Salome, 1896

Upon a golden charger Salome bears
     the head of John the Baptist
          to the young Greek sophist
who recoils from her love, indifferent

The young man quips, “Salome, your own
     head is what I wanted them to bring me.”
          This is what he says, jokingly.
And her slave came running on the morrow

holding aloft the head of the Beloved,
     its tresses blond, upon a golden plate.
     But all his eagerness of yesterday
the sophist had forgotten as he studied.

He sees the dripping blood and is disgusted.
     He orders this bloodied thing to
     be taken from him, and he continues
his reading of the dialogues of Plato.

–trans. Daniel Mendelsohn


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