They moved on. There were eagles and other birds in the valley and many deer and there were wild orchids and brakes of bamboo. The river here was sizeable and it swept past enormous boulders and waterfalls fell everywhere out of the high tangled jungle. The judge had taken to riding ahead with one of the Delawares and he carried his rifle loaded with the small hard seeds of the nopal fruit and in the evening he would dress expertly the colorful birds he’d shot, rubbing the skins with gunpowder and stuffing them with balls of dried grass and packing them away in his wallets. He pressed the leaves of trees and plants into his book and he stalked tiptoe the mountain butterflies with his shirt outheld in both hands, speaking to them in a low whisper, no curious study himself. Toadvine sat watching him as he made his notations in the ledger, holding the book toward the fire for the light, and he asked him what was his purpose in all this.
The judge’s quill ceased its scratching. He looked at Toadvine. Then he continued to write again.
Toadvine spat into the fire.
The judge wrote on and then he folded the ledger shut and laid it to one side and pressed his hands together and passed them down over his nose and mouth and placed them palm down on his knees.
Whatever exists, he said. Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.
He looked about at the dark forest in which they were bivouacked. He nodded toward the specimens he’d collected. These anonymous creatures, he said, may seem little or nothing in the world. Yet the smallest crumb can devour us. Any smallest thing beneath yon rock out of men’s knowing. Only nature can enslave man and only when the existence of each last entity is routed out and made to stand naked before him will he be properly suzerain of the earth.
What’s a suzerain?
A keeper. A keeper or overlord.
Why not say keeper then?
Because he is a special kind of keeper. A suzerain rules even where there are other rulers. His authority countermands local judgements.
The judge placed his hands on the ground. He looked at his inquisitor. This is my claim, he said. And yet everywhere upon it are pockets of autonomous life. Autonomous. In order for it to be mine nothing must be permitted to occur upon it save by my dispensation.
Toadvine sat with his boots crossed before the fire. No man can acquaint himself with everthing on this earth, he said.
The judge tilted his great head. The man who believes that the secrets of the world are forever hidden lives in mystery and fear. Superstition will drag him down. The rain will erode the deeds of his life. But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only by such taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate.
I dont see what that has to do with catchin birds.
The freedom of birds is an insult to me. I’d have them all in zoos.
That would be a hell of a zoo.
The judge smiled. Yes, he said. Even so.
In the night a caravan passed, the heads of the horses and mules muffled in serapes, led along silently in the dark, the riders cautioning one to the other with their fingers to their lips. The judge atop a great boulder overlooking the trail watched them go.
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, 206-208 (pair with this just for fun)