THE SNAIL AND THE ROSE-TREE
ROUND the garden ran a hedge of hazels; beyond this hedge lay
fields and meadows wherein cows and sheep, but in the
midst of the garden stood a blooming Rose-tree, and
under this Rose-tree lived a Snail who had a good deal
in his shell—namely, himself.
"Wait till my time comes!" he said. "I shall do
something more than produce roses, bear nuts, or give
milk, like the Rose-tree, the hazel-bush, and the
"I expect a great deal of you," said the Rose-tree.
"But may I ask when it will appear?"
"I take my time," replied the Snail. "You are
always in such a hurry. You don't rouse people's
interest by suspense."
When the next year came the Snail lay almost in the
same spot, in the sunshine under the Rose-tree, which
again bore buds that bloomed into roses, until the snow
fell and the weather became raw and cold; then the
Rose-tree bowed its head and the Snail crept into the
A new year began; and the roses came out, and the Snail
came out also.
"You're an old Rose-tree now!" said the Snail. "You
must make haste and come to an end, for you have given
the world all that was in you; whether it was of any
use is a question that I have had no time to consider;
but so much is clear and plain, that you have done
nothing at all for your own development, or you would
have produced something else. How can you answer
 for that? In a little time you will be nothing at all
but a stick. Do you understand what I say?"
"You alarm me!" replied the Rose-tree. "I never thought
of that at all."
"No; you have not taken the trouble to consider
anything. Have you ever given an account to yourself
why you bloomed, and how it is that your blooming comes
about—why it is thus, and not otherwise?"
"No;" answered the Rose-tree. "I bloomed in gladness,
because I could not do anything else. The sun shone and
warmed me, and the air refreshed me. I drank the pure
dew and the fresh rain, and I lived, I breathed. Out of
the earth there arose a power within me; from above
there came down a strength; I perceived a new,
ever-increasing happiness, and consequently I was
obliged to bloom over and over again: that was my life;
I could not do otherwise."
"You have led a pleasant life," observed the Snail.
"Certainly. Everything I have was given to me," said
the Rose-tree. "But more still was given to you. You
are one of those deep, thoughtful characters, one of
those highly gifted spirits which will cause the world
"I've no intention of doing anything of the kind,"
cried the Snail. "The world is nothing to me. What have
I to do with the world? I have enough of myself and in
"But must we not all here on earth give to others the
best we have and offer what lies in our power?
Certainly I have only given roses. But you—you who
have been so richly gifted—what have you given to
the world? What do you intend to give?"
"What have I given—what do I intend to give? I
spit at it. It's worth nothing. It's no business of
mine. Continue to give your roses, if you like; you
can't do any better. Let the hazel-bush bear nuts, and
the cows and the ewes give milk; they have their
public; but I have mine within myself—I retire
within myself, and there I remain. The world is nothing
to me." And so saying the Snail retired into his house
and closed up the entrance after him.
 "That is very sad!" said the Rose-tree. "I cannot creep
into myself, even if I wished it; I must continue to
produce roses. They drop their leaves and are blown
away by the wind. But I saw how a rose was laid in the
matron's hymn-book, and one of my roses had a place on
the bosom of a fair young girl, and another was kissed
by the lips of a child in the full joy of life. That
did me good; it was a real blessing. That's my
And the Rose-tree went on blooming in innocence, while
the Snail lay and idled away his time in his
house—the world did not concern him.
And years rolled by.
The Snail had become dust in the dust, and the
Rose-tree was earth in the earth; the rose of
remembrance in the hymn-book was faded, but in the
garden bloomed fresh rose-trees, and under the trees
lay new snails; and these still crept into their
houses, and spat at the world, for it did not concern
Suppose we begin the story again and read it right
through. It will never alter.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics