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HomeModern Chinese EssaysAge-old Stories~《古老的故事》(司马中原) with English Translations

Age-old Stories~《古老的故事》(司马中原) with English Translations

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古老的故事

Age-old Stories

文/司马中原

译/张梦井 杜耀文

最好是夜晚,我们同坐在山间的木屋里,四面都是高耸的森林。远在我们来到这世界之前,在拨开寒云也望不见的年代,这些树便迎着风霜雨雪茁生了。人类的故事在它们听来算得上是古老的么?人的一生总是短暂的,李白的诗里有过这样的吟咏:“高堂明镜悲白发,朝如青丝暮成雪。”

It’s better at night, when we all sit together in a wooden hut in the mountains with towering trees around. Long before we came to this world in the times which are too far back to see even by dispelling away the cold clouds of history, these trees had already sprouted against the wind and frost. Can human stories be regarded as being old in their ears? Man’s life is always short. In Li Bai’s poem we can find the following two lines:

“Or the grey locks mourned in lofty chambers’ mirrors bright / There dawn of silken jet, and dusk of snow?”[1]

[1] Taken from Li Bai’s poem For the moment, Drinking wine.

你或许有些很使人迷惘的经验,比如面对着比你年龄大上若干倍的器物,像一张变成深褐色的雕花的木床,一枚生满铜绿的前代锈钱币,一幢在型式和装饰上都不同于今的屋宇,你会用感觉的触须探进那股已经消逝的时间里去追索和描摹,有时更会兴起浮泡般出奇的异想。若干古老的故事,都是根植在那里,缓缓生长出来。

Perhaps you have some perplexing experiences. For example, seeing an object several times older than you, like a darkened wooden bed with carvings, a rusty coin of the past dynasty covered with verdigris, a house different from modern ones in styles and decoration, you may probe into the lost age to relate and describe it with your feelers. And sometimes strange imaginations float in your min like bubbles. The several age-old stories are all stemmed from there and gradually grew up.

 

我们一面这样说着,姑把它当作一个故事的楔子,然后缓缓地点起一支蜡烛来,让烛光照亮我们的眼眉,你看见木屋里陈列着的那些古老的器物么?变黯的铜制烛台,染着斑斑的蜡泪,有多少支烛光,在窗前的风里哭泣过?古代的雕花自鸣钟,滴答滴答地赶着时间,它已经老得发出喘息的声音来了。

The above-mentioned can be tentatively regarded as the prologue of a story, then we slowly light up a candle light, let it illuminate our faces. Do you see those old things displayed in the wooden house? And the darkened bronze candlesticks dyed with many spots of candle tears? How many candles have sobbed in the wind before the window? The old-typed striking clock with carvings is tick-tacking with the time. It is too old to gasp for breath.

平常我们听取那些古老的故事,多半由须眉皆白的老者讲述的,他们手捏着长长的烟杆,叭着、喷着,那些故事和他们的脸都裹在沉沉的烟雾里面,看来放佛很不真切似的。但任何老人,都曾年轻过、梦过、爱过,像烛火一般的点燃过,器物也是一样,你如何能从一幅变成灰黄的画幅里,寻觅到当初它被绘成时的光泽呢?同样的,我们花和梦的年龄、欢笑的青春,也会随着波流的时光转黯,变成另一些古老的故事,这样说来,一切古老的事物都是自然的,绝无可嘲可蔑的成份,聪明的人,会嘲蔑到自己的头上么?

During ordinary times the old stories we hear are mostly told by old men with white brow and white beard. Holding long pipes, clicking them and puffing out smoke, they would tell these stories with their faces wrapped in a thick smoke. It seems as if they are not quite true. But any old man has his young days, dreamed, loved and burned like a candle. The same is true of things. How can you find the gloss of a painting when it was just painted, which has already become greyish yellow? Similarly the age of our golden times and the merry youth will also become dark with the drifting of times, becoming other old stories. Thus all the old things are natural and there is absolutely nothing to be laughed at. Can a wise man laugh at things he originated in?

