Continuation from The Young King: The Courtiers Reaction
The young king leaves his chambers and finds the nobles celebrating. They are unhappy with his dress of a commoner. He rides out into the streets, and the people mock him. One man tells him “Sir, knowest thou not that out of the luxury of the rich cometh the life of the poor? By your pomp we are nurtured, and your vices give us bread. To toil for a hard master is bitter, but to have no master to toil for is more bitter still. Thinkest thou that the ravens will feed us? And what care hast thou for these things? Wilt thou say to the buyer, ‘Thou shalt buy for so much’ and to the seller, ‘Thou shalt sell at this price’? I trow not….” The young king asked “Are not the rich and poor brothers?” The man answered yes and the rich brother is Cain.
Here we see the acceptance of the existing social order by the masses spoken by the one man. They don’t like it, but they see no other way. They see the rich as evil as Cain. Then there is the discussion of prices. They think it is ridiculous that a king should set prices. Which, it is perfectly ridiculous, and for a recent example of this, look no further than Venezuela. Wilde is a writer, not an economist, so I don’t know that he would be aware of the ridiculousness of price controls. It is hard for me to grasp what he is trying to say here, then. Why this discussion? Does Wilde think a King can command an economy?
From there the young king goes on to the Cathedral where his coronation ceremony is to take place. The Bishop follows suit of everyone else he has encountered. He wants the young king to go back to the palace and put on the finery that was made for this day. The young king asked, “Shall Joy wear what Grief has fashioned?” Then the boy relayed his dreams to the bishop. The bishop acknowledges the evils of the world we live in, but asked the young king, “Canst thou make these things not to be?… Is not He who made misery wiser than thou art?” The bishop again requests that the king return to the castle for all the luxurious items meant for his coronation ceremony. He tells the young king, “The burden of this world is too great for one man to bear, and the world’s sorrow too heavy for one heart to suffer.”
The bishop seems to echo the words of the man on the street, that a king cannot change the nature of the world. He makes the further point that God, the Creator, is certainly wiser than the young king. Now you can’t blame the young king for being upset at the fate that befell those who prepared his finery for the coronation. That seems as it should be. But what is Wilde getting at here with so much acceptance of the existing order of things, by the couriers, the people, the bishop? Yet the young king remains distressed by it, he rejects it, he wants no part of it.
From there, the nobles show up with murder on their mind because they now think him unworthy to be king. The boy stands before the image of Christ and prayed, then rose, looking about sadly. Then suddenly, sunlight streamed upon him from a window and he was clothed in stunning finery. The Glory of God filled the place, and the music sounded. The bishop proclaimed, “A greater than I hath crowned thee,” All kneeled before the young king, swords sheathed, they did him homage. The young king returned to the palace, but no one would look upon his face as it was like the face of the angel.
I’m pretty sure the answer I’m looking for is in the end, but I don’t understand it. I get that God crowns the young king as the rightful ruler, and apparently because the young king cares about the fate of men. However, we are still left with the bishop’s words, in particular. I’ll quote them again. “The burden of this world is too great for one man to bear, and the world’s sorrow too heavy for one heart to suffer.” The king has just been crowned by God. Is this another instance where we are to recognize Christ in a character? Maybe that is it. Maybe I don’t get it because the economic criticism may have been fitting for the 19th century, but as we can see after capitalism hit full stride, that the lives of those living in developed nations was so vastly improved that our poor do not suffer from the same conditions that were prevalent in the early days. Maybe I can’t get it because I am unable to not be anachronistic.
ETA: I spent all this time reading, writing and thinking about Oscar Wilde’s story and it didn’t occur to me to google him until just now. The man is a socialist that favors the abolition of private property. The thinking that I found incomprehensible is explained in his essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism:
Misery and poverty are so absolutely degrading, and exercise such a paralysing effect over the nature of men, that no class is ever really conscious of its own suffering. They have to be told of it by other people, and they often entirely disbelieve them.
Is this not typical of socialist thinking, that other men are too ignorant to understand their own lives? The history of man has been one of poverty and suffering. Weaved into that suffering is love, joy, and hope. No mud, no lotus.
ETA (again) My heart is a little bit broken that this author, whose work I have been enjoying so much, promulgates such incoherent and unrealistic ideas.