The Happy Prince
Published in the collection House of Pomegranates, this story contains powerful pathos and the immense, biting satire Wilde excelled at. The prince central to the story is a gilded, bejewelled statue of a great leader, now compelled, nay, forced to behold the dark side of his subjects' abject lives from his exalted position. It is too much for the once cossetted and insulated prince, who weeps. His tears bring a curious swallow to his shoulder. He asks the swallow to pluck the gilding from his body and give it to the starving and beaten children, to the dispossessed and meek. The prince is left without his sapphire eyes and is blinded. The swallow's love for the prince proves fatal in the approaching winter, for the swallow refuses to leave the blind prince he loves and so tells the prince of his travels. The swallow, a live, warm little bird, dies. As he falls dead in the piercing cold the prince's heart breaks. The curious contrast of a statue endowed with the emotional capabilities of a live person and the warm, living swallow is overwhelming. The swallow's accounts of his travels are gems in the building love between the prince and his devoted swallow. Wilde holds the corpse of the swallow and the broken, un-meltable heart of the prince as the most beautiful things in heaven. His themes of dispossession and power and love beyond all personal considerations are fresh and admonitory. Wilde's gentle, flowing, almost poetic text takes the reader unwittingly into the sorrow of devotion, love and loss. The swallow's huge love and almost wise self-sacrifice ask many questions of the reader regarding love and devotion, sacrifice, society and commitment.