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THE WICKED PRINCE

 

THERE was once a wicked and arrogant Prince His whole ambition was to conquer all the countries in the world and to inspire all men with fear He went about with fire and sword and his soldiers trampled down the corn in the fieldsand set fire to the peasants’ housesso that the red flames licked the leaves from the trees and the fruit hung burnedd on the black charred branches With her naked baby in her armsmany a poor mother took refuge behind the still smoking walls of her burned houseand the soldiers sought for herand if they found her it was new food for their demoniac fury evil spirits could not have raged worse than did these soldiers but the Prince thought their deeds were rightand that it must be soEvery day his power increased his name was feared by alland fortune accompanied him in all his actionsFrom con-quered towns he brought vast treasures homeand in his capital was heaped an amount of wealth unequaled in any other placeAnd he caused gorgeous palaces churchesand halls to be built and every one who saw all this grandeursaid,“What a great Prince!” They thought not of the misery he had brought upon other lands they heard not all the sighs and all the moanings that arose from among the demolished towns

The Prince looked upon his gold and upon his mighty buildings and his thoughts were like those of the crowd

What a great Prince But I must have morefar moreNo power may be equal to minemuch less exceed it!”

And he made war upon all his neighbours and over-came them all The conquered Kings he caused to be bound with fetters of gold to his chariot when he drove through the streets of his capital when he banquetedthose Kings were compelled to kneel at his feet and at the feet of his courtiersand receive the broken pieces which were thrown to them trom the table

At last the Prince caused his own statue to be set up in the open squares and in the royal palaces and he even wished to place it in the churches before the altars but the priests said

Prince thou art mighty but Heaven is mightierand we dare not do it.”

Good then,”said the Prince,“I will vanquish Heaven likewise.”

And in his pride and impious haughtiness he caused an ingenious ship to be built in which he could sail through the airit was gay to behold like the tail of a peacock and seemed to be studded with thousands of eyes but each eye was the muzzle of a gun The Prince sat in the midst of the ship and needed only to press on a spring and a thousand bullets flew out on all sideswhile the gun barrels were reloaded immediately Hundreds of eagles were harnessed in front of the ship and in this way he now flew towards the sunDeep lay the earth below himWith its mountains and forests it seemed but a ploughed field where the green peeps out from the over-turned grass turfsoon it appeared only like a flat mapand at last it lay completely hidden in mist and cloudEver higher flew the eagles up into the airthen one of the innumerable angels appearedThe wicked Prince hurled thousands of bullets against himbut the bulletssprang back from the angel's shining pinionsand fell down like hail-stonesbut a drop of blood one single drop fell from one of the white wingfeathers and this drop fell upon the ship in which the Prince sat and burned its way deep into the shipand weighing like a thousand hundred weight of leaddragged down the ship in headlong fall towards the earth the strongest pinions of the eagles broke the wind roared round the Prince's head and the cloudsformed from the smoke of burned citiesdrew themselves together in threatening shapslike huge seacrabs stretching forth their claws and nippers towards himlike rolling masses of rock and fire-vomiting dragonstill the Prince lay half dead in the ship which at last remained hanging in the thick branchEs of a forest

I will conquer Heaven!”said the Prince.“I have sworn it and my will must be done!”

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And for seven years he caused his men to work at making ships for sailing through the airand had thunder-bolts made of the hardest steelfor he wished to storm the fortress of Heaven out of all his dominions he gathered armies togetherso that when they were drawn up in rank and file they covered a space of several milesThe armies went on board the shipsand the Prince approached his own vessel Then there was sent out against him a swarm of gnats a single swarm of little gnats The swarm buzzed round the Princeand stung his face and hands raging with anger he drew his sword and struck all round himbut he only struck the empty air for he could not hit the gnatsThen he commanded people to bring costly hangingsand to wrap them around himso that no gnat might further sting him and the servants did as he commanded them But a single gnat had attached itself to the inner side of the hangingsand crept into the ear of the Prince and stung him thereIt burned like fire and the poison penetrated to his brainlike a madman he tore the hangings form his bodytore his clothes and danced about naked before the eyes of his rudesavage soldiers who now jeered at the mad Prince who wanted to overcome Heaven and who himself was conquered by one single little gnat

 


 

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