沈从文《我读一本小书同时又读一本大书》中英双语 -《湘西散记:汉英对照》

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我读一本小书同时又读一本大书

我能正确记忆到我小时的一切,大约在两岁左右。我从小到四岁左右,始终健全肥壮如一只小豚。四岁时母亲一面告给我认方字,外祖母一面便给我糖吃,到认完六百生字时,腹中生了蛔虫,弄得黄瘦异常,只得每天用草药蒸鸡肝当饭。那时节我就已跟随了两个姐姐,到一个女先生处上学。那人既是我的亲戚,我年龄又那么小,过那边去念书,坐在书桌边读书的时节较少,坐在她膝上玩的时间或者较多。

到六岁时,我的弟弟方两岁,两人同时出了疹子。时正六月,日夜皆在吓人高热中受苦,又不能躺下睡觉,一躺下就咳嗽发喘。又不要人抱,抱时全身难受。我还记得我同我那弟弟两人当时皆用竹簟卷好,同春卷一样,竖立在屋中阴凉处。家中人当时业已为我们预备了两具小小棺木搁在院中廊下,但十分幸运,两人到后来居然全好了。我的弟弟病后,家中特别为他请了一个壮实高大的苗妇人照料,照料得法,他便壮大异常。我因此一病,却完全改了样子,从此不再与肥胖为缘,成了个小猴儿精了。

六岁时我已单独上了私塾。如一般风气,凡是私塾中给予小孩子的虐待,我照样也得到了一份。但初上学时我因为在家中业已认字不少,记忆力从小又似乎特别好,故比较其余小孩,可谓十分幸福。第二年后换了一个私塾,在这私塾中我跟从了几个较大的学生,学会了顽劣孩子抵抗顽固塾师的方法,逃避那些书本去同一切自然相亲近。这一年的生活形成了我一生性格与感情的基础。我间或逃学,且一再说谎,掩饰我逃学应受的处罚。我的爸爸因这件事十分愤怒,有一次竟说若再逃学说谎,便当砍去我一个手指。我仍然不为这话所恐吓,机会一来时总不把逃学的机会轻轻放过。当我学会了用自己眼睛看世界一切,到不同社会中去生活时,学校对于我便已毫无兴味可言了。

我爸爸平时本极爱我,我曾经有一时还作过我那一家的中心人物。稍稍害点儿病时,一家人便光着眼睛不睡眠,在床边服侍我,当我要谁抱时谁就伸出手来。家中那时经济情形还很好,我在物质方面所享受到的,比起一般亲戚小孩似乎都好得多。我的爸爸既一面只作将军的好梦,一面对于我却怀了更大的希望。他仿佛早就看出我不是个军人,不希望我作将军,却告诉我祖父的许多勇敢光荣的故事,以及他庚子年间所得的一份经验。他因为欢喜京戏,只想我学戏,作谭鑫培。[3]他以为我不拘作什么事,总之应比作个将军高些。第一个赞美我明慧的就是我的爸爸。可是当他发现了我成天从塾中逃出到太阳底下同一群小流氓游荡,任何方法都不能拘束这颗小小的心,且不能禁止我狡猾的说谎时,我的行为实在伤了这个军人的心。同时那小我四岁的弟弟,因为看护他的苗妇人照料十分得法,身体养育得强壮异常,年龄虽小,便显得气派宏大,凝静结实,且极自重自爱,故家中人对我感到失望时,对他便异常关切起来。这小孩子到后来也并不辜负家中人的期望,二十二岁时便作了步兵上校。至于我那个爸爸,却在蒙古,东北,西藏各处军队中混过,民国二十年时还只是一个上校,在本地土著军队里作军医(后改为中医院长),把将军希望留在弟弟身上,在家乡从一种极轻微的疾病中便瞑目了。

我有了外面的自由,对于家中的爱护反觉处处受了牵制,因此家中人疏忽了我的生活时,反而似乎使我方便了一些。领导我逃出学塾,尽我到日光下去认识这大千世界微妙的光,稀奇的色,以及万汇百物的动静,这人是我一个张姓表哥。他开始带我到他家中橘柚园中去玩,到各处山上去玩,到各种野孩子堆里去玩,到水边去玩。他教我说谎,用一种谎话对付家中,又用另一种谎话对付学塾,引诱我跟他各处跑去。即或不逃学,学塾为了担心学童下河洗澡,每到中午散学时,照例必在每人手心中用朱笔写个大字,我们尚依然能够一手高举,把身体泡到河水中玩个半天,这方法也亏那表哥想出的。我感情流动而不凝固,一派清波给予我的影响实在不小。我幼小时较美丽的生活,大部分都同水不能分离。我的学校可以说是在水边的。我认识美,学会思索,水对我有极大的关系。我最初与水接近,便是那荒唐表哥领带的。

现在说来,我在作孩子的时代,原本也不是个全不知自重的小孩子。我并不愚蠢。当时在一班表兄弟中和弟兄中,似乎只有我那个哥哥比我聪明,我却比其他一切孩子解事。但自从那表哥教会我逃学后,我便成为毫不自重的人了。在各样教训各样方法管束下,我不欢喜读书的性情,从塾师方面,从家庭方面,从亲戚方面,莫不对于我感觉得无多希望。我的长处到那时只是种种的说谎。我非从学塾逃到外面空气下不可,逃学过后又得逃避处罚。我最先所学,同时拿来致用的,也就是根据各种经验来制作各种谎话。我的心总得为一种新鲜声音,新鲜颜色,新鲜气味而跳。我得认识本人生活以外的生活。我的智慧应当直接从生活上得来,却不须从一本好书一句好话上学来。似乎就只这样一个原因,我在学塾中,逃学纪录点数,在当时便比任何一人都高。

