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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.
[Holding the severed head of Iokanaan.] Ah! thou wouldst not suffer me to kiss thy mouth, Iokanaan. Well! I will kiss it now. I will bite it with my teeth as one bites a ripe fruit.
Yes, I will kiss thy mouth, Iokanaan. I said it; did I not say it? I said it. Ah! I will kiss it now. But wherefore dost thou not look at me, Iokanaan? Thine eyes that were so terrible, so full of rage and scorn, are shut now.
Wherefore are they shut? Open thine eyes! Lift up thine eyelids, Iokanaan! Wherefore dost thou not look at me? Art thou afraid of me, Iokanaan, that thou wilt not look at me?
And thy tongue, that was like a red snake darting poison, it moves no more, it speaks no words, Iokanaan, that scarlet viper that spat its venom upon me. It is strange, is it not?
How is it that the red viper stirs no longer? Thou wouldst have none of me, Iokanaan. Thou rejectedest me. Thou didst speak evil words against me.
Thou didst bear thyself toward me as to a harlot, as to a woman that is a wanton, to me, Salome, daughter of Herodias, Princess of Judaea! Well, I still live, but thou art dead, and thy head belongs to me.
I can do with it what I will. I can throw it to the dogs and to the birds of the air. That which the dogs leave, the birds of the air shall devour. Ah, Iokanaan, Iokanaan, thou wert the man that I loved alone among men!
All other men were hateful to me. But thou wert beautiful! Thy body was a column of ivory set upon feet of silver. It was a garden full of doves and lilies of silver. It was a tower of silver decked with shields of ivory.
There was nothing in the world so white as thy body. There was nothing in the world so black as thy hair. In the whole world there was nothing so red as thy mouth.
Thy voice was a censer that scattered strange perfumes, and when I looked on thee I heard strange music. Ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me, Iokanaan?
With the cloak of thine hands, and with the cloak of thy blasphemies thou didst hide thy face. Thou didst put upon thine eyes the covering of him who would see God.
Well, thou hast seen thy God, Iokanaan, but me, me, thou didst never see me. If thou hadst seen me thou hadst loved me. I saw thee, and I loved thee. Oh, how I loved thee! I love thee yet, Iokanaan.
I love only thee. I am athirst for thy beauty; I am hungry for thy body; and neither wine nor apples can appease my desire. What shall I do now, Iokanaan? Neither the floods nor the great waters can quench my passion.
I was a princess, and thou didst scorn me. I was a virgin, and thou didst take my virginity from me. I was chaste, and thou didst fill my veins with fire. Ah! ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me?
[She kisses the head.] Ah! I have kissed thy mouth, Iokanaan, I have kissed thy mouth. There was a bitter taste on thy lips. Was it the taste of blood? Nay; but perchance it was the taste of love.
They say that love hath a bitter taste. But what matter? what matter? I have kissed thy mouth.