The Serpent's Story by Leonid Andreyev
Hush! Hush! Hush! Come closer to me. Look into my eyes!
I always was a fascinating creature, tender, sensitive, and grateful. I
was wise and I was noble. And I am so flexible in the writhing of my
graceful body that it will afford you joy to watch my easy dance. Now I
shall coil up into a ring, flash my scales dimly, wind myself around
tenderly and clasp my steel body in my gentle, cold embraces. One in many!
One in many!
Hush! Hush! Look into my eyes!
You do not like my writhing and my straight, open look? Oh, my head is
heavy—therefore I sway about so quietly. Oh, my head is heavy—therefore
I look so straight ahead, as I sway about. Come closer to me. Give me a
little warmth; stroke my wise forehead with your fingers; in its fine
outlines you will find the form of a cup into which flows wisdom, the dew
of the evening-flowers. When I draw the air by my writhing, a trace is
left in it—the design of the finest of webs, the web of
dream-charms, the enchantment of noiseless movements, the inaudible hiss
of gliding lines. I am silent and I sway myself. I look ahead and I sway
myself. What strange burden am I carrying on my neck?
I love you.
I always was a fascinating creature, and loved tenderly those I loved.
Come closer to me. Do you see my white, sharp, enchanting little teeth?
Kissing, I used to bite. Not painfully, no—just a trifle. Caressing
tenderly, I used to bite a little, until the first bright little drops
appeared, until a cry came forth which sounded like the laugh produced by
tickling. That was very pleasant—think not it was unpleasant;
otherwise they whom I kissed would not come back for more kisses. It is
now that I can kiss only once—how sad—only once! One kiss for
each—how little for a loving heart, for a sensitive soul, striving
for a great union! But it is only I, the sad one, who kiss but once, and
must seek love again—he knows no other love any more: to him my one,
tender, nuptial kiss is inviolable and eternal. I am speaking to you
frankly; and when my story is ended—I will kiss you.
I love you.
Look into my eyes. Is it not true that mine is a magnificent, a powerful
look? A firm look and a straight look? And it is steadfast, like steel
forced against your heart. I look ahead and sway myself, I look and I
enchant; in my green eyes I gather your fear, your loving, fatigued,
submissive longing. Come closer to me. Now I am a queen and you dare not
fail to see my beauty; but there was a strange time—Ah, what a
strange time! Ah, what a strange time! At the mere recollection I am
agitated—Ah, what a strange time! No one loved me. No one respected
me. I was persecuted with cruel ferocity, trampled in the mud and jeered—Ah,
what a strange time it was! One in many! One in many!
I say to you: Come closer to me.
Why did they not love me? At that time I was also a fascinating creature,
but without malice; I was gentle and I danced wonderfully. But they
tortured me. They burnt me with fire. Heavy and coarse beasts trampled
upon me with the dull steps of terribly heavy feet; cold tusks of bloody
mouths tore my tender body—and in my powerless sorrow I bit the
sand, I swallowed the dust of the ground—I was dying of despair.
Crushed, I was dying every day. Every day I was dying of despair. Oh, what
a terrible time that was! The stupid forest has forgotten everything—it
does not remember that time, but you have pity on me. Come closer to me.
Have pity on me, on the offended, on the sad one, on the loving one, on
the one who dances so beautifully.
I love you.
How could I defend myself? I had only my white, wonderful, sharp little
teeth—they were good only for kisses. How could I defend myself? It
is only now that I carry on my neck this terrible burden of a head, and my
look is commanding and straight, but then my head was light and my eyes
gazed meekly. Then I had no poison yet. Oh, my head is so heavy and it is
hard for me to hold it up! Oh, I have grown tired of my look—two
stones are in my forehead, and these are my eyes. Perhaps the glittering
stones are precious—but it is hard to carry them instead of gentle
eyes—they oppress my brain. It is so hard for my head! I look ahead
and sway myself; I see you in a green mist—you are so far away. Come
closer to me.
