The Romantic defeat

prince 2

Do you remember those bedtime stories your parents used to read you ? Those stories where good always won over evil and made you slip into a peaceful and satisfied nap? I guess you do, so you have well understood that Oscar Wilde‘s collection The Happy Prince and the other tales does not belong to this cathegory. The rhythm is that of fairy tales, just like the characters which come mostly from the world of magic or fantastic: giants, speaking animals or statues…but the end……..the end  is shocking. It seems that Oscar Wilde wrote these stories for his children, but how, HOW could a little baby sleep after hearing that, for example, the rose for which the brave nightingale had sacrified her life had been thrown into the street, “where it fell into the gutter” and just like it wasn’t enough  “a cart-wheel went over it”? I coudn’t, for sure. The prevailing sense sadness that overwhelms you at the end of the stories is given by the unexpected harsh realism of the  real world that replaces abruplty the pampered world of magic. Wilde didn’t want to reassure his kids at all, he wanted them to see life as it was: happy ending is never for granted in a world where men are corrupted by material values and deaf to sensibility.In other words in these stories there is the defeat of the Romantic ideals. The Happy Prince is a statue placed “on a tall column”, so that now can be aware of the poverty and suffering of that world he had never seen before. He wants to do something to relieve those people of their pains, so with the help of a swallow, which seems to have missed the last “train” to Egypt he will give away all the precious stones and leaves of gold that cover his body to whoever he sees in need. But when winter comes the helpful swallow dies and the statue seems to have become ugly and shabby at the eyes of the people who count in town:”as he is no longer beautiful he is no longer useful”. So they decide to pull it down. They are unaware and shallow .They cannot see that behind the ugliness of the statue there is the real beauty of his sacrifice. There is love. The deserved reward doesn’t belong to this world, in fact the dead body of the bird and the leaden heart of the Prince will be brought to God because they are the most precious things in the city. Only in the other world they will be recompensed. Maybe.