The greatest Christamas story ever.

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posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 06:57 AM
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....In my opininon, anyway.

The story is in the public domain so I shall reproduce it for you herein in full. It can also be found here.

Merry Christmas, ATS/BTS.

*******

The Happy Prince
By Oscar Wilde
From The Happy Prince and Other Tales, Published 1888



THE HAPPY PRINCE

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.

When the moon rose he flew back to the Happy Prince. "Have you any
commissions for Egypt?" he cried; "I am just starting."

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not
stay with me one night longer?"

[con't in next post]

[edit on 12/18/09 by silent thunder]




posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 06:58 AM
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[Con't from above]

"I am waited for in Egypt," answered the Swallow. "To-morrow my
friends will fly up to the Second Cataract. The river-horse
couches there among the bulrushes, and on a great granite throne
sits the God Memnon. All night long he watches the stars, and when
the morning star shines he utters one cry of joy, and then he is
silent. At noon the yellow lions come down to the water's edge to
drink. They have eyes like green beryls, and their roar is louder
than the roar of the cataract.

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "far away
across the city I see a young man in a garret. He is leaning over
a desk covered with papers, and in a tumbler by his side there is a
bunch of withered violets. His hair is brown and crisp, and his
lips are red as a pomegranate, and he has large and dreamy eyes.
He is trying to finish a play for the Director of the Theatre, but
he is too cold to write any more. There is no fire in the grate,
and hunger has made him faint."

"I will wait with you one night longer," said the Swallow, who
really had a good heart. "Shall I take him another ruby?"

"Alas! I have no ruby now," said the Prince; "my eyes are all that
I have left. They are made of rare sapphires, which were brought
out of India a thousand years ago. Pluck out one of them and take
it to him. He will sell it to the jeweller, and buy food and
firewood, and finish his play."

"Dear Prince," said the Swallow, "I cannot do that"; and he began
to weep.

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "do as I
command you."

So the Swallow plucked out the Prince's eye, and flew away to the
student's garret. It was easy enough to get in, as there was a
hole in the roof. Through this he darted, and came into the room.
The young man had his head buried in his hands, so he did not hear
the flutter of the bird's wings, and when he looked up he found the
beautiful sapphire lying on the withered violets.

"I am beginning to be appreciated," he cried; "this is from some
great admirer. Now I can finish my play," and he looked quite
happy.

The next day the Swallow flew down to the harbour. He sat on the
mast of a large vessel and watched the sailors hauling big chests
out of the hold with ropes. "Heave a-hoy!" they shouted as each
chest came up. "I am going to Egypt"! cried the Swallow, but
nobody minded, and when the moon rose he flew back to the Happy
Prince.

"I am come to bid you good-bye," he cried.

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not
stay with me one night longer?"

"It is winter," answered the Swallow, "and the chill snow will soon
be here. In Egypt the sun is warm on the green palm-trees, and the
crocodiles lie in the mud and look lazily about them. My
companions are building a nest in the Temple of Baalbec, and the
pink and white doves are watching them, and cooing to each other.
Dear Prince, I must leave you, but I will never forget you, and
next spring I will bring you back two beautiful jewels in place of
those you have given away. The ruby shall be redder than a red
rose, and the sapphire shall be as blue as the great sea."

"In the square below," said the Happy Prince, "there stands a
little match-girl. She has let her matches fall in the gutter, and
they are all spoiled. Her father will beat her if she does not
bring home some money, and she is crying. She has no shoes or
stockings, and her little head is bare. Pluck out my other eye,
and give it to her, and her father will not beat her."

"I will stay with you one night longer," said the Swallow, "but I
cannot pluck out your eye. You would be quite blind then."

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "do as I
command you."

So he plucked out the Prince's other eye, and darted down with it.
He swooped past the match-girl, and slipped the jewel into the palm
of her hand. "What a lovely bit of glass," cried the little girl;
and she ran home, laughing.

Then the Swallow came back to the Prince. "You are blind now," he
said, "so I will stay with you always."

"No, little Swallow," said the poor Prince, "you must go away to
Egypt."

"I will stay with you always," said the Swallow, and he slept at
the Prince's feet.

