Van Dyke, Henry, 1852-1933. The Blue Flower
Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

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In the City of Saloma

The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion for something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow.


Copyright, 1902, by Charles Scribner's Sons
Published, October 1902. Reprinted, December, 1902; March, October, 1903; April, October, 1904; July, 1905; July, 1906; September, 1907; July, 1908; May November, 1909; January, September, 1911; July, 1912; April, 1913.
Leather Edition, September, 1911.




    Sometimes short stories are brought together like parcels in a basket. Sometimes they grow together like blossoms on a bush. Then, of course, they really belong to one another, because they have the same life in them.

   The stories in this book have been growing together for a long time. It is at least ten years since the first of them, the story of The Other Wise Man, came to me; and all the others I knew quite well by heart a good while before I could find the time, in a hard-worked life, to write them down and try to make them clear and true to others. It has been a slow task, because the right word has not always been easy to find, and I wanted to keep free from conventionality in the thought and close to nature in the picture. It is enough to cause a man no little shame to see how small is the fruit of so long labour.

   And yet, after all, when one wishes to write


about life, especially about that part of it which is inward, the inwrought experience of living may be of value. And that is a thing which one cannot get in haste, neither can it be made to order. Patient waiting belongs to it; and rainy days belong to it; and the best of it sometimes comes in the doing of tasks that seem not to amount to much. So in the long run, I suppose, while delay and failure and interruption may keep a piece of work very small, yet in the end they enter into the quality of it and bring it a little nearer to the real thing, which is always more or less of a secret.

   But the strangest part of it all is the way in which a single thought, an idea, will live with a man while he works, and take new forms from year to year, and light up the things that he sees and hears, and lead his imagination by the hand into many wonderful and diverse regions. It seems to me that there am two ways in which you may give unity to a book of stories. You may stay in one place and write about different themes, preserving


always the colour of the same locality. Or you may go into different places and use as many of the colours and shapes of life as you can really see in the light of the same thought.

   There is such a thought in this book. It is the idea of the search for inward happiness, which all men who are really alive are following, along what various paths, and with what different fortunes! Glimpses of this idea, traces of this search, I thought that I could see in certain tales that were in my mind, -- tales of times old and new, of lands near and far away. So I tried to tell them, as best as I could, hoping that other men, being also seekers, might find some meaning in them.

   There are only little, broken chapters from the long story of life. None of them is taken from other books. Only one of them -- the story of Winifried and the Thunder-Oak -- has the slightest wisp of a foundation in fact or legend. Yet I think they are all true.

   But how to find a name for such a book, -- a


name that will tell enough to show the thought and yet not too much to leave it free? I have borrowed a symbol from the old German poet and philosopher, Novalis, to stand instead of a name. The Blue Flower which he used in his romance of Heinrich von Ofterdingen to symbolise Poetry, the object of his young hero's quest, I have used here to signify happiness, the satisfaction of the heart.

   Reader, will you take the book and see if it belongs to you? Whether it does or not, my wish is that the Blue Flower may grow in the garden where you work.

   AVALON, December 1, 1902.


I. The Blue Flower 1

II. The Source 9

III. The Mill 39

IV. Spy Rock 73

V. Wood-Magic 127

VI. The Other Wise Man 149

VII. I Handful of Clay 199

VIII. The Lost Word 207

IX. The First Christmas-Tree 259