Against the Hills the Never-Ceasing Fountain

Orlando et Tiresias boivent du thé dans ce jardin parfait… –‘Mythological Romances’, J. B. de la Mer

In the blue shade of the trees two snakes are mating, heavy serpents twined together across the path, their mouths full of dust. Her mouth too is full of dust, for she has walked since before dawn; and, the hills are dry, dry as bone. It is the drought-season. In the age-old fury she raises her stick over her head, to smash, to pulp the pythons; as she does a memory (or else a dream) takes hold of her — an old man, or a young man grown hoary in the shadows of evening, his arm raised trembling in loathing, the end of his walking-stick still green, still verdant, and on the ground two serpents. His face is terrible.

The pythons do not hear her shouting. Their dry, ophidian lust takes no notice of travellers, of the path, of the blue shadows of the forest. They go, each in his own direction, variously through the brush. On the path she cannot breathe, her mouth and her nose are stopped with the choking dust, her hair and her skin grey with it, in mud on her eyes, in clods in her ears, everywhere the dust of the path, the unbearable face of the wrathful man — his eyes are gone — the writhing of the snakes — the falling blow —