The Daughter of Herodias by Arthur O’Shaughnessy


( From “The Daughter of Herodias.” )

Her long black hair danced round her like a snake
Allured to each charmed movement she did make;
Her voice came strangely sweet;
She sang, “O, Herod, wilt thou look on me—
Have I no beauty thy heart cares to see?”
And what her voice did sing her dancing feet
Seemed ever to repeat.

She sang, “O, Herod, wilt thou look on me?
What sweet I have, I have it all for thee;”
And through the dance and song
She freed and floated on the air her arms
Above dim veils that hid her bosom’s charms:
The passion of her singing was so strong
It drew all hearts along.

Her sweet arms were unfolded on the air,
They seemed like floating flowers the most fair—
White lilies the most choice;
And in the gradual bending of her hand
There lurked a grace that no man could withstand;
Yea, none knew whether hands, or feet, or voice,
Most made his heart rejoice.

The veils fell round her like thin coiling mists
Shot through by topaz suns, and amethysts,
And rubies she had on;
And out of them her jewelled body came,
And seemed to all quite like a slender flame
That curled and glided, and that burnt and shone
Most fair to look upon.

Then she began, on that well-polished floor,
Whose stones seemed taking radiance more and more
From steps too bright to see,
A certain measure that was like some spell
Of winding magic, wherein heaven and hell
Were joined to lull men’s souls eternally
In some mid ecstasy:

For it was so inexplicably wrought
Of soft alternate motions, that she taught
Each sweeping supple limb,
And in such intricate and wondrous ways
With bendings of her body, that the praise
Lost breath upon men’s lips, and all grew dim
Save her so bright and slim.

And through the swift mesh’d serpents of her hair
That lash’d and leapt on each place white and fair
Of bosom or of arm,
And through the blazing of the numberless
And whirling jewelled fires of her dress,
Her perfect face no passion could disarm
Of its reposeful charm.
Her head oft drooped as in some languid death
Beneath brim tastes of joy, and her rich breath
Heaved faintly from her breast;
Her long eyes, opened fervently and wide,
Did seem with endless rapture to abide
In some fair trance through which the soul possest
Love, ecstasy, and rest.

Author: Arthur O’Shaughnessy

Title: The Daughter of Herodias

Form: poem

Published: 1870

Location: England

Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881)