离开私塾转入新式小学时,我学的总是学校以外的。到我出外自食其力时,我又不曾在职务上学好过什么。二十年后我“不安于当前事务,却倾心于现世光色,对于一切成例与观念皆十分怀疑,却常常为人生远景而凝眸”,这分性格的形成,便应当溯源于小时在私塾中的逃学习惯。

自从逃学成习惯后,我除了想方设法逃学,什么也不再关心。

有时天气坏一点儿,不便出城上山里去玩,逃了学没有什么去处,我就一个人走到城外庙里去。本地大建筑在城外计三十来处,除了庙宇就是会馆和祠堂。空地广阔,因此均为小手工业工人所利用。那些庙里总常常有人在殿前廊下绞绳子,织竹簟,做香,我就看他们做事。有人下棋,我看下棋。有人打拳,我看打拳。甚至于相骂,我也看着,看他们如何骂来骂去,如何结果。因为自己既逃学,走到的地方必不能有熟人,所到的必是较远的庙里。到了那里,既无一个熟人,因此什么事都只好用耳朵去听,眼睛去看,直到看无可看听无可听时,我便应当设计打量我怎么回家去的方法了。

来去学校我得拿一个书篮。内中有十多本破书,由《包句杂志》《幼学琼林》到《论语》《诗经》《尚书》通常得背诵。分量相当沉重。逃学时还把书篮挂到手肘上,这就未免太蠢了一点儿。凡这么办的可以说是不聪明的孩子。许多这种小孩子,因为逃学到各处去,人家一见就认得出,上年纪一点儿的人见到时就会说:“逃学的,赶快跑回家挨打去,不要在这里玩。”若无书篮可不必受这种教训。因此我们就想出了一个方法,把书篮寄存到一个土地庙里去。那地方无一个人看管,但谁也用不着担心他的书篮。小孩子对于土地神全不缺少必需的敬畏,都信托这木偶,把书篮好好的藏到神座龛子里去,常常同时有五个或八个,到时却各人把各人的拿走,谁也不会乱动旁人的东西。我把书篮放到那地方去,次数是不能记忆了的,照我想来,次数最多的必定是我。

逃学失败被家中学校任何一方面发觉时,两方面总得各挨一顿打。在学校得自己把板凳搬到孔夫子牌位前,伏在上面受笞。处罚过后还要对孔夫子牌位作一揖,表示忏悔。有时又常常罚跪至一根香时间。我一面被处罚跪在房中的一隅,一面便记着各种事情,想象恰如生了一对翅膀,凭经验飞到各样动人事物上去。按照天气寒暖,想到河中的鳜鱼被钓起离水以后泼剌的情形,想到天上飞满风筝的情形,想到空山中歌呼的黄鹂,想到树木上累累的果实。由于最容易神往到种种屋外东西上去,反而常把处罚的痛苦忘掉,处罚的时间忘掉,直到被唤起以后为止,我就从不曾在被处罚中感觉过小小冤屈。那不是冤屈。我应感谢那种处罚,在我无法同自然接近时,给我一个练习想象的机会。

家中对这件事自然照例不大明白情形,以为只是教师方面太宽的过失,因此又为我换一个教师。我当然不能在这些变动上有什么异议。现在说来,我倒又得感谢我的家中,因为先前那个学校比较近些,虽常常绕道上学,终不是个办法,且因绕道过远,把时间耽误太久时,无可托词。现在的学校可真很远很远了,不必包绕偏街,我便应当经过许多有趣味的地方了。从我家中到那个新的学塾里去时,路上我可看到针铺门前永远必有一个老人戴了极大的眼镜,低下头来在那里磨针。又可看到一个伞铺,大门敞开,作伞时十几个学徒一起工作,尽人欣赏。又有皮靴店,大胖子皮匠天热时总腆出一个大而黑的肚皮(上面有一撮毛!)用夹板上鞋。又有剃头铺,任何时节总有人手托一个小小木盘,呆呆的在那里尽剃头师傅刮头。又可看到一家染坊,有强壮多力的苗人,踹在凹形石碾上面,站得高高的,手扶着墙上横木,偏左偏右的摇荡。又有三家苗人打豆腐的作坊,小腰白齿头包花帕的苗妇人,时时刻刻口上都轻声唱歌,一面引逗缚在身背后包单里的小苗人,一面用放光的红铜勺舀取豆浆。我还必需经过一个豆粉作坊,远远的就可听到骡子推磨隆隆的声音,屋顶棚架上晾满白粉条。我还得经过一些屠户肉案桌,可看到那些新鲜猪肉砍碎时尚在跳动不止。我还得经过一家扎冥器出租花轿的铺子,有白面无常鬼,蓝面阎罗王,鱼龙,轿子,金童玉女。每天且可以从他那里看出有多少人接亲,有多少冥器,那些订做的作品又成就了多少,换了些什么式样,并且还常常停顿下来,看他们贴金,傅粉,涂色,一站许久。

我就欢喜看那些东西,一面看一面明白了许多事情。

每天上学时,我照例手肘上挂了那个竹书篮,里面放十多本破书。在家中虽不敢不穿鞋,可是一出了大门,即刻就把鞋脱下拿到手上,赤脚向学校走去。不管如何,时间照例是有多余的,因此我总得绕一节路玩玩。若从西城走去,在那边就可看到牢狱,大清早若干人戴了脚镣从牢中出来,派过衙门去挖土。若从杀人处走过,昨天杀的人还没有收尸,一定已被野狗把尸首咋碎或拖到小溪中去了,就走过去看看那个糜碎了的尸体,或拾起一块小小石头,在那个污秽的头颅上敲打一下,或用一木棍去戳戳,看看会动不动。若还有野狗在那里争夺,就预先拾了许多石头放在书篮里,随手一一向野狗抛掷,不再过去,只远远的看看,就走开了。

