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An essay by Richard Le Gallienne

The Donkey That Loved A Star

Title:     The Donkey That Loved A Star
Author: Richard Le Gallienne [More Titles by Le Gallienne]

'That is how the donkey tells his love!' I said one day, with intent to
be funny, as the prolonged love-whoop of a distant donkey was heard in
the land.

'Don't be too ready to laugh at donkeys,' said my friend. 'For,' he
continued, 'even donkeys have their dreams. Perhaps, indeed, the most
beautiful dreams are dreamed by donkeys.'

'Indeed,' I said, 'and now that I think of it, I remember to have said
that most dreamers are donkeys, though I never expected so scientific a
corroboration of a fleeting jest.'

Now, my friend is an eminent scientist and poet in one, a serious
combination; and he took my remarks with seriousness at once scientific
and poetic.

'Yes,' he went on, 'that is where you clever people make a mistake. You
think that because a donkey has only two vowel-sounds wherewith to
express his emotions, he has no emotions to express. But let me tell
you, sir ...'

But here we both burst out laughing--

'You Golden Ass!' I said,'take a munch of these roses; perhaps they will
restore you.'

'No,' he resumed, 'I am quite serious. I have for many years past made a
study of donkeys--high-stepping critics call it the study of Human
Nature--however, it's the same thing--and I must say that the more I
study them the more I love them. There is nothing so well worth studying
as the misunderstood, for the very reason that everybody thinks he
understands it. Now, to take another instance, most people think they
have said the last word on a goose when they have called it "a
goose"!--but let me tell you, sir ...'

But here again we burst out laughing--

'Dear goose of the golden eggs,' I said, 'pray leave to discourse on
geese to-night--though lovely and pleasant would the discourse
be;--to-night I am all agog for donkeys.'

'So be it,' said my friend,' and if that be so, I cannot do better than
tell you the story of the donkey that loved a star--keeping for another
day the no less fascinating story of the goose that loved an angel.'

By this time I was, appropriately, all ears.

'Well,' he once more began, 'there was once a donkey, quite an intimate
friend of mine--and I have no friend of whom I am prouder--who was
unpractically fond of looking up at the stars. He could go a whole day
without thistles, if night would only bring him stars. Of course he
suffered no little from his fellow-donkeys for this curious passion of
his. They said well that it did not become him, for indeed it was no
little laughable to see him gazing so sentimentally at the remote and
pitiless heavens. Donkeys who belonged to Shakespeare Societies recalled
the fate of Bottom, the donkey who had loved a fairy; but our donkey
paid little heed. There is perhaps only one advantage in being a
donkey--namely, a hide impervious to criticism. In our donkey's case it
was rather a dream that made him forget his hide--a dream that drew up
all the sensitiveness from every part, from hoof, and hide, and ears, so
that all the feeling in his whole body was centred in his eyes and
brain, and those, as we have said, were centred on a star. He took it
for granted that his fellows should sneer and kick-out at him--it was
ever so with genius among the donkeys, and he had very soon grown used
to these attentions of his brethren, which were powerless to withdraw
his gaze from the star he loved. For though he loved all the stars, as
every individual man loves all women, there was one star he loved more
than any other; and standing one midnight among his thistles, he prayed
a prayer, a prayer that some day it might be granted him to carry that
star upon his back--which, he recalled, had been sanctified by the holy
sign--were it but for ever so short a journey. Just to carry it a little
way, and then to die. This to him was a dream beyond the dreams of

'Now, one night,' continued my friend, taking breath for himself and
me, 'our poor donkey looked up to the sky, and lo! the star was nowhere
to be seen. He had heard it said that stars sometimes fall. Evidently
his star had fallen. Fallen! but what if it had fallen upon the earth?
Being a donkey, the wildest dreams seemed possible to him. And, strange
as it may seem, there came a day when a poet came to his master and
bought our donkey to carry his little child. Now, the very first day he
had her upon his back, the donkey knew that his prayer had been
answered, and that the little swaddled babe he carried was the star he
had prayed for. And, indeed, so it was; for so long as donkeys ask no
more than to fetch and carry for their beloved, they may be sure of
beauty upon their backs. Now, so long as this little girl that was a
star remained a little girl, our donkey was happy. For many pretty years
she would kiss his ugly muzzle and feed his mouth with sugar--and thus
our donkey's thoughts sweetened day by day, till from a natural
pessimist he blossomed into a perfectly absurd optimist, and dreamed the
donkiest of dreams. But, one day, as he carried the girl who was really
a star through the spring lanes, a young man walked beside her, and
though our donkey thought very little of his talk--in fact, felt his
plain "hee-haw" to be worth all its smart chirping and twittering--yet
it evidently pleased the maiden. It included quite a number of
vowel-sounds--though, if the maiden had only known, it didn't mean half
so much as the donkey's plain monotonous declaration.

'Well, our donkey soon began to realise that his dream was nearing its
end; and, indeed, one day his little mistress came bringing him the
sweetest of kisses, the very best sugar in the very best shops, but for
all that our donkey knew that it meant good-bye. It is the charming
manner of English girls to be at their sweetest when they say good-bye.

'Our dreamer-donkey went into exile as servant to a woodcutter, and his
life was lenient if dull, for the woodcutter had no sticks to waste upon
his back; and next day his young mistress who was once a star took a
pony for her love, whom some time after she discarded for a talented
hunter, and, one fine day, like many of her sex, she pitched her
affections upon a man--he too being a talented hunter. To their wedding
came all the countryside. And with the countryside came the donkey. He
carried a great bundle of firewood for the servants' hall, and as he
waited outside, gazing up at his old loves the stars, while his master
drank deeper and deeper within, he revolved many thoughts. But he is
only known to have made one remark--in the nature, one may think, of a
grim jest--

'"After all!" he was heard to say, "she has married a donkey--after

'No doubt it was feeble; but then our donkey was growing old and bitter,
and hope deferred had made him a cynic.'

[The end]
Richard Le Gallienne's essay: Donkey That Loved A Star