You see, even in sorrow I am beautiful, and my look is languid because of
my love. Look into my pupil; I will narrow and widen it, and give it a
peculiar glitter—the twinkling of a star at night, the playfulness
of all precious stones—of diamonds, of green emeralds, of yellowish
topaz, of blood-red rubies. Look into my eyes: It is I, the queen—I
am crowning myself, and that which is glittering, burning and glowing—that
robs you of your reason, your freedom and your life—it is poison. It
is a drop of my poison.
How has it happened? I do not know. I did not bear ill-will to the living.
I lived and suffered. I was silent. I languished. I hid myself hurriedly
when I could hide myself; I crawled away hastily. But they have never seen
me weep—I cannot weep; and my easy dance grew ever faster and ever
more beautiful. Alone in the stillness, alone in the thicket, I danced
with sorrow in my heart—they despised my swift dance and would have
been glad to kill me as I danced. Suddenly my head began to grow heavy—How
strange it is!—My head grew heavy. Just as small and beautiful, just
as wise and beautiful, it had suddenly grown terribly heavy; it bent my
neck to the ground, and caused me pain. Now I am somewhat used to it, but
at first it was dreadfully awkward and painful. I thought I was sick.
And suddenly... Come closer to me. Look into my eyes. Hush! Hush! Hush!
And suddenly my look became heavy—it became fixed and strange—I
was even frightened! I want to glance and turn away—but cannot. I
always look straight ahead, I pierce with my eyes ever more deeply, I am
as though petrified. Look into my eyes. It is as though I am petrified, as
though everything I look upon is petrified. Look into my eyes.
I love you. Do not laugh at my frank story, or I shall be angry. Every
hour I open my sensitive heart, for all my efforts are in vain—I am
alone. My one and last kiss is full of ringing sorrow—and the one I
love is not here, and I seek love again, and I tell my tale in vain—my
heart cannot bare itself, and the poison torments me and my head grows
heavier. Am I not beautiful in my despair? Come closer to me.
I love you.
Once I was bathing in a stagnant swamp in the forest—I love to be
clean—it is a sign of noble birth, and I bathe frequently. While
bathing, dancing in the water, I saw my reflection, and as always, fell in
love with myself. I am so fond of the beautiful and the wise! And suddenly
I saw—on my forehead, among my other inborn adornments, a new,
strange sign—Was it not this sign that has brought the heaviness,
the petrified look, and the sweet taste in my mouth? Here a cross is
darkly outlined on my forehead—right here—look. Come closer to
me. Is this not strange? But I did not understand it at that time, and I
liked it. Let there be no more adornment. And on the same day, on that
same terrible day, when the cross appeared, my first kiss became also my
last—my kiss became fatal. One in many! One in many!
You love precious stones, but think, my beloved, how far more precious is
a little drop of my poison. It is such a little drop.—Have you ever
seen it? Never, never. But you shall find it out. Consider, my beloved,
how much suffering, painful humiliation, powerless rage devoured me: I had
to experience in order to bring forth this little drop. I am a queen! I am
a queen! In one drop, brought forth by myself, I carry death unto the
living, and my kingdom is limitless, even as grief is limitless, even as
death is limitless. I am queen! My look is inexorable. My dance is
terrible! I am beautiful! One in many! One in many!
Do not fall. My story is not yet ended. Come closer to me.
And then I crawled into the stupid forest, into my green dominion.
Now it is a new way, a terrible way! I was kind like a queen; and like a
queen I bowed graciously to the right and to the left. And they—they
ran away! Like a queen I bowed benevolently to the right and to the left—and
they, queer people—they ran away. What do you think? Why did they
run away? What do you think? Look into my eyes. Do you see in them a
certain glimmer and a flash? The rays of my crown blind your eyes, you are
petrified, you are lost. I shall soon dance my last dance—-do not
fall. I shall coil into rings, I shall flash my scales dimly, and I shall
clasp my steel body in my gentle, cold embraces. Here I am! Accept my only
kiss, my nuptial kiss—in it is the deadly grief of all oppressed
lives. One in many! One in many!
Bend down to me. I love you.