既然到了溪边,有时候溪中涨了小小的水,就把裤管高卷,书篮顶在头上,一只手扶着,一只手照料裤子,在沿了城根流去的溪水中走去,直到水深齐膝处为止。学校在北门,我出的是西门,又进南门,再绕从城里大街一直走去。在南门河滩方面我还可以看一阵杀牛,机会好时恰好正看到那老实可怜畜牲被放倒的情形。因为每天可以看一点点,杀牛的手续同牛内脏的位置,不久也就被我完全弄清楚了。再过去一点儿就是边街,有织簟子的铺子,每天任何时节皆有几个老人坐在门前小凳子上,用厚背的钢刀破篾,有两个小孩子蹲在地上织簟子。(这种事在学校门边也有,我对于这一行手艺所明白的种种,现在说来似乎比写字还在行。)又有铁匠铺,制铁炉同风箱皆占据屋中,大门永远敞开着,时间即或再早一些,也可以看到一个小孩子两只手拉着风箱横柄,把整个身子的分量前倾后倒,风箱于是就连续发出一种吼声,火炉上便放出一股臭烟同红光。待到把赤红的热铁拉出搁放到铁砧上时,这个小东西,赶忙舞动细柄铁锤,把铁锤从身背后扬起,在身面前落下,火花四溅的一下一下打着。有时打的是一把刀,有时打的是一件农具。有时看到的又是这个小学徒跨在一条大板凳上,用一把凿子在未淬水的刀上起去铁皮,有时又是把一条薄薄的钢片嵌进熟铁里去。日子一多,关于任何一件铁器的制造秩序,我也不会弄错了。边街又有小饭铺,门前有个大竹筒,插满了用竹子削成的筷子,有干鱼同酸菜,用钵头装满放在门前柜台上,引诱主顾上门,意思好像是说:“吃我,随便吃我,好吃!”每次我总仔细看看,真所谓“过屠门而大嚼”。

我最欢喜天上落雨,一落了小雨,若脚下穿的是布鞋,即或天气正当十冬腊月,我也可以用恐怕湿却鞋袜为辞,有理由即刻脱下鞋袜赤脚在街上走路。但最使人开心事,还是落过大雨以后,街上许多地方已被水所浸没,许多地方阴沟中涌出水来,在这些地方照例常常有人不能过身,我却赤着两脚故意向深水中走去。若河中涨了大水,照例上游会漂流得有木头,家具,南瓜同其他东西,就赶快到横跨大河的桥上去看热闹。桥上必已经有人用长绳系定了自己的腰身,在桥头上呆着,注目水中,有所等待。看到有一段大木或一件值得下水的东西浮来时,就踊身一跃,骑到那树上,或傍近物边,把绳子缚定,自己便快快的向下游岸边泅去。另外几个在岸边的人把水中人援助上岸后,就把绳子拉着,或缠绕到大石上大树上去,于是第二次又有第二人来在桥头上等候。我欢喜看人在洄水里扳罾,巴掌大的活鱼在网中蹦跳。一涨了水,照例也就可以看这种有趣味的事情。照家中规矩,一落雨就得穿上钉鞋,我可真不愿意穿那种笨重钉鞋。虽然在半夜时有人从街巷里过身,钉鞋声音实在好听,大白天对于钉鞋我依然毫无兴味。

若在四月落了点儿小雨,山地里田塍上各处都是蟋蟀声音,真使人心花怒放。在这些时节,我便觉得学校真没有意思,简直坐不住,总得想方设法逃学上山去捉蟋蟀。有时没有什么东西安置这小东西,就走到那里去,把第一只捉到手后又捉第二只,两只手各有一只后,就听第三只。本地蟋蟀原分春秋二季,春季的多在田间泥里草里,秋季的多在人家附近石罅里瓦砾中,如今既然这东西只在泥层里,故即或两只手心各有一匹小东西后,我总还可以想方设法把第三只从泥土中赶出,看看若比较手中的大些,即开释了手中所有,捕捉新的,如此轮流换去,一整天方捉回两只小虫。城头上有白色炊烟,街巷里有摇铃铛卖煤油的声音,约当下午三点左右时,赶忙走到一个刻花板的老木匠那里去,很兴奋的同那木匠说:

“师傅师傅,今天可捉了大王来了!”

那木匠便故意装成无动于衷的神气,仍然坐在高凳上玩他的车盘,正眼也不看我的说:“不成,要打打得赌点儿输赢!”

我说:“输了替你磨刀成不成?”

“嗨,够了,我不要你磨刀,你哪会磨刀!上次磨凿子还磨坏了我的家伙!”

这不是冤枉我,我上次的确磨坏了他一把凿子。不好意思再说磨刀了,我说:

“师傅,那这样办法,你借给我一个瓦盆子,让我自己来试试这两只谁能干些好不好?”我说这话时真怪和气,为的是他以逸待劳,若不允许我还是无办法。

那木匠想了想,好像莫可奈何才让步的样子:“借盆子得把战败的一只给我,算作租钱。”

我满口答应:“那成,那成。”

于是他方离开车盘,很慷慨的借给我一个泥罐子,顷刻之间我就只剩下一只蟋蟀了。这木匠看看我捉来的虫还不坏,必向我提议:“我们来比比,你赢了,我借你这泥罐一天;你输了,你把这蟋蟀输给我,办法公平不公平?”我正需要那么一个办法,连说“公平,公平”,于是这木匠进去了一会儿,拿出一只蟋蟀来同我的斗,不消说,三五回合我的自然又败了。他的蟋蟀照例却常常是我前一天输给他的。那木匠看我有点儿颓丧,明白我认识那匹小东西,担心我生气时一摔,一面赶忙收拾盆罐,一面带着鼓励我神气笑笑的说:

“老弟,老弟,明天再来,明天再来!你应当捉好的来,走远一点儿。明天来,明天来!”

