A monologue from the play by Oscar Wilde
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Representative One-Act Plays by British and Irish Authors. Ed. Barrett H. Clark. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1921.
I am amorous of thy body, Iokanaan! Thy body is white, like the lilies of the field that the mower hath never mowed.
Thy body is white like the snows that lie on the mountains of Judaea, and come down into the valleys. The roses in the gardens of the Queen of Arabia are not so white as thy body.
Neither the roses in the garden of the Queen of Arabia, the garden of spices of the Queen of Arabia, nor the feet of the dawn when they light on the leaves,
nor the breast of the moon when she lies on the breast of the sea. There is nothing in this world so white as they body.
Suffer me to touch thy body. [No response. Angrily.] Thy body is hideous. It is like the body of a leper.
It is like a plastered wall, where vipers have crawled; like a plastered wall where the scorpions have made their nest.
It is like a whited sepulchre, full of loathsome things. It is horrible; thy body is horrible. It is of thy hair I am enamoured, Iokanaan.
Thy hair is like clusters of grapes, like the clusters of black grapes that hang from the vine-trees of Edom in the land of the Edomites.
Thy hair is like the cedars of Lebanon, like the great cedars of Lebanon that give their shade to the lions and to the robbers who would hide them by day.
The long black nights, when the moon hides her face, when the stars are afraid, are not so black as thy hair. The silence that dwells in the forest is not so black.
There is nothing in the world that is so black as thy hair. Suffer me to touch thy hair. [No response. Angrily.] Thy hair is horrible.
It is covered with mire and dust. It is like a crown of thorns placed on thy head. It is like a knot of serpents coiled round thy neck.
I love not thy hair. It is thy mouth that I desire, Iokanaan. Thy mouth is like a band of scarlet on a tower of ivory.
It is like a pomegranate cut in twain with a knife of ivory. The pomegranate flowers that blossom in the gardens of Tyre, and are redder than roses, are not so red.
The red blasts of trumpets that herald the approach of kings, and make afraid the enemy, are not so red.
Thy mouth is redder than the feet of those who tread the wine in the wine-press. It is redder than the feet of the doves who inhabit the temples and are fed by the priests.
It is redder than the feet of him who cometh from a forest where he hath slain a lion, and seen gilded tigers.
Thy mouth is like a branch of coral that fishers have found in the twilight of the sea, the coral that they keep for the kings!
It is like the vermilion that the Moabites find in the mines of Moab, the vermilion that the kings take from them.
It is like the bow of the King of the Persians, that is tainted with vermilion, and is tipped with coral. There is nothing in the world so red as thy mouth.
Suffer me to kiss thy mouth. [No response.] I will kiss thy mouth, Iokanaan. I will kiss thy mouth.