Microphone Plays‎ > ‎

Radio Hall of Fame - The Happy Prince

Radio Hall of Fame

The Happy Prince

Dec 24 1944





LOVER (1 line)

GIRL (1 line)

STUDENT (1 line)

MAYOR (2 lines)




OVERSEER (2 lines)


NARRATOR: High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold. For eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large ruby glowed on his sword-hilt. He was very much admired indeed. One night there flew over the city a little Swallow on his way south to the pyramids in Egypt. He stopped when he saw the statue on the tall column.

SWALLOW: (IMPRESSED) I will put up here for the night. It is a fine position, with plenty of fresh air. I have a golden bedroom.

NARRATOR: Just as the Swallow prepared to go to sleep, a large drop of water fell on him. 

SWALLOW: What a curious thing! There's not a single cloud in the sky and yet it's raining. The climate here in the north is really dreadful. 


NARRATOR: Then another drop fell. 

SWALLOW: What is the use of a statute if it cannot keep the rain off? I must look for a good chimney-pot. 

NARRATOR: But before he'd opened his wings, a third drop fell, and he looked up and saw-- Ah, what did he see? The eyes of the Happy Prince were filled with tears, and tears were running down his golden cheeks. 

SWALLOW: Who are you? 

PRINCE: I am the Happy Prince.

SWALLOW: Why are you weeping then?


PRINCE: When I was alive and had a human heart, I didn't know what tears were. My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness. Now that I am dead, I am up here so high I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I cannot choose but weep. 

SWALLOW: (PUZZLED, TO HIMSELF) What? Is he not solid gold? 

NARRATOR: The Swallow said this to himself. He was too polite to make any personal remarks out loud. 

PRINCE: Far away, 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 seated at a table. Her face is thin and worn, and she has coarse, red hands, all pricked by the needle, for she is a seamstress. She is embroidering passion-flowers on a satin gown for the loveliest of the Queen's maids-of-honor to wear at the next Court-ball. In a bed in the corner of the room her little boy is lying ill. He has a fever, and is asking for oranges. His mother has nothing to give him but river water, so he's crying. Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-hilt? My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I - I cannot move. 


SWALLOW: (POLITELY DECLINES) I am waited for in Egypt. My friends are flying up and down the Nile, and talking to the large lotus-flowers.

PRINCE: Swallow, little Swallow, will you not stay with me for one night and be my messenger? The boy is so thirsty, and the mother so sad. 

SWALLOW: It is very cold here, but I will stay with you for one night and be your messenger. 

PRINCE: Thank you, little Swallow. 


NARRATOR: So the Swallow picked out the great ruby from the Prince's sword, and flew away with it in his beak over the roofs of the town. He passed by the palace and heard the sound of dancing. A beautiful girl came out on the balcony with her lover. 

LOVER: (ENTRANCED) How wonderful the stars are, and how wonderful is the power of love.

GIRL: (SELF-ABSORBED) I hope my dress will be ready in time for the State-ball. I've ordered passion-flowers to be embroidered on it, but the seamstresses are so lazy.

NARRATOR: He passed over the river, and saw the lanterns hanging to the masts of the ships. At last he came to the poor house and looked in. The boy was tossing feverishly on his bed and the mother had fallen asleep, she was so tired. In he hopped and laid the great ruby on the table beside the woman's thimble. Then the Swallow flew back to the Happy Prince and told him what he had done.

SWALLOW: It is curious, but I feel quite warm now, although it is so cold. 

PRINCE: That's because you've done a good action.

NARRATOR: And the little Swallow began to think, and then - he fell asleep. Thinking always made him sleepy. When day broke he flew down to the river and had a bath. 


SWALLOW: (HAPPY) Tonight I go to Egypt.

NARRATOR: The Swallow was in high spirits at the prospect. When the moon rose, he flew back to the Happy Prince.

SWALLOW: Have you any commissions for Egypt? I am just starting. 

PRINCE: Swallow, will you not stay with me one night longer? 

SWALLOW: I am waited for in Egypt. Tomorrow my friends will fly up to the Second Cataract. The river-horse couches there among the bulrushes, and on a great granite throne sits the God Memnon.

PRINCE: Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, far away across the city I see a young man in a garret. He's leaning over a desk covered with papers. He's trying to finish a play for the Director of the Theatre. But it's too cold to write any more. There's no fire in the grate, and hunger has made him faint. 

SWALLOW: I will wait with you one night longer. Shall I take him another ruby?

PRINCE: Oh, alas, I have no ruby now. My eyes are all that I have left. They're made of rare sapphires, which were brought out of India a thousand years ago. Pluck out one of them and take it to him. He'll sell it to the jeweler, and buy firewood, and he'll finish his play. 

SWALLOW: (SADLY) Dear Prince, I cannot do that. 

PRINCE: Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, do as I command you. 


NARRATOR: So the Swallow plucked out the Prince's eye, and flew away to the student's garret. It was easy enough to get in, as there was a hole in the roof. Through this he darted, and came into the room. The young man had his head buried in his hands, so he didn't hear the flutter of the bird's wings, and when he looked up, he found the beautiful sapphire.

STUDENT: (PLEASED) I'm beginning to be appreciated. This is from some great admirer. Now I can finish my play.

