Salomé

by: Oscar Wilde

Important Quotations Explained

Salomé, you know my white peacocks, my beautiful white peacocks that walk in the garden between the myrtles and the tall cypress trees. Their beaks are gilded with gold, and the grains that they eat are gilded with gold also, and their feet are stained with purple. When they cry out the rain comes, and the moon shows herself in the heavens when they spread their tails I will give you fifty of my peacocks. They will follow you whithersoever you go, and in the midst of them you will be like the moon in the midst of a great white cloud.

Among the gifts Herod offers Salomé in place of Jokanaan's head is his flock of white peacocks. These fifty peacocks join the chain of metaphors linked to the "clouds" that swathe the moon/Salomé. Though first the moon shows herself between their tales in the garden, the peacocks become, when scattered about Salomé, the clouds in the heavens themselves. This chain, once again determined by the color white, includes Salomé's veils, the fan that conceals her face, and the doves and butterflies that are her fingers. The choice of peacocks is hardly innocent, evoking the mythological origins of the peacock's fan in the blind eyes of Argus. In a sense, Herod offers the princess an array of blind eyes. The eye does not see but is decorative, ornamenting Salomé's forms of concealment (veils, clouds, etc.). One can detect differential repetitions of these key tropes throughout the array of Herod's fantastic treasures: the fifty moon-like pearls, the many eye-like gems, the moonstones, and the parrot-feather fans.