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HomeModern Chinese EssaysThe Ox by Ye Shengtao~ 《牛》(叶圣陶)with English Translations

The Ox by Ye Shengtao~ 《牛》(叶圣陶)with English Translations

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The Ox

叶圣陶

Ye Shengtao

(李运兴 译)

在乡下住的几年里,天天看见牛。可是直到现在还像显现在眼前的,只有牛的大眼睛。冬天,牛拴在门口晒太阳。它躺着,嘴不停的磋磨,眼睛就似乎比忙的时候睁得更大。牛眼睛好像白的成分多,那是惨白。我说它惨白,也许为了上面网着一条条血丝。我以为这两种颜色配合在一起,只能用死者的寂静配合着吊丧者的哭声那样的情景来相摹拟。牛的眼睛太大,又鼓得太高,简直到了使你害怕的程度。我进院子的时候经过牛身旁,总注意到牛鼓着的两只大眼睛在瞪着我。我禁不住想,它这样瞪着,瞪着,会猛的站起身朝我撞过来。我确实感到那眼光里含着恨。我也体会出它为什么这样瞪着我,总距离它远远的绕过去。有时候我留心看它将会有什么举动,可是只见它呆呆地瞪着,我觉得那眼睛里似乎还有别的使人看了不自在的意味。

Oxen were a daily sight during my years in the countryside, but the only thing that remains fresh in my memory to this day is their big eyes. On winter days, they were tethered outside to bask in the sun. They sprawled out on the ground, grinding their teeth, their eyes open even wider than when they were toiling in the fields. The white in their eyes, which seemed to be over-proportioned, was what I like to call a deathly white, perhaps due to its being crisscrossed with red lines of blood vessels. When the two colors were thus combined, red against white, it invoked in my mind a scene of the stillness of a corpse in contrast with the wailing of mourners. The eyes of the oxen were so big and bulging that they seemed almost terrifying to me. Whenever I walked past the ox to enter my courtyard, I always noticed that its eyes were fixed on me, leading me to worry that it might suddenly move from the gaze to an attack. There was hatred in its eyes, this I felt strongly, and, understanding why it gazed at me, I usually made a long detour to avoid it. Sometimes I kept watching it out of the corner of my eye for any possible action it might take, but only saw it remain where it was, with the same never-changing glazed look in its eyes. Nonetheless, I still had the sense that there was something else in its eyes, something which made me upset.

 

我们院子里有好些小孩,活泼,天真,当然也顽皮。春天,他们扑蝴蝶。夏天,他们钓青蛙,谷子成熟的时候到处都有油蚱蜢,他们捉了来,在灶堂里煨了吃。冬天,什么小生物全不见了,他们就玩牛。

There used to be a lot of children in our courtyard. They were lively and innocent, though of course also playful and naughty. In spring, they swatted butterflies. In summer, they angled for frogs, and when the crops were ripe they caught grasshoppers and toasted them in the stove as a seasonal snack. In winter, when there were no such insects, the boys would play tricks on the ox.

 

有好几回,我见牛让他们惹得发了脾气。它绕着拴住它的木桩子,一圈儿一圈儿的转。低着头,斜起角,眼睛打角底下瞪出来,就好像这一撞要把整个天地翻个身似的。

On several occasions, the ox became enraged. It circled around the wooden post to which it was tethered, its head lowered, its horns slantwise in a butting position, its eyes bulging out in a gaze from under its horns, as if it was about to butt the whole world upside down.

 

孩子们是这样玩的:他们一个个远远的站着,捡些石子,朝牛扔去。起先,石子不怎么大,扔在牛身上,那一搭皮肤马上轻轻的抖一下,像我们的嘴角动一下似的。渐渐的,捡来的石子大起来了,扔到身上,牛会掉过头来瞪着你。要是有个孩子特别胆大,特别机灵,他会到竹园里找来一根毛竹。伸得远远的去撩牛的尾巴,戳牛的屁股,把牛惹起火来。可是,我从未见过他们撩过牛的头。我想,即使是小孩,也从那双大眼睛看出使人不自在的意味了。

The games went like this: Standing at a safe distance, the kids picked up stones and hurled them at the ox. At first, the stones were small. When they landed on the ox, the part that was hit gave only a slight twitch, similar to that of the corner of one’s mouth. By and by, the kids began to used bigger stones, and the ox, when hit, would turn and glare at them. If there was an especially bold and smart kid in the crowd, he would be expected to go and fetch a bamboo pole from the garden, and then use it as a long-handled weapon with which to poke at the tail or rump of the ox. At this point, the ox would unsurprisingly begin to flare up in anger. However, I never saw the kids tease it on its head, as I suppose even the young children could see that there was something discomforting and discouraging in its eyes.