NARRATOR: The next night the Swallow flew back to the Happy Prince. 

SWALLOW: I am come to bid you goodbye.

PRINCE: Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not stay with me one night longer? 

SWALLOW: It is winter, and the chill snow will soon be here. In Egypt the sun is warm on the green palm-trees, and the crocodiles line the mud and look lazily about them. My companions are building a nest in the Temple of Baalbec. 


SWALLOW: Dear Prince, I must leave you, but next spring I will bring you back two beautiful jewels in place of those you've given away. The ruby shall be redder than a red rose, and the sapphire shall be as blue as the great sea.


PRINCE: In the square below there stands a little match-girl. She's let her matches fall in the gutter, and they're all spoiled. Her father will beat her if she doesn't bring home some money, and she's crying. She has no shoes or stockings, and her little head is bare. Pluck out my other eye and give it to her, and her father will not beat her. 

SWALLOW: I will stay with you one night longer, but I cannot pluck out your eye. You would be quite blind then.

PRINCE: Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, do as I command you. 

NARRATOR: So he plucked out the Prince's other eye, and darted down with it. He swooped past the match-girl, and slipped the jewel into the palm of her hand. Then the Swallow came back to the Prince.

SWALLOW: You are blind now, so I will stay with you always.

PRINCE: No, little Swallow, you must go away to Egypt. 

SWALLOW: (QUIETLY INSISTS) I will stay with you always.

NARRATOR: And he slept at the Prince's feet. 


NARRATOR: All the next day he sat on the Prince's shoulder, and told him stories of what he had seen in strange lands. He told him of the red ibises, who stand in long rows on the banks of the Nile, and catch gold-fish in their beaks; of the Sphinx, who is as old as the world itself, and lives in the desert, and knows everything; of the King of the Mountains of the Moon, who worships a large crystal; of the great green snake that sleeps in a palm-tree, and has twenty priests to feed it with honey-cakes; and of the pygmies who sail over a big lake on large flat leaves, and are always at war with the butterflies. 

PRINCE: Dear little Swallow, you tell me of marvelous things, but more marvelous than anything is the suffering of men and women. There is no Mystery so great as Misery. Fly over my city, little Swallow, and tell me what you see there. 


NARRATOR: So the Swallow flew over the great city, and saw the rich making merry in their beautiful houses, while the beggars were sitting at the gates. He flew into dark lanes, and saw the white faces of starving children looking out listlessly at the black streets. Then he flew back and told the Prince what he had seen. 

PRINCE: I am covered with fine gold. You must take it off, leaf by leaf, and give it to the poor. 

NARRATOR: Leaf after leaf of the fine gold the Swallow picked off, until the Happy Prince looked quite dull and gray. Leaf after leaf of the fine gold he brought to the poor, and the children's faces grew rosier, and they laughed and played in the street. Then the snow came, and after the snow came the frost. The streets looked as if they were made of silver, they were so bright and glistening; long icicles like crystal daggers hung down from the eaves of the houses, everybody went about in furs, and the little boys wore scarlet caps and skated on the ice. The poor little Swallow grew colder and colder, but he would not leave the Prince. He loved him too well. He picked up crumbs outside the baker's door when the baker wasn't looking, and tried to keep himself warm by flapping his wings. But at last he knew that he was going to die. He had just enough strength to fly up to the Prince's shoulder once more. 

SWALLOW: (WEAKLY) Goodbye, dear Prince. Will you let me kiss your hand? 

PRINCE: I am glad that you are going to Egypt at last, little Swallow. You have stayed too long here.

SWALLOW: (SIMPLY) It is not to Egypt that I am going. I am going to the House of Death. Death is the brother of Sleep, is he not? 

NARRATOR: And he kissed the Happy Prince on the lips, and fell down dead at his feet. At that moment a curious crack sounded inside the statue, as if something had broken. 


NARRATOR: The fact is that the leaden heart had snapped right in two. It certainly was a dreadfully hard frost.


NARRATOR: Early the next morning the Mayor was walking in the square below in the company of the Town Councillors. As they passed the column he looked up at the statue.

MAYOR: Dear me, how shabby the Happy Prince looks. And here is actually a dead bird at his feet. We must really issue a proclamation that birds are not to be allowed to die here!

NARRATOR: And the Town Clerk made a note of the suggestion. So they pulled down the statue of the Happy Prince, and they melted the statue in a furnace. And the Mayor held a meeting of the Corporation to decide what was to be done with the metal.

MAYOR: We must have another statue, of course. And, er, it shall be a statue of myself. 

1ST COUNCILLOR: Of myself! 

2ND COUNCILLOR: Of myself! 

3RD COUNCILLOR: Of myself! 

NARRATOR: --said each of the Town Councillors, and they quarreled. When I last heard of them, they were quarreling still. 


OVERSEER: (PUZZLED) What a strange thing. 

NARRATOR: --said the overseer of the workmen at the foundry. 

OVERSEER: This broken lead heart will not melt in the furnace. We must throw it away. 

NARRATOR: So they threw it on a dust-heap, where the dead Swallow was also lying. (BEAT) "Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels. And the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird. "You have rightly chosen," said God, "for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing forevermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me."