 

当然是不会的,你们眼里亮着诚恳炽热的光彩,会使我在述说时觉得安心些,我还不能算是老者,至少,在生命的感觉上,有荷负很重的况味了。有人说,常梦见明天的人,都是年轻的,近年来,我常常梦见过去,那该是老化的象征,但我自认品尝经验,既宽慰又安然,若干古老事物带给人的启悟是丰盈的。

Of course not, for the earnest and blazing lustre in your eyes can make me feel somewhat at ease when telling these stories. I cannot be counted as an old man, but at least I feel a heavy burden of life. Someone says that those who often dream of future are all young men. Recent years I often dream of past events, which may be the sign of my being aged. However, when I appreciate my own experience, I feel both relieved and easy, for the revelation that the several old things brought to us are abundant.

 

前几年,多雨的冬夜,我从一份专谈弈事的杂志里,读过许多首属于回忆的诗,据说作者是个弈人,但我毋宁称他为诗人,他写的诗,意境高远而苍凉,这在现代人所写的传统诗里,算是极有分量的作品。我没有见过作者,更不知他真实的名字,只知他诗里展现的寒冷的江岸、排空浊浪声、烟迷迷的远林、红涂涂的落日;在酒店的茅舍中,爱弈的主人把棋盘当成砧板,盘中不是旗子,而是片片鱼鳞。

At a rainy winter night several years ago, I read of many poems of recollection in a magazine specially devoted to chess-playing. It was said that the author was a chess fan, but I prefer to call him a poet, for the poems he composed possessed high and desolate artistic conception. Among the traditional poems by contemporary writers, there are the works that carry a lot of weight. I have never seen the writer, not even know his real name. I only know the old river bands, toppling sound of turbid waves, misty distant forest and the reddish setting sun revealed in his poems. In the thatched cottage of the wine shop, the chess-fonder host takes chess board as chopping block and the pieces in the chess board as pieces of fish scale.

 

俄尔景象转变,呈现出细柳依墙、蔓草丛生的院落,如烟的春雨落着如同飘着,一双爱古玩字画、更爱弈事的年轻夫妇,曾将生活谱成诗章,转眼间,柳枯花落,变为历历的前尘,寒夜里独坐,听北风摇窗,独自拂拭,那况味岂非如浇愁的烈酒?!

Presently the scene changes, showing a yard with tender willow branches hanging on walls and thickly grown with trailing grass. The misty spring rain is falling rather than drifting. A young couple who are fond of antiques, calligraphy and painting and even chess-playing have composed the life into poems. But before I know it, willows are dead and flowers fallen.They all became vivid past events. While I was sitting lonely at a cold night, and listening to the north wind shaking the windows and wiping the dust off alone, I felt the taste was just like strong wine used to drench the sorrow!

一个落雨的春天,清明节前,我到墓场去祭扫一位逝去的友人的墓,看见一个满头斑白的老妇人,坐在她亡夫的坟前,身边放着一只篮子,篮里放着没织成的毛衣毛线、便当和水,她用一把家用剪刀,细心地修剪墓头的丛草,我好奇地留下来,看她从早晨工作到傍晚,放佛她不是在剪草,而是在修剪她自己的回忆……谁能把古老的事物真的看得那么遥远呢?人在真正的现实生活中,随时都会遇着这一类隐藏着的、古老的故事。

In a rainy spring just before the Pure Brightness[2] when I went to graveyard to pay respect to a dead friend of mine, I saw a grey-haired old lady sitting before her husband’s grave with a basket about her, in which was an unfinished woolen sweater and some knitting wool, conveniences and water. She cut the grass on the grave carefully with a pair of common scissors. Thus I stopped there in curiosity, watching her doing that the whole day. It seems that she was not cutting he grass but cutting her own recollection… who can think the old things as being so remote? In practical life, man can meet with this sort of concealed and old stories at any time.

[2] The fifth solar term; according to traditional Chinese custom, it is the day to pay respect to the dead.

另一个落雨的春暮,和一位深爱古老事物的女孩在大溪镇上漫步,看那条古趣的街道,参差的前朝留下的房舍,她说起童年时就在那儿上小学,放学时走过这条街,会呆呆地看老木匠雕刻桌椅和油漆木器,时间使老木匠换成新的年轻的木匠,而他们雕刻的云朵、龙凤和人物的图案,仍然是那样,放佛在生命与生命之间,有一条深深长长的河流相通着。

In another rainy spring evening, I was strolling in Daxi Town with a girl who was deeply fond of antiques. Seeing the interesting ancient street and the irregular houses left over in the last dynasty, she said that she used to go to school there when she was a child. And after school when she passed by the street, she often stopped and watched how the old carpenter was carving desks and chairs and painting wooden furniture. But now the old carpenter had been replaced by a young one, while the clouds, dragons and phoenix and the patterns of characters be carved were still the same as the old man had done. It seems as though there was a long, deep river connecting the two lives.