我什么话也不说,微笑着,出了木匠的大门,空手回家了。

这样一整天在为雨水泡软的田塍上乱跑,回家时常常全身是泥,家中当然一望而知,于是不必多说,沿老例跪一根香,罚关在空房子里,不许哭,不许吃饭。等一会儿我自然可以从姐姐方面得到充饥的东西。悄悄的把东西吃下以后,我也疲倦了,因此空房中即或再冷一点儿,老鼠来去很多,一会儿就睡着,再也不知道如何上床的事了。

即或在家中那么受折磨,到学校去时又免不了补挨一顿板子,我还是在想逃学时就逃学,决不为经验所恐吓。

有时逃学又只是到山上去偷人家园地里的李子枇杷,主人拿着长长的竹竿大骂着追来时,就飞奔而逃,逃到远处一面吃那个赃物,一面还唱山歌气那主人。总而言之,人虽小小的,两只脚跑得很快,什么茨棚里钻去也不在乎,要捉我可捉不到,就认为这种事很有趣味。

可是只要我不逃学,在学校里我是不至于像其他那些人受处罚的。我从不用心念书,但我从不在应当背诵时节无法对付。许多书总是临时来读十遍八遍,背诵时节却居然朗朗上口,一字不遗。也似乎就由于这份小小聪明,学校把我同一般同学一样待遇,更使我轻视学校。家中不了解我为什么不想上进,不好好利用自己的聪明用功,我不了解家中为什么只要我读书,不让我玩。我自己总以为读书太容易了点儿,把认得的字记记那不算什么稀奇。最稀奇处应当是另外那些人,在他那分习惯下所做的一切事情。为什么骡子推磨时得把眼睛遮上?为什么刀得烧红时在水里一淬方能坚硬?为什么雕佛像的会把木头雕成人形,所贴的金那么薄又用什么方法作成?为什么小铜匠会在一块铜板上钻那么一个圆眼,刻花时刻得整整齐齐?这些古怪事情太多了。

我生活中充满了疑问,都得我自己去找寻解答。我要知道的太多,所知道的又太少,有时便有点儿发愁。就为的是白日里太野,各处去看,各处去听,还各处去嗅闻:死蛇的气味,腐草的气味,屠户身上的气味,烧碗处土窑被雨以后放出的气味,要我说来虽当时无法用言语去形容,要我辨别却十分容易。蝙蝠的声音,一只黄牛当屠户把刀剸进它喉中时叹息的声音,藏在田塍土穴中大黄喉蛇的鸣声,黑暗中鱼在水面泼剌的微声,全因到耳边时分量不同,我也记得那么清清楚楚。因此回到家里时,夜间我便做出无数稀奇古怪的梦。这些梦直到将近二十年后的如今,还常常使我在半夜里无法安眠,既把我带回到那个“过去”的空虚里去,也把我带往空幻的宇宙里去。

在我面前的世界已够宽广了,但我似乎就还得要一个更宽广的世界。我得用这方面得到的知识证明那方面的疑问。我得从比较中知道谁好谁坏,我得看许多业已由于好询问别人,以及好自己幻想,所感觉到的世界上的新鲜事情,新鲜东西。结果能逃学时我逃学,不能逃学我就只好做梦。

照地方风气说来,一个小孩子野一点儿的,照例也必需强悍一点儿,才能各处跑去。各处跑去皆随时会有一样东西在无意中扑到你身边来,或是一只凶恶的狗,或是一个顽劣的人。无法抵抗这点儿袭击,就不容易各处自由放荡。一个野一点儿的孩子,即或身边不必时时刻刻带一把小刀,也总得带一削光的竹块,好好的插到裤带上;遇机会到时,就取出来当作武器,尤其是到一个离家较远的地方去看木傀儡戏,不准备厮杀一场简直不成。你能干点儿,单身往各处去,有人挑战时,还只是一人近你身边来恶斗,若包围到你身边的顽童人数极多,你还可挑选同你精力相差不大的一人;你不妨指定其中一个说:

“要打吗?你来。我同你来。”

到时也只那一个人拢来。被他打倒,你活该,只好伏在地上尽他压着痛打一顿。你打倒了他,他活该,把他揍够后你可以自由走去,谁也不会追你,只不过说句“下次再来”罢了。

可是你根本上若就十分怯弱,即或结伴同行,到什么地方去时,也会有人特意挑出你来殴斗。应战你得吃亏,不答应你得被仇人与同伴两方面奚落,顶不经济。

感谢我那爸爸给了我一分勇气,人虽小,到什么地方去我总不害怕。到被人围上必需打架时,我能挑出那些同我不差多少的人来,我的敏捷同机智,总常常占点儿上风。有时气运不佳,不小心被人摔倒,我还会有方法翻身过来压到别人身上去。在这件事上我只吃过一次亏,不是一个小孩,却是一只恶狗,把我攻倒后,咬伤了我一只手。我走到任何地方去都不怕谁,同时因换了好些私塾,各处皆有些同学,大家既都逃过学,便有无数朋友,因此也不会同人打架了。可是自从被那只恶狗攻倒过一次以后,到如今我却依然十分怕狗。(有种两脚狗我更害怕,对付不了。)

至于我那地方的大人,用单刀、扁担在大街上决斗根本不算回事。事情发生时,那些有小孩子在街上玩的母亲,只不过说:“小杂种,站远一点儿,不要太近!”嘱咐小孩子稍稍站开点儿罢了。本地军人互相砍杀虽不出奇,行刺暗算却不作兴。这类善于殴斗的人物,有军营中人,有哥老会中老幺,有好打不平的闲汉,[4]在当地另成一帮,豁达大度,谦卑接物,为友报仇,爱义好施,且多非常孝顺。但这类人物为时代所陶冶,到民五以后也就渐渐消灭了。虽有些青年军官还保存那点儿风格,风格中最重要的一点儿洒脱处,却为了军纪一类影响,大不如前辈了。

