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Salammbo

CHAPTER III: SALAMMBO
The moon was rising just above the waves, and on the town which was still
wrapped in darkness there glittered white and luminous specks:—the pole of a
chariot, a dangling rag of linen, the corner of a wall, or a golden necklace on the
bosom of a god. The glass balls on the roofs of the temples beamed like great
diamonds here and there. But ill-defined ruins, piles of black earth, and gardens
formed deeper masses in the gloom, and below Malqua fishermen's nets
stretched from one house to another like gigantic bats spreading their wings. The
grinding of the hydraulic wheels which conveyed water to the highest storys of
the palaces, was no longer heard; and the camels, lying ostrich fashion on their
stomachs, rested peacefully in the middle of the terraces. The porters were
asleep in the streets on the thresholds of the houses; the shadows of the
colossuses stretched across the deserted squares; occasionally in the distance
the smoke of a still burning sacrifice would escape through the bronze tiling, and
the heavy breeze would waft the odours of aromatics blended with the scent of
the sea and the exhalation from the sun-heated walls. The motionless waves
shone around Carthage, for the moon was spreading her light at once upon the
mountain-circled gulf and upon the lake of Tunis, where flamingoes formed long
rose-coloured lines amid the banks of sand, while further on beneath the
catacombs the great salt lagoon shimmered like a piece of silver. The blue vault
of heaven sank on the horizon in one direction into the dustiness of the plains,
and in the other into the mists of the sea, and on the summit of the Acropolis, the
pyramidal cypress trees, fringing the temple of Eschmoun, swayed murmuring
like the regular waves that beat slowly along the mole beneath the ramparts.
Salammbo ascended to the terrace of her palace, supported by a female slave
who carried an iron dish filled with live coals.
In the middle of the terrace there was a small ivory bed covered with lynx skins,
and cushions made with the feathers of the parrot, a fatidical animal consecrated
to the gods; and at the four corners rose four long perfuming-pans filled with
nard, incense, cinnamomum, and myrrh. The slave lit the perfumes. Salammbo
looked at the polar star; she slowly saluted the four points of heaven, and knelt
down on the ground in the azure dust which was strewn with golden stars in
imitation of the firmament. Then with both elbows against her sides, her fore-
arms straight and her hands open, she threw back her head beneath the rays of
the moon, and said:
"O Rabetna!—Baalet!—Tanith!" and her voice was lengthened in a plaintive
fashion as if calling to some one. "Anaitis! Astarte! Derceto! Astoreth! Mylitta!
Athara! Elissa! Tiratha!—By the hidden symbols, by the resounding sistra,—by
the furrows of the earth,—by the eternal silence and by the eternal fruitfulness,—
mistress of the gloomy sea and of the azure shores, O Queen of the watery
world, all hail!"
She swayed her whole body twice or thrice, and then cast herself face
downwards in the dust with both arms outstretched.
 
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