… when one laughs, her laughter spreads, then little by little grows less on the four faces that follow before vanishing on the fifth.
This is from the essay ‘The Banyan’ found in Knowing the East by Paul Claudel; translated by James Lawler (1900; 2004):
The banyan pulls.
The giant of these regions does not, like its Indian brother, seize the earth again with its hands but raises itself with a turn of the shoulder and lifts its roots like coils of chains. Hardly has the trunk climbed a few feet above the soil than it stretches its limbs laboriously like an arm pulling a pile of ropes it has grasped. Slowly it spreads itself: the monster heaves, strains, works so hard in all the attitudes of toil that the bark splits and the muscles stand out from its skin.
[line break added] There is the thrust, the flexing and propping, the twist of loin and shoulder, the slackening of the haunches, the play of fulcrum and jack, the arms raised or lowered that seem to take the body off its elastic joints. It is a knot of pythons, a hydra relentlessly tearing itself away from the tenacious earth. You would say that the banyan is lifting a burden from the depths and holding it up with the machinery of its straining limbs.
… wherever its shadow turns, when it is alone with the small children or when the entire village assembles under the tortuous thrust of its boughs and the pink rays of the moon traverse the openings of its canopy and light the village council with a golden backdrop, the colossus pursues its invisible toil and adds the passing moment to the accumulated centuries.
… Is it not the chained monster that conquers the earth’s greedy substance, by whom springs well up and overflow, and grass grows in the distance, and water stays at the proper level in the rice fields? It pulls.
This next is a bit from the essay ‘Toward the Mountain’:
[having set out before dawn] … Now the houses grow fewer. We come upon clumps of banyans, and, in the pond they shade, a giant buffalo, of which we see only the back and huge crescent-shaped horns; it stares at us agape. We pass lines of women going to the fields: when one laughs, her laughter spreads, then little by little grows less on the four faces that follow before vanishing on the fifth. When the first ray of sun crosses the virginal air, we reach the broad empty plain; and leaving the winding road behind us, we make our way toward the mountain …