我有三个堂叔叔,都住在城南乡下,离城四十里左右。那地方名黄罗寨,出强悍的人同猛鸷的兽。我爸爸三岁时在那里差一点儿险被老虎咬去。我四岁左右,到那里第一天,就看见四个乡下人抬了一只死虎进城,给我留下极深刻的印象。

我还有一个表哥,住在城北十里地名长宁哨的乡下,从那里再过去十里便是苗乡。表哥是一个紫色脸膛的人,一个守碉堡的战兵。我四岁时被他带到乡下去过了三天,二十年后还记得那个小小城堡黄昏来时鼓角的声音。

这战兵在苗乡有点儿威信,很能喊叫一些苗人。每次来城时,必为我带一只小斗鸡或一点儿别的东西。一来为我说苗人故事,临走时我总不让他走。我欢喜他,觉得他比乡下叔父有趣。

I Study a Small Book and at the Same Time a Big Book

My reliable recollections of my childhood date back to about the time when I was two. Up to the age of four, I was as plump and sturdy as a piglet. When I turned four, Mother taught me to read characters printed on squares of paper while Granny, her mother, fed me sweets. By the time I knew six hundred characters I had worms, which made me so thin and pale that all I could eat every day was chicken liver steamed with herbal medicine. I was then going with my elder sisters to a dame-school. As the teacher was related to us and I was so small, I spent less time studying at my desk than sitting on her lap playing.

When I was six and my younger brother was two, we both came down with measles. That was in the sixth lunar month, and day and night we suffered from such fearful heat that we could not lie down to sleep, because that set us coughing and wheezing. We could not be carried either, as that made us ache all over. I remember us being encased in bamboo matting like two spring rolls, and set to stand in a cool, shady part of the room. The family had ready two little coffins for us on the verandah. But luckily we both recovered. Then a strapping Miao nursemaid was found for my younger brother and she took such good care of him that he grew very sturdy. But I was completely altered by this illness. I never fattened up again, but turned into a wizened little monkey.

By six I was going alone to a private school every day. I had my share of the harsh treatment then usually meted out to school children. But as by then I knew quite a few characters and had always had an uncommonly good memory, I got off much more lightly than the others. The next year I switched to a different private school and tagged along with a few rather older boys,learning from these young rascals how to cope with old-fashioned teachers and escape from books to commune with Nature. My life that year laid the foundation for my whole subsequent character and feelings. I used to play truant, then told lies to cover up for it and escape punishment. This infuriated my father, who once threatened that if I played truant or lied again he would chop off one of my fingers. Undismayed by this threat, I never missed a chance to stay away from school. When I learned to look at everything in the world with my own eyes and went to live in a different society, I had already lost all interest in school.

My father doted on me, and for a while I was the central figure in our family. If I had some small ailment, the whole household would stay up at my bedside to nurse me, and everyone was willing to carry me. In those days we were quite well-to do, and materially I believe I was much better off than most of our relatives’ children. My father dreamed of becoming a general himself, but had higher hopes of me. Apparently he saw quite early on that I was not cut out to be a soldier, and so he never hoped I would be a general, but he told me many stories about his own father’s daring exploits and what had happened to him as an officer during the Boxers’ Rebellion. He believed that whatever I took up, I should rate higher than a general. My father was the first to praise my intelligence. But he was cut to his soldierly heart by the discovery that I kept playing truant to wander about in the sun with a band of small ruffians, and there was no way of curbing me or of stopping me from telling crafty lies. At the same time my little brother, four years my junior, had been so well cared for by his Miao nurse that he was a remarkably strong child,behaved with impressive dignity and coolness and showed great self-respect; so when I disappointed the family, they lavished their care on him. Later, indeed, he lived up to their expectations,becoming an infantry colonel at twenty-two. My father served in the army in Mongolia, the northeast and Tibet, but in the twentieth year of the Republic (1931) he was still only a colonel, and army doctor for the local minority troops. By the time he became superintendent of a traditional Chinese hospital, he transferred his hopes of promotion to being a general to my younger brother.Finally a minor illness carried him off at home.

Having found freedom outside, I felt irked by the family’s care for me, and so when they left me to my own devices that suited me better. It was my cousin Zhang who incited me to play truant and took me into the sunshine to watch the marvellous light, the fabulous colours and all the forms of life in our universe. To start with he took me to play in his family’s orange and pomelo orchard, then to all the hills around, to the playgrounds of rough boys and to the bank of the river. He taught me to tell lies, one kind to the family, another kind to the teacher,and got me to chase around with him everywhere. When we went to school, to stop us from swimming in the river during the midday break, our teacher used to write the character “big” (大) in vermilion on the palms of our hands. But holding that hand up in the air, we still splashed about in the river for several hours.This method was thought up by that cousin too. I was a volatile child, highly impressionable. And the beauty of my life as a boy was closely bound up with water. My school was virtually on the river bank. It was water that opened my eyes to loveliness and taught me to think for myself. And it was that rascally cousin of mine who introduced me to the river.

Looking back, I can see that as a child I was not completely lacking in self-respect. I was no dunce. Of all my cousins and brothers at that time, the only one smarter than me was probably Zhang. I was smarter than all the rest. But after Cousin Zhang taught me to play truant I lost all desire to shine. No matter how they disciplined me, I was so averse to studying that I seemed a hopeless case to my teachers, family and relatives. All that I excelled at in those days was telling all sorts of lies. I just had to run away from school to freedom, then had to avoid punishment.So the first thing I learned and practised was making up lies of every kind according to my different circumstances. I needed the constant stimulus of new sounds, new colours, new scents.I needed to learn about life outside my own. And I had to learn directly from life, not from any good books or good precepts. It was probably for this reason that my record of truancy at school was higher than anyone else’s.

