the iliad’s aegean sea recast as mexican desert in mccarthy’s american epic

 

Under a gibbous moon horse and rider spanceled to their shadows on the snowblue ground and in each flare of lightning as the storm advanced those selfsame forms rearing with a terrible redundancy behind them like some third aspect of their presence hammered out black and wild upon the naked ground. They rode on. They rode like men invested with a purpose whose origins were antecedent to them, like blood legatees of an order both imperative and remote. For although each man among them was discrete unto himself, conjoined they made a thing that had not been before and in that communal soul were wastes hardly reckonable more than those whited regions on old maps where monsters do live and where there is nothing other of the known world save conjectural winds.

They crossed the del Norte and rode south into a land more hostile yet. All day they crouched like owls under the niggard acacia shade and peered out upon that cooking world. Dust-devils stood on the horizon like the smoke of distant fires but of living there was none. They eyed the sun in its circus and at dusk they rode out upon the cooling plain where the western sky was the color of blood. At a desert well they dismounted and drank jaw to jaw with their horses and remounted and rode on. The little desert wolves yapped in the dark and Glanton’s dog trotted beneath the horse’s belly, it footfalls stitched precisely among the hooves.

That night they were visited by a plague of hail out of a faultless sky and the horses shied and moaned and the men dismounted and sat upon the ground with their saddles over their heads while the hail leaped in the sand like small lucent eggs concocted alchemically out of the desert darkness. When they resaddled and rode on they went for miles through cobbled ice while a polar moon rose like a blind cat’s eye up over the rim of the world. In the night they passed the lights of a village on the plain but they did not alter from their course.

 

— from Cormac McCarthyBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West 

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