All the next day he sat on the Prince's shoulder, and told him
stories of what he had seen in strange lands. He told him of the
red ibises, who stand in long rows on the banks of the Nile, and
catch gold-fish in their beaks; of the Sphinx, who is as old as the
world itself, and lives in the desert, and knows everything; of the
merchants, who walk slowly by the side of their camels, and carry
amber beads in their hands; of the King of the Mountains of the
Moon, who is as black as ebony, and worships a large crystal; of
the great green snake that sleeps in a palm-tree, and has twenty
priests to feed it with honey-cakes; and of the pygmies who sail
over a big lake on large flat leaves, and are always at war with
the butterflies.

"Dear little Swallow," said the Prince, "you tell me of marvellous
things, but more marvellous than anything is the suffering of men
and of women. There is no Mystery so great as Misery. Fly over my
city, little Swallow, and tell me what you see there."

So the Swallow flew over the great city, and saw the rich making
merry in their beautiful houses, while the beggars were sitting at
the gates. He flew into dark lanes, and saw the white faces of
starving children looking out listlessly at the black streets.
Under the archway of a bridge two little boys were lying in one
another's arms to try and keep themselves warm. "How hungry we
are!" they said. "You must not lie here," shouted the Watchman,
and they wandered out into the rain.

Then he flew back and told the Prince what he had seen.

"I am covered with fine gold," said the Prince, "you must take it
off, leaf by leaf, and give it to my poor; the living always think
that gold can make them happy."

Leaf after leaf of the fine gold the Swallow picked off, till the
Happy Prince looked quite dull and grey. Leaf after leaf of the
fine gold he brought to the poor, and the children's faces grew
rosier, and they laughed and played games in the street. "We have
bread now!" they cried.

Then the snow came, and after the snow came the frost. The streets
looked as if they were made of silver, they were so bright and
glistening; long icicles like crystal daggers hung down from the
eaves of the houses, everybody went about in furs, and the little
boys wore scarlet caps and skated on the ice.

The poor little Swallow grew colder and colder, but he would not
leave the Prince, he loved him too well. He picked up crumbs
outside the baker's door when the baker was not looking and tried
to keep himself warm by flapping his wings.

But at last he knew that he was going to die. He had just strength
to fly up to the Prince's shoulder once more. "Good-bye, dear
Prince!" he murmured, "will you let me kiss your hand?"

"I am glad that you are going to Egypt at last, little Swallow,"
said the Prince, "you have stayed too long here; but you must kiss
me on the lips, for I love you."

"It is not to Egypt that I am going," said the Swallow. "I am
going to the House of Death. Death is the brother of Sleep, is he
not?"

And he kissed the Happy Prince on the lips, and fell down dead at
his feet.

At that moment a curious crack sounded inside the statue, as if
something had broken. The fact is that the leaden heart had
snapped right in two. It certainly was a dreadfully hard frost.

Early the next morning the Mayor was walking in the square below in
company with the Town Councillors. As they passed the column he
looked up at the statue: "Dear me! how shabby the Happy Prince
looks!" he said.

"How shabby indeed!" cried the Town Councillors, who always agreed
with the Mayor; and they went up to look at it.

"The ruby has fallen out of his sword, his eyes are gone, and he is
golden no longer," said the Mayor in fact, "he is litttle beter
than a beggar!"

"Little better than a beggar," said the Town Councillors.

"And here is actually a dead bird at his feet!" continued the
Mayor. "We must really issue a proclamation that birds are not to
be allowed to die here." And the Town Clerk made a note of the
suggestion.

So they pulled down the statue of the Happy Prince. "As he is no
longer beautiful he is no longer useful," said the Art Professor at
the University.

Then they melted the statue in a furnace, and the Mayor held a
meeting of the Corporation to decide what was to be done with the
metal. "We must have another statue, of course," he said, "and it
shall be a statue of myself."

"Of myself," said each of the Town Councillors, and they
quarrelled. When I last heard of them they were quarrelling still.

"What a strange thing!" said the overseer of the workmen at the
foundry. "This broken lead heart will not melt in the furnace. We
must throw it away." So they threw it on a dust-heap where the
dead Swallow was also lying.

"Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to
one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and
the dead bird.

"You have rightly chosen," said God, "for in my garden of Paradise
this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold
the Happy Prince shall praise me."





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