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 ‘Happy Prince’,
who lay dead on the worried land.
The people gathered to construct
what would become a statue large;
A great life he’d led after all,
the world he’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.
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 statue’s feet it sat
and heaved a sigh of total joy;
‘I’ll sleep quite well,’ it told itself
fore water drops on it fell, boy!
‘From where are droplets falling here
when I see not a single cloud;
Is this what’s called a man’s tears,
perhaps a prince’s that once was proud?’
Looked up the little bird right then
and found the prince was shedding tears;
‘Could you tell me what’s wrong with you?
Are you filled with worries and fears?’
RELATED | Tackle Each Strife
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.
‘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.
‘I’m waited for in Egypt, prince;
There I have lots of work to do.’
The prince but pleaded and beseeched
that swallow to stay for a day.
‘You can go morrow, swallow dear;
What I’d like you to do is child’s play.’
The swallow gave some thought before
it said it had made up its mind.
‘I’ll be here for one more day, prince
to do the tasks for me you’ll find.’
Just seven seconds had elapsed
the prince when gave his first command:
‘You take that ruby from my sword’s hilt
and drop it at that house unplanned.’
‘And might I ask you why I should
deliver ruby yours at that house?
I don’t prehend why you’d do so
when ruby this can buy ten cows.’
‘Oh, swallow dear, this values not,
I prized jewels when I was alive.
But now I’m dead and purely wrought;
What matters now is people’s life.’
‘Why only that house?’ asked the bird,
‘When thousand houses I see here…
Is it because you know someone
whose pain for you is hard to bear?’
‘I’ll tell you what’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.’
RELATED | What Happens After Death Could You Find?
The bird that knew what kindness meant
did what was to be done that day;
It took the ruby from the sword’s hilt
and dropped it at the house named ‘Bay’.
It made a quick return and said,
‘The job is done, so might I go?’
The prince now filled with joy replied
‘There’s one more task you are to do.’
‘I’m waited for in Egypt, prince,’
repeated the bird loud and clear.
‘It is becoming frosty here
and this weather I sure can’t bear.’
‘Take the sapphire off my left eye,
and hand it to the girl on lane six.
She’s lost the money she had had;
It’s weened that she is in a fix.’
Again the bird did as was told,
and did figure the girl grew gay
on finding one perfect sapphire
right after she’d recalled to pray.
The bird when told the happy prince
that for Egypt ’twas high time it left,
the prince made one more strange request:
‘Remove the sole sapphire that’s left.’
‘I can’t do that, for you’d go blind
if I removed the sole sapphire;
Please leave me now so I may go
to that place where exists fire.’
The prince however allowed not
the little bird to fly away.
‘Sapphire mine please take off,’ said he,
‘and give it to that man without pay.’
With sadness was the swallow filled,
yet it removed the sole sapphire;
An old man who received the jewel
then said: ‘I shall never retire.’
The weather started acting weird,
for it snowed well as the Sun shone.
‘You are a free bird now,’ said prince;
‘The right path to you is well shown.’
The bird refused the offer but,
and stressed it hoped to there abide.
‘I will not leave you blind right here;
So, in you I’ll henceforth confide.’
The prince’s joy sure knew no bounds,
But worried ’bout the weather was he.
‘I do not want the rain and snow
to wet and freeze your feathers, you see.’
This did become the sole command
the bird refused to abide by
‘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
he’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.
SUGGESTED READ | The Preachy Saint
Above the skies where God abode,
a question was put to the angels;
‘At least two souls please name,’ said God,
‘Whom I oft shall hail as gentles.’
The angels sat, discoursed a while
and went up to the God of worlds;
‘A swallow and a prince from Iceland
deserve your blessings, praise and pearls.’
God was contented with the answer
and asked the angels to ready the town;
‘The swallow and the prince are called
to dwell with me, they’ll never frown.’
And when the souls were brought to town,
a million times our planet’s size,
God blessed and hailed both as gentles,
Said, ‘For you a plan is devised.’
‘You’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.’
PS: This poem is based on a short story with the same title written by late Irish playwright Oscar Wilde.