My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness."

Why didn't the author say "and I was happy indeed"?

"If pleasure be happiness," as I see it, should be "If pleasure was happiness." However,I am wondering if it is a subjunctive use, and should has been omitted here.

The full sentence may be like the following.

If pleasure should be happiness, I was happy indeed.

I am not sure about it. Am I right?

  1. Wilde tried to put focus again on 'happy' because that is what is important. Try thinking a pause after happy. Your variant is much fluffier and looser in power.

  2. yes it is a subjunctive - without the periphrastic auxilliary verb. As for the meaning (with this extra component), 'should' has no place in it. But 'would' could have.

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Oscar Wilde wrote the sentence they way he did for poetic effect. The sentence might be paraphrased as:

My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and I actually was happy- as long as you can say that pleasure and happiness are the same thing.

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  • +1 for poetic effect: it's important to note the distinction between different types of use of language. – Jon Story Dec 16 '14 at 15:22

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