 

玩到最后,牛站起来了,于是孩子们轰的一声,四处跑散。这种把戏,我看得很熟很熟了。

The game would come to an end when the ox rose up, sending the kids scattering in all directions. Over time I got to be familiar with every trick the kids played.

 

有一回,正巧一个长工打院子里出来,他三十光景了,还像孩子似的爱闹着玩。他一把捉住个孩子,“莫跑,”他说,“见了牛都要跑,改天还想吃庄稼饭?”他朝我笑笑说,“真的,牛不消怕得,你看它有那么大吗?它不会撞人的。牛的眼睛有点不同。”

One day, a farmer happened to be coming out of the yard. Despite being already in his thirties, he was still as mischievous as a child. Grabbing hold of a boy, he said to him: “What are you running away for? You’ll never grow up to be a farmer if you’re scared of an old ox!” Then he turned and smiled at me: “There’s no need to be afraid of the ox. He looks big, but he won’t attack men. It’s his eyes that make the difference.”

 

以下是长工告诉我的话。

He then gave me a lengthy explanation:

 

“比方说,我们看见这根木头桩子,牛眼睛看来就像一根撑天柱。比方说,一块田十多亩,牛眼晴看来就没有边,没有沿。牛眼睛看出来的东西,都比原来大,大许多许多。看我们人,就有四金刚那么高,那么大。站到我们跟前它就害怕了,它不敢倔强,随便拿它怎么样都不敢倔强。它当我们只要两个指头就能捻死它,抬一抬脚趾拇就能踢它到半天云里,我们哈气就像下雨一样。那它就只有听我们使唤,天好,落雨,生田,熟田,我们要耕,它就只有耕,没得话说的。你先生说对不对,幸好牛有那么一双眼睛。不然的话,还让你使唤啊,那么大的一个力气又蛮,踩到一脚就要痛上好几天。对了,我们跟牛,五个抵一个都抵不住。好在牛眼睛看出来,我们一个抵它十几个。”

“See this wooden post? In our eyes it’s no more than what it is, but in the eyes of an ox it looks as tall as the sky. Another example: a forty-mu piece of land looks endless to an ox. All things on earth seem bigger through their eyes, much, much bigger than they really are. An ordinary man looks as tall and strong as Goliath to them, so they submit to us. They don’t dare rebel no matter what we do with them, as if we could kill them with just one twist of our fingers, or punt them into midair with a flick of a toe, or whip up a storm by blowing out a mouthful of air. They’ll do whatever we ask of them. Whether it rains or shines, whether it’s farmed land or virgin soil, they plow it as long as we order them to. They have no other choice. Thank the Lord for those eyes! Don’t you agree? Otherwise, would they obey us? They’ve got huge strength and they’re rough. One little stamp of their hooves on our toes would leave us in agony for days. Even five of us pulling together would be no match for a single ox. But in their eyes a man can beat ten of them.”

 

以后,我进出院子的时候,总特意留心看牛的眼睛,我明白了另一种使人看着不自在的意味。那黄色的浑浊的瞳仁,那老是直视前方的眼光,都带着恐惧的神情,这使眼睛里的恨转成了哀怨。站在牛的立场上说,如果能去掉这双眼睛,成了瞎子也值得,因为得到自由了。

After this, every time I walked in or out of the courtyard, I would study the eyes of the ox with particular care. In time I came to see something else in its eyes that made me even more upset: the murky yellowish pupils, the ever-stagnant forward stare, both bespoke fear and grievances that should have been hatred and indignation. From the standpoint of the ox, to do away with its eyes would mean to gain freedom, and would be worthwhile even at the cost of losing its eyesight.

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