On top of a tall stone column stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was covered in gold leaf, and his eyes were twin sapphires, and a little ruby shone on his sword. Everybody loved him.
One evening a swallow, which was heading for Egypt, settled his feet for a rest and noticed that the statue was crying. ‘What’s the matter?’ the surprised Swallow asked. ‘When I was alive, I was happy,’ the picture replied. ‘But now that I am dead, and have been placed up here, even though my heart is made of lead, I can no longer hold back my tears for the sufferings I see all around myself.
I am unable to move. Dear Swallow, please be my messenger. Take my ruby to that poor mother down there.’
‘Alas, prince!’, said the Swallow ‘I do not have time. I must fly to Egypt for it is already too cold here for me.’
But the prince was so unhappy that the Swallow finally agreed to do what he asked. Then he had to take the sapphires, and then one by one, all the leaves of gold which covered the prince, until the day come when the statue was without decoration.
The poor of the city, on the other hand, were less poor, and their children less pale. The snow arrived. The little Swallow was growing colder and colder, but he could not bring himself to leave his beloved prince. The day arrived when the Swallow released he was dying and he bade farewell to the prince. The next morning the mayor walked out into the square. He noticed the dead bird and ordered that it be taken away. Next, he looked at the no longer splendid statue of the prince and ordered it should be removed and melted down.
In the huge town furnace, only the heart of lead would not melt. It, too, was thrown away, and landed in the rubbish tip right next to the Swallow it loved. A passing angel saw these two precious beings and took them to paradise. From that day on, in the beautiful gardens of heaven, the Swallow has been singing contentedly on the shoulders of the Happy Prince.