Tuesday, August 21, 2012

D.H. Lawrence, from The Plumed Serpent

Mexico! The great, precipitous, dry, savage country, with a handsome church in every landscape, rising as it were out of nothing. A revolution-broken landscape, with lingering, tall, handsome churches whose domes are like inflations that are going to burst, and whose pinnacle towers are like the trembling pagodas of an unreal race. Gorgeous churches waiting, above the huts and straw hovels of the natives, like ghosts to be dismissed. 

And noble ruined haciendas, with ruined avenues approaching their broken splendour.

And the cities of Mexico, great and small, that the Spaniards conjured up out of nothing. Stones live and die with the spirit of the builders. And the spirit of Spaniards in Mexico dies, and the very stones in the buildings die. The natives drift into the centre of the plazas again, and in unspeakable empty weariness the Spanish buildings stand around, in a sort of dry exhaustion. 

Ah the conquered race! Cortés came with his iron heel and his iron will, a conqueror. But a conquered race, unless grafted with a new inspiration, slowly sucks the blood of the conquerors, in the silence of a strange night and the heaviness of a hopeless will. So that now, the race of the conquerors in Mexico is soft and boneless, children crying in helpless hopelessness. 

Was it the dark negation of the continent?

Kate could not look at the stones of the National Museum in Mexico without depression and dread. Snakes coiled like excrement, snakes fanged and feathered beyond all dreams of dread. And that was all. 

The ponderous pyramids of San Juan Teotihuacán, the House of Quetzalcoatl wreathed with the Snake of all snakes, his huge fangs white and pure today as in the lost centuries when his makers were alive. He has not died. He is not so dead as the Spanish churches, this all-enwreathing dragon of the horror of Mexico. 

Cholula, with its church where the altar was! And the same ponderousness, the same unspeakable sense of weight and downward pressure, of the blunt pyramid. Down-sinking pressure and depression. And the great market-place with its lingering dread and fascination. 

Mitla under its arid hills, in the parched valley where a wind blows the dust and the dead souls of the vanished race in terrible gusts. The carved courts of Mitla, with a hard, sharp-angled, intricate fascination but the fascination of fear and repellance. Hard, four-square, sharp-edged, cutting, zig-zagging Mitla, like continual blows of a stone axe. Without gentleness or grace or charm. Oh America, with your unspeakable hard lack of charm, what then is your final meaning? Is it forever the knife of sacrifice, as you put out your tongue at the world? 

Charmless America! With your hard, vindictive beauty, are you waiting forever to smite to death? Is the world your everlasting victim? 

So long as it will let itself be victimised.

But yet! But yet! The gentle voices of the natives. The voices of the boys like birds twittering among the trees of the plaza of Tehuacán! The soft touch, the gentleness. Was it the dark-fingered quietness of death, and the music of the presence of death in their voices? 

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