After I left the private school to attend a new-style primary school, I went on learning from life outside. And later, when I left home to fend for myself, I didn’t learn much from the different jobs I did. Twenty years later I was “discontented with the present situation but fascinated by the light and colours of our world,thoroughly sceptical about all conventions and old concepts, yet often filled with dreams of the future”. These characteristics were no doubt the result of my habit of playing truant as a boy. And,obviously, this influenced my later writing.

After I acquired this habit of playing truant, I gave no thought to anything else but devising means to escape school.

If the weather was too bad to play in the hills and there was nowhere else to go, I would ramble off alone to the temples outside town. There were about thirty of these public buildings:temples, guild-halls and ancestral temples. As they had spacious grounds, many artisans and craftsmen made use of them. You could generally find men on the verandahs of the main halls twisting ropes, weaving bamboo mats or making joss-sticks, and I would watch them at work. If chess was being played I would watch the game. I watched people boxing and even slanging matches, to hear how curses were exchanged and how disputes were settled. Being a truant I had to go to places where no one knew me, in other words to temples relatively far from town. As a stranger there I could listen to all that was said, watch all that was done; and when there was nothing left to hear or see I would devise how to go home.

I had to take a basket of books to school. In it were a dozen or so dog-eared books ranging from reading manuals and primers to The Analects of Confucius, The Book of Songs and The Book of History, which we had to memorize. This basket was quite heavy.And it would have been stupid for a boy playing truant to carry such a basket with him. Only children with no sense did this.Because when people spotted them, they knew what they were up to and the older folk might say, “Playing truant, eh? Run home for a spanking. Don’t fool around here.” Children without a basket escaped such lectures. So we hit on the way of hiding our school baskets in the Tutelary God’s Temple; though it had no caretaker,we didn’t have to worry that they might be stolen. We children had a healthy respect for the Tutelary God, and trusted his wooden effigy to take good care of our baskets in his shrine. Often five to eight of them were hidden there, to be picked up by the owners when the time came—no one meddled with anyone else’s. I left my basket there more times than I can remember, almost certainly more often than any other child.

If our family or teacher discovered us playing truant, we were in for a beating at home as well as at school. Our teacher would make us move our stools in front of the tablet of Confucius and bend over him to be beaten. After this punishment we had to bow to the tablet to show our penitence. Often we were penalized by having to kneel till a stick of incense burnt out. Once forced to kneel in a corner of the schoolroom, I would remember different past events and my fancy would take wings, flying off to all sorts of exciting happenings. According to the season of the year, I conjured up pictures of mandarin fish flailing about when caught,a skyful of kites, golden orioles singing in the hills, trees laden with fruit. Held spellbound by these visions, I often forgot the pain of being beaten as well as the time, until I was told to get up.So, far from having any sense of grievance, I was glad of these punishments which enabled me, when cut off from Nature, to give free rein to my fancy.

At home, naturally, they had no inkling of this and blamed the teacher for being too lenient; so they transferred me again to a different school. Of course I could not protest about these transfers. In fact, thinking back, I am grateful to my parents,because the previous school had been so close that although I often made a detour that didn’t really help, and if I went so far that I arrived late, I had no excuse. My new school was really a long, long way from our home, so that without making any detours I passed all sorts of fascinating places. On the way I could see the needle shop, in front of which there was always an old man in big spectacles, his head lowered over the needles he was sharpening. I could see the umbrella shop, its door always open, with a dozen apprentices hard at work making umbrellas—that was fun to watch. Then there was the shoe shop, where in hot weather the fat cobbler with a tuft of hair on his naked, grimy belly fixed the uppers to the shoe soles. There was the barber’s shop too, where there was always someone holding a small wooden basin stolidly in his hands and getting his head shaved.In the dyeing works, hefty Miao workers, standing high up and holding on to a rafter straddled a stone press shaped like a cradle,which they rocked from left to right to press the cloth beneath it. There were three Miao beancurd shops too. There slim Miao women with flashing white teeth, in colourful turbans, sang softly to soothe the Miao babies tied to their backs while with bright red copper spoons they ladled out bean milk. I passed a bean flour works too, and while still some way off would hear the creaking of the millstone pulled by a mule. The roof was covered with white vermicelli spread out to dry. Other places I had to pass were butcher’s shops, where the pork of freshly killed pigs was still quivering. Then there was the shop which made funerary objects and hired out bridal sedan chairs. In it were the white faced ghost Life-Is-Transient, blue-faced devils, fish and dragons,sedan chairs, boy and girl attendants of fairies … You could see how many people were getting married or buried that day, how many purchases had been ordered and made, what new designs there were. By loitering long enough you could also see how they applied the gilt and colouring. I liked to stand there for hours.

I loved all these sights, and from them I learned a great deal.

Each day I set off for school with my basket holding a dozen or so dog-eared books. At home I had to wear shoes, but once out of the gate I took them off and carried them, going to school barefoot. There was always time to spare no matter what happened, so I’d make a detour for fun down different streets. If I went through the west city I could see the gaol, from which early in the morning shackled convicts were led out past the yamen to work in a quarry. If I passed the execution ground, and nobody had yet carried away the bodies of those executed the previous day, wild dogs would have savaged the corpses and dragged them into a brook. I would go over to look at the ravaged remains, pick up a pebble to rap a filthy head, or poke it with a stick to see whether it would move. If wild dogs were still scrapping there, I would first fill my basket with stones to throw at them, and just watch from a distance before moving on.

