Ballads

The Happy Prince

I

Once lived a proud and happy prince
in a palace too grand and fine.
‘Bout sadness and pain he knew not;
He knew to drink from nine to nine.

One morning not-so-fine in May,
an earthquake hit the great kingdom;
It topped the happy prince on spot
before he had his glass of rum.

The people who survived the quake
to build a massive statue planned;
They willed to honour โ€˜Happy Princeโ€™,
who lay dead on the worried land.

The people gathered to construct
what would become a statue large;
A great life heโ€™d led after all,
the world heโ€™d journeyed on a barge.

His body made of gold unmixed
stood on a column made of lead;
Sapphires his lovely eyes did hold
and showed his joy now gone and dead.

II

A swallow came then from a town
located tens of miles away;
Arriving at the ruined kingdom;
it learnt it sure had lost its way.

‘Where shall I have a rest tonight?’
it asked itself time and again
until it saw the bright statue
that could shield it from snow and rain.

Betwixt the statueโ€™s feet it sat
and heaved a sigh of total joy;
‘Iโ€™ll sleep quite well,’ it told itself
fore water drops on it fell, boy!

โ€˜From where are droplets falling here
when I see not a single cloud;
Is this whatโ€™s called a manโ€™s tears,
perhaps a princeโ€™s that once was proud?โ€™

Looked up the little bird right then
and found the prince was shedding tears;
โ€˜Could you tell me whatโ€™s wrong with you?
Are you filled with worries and fears?โ€™

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III

The prince looked at the bird below
and said he was in utter pain,
for all he saw from where he stood
was people thieving just to gain.

โ€˜I witness squalor and despair
in every place from here I see
I want you bird to stay and help,
from bondage, hate the people free.’

The bird now foxed beyond measure
let the prince know it had to go.
โ€˜Iโ€™m waited for in Egypt, prince;
There I have lots of work to do.โ€™

The prince but pleaded and beseeched
that swallow to stay for a day.
โ€˜You can go morrow, swallow dear;
What Iโ€™d like you to do is childโ€™s play.โ€™

The swallow gave some thought before
it said it had made up its mind.
โ€˜Iโ€™ll be here for one more day, prince
to do the tasks for me youโ€™ll find.โ€™

Photo by Goke Obasa on Unsplash

IV

Just seven seconds had elapsed
the prince when gave his first command:
โ€˜You take that ruby from my swordโ€™s hilt
and drop it at that house unplanned.โ€™

โ€˜And might I ask you why I should
deliver ruby yours at that house?
I donโ€™t prehend why youโ€™d do so
when ruby this can buy ten cows.โ€™

โ€˜Oh, swallow dear, this values not,
I prized jewels when I was alive.
But now Iโ€™m dead and purely wrought;
What matters now is peopleโ€™s life.โ€™

โ€˜Why only that house?โ€™ asked the bird,
โ€˜When thousand houses I see hereโ€ฆ
Is it because you know someone
whose pain for you is hard to bear?โ€™

โ€˜Iโ€™ll tell you whatโ€™s going there, bird,
in that house with a dame and boy;
The boy has fallen badly ill,
and his mother has lost her joy.โ€™

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V

The bird that knew what kindness meant
did what was to be done that day;
It took the ruby from the swordโ€™s hilt
and dropped it at the house named โ€˜Bayโ€™.

It made a quick return and said,
โ€˜The job is done, so might I go?โ€™
The prince now filled with joy replied
โ€˜Thereโ€™s one more task you are to do.โ€™

โ€˜Iโ€™m waited for in Egypt, prince,โ€™
repeated the bird loud and clear.
โ€˜It is becoming frosty here
and this weather I sure canโ€™t bear.โ€™

โ€˜Take the sapphire off my left eye,
and hand it to the girl on lane six.
Sheโ€™s lost the money she had had;
Itโ€™s weened that she is in a fix.โ€™

Again the bird did as was told,
and did figure the girl grew gay
on finding one perfect sapphire
right after sheโ€™d recalled to pray.

VI

The bird when told the happy prince
that for Egypt ’twas high time it left,
the prince made one more strange request:
โ€˜Remove the sole sapphire thatโ€™s left.โ€™

โ€˜I canโ€™t do that, for youโ€™d go blind
if I removed the sole sapphire;
Please leave me now so I may go
to that place where exists fire.โ€™

The prince however allowed not
the little bird to fly away.
โ€˜Sapphire mine please take off,’ said he,
‘and give it to that man without pay.โ€™

With sadness was the swallow filled,
yet it removed the sole sapphire;
An old man who received the jewel
then said: โ€˜I shall never retire.โ€™

The weather started acting weird,
for it snowed well as the Sun shone.
โ€˜You are a free bird now,โ€™ said prince;
โ€˜The right path to you is well shown.โ€™

VII

The bird refused the offer but,
and stressed it hoped to there abide.
โ€˜I will not leave you blind right here;
So, in you Iโ€™ll henceforth confide.โ€™

The princeโ€™s joy sure knew no bounds,
But worried ’bout the weather was he.
โ€˜I do not want the rain and snow
to wet and freeze your feathers, you see.โ€™

This did become the sole command
the bird refused to abide by
โ€˜Come what may, I will stay with you
not once will I to you bid bye.’

The swallow therefore stayed behind,
narrating tales from lands afar;
The prince in mind wrought fine pictures
heโ€™d seen in places near and far.

No sooner had a day elapsed
than prince and swallow got too ill;
The statue that till then stood tall
was felled, the little swallow killed.

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VIII

Above the skies where God abode,
a question was put to the angels;
โ€˜At least two souls please name,โ€™ said God,
โ€˜Whom I oft shall hail as gentles.โ€™

The angels sat, discoursed a while
and went up to the God of worlds;
โ€˜A swallow and a prince from Iceland
deserve your blessings, praise and pearls.โ€™

God was contented with the answer
and asked the angels to ready the town;
โ€˜The swallow and the prince are called
to dwell with me, theyโ€™ll never frown.โ€™

And when the souls were brought to town,
a million times our planetโ€™s size,
God blessed and hailed both as gentles,
Said, โ€˜For you a plan is devised.โ€™

โ€˜Youโ€™ll always dwell with me right here,
in worlds that witness no decay;
The swallow shall sing, the prince drink wine;
Both shall rejoice and laugh each day.โ€™

PS: This poem is based on a short story with the same title written by late Irish playwright Oscar Wilde.

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