 

她撑着伞,带我去看一些更古老的,一家圮颓的宗祠,雕花的梁柱落在蔓草里,石碑上排列着一代代有显赫官衔的列祖列宗的名字,也半躺在湮荒的庭园中濯着雨,而崖下的大汉溪仍然流着,和从前一样地流着。她没有说话去诠释和肯定什么,她的笑容展在无边春雨中,染上一些春暮的悲凉……

Holding an umbrella, she took me to see some still old and collapsed ancestral hall. The carved beams and pillars fell into the wild grass and the names of ancestry of various generations with illustrious official titles were also half hidden in the annihilation of the courtyard, exposing to the rain water. However, the Dahan Stream at the foot of the cliff was still flowing as before. She said nothing to explain and affirm anything. Her smile unfolded in the endless rain of spring, showing some mood of desolation of late spring…

 

更远一些时日,有位朋友告诉我,郊区有个卖烧饼的老人,他的妻子早就过世了,留给他一个男孩子,他一个人除了起早睡晚忙生意,还得父兼母职带领他的孩子。日子滚驰过去,似箭非箭,至少在贫困中生活的人,感觉并没那么快法,当那男孩留学异邦时,卖烧饼的父亲的生命,已快在时间里燃烧尽了。孩子去后,每年也都来一两封信,告诉老父他成婚了、就业了、购车了、买屋了……成家立业的风光都显在一册彩色相簿上,而卖烧饼的老人死时,紧紧的把那册照他梦想绘成的相簿抱在怀里,他的墓由谁去祭扫呢?

Further ago, a friend of mine told me that in the suburb there was an old man who sold sesame-seed cakes. His wife had long passed away, leaving him a son. Besides bustling about his business from dawn to dusk, he had to bring up his son, as a father and a mother as well. The days were passing like an arrow. At least those living in poverty do not have such a pleasant feeling. When the son was studying abroad, the cake peddler father was spending his last days. After the son had gone, he wrote home one or two time each year, telling his father that he had married, had a job, bought a car, purchased a house… with all the scenes of his marriage and career included in a coloured album. When the old man was dying, he held that album tightly drawn according to his dreams, but who will pay respect to his grave?

 

烛光摇曳着,我的声音当真有些苍凉沙哑么?说别人的事,实际上和自身的事有何差别呢?新鲜里含着古老,同样的,古老里也亮着新鲜,就那样参差罗列,相互映照着,人生各面,不都是透明的镜子,能映出生命不同的容貌来么?前人常慨乎怀古,写出“折戟沉沙铁未销,且将磨洗认前朝”的句子,那似乎太古远也太重情了,若能随手牵来,把今于古融为一,也许使人更获憬悟罢?

The candle light is flickering. Is it true that there is some desolation and hoarseness in my voice? What’s the difference to talk about other’s matters and to talk about matters of my own? Things new contain the old and similarly old things shine with fresh things. In that way, they irregularly spread themselves out, casting light upon each other. Isn’t every respect of human life a transparent mirror, reflecting different features of human life? Our ancestors used to meditate generously on the past, they wrote: “Uncorroded is the broken halberd, recovered from the sands. Once washed, it proves a relic of the Han,”[3] which seems too ancient and too passionate. If it can be brought here and mix both the modern and the ancient into one, maybe we can wake back to reality still better.

[3] The Tang Dynasty poet Du Mu’s poem Red Cliff.

 

我梦想煮物架上的莲子粥,在煤灯焰舌上的吟唱,恍惚又听到自己童年脚步踏在楼板上的声音。

When I dream of the lotus-seed porridge and chant poems over a flickering oil lamp, I seem to hear my footsteps on the floor when I was young.

 

你们第一首诗是怎样写成的呢?

How was your first poem written then?

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