Oscar Wilde: The Happy Prince

Vydáno dne 24.07.2019

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The Happy Prince

Oscar Wilde

(adapted by Marek Vít, read by Laurie Bram)

High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was covered with gold and his eyes were made of precious jewels. Everybody admired him.

“He is very beautiful,” one important person said. “But not very useful,” he added, because he did not want people to think that he was not practical.

“Why can't you be like the Happy Prince?” a mother asked her crying son. “The Happy Prince never cries!”

“I am glad there is somebody in this world who is quite happy,” said a disappointed man as he looked at the wonderful statue.

“He looks just like an angel,” said the children as they came out of the cathedral.

“How do you know?” said a Master of Mathematics. “You have never seen an angel.”

“We have, in our dreams,” answered the children. The man frowned, because he did not like when children were dreaming.

One night a little Swallow flew over the city. His friends had flown away to Egypt six weeks before. He had stayed behind because he was in love with the beautiful Reed. He had met her early in the spring as he was flying down the river, and she was so attractive that he stopped to talk to her.

“Shall I love you?” said the Swallow. The Reed bowed. So he flew round and round her, touching the water with his wings, to show her his love. This lasted all through the summer.

“It is very silly,” said the other Swallows. “She has no money and there are so many reeds in the river.” Then, when the autumn came they all flew away.

The Swallow felt lonely. He was already tired of his love. “She doesn't talk to me,” he said, “and she is always flirting with the wind.” It was true, because the Reed always bowed gracefully when the wind blew. “She stays home all the time,” he continued, “but I love travelling, and my wife should love travelling, too.”

“Will you come away with me?” he finally said to her. But the Reed shook her head because she liked her home very much.

“But I am going away,” he said and flew away.

All day long he flew, and at night he arrived at the city. “Where shall I sleep?” he said.

Then he saw the statue on the tall column.

“I will sleep there,” he cried. “It is a nice place, with plenty of fresh air.” So he sat down just between the feet of the Happy Prince.

“I have a golden bedroom,” he said softly to himself as he looked round. But just as he was preparing to go to sleep, a large drop of water fell on him. “How is it possible?” he cried. “There are no clouds in the sky. How can there be rain? The Reed always liked the rain, but that was because she only cared about herself.”

Then another drop fell.

“What good is a statue that cannot protect me from rain? I must look for a better place,” he said and wanted to fly away.

But before he had opened his wings, a third drop fell, and he looked up. What did he see?

The eyes of the Happy Prince were filled with tears, and tears were running down his golden face. He was so beautiful in the moonlight that the little Swallow felt sorry for him.

“Who are you?” he said.

“I am the Happy Prince.”

“Why are you crying then?” asked the Swallow.

“When I was alive and had a human heart,” answered the statue, “I did not know what tears were, because I lived in the Palace of Sans-Souci, where crying was not allowed. In the daytime I played with my friends in the garden, and in the evening I danced in the Great Hall. There was a high wall around the garden but I never asked what was behind it. Everything around me was so beautiful. Everybody called me the Happy Prince. And I was really happy. So I lived, and so I died. And now that I am dead they have placed me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city. My heart is made of metal but I can't help crying.”

“Is he not built completely of gold?” said the Swallow to himself. But he did not say it aloud, because he was very polite.

“Far away,” continued the statue, “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 at a table. Her son is very ill and he has a fever. He is thirsty, but she has nothing to give him, because she is very poor. Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, can you bring her the jewel out of my armour? My feet cannot move from this column.”

“My friends are waiting for me in Egypt,” said the Swallow. “They are flying up and down the River Nile and they are going to sleep in a tomb of a great and glorious king.”

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

“I do not like boys,” answered the Swallow. “Last summer, when I was staying on the river, there were two rude boys who were always throwing stones at me.”

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 help you.”

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

So the Swallow picked out the great jewel from the Prince's armour and flew away with it over the roofs of the town.

He passed by the cathedral tower, he passed by the palace and heard the sound of dancing. He passed over the river and at last he came to the poor house and looked in. The boy was turning on his bed, and the mother had fallen asleep because she was so tired. He came in and laid the great jewel on the table beside her. Then he flew gently round the bed, waving his wings in front of the boy's forehead. “How cool I feel,” said the boy, “I must be getting better”. He went to sleep.

