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The Harlot’s House

The Harlot’s House was written by Oscar Wilde.

The Harlot’s House Poem Text

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,

Then 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 dancers 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.

The Poet

Oscar Wilde, a versatile poet with poems in all genres continue to steal our hearts with his rich collection. Read about other popular works by Oscar Wilde.. Read about other popular works by Oscar Wilde..

The Harlot's House
Oscar Wilde

A literary genius and outstanding artist who could paint pictures with his words, he breathes, even now, through his works.

Analysis – The Review of The Harlot’s House

‘The Harlot’s House’ is a poem that explores the other realm. It is a poem that circles around the events at a haunted house, which the poet calls ‘The Harlot’s House’.

He writes about the various sightings and the various noises that he comes across. He hears the ghostly musicians play as creatures from the other world dance to its tune.

The Harlot's House
Illustration of ‘The Harlot’s House’

Skeletons danced with each other, laughing and trying to sing; a clockwork puppet would press a phantom to her breast in an act of love. He saw a marionette smoking and in a time when he was busy observing the scene, he noticed everything had stopped.

He realized the dawn was breaking slowly as if creeping in like a frightened little girl.

It is a narrative poem that shows contrasts: dawn & night, true & false, and, sexual love from lust. Beginning with activities that are “we,” means the narrator and his lover, experience. After stopping “beneath the harlot’s house.” they can sense that there is a party in this house.

They see non-alive things like “ghostly dancers”, “a horrible marionette”. Then, the poem changes the wording; “we” no longer experience the activities of the harlot’s house. Instead, the “we” is split into “she” and “I”:

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