… I will remember that night, when I turned back on leaving.
This is from the essay ‘The Coconut Palm’ found in Knowing the East by Paul Claudel; translated by James Lawler (1900; 2004):
… In the warm day and long noon the tree in ecstasy parts its fronds and, at the points where they separate and diverge, there appear the great green heads of fruit like children’s skulls. In this way it makes the gesture of showing its heart. for it reveals itself wholly, and the lower leaves hang down, and the middle ones spread as far as they can to each side, and those above, raised aloft, slowly make a sign as of a man who knows not what to do with his hands or signals his surrender. The trunk is not rigid but ringed, and supple, and long like a blade of grass; it sways to the earth’s dreaming, whether it rises directly toward the sun or bends its tuft above swift loamy rivers, or over sea and sky.
At night, as I returned along the beach foaming with the thunderous leonine mass of the Indian Ocean driven by the southwesterly monsoon, and followed the shore strewn with fronds like the skeleton wrecks of boats and beasts, I saw on my left, through the empty forest and beneath an opaque ceiling, the image of enormous spiders climbing obliquely across the twilight sky. Venus, like a moon bathing in the purest rays, cast a broad reflection on the waters. And a coconut palm, bent over sea and planet like a being overcome with love, made the sign of bringing its heart to the heavenly fire.
I will remember that night, when I turned back on leaving. I saw heavy tresses hanging down and, across the huge peristyle of the forest, the sky where the storm set its feet on the sea and rose up like a mountain, and the pale ocean level with the earth.