You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Sunday, July 15, 2012


In this province live huge snakes and serpents of such a size that no one could help being amazed even to hear of them. They are loathsome creatures to behold. Let me tell you just how big they are. You may take it for a fact that there are some of them ten paces in length that are as thick as a stout cask: for their girth runs to about ten palms. These are the biggest. They have two squat legs in front near the head, which have no feet but simply three claws, two smaller and one bigger, like the claws of a falcon or a lion. They have enormous heads and eyes so bulging that they are bigger than loaves. Their mouth is big enough to swallow a man at one gulp. Their teeth are huge. All in all, the monsters are of such inordinate bulk and ferocity that there is neither man nor beast but goes in fear of them. There are also smaller ones, not exceeding eight paces in length, or six or it may be five.

Let me tell you how these monsters are trapped...They are so bulky and heavy and of such great girth that when they pass though the sand on their nightly search for food and drink they scoop out a furrow that looks as though a butt  full of wine had been rolled that way. Now the hunters that set out to catch them lay traps at various places in the trails...These are made by embedding in the earth a stout wooden stake to which is fixed a sharp steel tip like a razor blade or lance head, projecting about a palm's breath beyond the stake and slanting in the direction from which the serpents approach. This is covered with sand so nothing of the stake is visible...When the snake, or rather the serpent, comes down the trail to drink, he runs full tilt into the steel , so that it pierces his chest and rips his belly right to the navel and he dies on the spot. The hunter knows that the serpent is dead by the cries of the birds, and then he ventures to approach his prey. Otherwise he dare not draw near.

From The Travels of Marco Polo
Edited by R.E. Latham
Penguin Edition

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