We caught the tread of dancing feet, We loitered down the moonlit street, And stopped beneath the harlot's house. Inside, above the din and fray, We heard the loud musicians play The 'Treues Liebes Herz' of Strauss. Like strange mechanical grotesques, Making fantastic arabesques, The shadows raced across the blind. We watched the ghostly dancers spin To sound of horn and violin, Like black leaves wheeling in the wind. Like wire-pulled automatons, Slim silhouetted skeletons Went sidling through the slow quadrille. They took each other by the hand, And danced a stately saraband; Their laughter echoed thin and shrill. Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed A phantom lover to her breast, Sometimes they seemed to try to sing. Sometimes a horrible marionette Came out, and smoked its cigarette Upon the steps like a live thing. Then, turning to my love, I said, "The dead are dancing with the dead, The dust is whirling with the dust." But she--she heard the violin, And left my side, and entered in: Love passed into the house of Lust. Then suddenly the tune went false, The [shadows]1 wearied of the waltz, The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl. And down the long and silent street, The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet, Crept like a frightened girl.
1 Pasatieri: "dancers"
- by Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), "The harlot's house" [author's text checked 1 time against a primary source]
Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)
- by Gary Bachlund (b. 1947), "The harlot's house", 2006 [medium voice and piano] [ sung text checked 1 time]
- by Thomas Pasatieri (b. 1945), "The harlot's house", 1998 [voice and piano], from Three Poems of Oscar Wilde, no. 2 [ sung text checked 1 time]
Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
Text added to the website: 2007-04-28 00:00:00
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:02:21
Line count: 36
Word count: 210