was crowned with spreading fresh green 

foliage, the sunbeams played among its leaves and branches, and the air was full of 

fragrance from the herb and blossom-painted butterflies chased each other;

the summer flies danced around it as if the world had been created merely that

 they might dance and be merry.

All that had happened to the tree during all of the years in its life seemed to pass

before it, as if in a festive pageant, it saw the knights of olden times and noble ladies

ride through the wood on their gallant steeds with plumes waving in their hats with

falcons on their wrists while the hunting horn sounded and the dogs barked; it saw

hostile warriors in colored dresses and glittering armor with spears and halberds,

pitching  their tents and again taking them down, the watch fires blazed, and men sang

and slept  under the hospitable shelter of the tree; it saw lovers meeting quietly

happiness near it in the moonshine and carved the initials of their names in

the grayish-green bark of its trunk, it saw lower meat and quiet happiness near it

in the moonshine, once but long  years had passed since then guitars, and aeolian

harps had been hung on its bowels  by merry travelers; no, they seemed to hang there

again, and their marvelous notes  sounded again; the wood pigeon cooed as if to

express the feelings of the tree, and  the cuckoo calls out to tell it how many summers

days it had yet to live, then  it appeared to it that new life was thrilling through every

the fiber of root and stem and leaf  rising even to its highest branches, the tree felt 

itself stretching and spreading out  while through the root beneath the earth ran the 

warm vigor of life as it grew higher  and still higher, and its strength increased, 

the topmost bowels became broader and fuller, and in proportion to its growth, its self-

satisfaction increased, and there came a joyous longing to grow higher and higher to 

reach even to the warm, bright sun itself, already had its topmost branches piercing 

the clouds which floated beneath them  like troops  of birds of passage or large white 

swans, every leaf seemed to be gifted with sight, as if it possessed eyes to see 

the stars became visible in broad daylight large and sparkling like clear and gentle 

eyes they brought to the tree’s memory the light that it had seen in the eyes of a child

and then the eyes of lovers who had once met beneath the branches of the old oak,

these were wonderful and happy moments for the old oak, full of peace and joy,

and yet amidst all this happiness, the tree felt a yearning desire that all the other trees,

push, herbs, and flowers beneath it be able to rise higher to see all this splendor

and experience the same happiness; the grand majestic oak could not be quite happy

in its enjoyment until all the rest, both great and small, could share it, and this feeling

of yearning trembled through every branch, through every leaf as warmly and fervently

as through a human heart, the summit of the tree waved to and fro and bent

downwards as if in its silent longing, it sought something, then there came to it

the fragrance of time and the more powerful scent of honeysuckle and violets

and the tree fencing, it heard the notes of the kaku at length. Its longing was satisfied

up through the clouds came the green summits of the forest trees and the oak

watched them rising higher and higher bush and herbs shot upward, and some even

tore themselves up by the roots to rise more quickly; the quickest of all was the birch

tree like a lightning flash, the slender stem shot upward in a zigzag line, the branches

spreading around it like green gauze and banners, every native of the wood even

to the brown and feathery rushes grew with the rest while the birds ascended

with the melody of the song on a blade of grass that fluttered in the air like a long

green  ribbon said a grasshopper cleaning its wings with its legs; many beetles

hummed bees murmured birds sang each in its own way, the air was filled with

the sounds of song and gladness,

“but where is the little blue flower that grows by the water and the purple bellflower and the daisy?” asked the oak. “I want them all.”

“here we are, here we are,” came the reply in words and in song,

“but the beautiful time of last summer, where is that, and where are the lilies
of the valley which last year covered the earth with its bloom and the wild apple tree with its fragrant blossoms and all the glory of the wood which has flourished year after year and where is even what may have but just been born.”

“We are here, we are here,” the sound of the voices high up in the air as if they had flown there before the end

“Why, this is beautiful too, beautiful to be believed,” cried the oak in a joyful tone. “I have them all here, both great and small not one has been forgotten. Can such happiness be imagined? It seems almost impossible.”

In heaven with the eternal god, it can be imagined that all things are possible,” sounded

the reply through the air, and the old tree, as it still grew upwards and onwards, felt that

its roots were loosening themselves from the earth

“it is right, so it is best,” said the tree. “No fetters hold me now; I can fly up to the very highest point in light and glory, and all I love are with me, both small and great all,
all are here.”

such was the dream of the old oak at the holy Christmas time, and while it dreamed,

a mighty storm came rushing over the land and sea; the sea rolled in great billows

toward the shore, and cracking and crushing was heard in the tree; its roots were torn

from the ground just at the moment when in its dream, it was being loosened from

the earth, it fell! its 365 days ended like the single day of the ephemera.

On the morning of Christmas day, when the sun rose, the storm had ceased from all

the churches sounded the festive bells, and from every hearth, even of the smallest hut

rose the smoke into the blue sky like the smoke from the festive thank offerings on

druid’s altars, the sea gradually became calm, and on board a great ship that had

withstood the tempest during the night, all the flags were displayed as a token of joy

and festivity

“the tree is down; the old oak or a landmark on the coast!” exclaimed the sailors
“it must have fallen in a storm last night; who can replace it? alas, no one.”

this was the old tree’s funeral oration brief but well said; there it lay stretched

on the snow-covered shore, and over it sounded the notes of a song from the ship

is a song of Christmas joy of the redemption  of the soul of man and of eternal life

through christ

seeing aloud on this happy morn

all is fulfilled, for Christ is born

with songs of joy, let us loudly sing

hallelujahs to Christ, our king

thus sounded the Christmas carol, and everyone on board the ship felt his thoughts

elevated through the song and the prayer, even as the old tree had felt lifted up in its

last beautiful dream on that Christmas morn.

The End