《一对啄木鸟》 -经典文学英译-中英双语赏析

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A PAIR OF WOODPECKERS

A PAIR OF WOODPECKERS, by an anonymous contributor, in The Atlantic Monthly magazine, Vol. CLII. No. 5, pp. 637, 638, November. 1933.

I had been reading in Hudson’s Green Mansions that very afternoon, and as I walked along the highway that stretched like a gray sword slash through the exuberant foliage with which a wet June had clothed the forest of broad-leaved maple, alder, willow, and ash that had taken possession of the logged-off land beyond my ranch, I recalled the graceful antics of a couple of birds that the mythical Abel observed during his flight with Rima to the land of her birth.

As if to continue my mind picture, I saw before me a pair of woodpeckers behaving in an extraordinary way. The male was clinging to the side of a dead alder stub, apparently making love in a most excited fashion to his mate, only the head and shoulders of whom were visible. Seeing me, he dipped away, woodpecker fashion, among the trees that rose like green thunderheads above the general level of the forest.

The female remained, still showing only the head and neck from behind the stub, and eyed me in that breathless, frozen stillness so characteristic of a frightened bird. Three automobiles roared past like huge demented beetles, but she did not stir.

Shouldering my way into the rank brake ferns, I came within twenty feet of her. She was still watching my every movement when the male returned and with much pomp and ceremony proffered her a fat white grub. The acceptance of the choice morsel was accompanied by so much chattering on both sides, and elaborate curtsying on the part of the male, that I concluded that “the sauce to meat is ceremony” among woodpeckers quite as much as among Scotch thanes.

Making my way still farther into the ferns, I discovered that the female was really on her nest, from which her head and neck projected, although I knew from the many holes in “punky” maples I had investigated as a boy that the excavation was a good six inches deep, and that she was occupying its mouth for some special reason. When on the job, she undoubtedly was incubating eggs.

I soon discovered why she was not sitting on those eggs. As in all well-regulated families, each member of the partnership had assumed certain duties. She was to hatch the eggs, and he, in vulgar phrase, was to “bring home the bacon.” Apparently he was not fulfilling his part of the agreement. He had scarcely disappeared into the forest when she began a rapid, high-keyed chatter, evidently begging for more grubs. She kept this up for several minutes, occasionally opening her mouth wide, as if gasping for breath. When, in spite of her coaxing, the male did not return, she changed her tactics. Pitching her voice on a much lower key, she kept up a staccato calling that reverberated through the forest.

Still her provider did not appear. Apparently the cold weather was not producing the usual crop of grubs. With her neck thrust far out of the hole, she called peremptorily again and again, occasionally tilting her head to listen. Disappointed, she flounced back into the nest, remained there for a few moments, and then, reappearing, began all over again the high-keyed coaxing. When at the end of a good twenty minutes the male did come bustling back with a grub, she snatched it from his beak, swallowed it whole, and before it was fairly down began to scold him like a fishwife.

Somewhat abashed, the male withdrew to a dead branch on the other side of the stub; but she sensed the fact that he was loafing there, and craning her head round as far as she could without falling out of the nest, resumed her recriminations.

Like most fathers when under fire, his woodpeckership assumed an indifferent air, as if to say, “I don’t mind your senseless chatter in the least”; but the head was no sooner withdrawn than he made off into the forest through a drizzle that had increased to a downpour. He had scarcely disappeared before out again came the head with the red crown and pale orange stripes above the eyes curved like Mephistophelean eyebrows, and the coaxing began all over again. I noticed that the opening was slightly V-shaped at the bottom, that it faced away from the prevailing storms but toward the sun.

Again Father Woodpecker did not return at the expected time (apparently at the end of every ten minutes), and again Madam Woodpecker flounced about as is the immemorial custom of angry females. She snapped viciously at a long-legged fly that was unwise enough to light within reach of her sharp black beak; then in sheer vexation she tried to eat fragments of the punky wood about the edge of the nest. These she would taste for a little and then spit out disgustedly.