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

“That is because you have done a good thing,” said the Prince. And the little Swallow began to think, and then he fell asleep.

In the morning he flew down to the river and had a bath. “How strange,” said the Professor as he was walking over the bridge. “A swallow in winter!” And he wrote a long letter about it to the local newspaper.

“Tonight I go to Egypt,” said the Swallow, and he was happy when he thought about it.

When the moon rose, he flew back to the Happy Prince. “Tonight I leave,” he said.

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

“My friends are waiting for me in Egypt,” answered the Swallow. “Tomorrow they will fly to a great throne where the God Memnon sits. ”

“Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow,” said the Prince, “far away across the city I see a young man in a small room. He is sitting at a desk covered with papers. His hair is brown 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 and hungry to write any more.”

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

“My eyes are all that I have left. They are made of precious jewels, which were brought out of India a thousand years ago. Take one of them and bring it to him. He will sell it, buy food and wood, and finish his play.”

“Dear Prince,” said the Swallow, “I cannot do that!” and he began to cry.

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

So the Swallow took out the Prince's eye, and flew away to the man's little room. He got in easily through a hole in the roof. The young man had his head in his hands, so he did not hear the bird's wings. When he looked up, he found the beautiful jewel lying on the table.

“This must be from a great admirer,” he thought. “Now I can finish my play,” and he was quite happy.

The next day the Swallow flew down to the harbour. He sat and watched the sailors. “I am going to Egypt!” the Swallow cried to them, but nobody noticed. When the moon rose, he flew back to the Happy Prince.

“I have come to say goodbye,” 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 freezing snow will soon be here. In Egypt the sun is warm and my friends are building their nests. 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.”

“In the square below,” said the Happy Prince, “there is a little girl. She has lost all her matches and her father will beat her because she will not bring home any money. She has no shoes and no hat. Take 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 take out your eye. You would be quite blind then.”

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

So he took out the Prince's other eye, and flew down with it. He put the jewel into 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 all the wonderful things that he had seen in far away lands.

“Dear little Swallow,” said the Prince, “you tell me of wonderful things, but look at the suffering of men and women. 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 people in their beautiful houses, while the poor ones were sitting at the gates. He flew into dark streets, and saw the white faces of hungry children.

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, piece by piece, and give it to the poor. The living always think that gold can make them happy.”

The Swallow picked off piece after piece of the fine gold, till the Happy Prince looked quite grey. He brought the gold to the children, and their faces grew brighter, 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. Everybody wore warm clothes and the boys skated on the ice.

The poor little Swallow grew colder and colder, but he would not leave the Prince, he loved him so much. He picked up crumbs outside the baker's door when the baker was not looking and tried to keep himself warm by waving 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. “Goodbye, dear Prince!” he said, “will you let me kiss your hand?”

“I am glad that you are finally going to Egypt, 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 where I am going,” said the Swallow. “I am going to the House of Death.”

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

At that moment the metal heart inside of the statue broke into two pieces.

Early the next morning the Mayor was walking in the square below with the Town Councillors. They looked at the statue and cried: “Look at the Happy Prince, how ugly he is! The jewels are gone and he is not golden any more.” The Councillors agreed with him.

“And here is actually a dead bird at his feet!” continued the Mayor. “Surely birds must not die here!”

So they pulled down the statue of the Happy Prince. “Because he is not beautiful, he is not useful,” said the Professor at the University.

Then they melted the statue decided what to do with the metal. “We must have another statue, of course,” the Mayor said, “and it shall be a statue of myself.”

“Of myself,” said each of the Town Councillors, and they argued. When I last heard of them they were still arguing.

“What a strange thing!” said one of the workmen. “This broken heart will not melt. We must throw it away.” So they threw it where the dead Swallow was lying.

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

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

Autor povídky:
Oscar Wilde, 1854–1900, irský dramatik, prozaik a básník

Autorka ilustrace:
Markéta Vydrová, výtvarnice, ilustrátorka knih především pro děti a mládež.

Původní nezjednodušenou verze:
Oscar Wilde: The Happy Prince (full)

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