A Short Story: “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde

The Happy Prince Part 1 of 2

High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince.  He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.

He was very much admired indeed.  “He is as beautiful as a weathercock,” remarked one of the Town Councillors who wished to gain a reputation for having artistic tastes; “only not quite so useful,” he added, fearing lest people should think him unpractical, which he really was not.

“Why can’t you be like the Happy Prince?” asked a sensible mother of her little boy who was crying for the moon.  “The Happy Prince never dreams of crying for anything.”

“I am glad there is some one in the world who is quite happy,” muttered a disappointed man as he gazed at the wonderful statue.

“He looks just like an angel,” said the Charity Children as they came out of the cathedral in their bright scarlet cloaks and their clean white pinafores.

“How do you know?” said the Mathematical Master, “you have never seen one.”

“Ah! but we have, in our dreams,” answered the children; and the Mathematical Master frowned and looked very severe, for he did not approve of children dreaming.

One night there flew over the city a little Swallow.  His friends had gone away to Egypt six weeks before, but he had stayed behind, for he was in love with the most beautiful Reed.  He had met her early in the spring as he was flying down the river after a big yellow moth, and had been so attracted by her slender waist that he had stopped to talk to her.

“Shall I love you?” said the Swallow, who liked to come to the point at once, and the Reed made him a low bow.  So he flew round and round her, touching the water with his wings, and making silver ripples.  This was his courtship, and it lasted all through the summer.

“It is a ridiculous attachment,” twittered the other Swallows; “she has no money, and far too many relations”; and indeed the river was quite full of Reeds.  Then, when the autumn came they all flew away.

After they had gone he felt lonely, and began to tire of his lady-love.  “She has no conversation,” he said, “and I am afraid that she is a coquette, for she is always flirting with the wind.”  And certainly, whenever the wind blew, the Reed made the most graceful curtseys.  “I admit that she is domestic,” he continued, “but I love travelling, and my wife, consequently, should love travelling also.”

“Will you come away with me?” he said finally to her; but the Reed shook her head, she was so attached to her home.

“You have been trifling with me,” he cried.  “I am off to the Pyramids.  Good-bye!” and he flew away.

All day long he flew, and at night-time he arrived at the city.  “Where shall I put up?” he said; “I hope the town has made preparations.”

Then he saw the statue on the tall column.

“I will put up there,” he cried; “it is a fine position, with plenty of fresh air.”  So he alighted just between the feet of the Happy Prince.

“I have a golden bedroom,” he said softly to himself as he looked round, and he prepared to go to sleep; but just as he was putting his head under his wing a large drop of water fell on him.  “What a curious thing!” he cried; “there is not a single cloud in the sky, the stars are quite clear and bright, and yet it is raining.  The climate in the north of Europe is really dreadful.  The Reed used to like the rain, but that was merely her selfishness.”

Then another drop fell.

“What is the use of a statue if it cannot keep the rain off?” he said; “I must look for a good chimney-pot,” and he determined to fly away.

But before he had opened his wings, a third drop fell, and he looked up, and saw—Ah! what did he see?

The eyes of the Happy Prince were filled with tears, and tears were running down his golden cheeks.  His face was so beautiful in the moonlight that the little Swallow was filled with pity.

“Who are you?” he said.

“I am the Happy Prince.”

“Why are you weeping then?” asked the Swallow; “you have quite drenched me.”

“When I was alive and had a human heart,” answered the statue, “I did not know what tears were, for I lived in the Palace of Sans-Souci, where sorrow is not allowed to enter.  In the daytime I played with my companions in the garden, and in the evening I led the dance in the Great Hall.  Round the garden ran a very lofty wall, but I never cared to ask what lay beyond it, everything about me was so beautiful.  My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness.  So I lived, and so I died.  And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I cannot chose but weep.”

“What! is he not solid gold?” said the Swallow to himself.  He was too polite to make any personal remarks out loud.

“Far away,” continued the statue in a low musical voice, “far away in a little street there is a poor house.  One of the windows is open, and through it I can see a woman seated at a table.  Her face is thin and worn, and she has coarse, red hands, all pricked by the needle, for she is a seamstress.  She is embroidering passion-flowers on a satin gown for the loveliest of the Queen’s maids-of-honour to wear at the next Court-ball.  In a bed in the corner of the room her little boy is lying ill.  He has a fever, and is asking for oranges.  His mother has nothing to give him but river water, so he is crying.  Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-hilt?  My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I cannot move.”

