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If you doubt that I have wielded the heavy oars look at my hands and knees; you will find them worn like ancient tools. I know each plant of that marine desert which is violet-hued at times, at others blue, and I also know the principle of each spiral shell. Some of the plants are endowed with human life; these have transparent eyes like jelly, a body like the sow's teats and a multitude of tiny tentacles which are also mouths. Among the perforated shells I have seen some which were pierced more than a thousand times; and through each tiny opening came and went a fleshly foot, by means of which the shell was conveyed about.

After passing Hercules' pillars the ocean that surrounds the world becomes strange and infuriate.

And in its course it creates darksome types of men and wonderful animals. There is a great serpent, with golden beard, which governs its kingdom wisely; and some women of this country have an eye at the extremity of each finger. Others have beaks and crests like birds; otherwise they resemble us. On one isle at which I landed, the inhabitatns carried their heads where our stomachs are located; and when they saluted us they bowed their abdomens. As to cyclops, pigmies and giants I will say naught of them; for their number is too great.

None of these things appeared to partake of the unnatural to me; I felt no terror of them. But one evening we reached Scyllaeum. Our bark touched sand on the Sicilian side. As I was turning the rudder I perceived in the water's midst the head of a woman with closed eyes. Her hair was tinged with gold. She seemed to sleep. And then, indeed, I trembled for I feared to look into her eyes, well knowing that, having once gazed therein, I should turn the rudder of our boat toward the seething whirlpool.

written by Schwob (1893), translated by Lenalie (1901)

written by Schwob (1893), translated by Lenalie (1901)

Charles Schwob