When I reached the brook, if it happened to be in spate I would roll up my trouser legs, hold my basket on my head with one hand while with the other I hitched up my trousers to wade past the city wall till the water was up to my knees. My school was near the North Gate. I started out from the West Gate then went through the South Gate to go straight down the main street.On the river flat by the South Gate I might see an ox being slaughtered, and if in luck could watch how the poor, honest beast was felled to the ground. Because I watched a little every day, I soon knew the whole procedure and exact position of the oxen’s viscera. A little further on was Side Street, with shops selling mats, where at any hour of the day you could see old people sitting outside cutting up bamboo splints with thick-backed steel knives, while two children squatted on the ground weaving mats.(This was done by our school gate too, so that I still know more about this handicraft than I do about writing.) There were smithies too with iron furnaces and bellows inside. The doors were always open, and if you went early enough you could see a boy plying the bellows, his whole body rocking back and forth. As the bellows roared, the furnace belched out acrid smoke and red flames. When the red-hot iron was pulled out and placed on the anvil, the little fellow brandished his thin-handled hammer, raising it over his shoulder to swing it down so vigorously that sparks flew in all directions. Sometimes he made a knife, sometimes a farming tool.At other times the same small apprentice would stand on a bench with a chisel to pare off the rust from the knife not yet dipped in water, or insert a sliver of steel into the molten metal. As time went by I gained an accurate knowledge of the whole process of forging any iron implement. There was also a small eating house in Side Street. In front of its door stood a big bamboo cylinder chockfull of bamboo chopsticks; and on the counter were jars of salted fish and pickles to tempt customers. They seemed to be saying, “Eat me! Just go ahead. Have a treat!” Each time I had a good look, and really felt satisfied. It was like the saying, “Pass a butcher’s and munch away.”

What I liked best was wet weather. If it drizzled and I was in cloth shoes, even if it was mid-winter, I could take off my shoes and socks on the pretext that I didn’t want to wet them and had better go barefoot. Best of all, though, was after a downpour of rain had flooded the streets and made water brim over many of the gutters so that most people could not pass. Then barefoot I waded through the deepest puddles. If the river was in spate,wood, furniture, pumpkins and other things always drifted down from upstream, and I’d hurry to the bridge to watch the fun. There were bound to be people already there, a long rope tied round their waists, watching the river and waiting. When a large tree or something worth salvaging came floating down, they would leap on to the tree or next to the floating object, fasten the rope to it, then swim swiftly to the bank further down. Men on the bank would help them ashore, tug up the rope or fasten it to a rock or big tree, while others took their turn watching by the bridgehead.I loved to watch the fishermen in the water, fish the size of the palm of your hand jumping in their nets. Whenever the river rose,you could see all these fascinating things. Our family rule was that when it rained we had to wear hobnailed boots, but I hated the clumsy things. It was good to listen to their clumping sound late at night in the street, but I had no use at all for them in the daytime.

In the fourth month, if it drizzled, crickets chirped all over the hills and the ridges of the fields, making you wild with joy. At such times I lost all interest in school and could not sit still. By hook or by crook I had to run off to catch crickets. Sometimes I had nothing to put them in, so wherever I went I would catch first one, then another, holding them in my hands till I heard a third. In our parts crickets appear in spring and in autumn. In spring most of them hide in the grass of muddy fields; in autumn they can be found in the cracks of rocks or the rubble scattered near houses.Now that they were in the mud, after catching two I could always drive out a third, and if it was bigger than my earlier catches I’d let those go so as to grab a new one, doing this over and over so that in a whole day I only caught two crickets. When white cooking smoke wreathed the roofs in town and paraffin vendors’bells sounded in the streets—about three in the afternoon—I would hurry to the shop of an old carpenter who specialized in wood-carving, and accost him cheerfully:

“Master, master! I’ve caught a real champion today!”

The carpenter would pretend to take no interest. Still sitting on his high stool fiddling with his tool and not looking at me he would say, “Nothing doing, unless we make a wager.”

I suggested, “If I lose, suppose I whet your knife for you?”

“Oh no, not again. You ruined my chisel last time you sharpened it.”

That was indeed the case. Having spoiled his chisel I could hardly insist on whetting his knife. I proposed,

“How about this, master. Lend me an earthen pot so that I can see which of these crickets is the better.” I said this very coaxingly as he looked so indifferent, because if he didn’t agree I’d be in a fix.

After a moment’s thought, the carpenter replied rather grudgingly, “If I lend you a pot you must give me the loser for hiring it.”

I agreed readily, “Fine.”

Only then did he leave his tool and fetch me a jar. In no time at all I had only one cricket left. Seeing that it wasn’t a bad one,he proposed, “Let’s have a match. If you win, I’ll lend you this jar for a day; if you lose, you give me this cricket. Fair enough?”This was just what I wanted, so I consented. Then the carpenter went inside and fetched a cricket to fight mine. After a few bouts of course my cricket was worsted. As usual, his cricket was one I had lost to him the previous day. Seeing how downcast I looked,he knew that I recognized it; and for fear I might smash the jar in a fit of temper he hastily put it away.

With an encouraging smile at me he said, “Come back again tomorrow, little brother. Go further afield and you should catch better ones. Come back again tomorrow!”

Without a word, smiling wanly, I left his shop and went home.

After running about all day through fields soggy after the rain, I was usually covered with mud when I got back. One glance at me and my parents knew what I’d been up to; so needless to say once again I had to kneel while a stick of incense was burnt,then I was shut in an empty room, not allowed to cry, not allowed to eat anything. Before long, though, naturally my elder sister brought me some food. Having eaten this in secret, I would fall asleep, worn out, in that bare, chilly room where rats scuttled to and fro. And how I got put to bed I never knew.

