by Stephen Crane
On the desert A silence from the moon's deepest valley. Fire rays fall athwart the robes Of hooded men, squat and dumb. Before them, a woman Moves to the blowing of shrill whistles And distant thunder of drums, While mystic things, sinuous, dull with terrible color, Sleepily fondle her body Or move at her will, swishing stealthily over the sand. The snakes whisper softly; The whispering, whispering snakes, Dreaming and swaying and staring, But always whispering, softly whispering. The wind streams from the lone reaches Of Arabia, solemn with night, And the wild fire makes shimmer of blood Over the robes of the hooded men Squat and dumb. Bands of moving bronze, emerald, yellow, Circle the throat and arms of her, And over the sands serpents move warily Slow, menacing and submissive, Swinging to the whistles and drums, The whispering, whispering snakes, Dreaming and swaying and staring, But always whispering, softly whispering. The dignity of the accursed; The glory of slavery, despair, death, Is in the dance of the whispering snakes.