Ivo Andrić THE PRINCE WITH SAD EYES Once upon a time there was a Prince (there really

was one; I am not making this up) who had sad eyes and a small principality. His country was really small, so small that, when he would get lost in thought during his afternoon walks, he would always cross the border of his land and enter the land of his neighbors. This, then, was the size of his principality: it was shorter than a good walk. But his eyes were truly sad. They were beautiful, dark, overshadowed by long lashes, while his whites had a light blue overtone like that found in young calves or consumptive country girls. Women said that these eyes "spoke," while men kept silent. ("For you, everything speaks!" a moneychanger told his wife distractedly and morosely.) The Prince, however, did not care much about women or other diversions. He was concerned about his country and day and night he thought about how to make it a happy one. As the principality was much too small for any such major enterprise or plan, he built tiny bridges of reed and small mills that could not grind anything, but it was lovely to watch the countless waterwheels spinning on the brooks and breaking the water by sending it from one paddle to another. He pruned every shrub so that it should not become oversized while retaining its unusual shape, of a boat or a polygon, which he had intended for it. In the middle of the principality there was a tree, a wild pear tree, incidentally, the biggest tree in the land, and the Prince forbade people to eat of its fruit. His subjects strictly obeyed the prohibition and the tree was known throughout the principality as The Sweetest Fruit Tree. Often, passengers, even from the farthest lands, came to bow down before the Prince with sad eyes. He would receive them, gaze at them, blinking and at a loss for words, and they would leave enchanted by the depth of his gaze and the profound meaning of his silence. It came to pass once that the Prince's gaze fell on a woman like a shadow under which she fell ill. She was the blonde, young wife of a painter, who lived by his famous paintings and beautiful religious inscriptions that hung in temples. The painter was a short and strong but merry man, full of some inner fire that lighted up his life and work. The woman, not being used to lying and deception, pale in the face, came to the painter and said to him with that painful, disarming tranquility characteristic of the speech of the women who are truly in love: "I've seen the Prince. I can no longer be your wife. I must go to him and serve him with all my body and soul, as much as a woman can. I've come to tell you this. Do with me what you will." She was standing before him with her arms relaxed, all lighted up by a misfortune that could not be avoided. The short painter, a man with a big soul, turned his face away from her and waited like that until she had gone. Ever since the first tales were recorded, there has been no record of two worthier lovers that parted in a more beautiful manner in the face of evil, which may strike any of us.

She went to the Prince. When she stood before him, terrified by his gaze, she saw nothing but his eyes. She offered herself to him with a guilty expression on her face and stayed there to serve him. A long time passed. There are days during the year, however, when a woman cannot be satisfied by a mere gaze. The number of these days is not recorded in our books, as it is not the same with all women. But every one of them has them. Such days came, after a long wait, upon the painter's wife, the Prince's mistress. Suddenly, she totally changed. Her muscles started to quiver, her eyes widened and her lips swelled up. She pressed her hand against the purple silk fabric on her chest. Her gaze was terrifying, piercing seven inches above the Prince's head. She was speaking to the Prince more with her hot breath than her vague words. He was watching her with his congenital gaze, and she stopped before the profound silence of this gaze like before a stream of water that cannot be crossed. It was then that for the first time she had seen his tiny skull, narrow shoulders and scrawny legs. The woman broke down when she recognized a new and ultimate misfortune. Her left cheek twitched and her whole body contorted into sobbing. The Prince left, silent and all turned into a gaze. Days went by, but the pain would not go away. This was more terrifying than being a battered animal or a chopped-down tree. There were the dreams and the rampancy of the muscles; her blood kept stopping, now in her head, now in her heart. One of her arms was with the painter, the other with the Prince, and they crucified her to make her scream with pain and die of shame. One morning the woman got out of her bed, deceived and desperate. She thought once more about the painter working by the window in the pungent and pleasant smell of paints and about his strong hands, freshly washed after work. She also thought about her former happiness and her misery from now to eternity — and she went out into the square, where, in the shade of The Sweetest Fruit Tree, the Prince was sitting surrounded by his subjects and admiring visitors from afar. Always in the shadow of his gaze, they were praising the Prince, the system of rule in his state and all the gifts with which God had endowed him. Everyone was surprised to see a woman approach the Prince at that hour and place. She was pale, even though she was afire. The Prince was looking at her with those eyes that stupefied and halted people, but she, an unhappy woman, tormented by the strongest pains known to nature, did not stoop before him, but rather, with her eager hand she removed the spell of his gaze like gossamer and, before anyone could stop her — this is so gross to say! — she spat in his eyes loudly and fiercely. "Ptooey!" Then, as if relieved, she turned around. A moment of bewildered silence. Then they cut her up with their swords. But the Prince went blind. The last thing he had seen were her lips, wet and red. Sightless, he was soon dethroned. It was incredible how strong the hatred and disgust he was spreading around himself were. They were equal to his former power. Not in the whole land could a single dog be found to guide him, so he tapped around the world with his stick, hungry and barefoot.

Amazingly, not even the books in which this event was first recorded could find any compassionate words for the miserable Prince. After a moral intended for young men, they ended with the words: "... because the spittle of such a woman is sufficient to poison the entire army of a mightiest king, let alone a single man."

Translated by Ivan Delač, June 17, 2012

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