“I am waited for in Egypt,” said the Swallow.  “My friends are flying up and down the Nile, and talking to the large lotus-flowers.  Soon they will go to sleep in the tomb of the great King.  The King is there himself in his painted coffin.  He is wrapped in yellow linen, and embalmed with spices.  Round his neck is a chain of pale green jade, and his hands are like withered leaves.”

“Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow,” said the Prince, “will you not stay with me for one night, and be my messenger?  The boy is so thirsty, and the mother so sad.”

“I don’t think I like boys,” answered the Swallow.  “Last summer, when I was staying on the river, there were two rude boys, the miller’s sons, who were always throwing stones at me.  They never hit me, of course; we swallows fly far too well for that, and besides, I come of a family famous for its agility; but still, it was a mark of disrespect.”

But the Happy Prince looked so sad that the little Swallow was sorry.  “It is very cold here,” he said; “but I will stay with you for one night, and be your messenger.”

“Thank you, little Swallow,” said the Prince.

So the Swallow picked out the great ruby from the Prince’s sword, and flew away with it in his beak over the roofs of the town.

He passed by the cathedral tower, where the white marble angels were sculptured.  He passed by the palace and heard the sound of dancing.  A beautiful girl came out on the balcony with her lover.  “How wonderful the stars are,” he said to her, “and how wonderful is the power of love!”

“I hope my dress will be ready in time for the State-ball,” she answered; “I have ordered passion-flowers to be embroidered on it; but the seamstresses are so lazy.”

He passed over the river, and saw the lanterns hanging to the masts of the ships.  He passed over the Ghetto, and saw the old Jews bargaining with each other, and weighing out money in copper scales.  At last he came to the poor house and looked in.  The boy was tossing feverishly on his bed, and the mother had fallen asleep, she was so tired.  In he hopped, and laid the great ruby on the table beside the woman’s thimble.  Then he flew gently round the bed, fanning the boy’s forehead with his wings.  “How cool I feel,” said the boy, “I must be getting better”; and he sank into a delicious slumber.

Then the Swallow flew back to the Happy Prince, and told him what he had done.  “It is curious,” he remarked, “but I feel quite warm now, although it is so cold.”

“That is because you have done a good action,” said the Prince.  And the little Swallow began to think, and then he fell asleep.  Thinking always made him sleepy.

When day broke he flew down to the river and had a bath.  “What a remarkable phenomenon,” said the Professor of Ornithology as he was passing over the bridge.  “A swallow in winter!”  And he wrote a long letter about it to the local newspaper.  Every one quoted it, it was full of so many words that they could not understand.

“To-night I go to Egypt,” said the Swallow, and he was in high spirits at the prospect.  He visited all the public monuments, and sat a long time on top of the church steeple.  Wherever he went the Sparrows chirruped, and said to each other, “What a distinguished stranger!” so he enjoyed himself very much.

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Today’s Quote on Gratitude

Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love, to work, to play, and to look up at the stars.

Henry Van Dyke

“Love’s Philosophy” ~ Poem by Shelley

Love’s Philosophy

The fountains mingle with the river,
  And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
  With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
  All things by a law divine
In another’s being mingle–
  Why not I with thine?

See, the mountains kiss high heaven,
  And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
  If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
  And the moonbeams kiss the sea;–
What is all this sweet work worth,
  If thou kiss not me?

Stories I Like: “Three Questions” by Leo Tolstoy ~ Part 1 of 2

THREE QUESTIONS

by Leo Tolstoy

It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.

And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently.

In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days, months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who would help him to fix the proper time for everything.

But then again others said there were some things which could not wait to be laid before a Council, but about which one had at once to decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide that, one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only magicians who know that; and, therefore, in order to know the right time for every action, one must consult magicians.

Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said, the people the King most needed were his councillors; others, the priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the most necessary.

To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation: some replied that the most important thing in[…]”

“in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship.

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.

The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted, and he received none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before reaching the hermit’s cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving his body-guard behind, went on alone.

When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.

The King went up to him and said: “I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important, and need my first attention?”

Excerpt From

What Men Live By, and Other Tales

by Leo Tolstoy

Part II of Three Questions will appear tomorrow

“How Do I Love Thee” Poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How Do I love Thee

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Something to Think About

Go for long walks,
indulge in hot baths,
Question your assumptions,
be kind to yourself,
live for the moment,
loosen up, scream,
curse the world,
count your blessings,
Just let go,
Just be.

Carol Shields

When was the last time you “wasted” a day and relaxed, totally relaxed? It takes a heap of courage to let everything go for 24 hours. Here’s a challenge for you and me, let’s take a 24 hour be kind to myself break and as Carol Shields says, “Just let go, Just be.”