Quatrain 6, a nightingale sings


Quatrain 6

French translation

Les lèvres de David sont verrouillées, mais en divin
Pehlevi avec sa voix haut perchée, “Vin, vin, vin
Vin rouge, le rossignol chante à la rose
Et sa joue sanglante tourne la rose blanche rouge


And David’s lips are lockt; but in divine
High-piping Pehlevi, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!
Red Wine!”–the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That sallow cheek of hers t’ incarnadine.

German translation

Die Lippen von Davids sind verschlossen, aber auf göttlich
Hochwertiger Pehlevi, “Wein, Wein, Wein
Rotwein, die Nachtigall schreit zur Rose
Und ihre blöde Wange die weiße Rose rot macht

Quatrain 6 explained.

Unrequited love

The nightingale’s cry is high-pitched and plaintive. It speaks to the rose, but the rose will not or can not answer. I do not speak Persian, but wonder if the the sounds resemble the Pehlevi for “wine, wine, wine, red wine”?

The reference to Pehlevi, a Persian language spoken in the Parthian kingdom (250 BC to AD 226), helps us date the legendary tale of the nightingale and the rose.

Nightingale and the rose

The ancient Persian poets tells many tales of the nightingale and the rose. One is that the nightingale’s longing for the rose was so great that it cried all night. The other birds hearing this noise could not sleep and they took their complaint to King Solomon, hoping that he in his wisdom could find a cure for the nightingale’s unrequited love.

Knowing that love is strongest force on earth, King Solomon forgave the nightingale for his disturbances.

Other poets tell the tale that once the rose was only white with pale yellow at the edge of the petals. Loving the rose dearly, the nightingale approached to closely and its breast was pierced by a thorn. The nightingales’ blood poured onto the rose causing it to become red.


Why King David and not King Solomon?

Why does Fitzgerald allude to King David and not King Solomon?
Perhaps because of Psalm 104:15 which says, “wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.”