Though I was punished like that at home and couldn’t escape a thrashing at school, I still played truant whenever I felt like it,completely unchastened by these experiences.

Sometimes, playing truant, I just went up the hills to steal plums or loquats from the orchards there. When the owners came after me, cursing, with long bamboo poles, I would fly away with my loot, singing folk-songs to annoy them. Though so small I was a good runner and didn’t mind what thatched hut I dashed into; so nobody could catch me, and I thoroughly enjoyed these escapades.

But if I didn’t play truant, I was punished less than my classmates. For though I never studied hard, I was always able to recite the lesson. I often read a text through several times at the last moment, then managed to rattle it off without missing out a word. Owing apparently to this small aptitude, I was not treated as a bad student, which increased my contempt for school. At home,they couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to get on by working hard and using my brain, while I couldn’t understand why they just wanted me to study and wouldn’t let me play. Learning struck me as too easy—what was so extraordinary about memorizing characters? It was those others whose customary behaviour was so extraordinary. Why did a mule have to be blindfolded to push a millstone? Why did a knife, coming out of the furnace red-hot,harden when dipped in water? How did craftsmen carve wood into Buddhist statues, and how did they manage to give them that thin gold coating? How did the blacksmith’s apprentice make such a round hole in a sheet of copper and carve the designs so symmetrically? There were too many enigmas like these.

My mind was full of questions, to which I had to find the answers myself. There was so much I wanted to know, so little I knew, I sometimes felt rather worried. And so I ran wild all day,looking around, listening and smelling about. Though at that time unable to put into words the smell of a dead snake, rotten grass, the butcher’s body, or the kiln where bowls were burnt after rain,I could easily recognize each. The cry of bats, the sigh of an ox when a butcher cut its throat, the hiss of a big yellow-throated snake hiding in a hole in the fields, the faint plopping of fish jumping in the river at night, all sounded quite distinctive and I remembered them clearly. So when I went home at night I used to have endless extraordinary dreams. Even now, nearly twenty years later, these dreams often disturb my sleep and carry me back to the void of my “past”, carry me into a world of fantasy.

The world before me was vast enough, yet I seemed to need one still vaster. I had to use the knowledge picked up in the first to verify my suspicions about the second. Had to make comparisons to distinguish good people from bad. After questioning others and using my own imagination, I had to see the many things and happenings in the world which struck me as novel. So whenever I could I played truant; when unable to do that I could only dream.

It was commonly said there that a boy who ran wild must be fairly tough to chase all over the place. If you did that, there was always the chance of running into a wild dog or a vicious character. Unless you could ward off their attacks, it wasn’t easy to roam the countryside freely. A boy who ran wild had to carry a knife as well as a sharpened bamboo tucked in his belt, which could at a pinch be drawn as a weapon. When you ventured far afield to watch a puppet-show, you had to be all the more prepared for a fight. If you were able to roam off on your own,someone might come up to challenge you to a fight. If too many young rascals ganged up on you, you could pick one of roughly your own strength and challenge him:

“Want a fight? Come on. I’ll take you on.”

Then that boy would step forward alone. If he knocked you down, it served you right; you had to lie there and let him beat you up. If you knocked him down, it served him right; after you had beaten him to your satisfaction you could move about freely and nobody would chase you. At most they might say, “Wait till next time.”

But if you were a cissy, wherever you went—even as one of a group—you would be singled out and challenged to fight. If you accepted you’d be licked; if you refused, both the enemy and your own mates would laugh at you—it wasn’t worth it.

Thanks to the guts I inherited from my father, though small I roamed far and wide quite fearlessly. When others ganged up on me and I had to fight, I could choose a boy about my own size and nearly always got the better of him because I was smart and agile. If luck was against me and I got thrown, I had a trick of rolling over to topple my opponent. Only once was I worsted, not by a boy but a brute of a dog which knocked me down then bit my hand. I was afraid of no one anywhere. I changed schools a number of times, and in all of them I had classmates who played truant and more friends than I could count, so we didn’t get into fights. But ever since being knocked down by that brute of a dog,I have been afraid of dogs. (Even more afraid of certain two legged dogs.)

The men in those parts thought nothing of fighting duels in the street with knives or carrying-poles. When that happened,mothers whose children were outside simply warned them to keep out of the way, calling, “Stand clear, little bastard! Don’t get too close.” Although it was not uncommon for the local troops to kill each other in fights, secret assassinations were frowned upon.Those pugnacious fellows formed a group of their own there.Broad-minded, magnanimous, modest and helpful to others, they avenged their friends, had a strong sense of right, were open handed and mostly extremely filial. But men like these were moulded by their time, and not long after the establishment of the Republic they gradually disappeared. Although some young army officers retained something of their style, the free and easy ways which had distinguished them were gradually curtailed by army discipline.

I had three uncles on my father’s side who lived in the country about forty li south of town. It was a place called Huangluo Fort, which produced intrepid men and savage beasts.My father was nearly carried off by a tiger there when he was three. When I was about four, the first day that I went there I saw four villagers carrying a dead tiger to town. That made an indelible impression on me.

I also had a cousin on my mother’s side who lived at Changning Post ten li north of town. Ten li beyond that was Miao territory. That cousin had a ruddy complexion and was a soldier in the garrison fort. When I was four he took me there for three days, and twenty years later I still remember the sound of drums and bugles in that small fort at dawn.

This soldier had some influence with the Miao people and could easily send to fetch them. Each time he came to town he invariably brought me a pair of fighting cockerels or some other gift. He would tell me stories about the Miao when he came, so that I never wanted to let him leave. I liked him, finding him more interesting than those uncles in the country.

未经允许不得转载:帕布莉卡 » 沈从文《我读一本小书同时又读一本大书》中英双语 -《湘西散记:汉英对照》

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