Suddenly her mood changed. She sat quite still, and, as if she had never seen me before, regarded me with gentle curiosity, occasionally winking her dark eyes in a most charming fashion. Then she cocked her head to one side and listened, and, although my dull ears could distinguish no sound different from the subdued and all-pervading murmur of the forest, began once more the high-keyed chatter. In a few moments a sadly bedraggled woodpecker came undulating through the rain, and once more clung to the stub at the side of the nest. But his spouse was now too angry to take the silver-gray fly proffered her. Raising her voice to something like a scream, she turned loose upon him a torrent of abuse before she swallowed it, and as soon as it was down resumed her tongue-lashing.

But masculine endurance has its limitations, even among woodpeckers. The faithful provider, dripping and bedraggled after a prolonged hunt for grubs in some cheerless corner of the forest, suddenly flicked his tail, and, flying up a few yards to the dead branch of a fire-blasted maple, began to “talk back.” He was drab, unlovely, smaller than his smartly decorated partner, and with the compact and thoroughly utilitarian body which characterizes an age-old serving class, from insects to men. What he said was short, crisp, and, I suspect, very much to the point.

And right there came an exhibition of the superior nature of female intelligence. Madam quickly withdrew into the nest, doubtless resolved to remain there until the storm should blow over. Father Woodpecker, perceiving that he lacked an audience, angrily jerked his wet wings a few times, apparently to convince himself that he really was of some importance, and then dipped into the woods again in search of more grubs.

Notes

Hudson’s “Green Mansions.” William Henry Hudson (1841-1922), English naturalist and author, whose Green Mansions is his classic romance of the tropical forest.

sword slash, path as if made by the slash or cut of a sword.

exuberant foliage, abundant cluster of leaves, flowers, and branches.

logged-off land, land in which the trees have been logged-off or cut.

antics, grotesque postures, movements, or tricks.

woodpeckers, 啄木鸟,birds having spiny tail feathers used to aid in climbing, or resting on, tree trunks, and a hard chisel-like bill used to drill into trees for insects.

stub, tree stump; the short, blunt remnant of a tree.

dipped away. The flight of a woodpecker is a succession of dips and rises, a series of concave curves.

thunderheads, rounded masses of cumulus cloud, with shining edges, often seen before a thunderstorm.

demented, crazy or mad; deprived of reason.

beetles. The shape of automobiles is likened to that of beetles.

rank, luxuriant or coarse in growth; overgrown.

brake ferns, any of various ferns with remotely compound ferns;ferns growing close together.

proffered, offered for acceptance.

grub, larva of insect, caterpillar, maggot.

curtsying, feminine salutation by bending knees and lowering body.

“the sauce to meat is ceremony.” Ceremony adds relish to a meal. A certain amount of formality makes the meal more enjoyable.

Scotch thanes, in Scotland, members of a rank between ordinary freemen and hereditary nobles.

“punky,  having rotten wood.

incubating eggs, hatching eggs by sitting on them.

“bring home the bacon,  return home with the food that he has gone forth to seek; return home in victory.

staccato, abrupt and sharp.

reverberated, echoed.

her provider, her husband, the one who secures food for the family.

peremptorily, stubbornly; commandingly; dictatorially.

tilting, turning up at a sharp angle.

flounced, went with violent or agitated motion.

high-keyed coaxing, persuasion in a high tone of voice.

fishwife, woman selling fish, noted for her ability to scold.

loafing, spending time in idleness.

craning, stretching the neck forward like a crane.

woodpeckership, a humorous title given to the woodpecker, supposing him to be dignified and of high rank.

drizzle, fine, dense drops of rain.

downpour, heavy fall of rain.

Mephistophelean, like Mephistopheles, in the German Faust legend, the personification of the devil, to whom Faust sells his soul.

immemorial, ancient beyond memory, very old.

cocked, stuck up jauntily or defiantly.

sadly bedraggled, distressingly wet, with his feathers hanging down.

undulating, gently rising and falling; dipping and rising.

torrent of abuse, violent flow of rebuking or scolding language.

utilitarian, useful.

storm, violent disturbance; dispute.

Questions

  1. How does the author make this little sketch a commentary on human married life?
  2. Would it have been as good without the comparison?

参考译文

【作品简介】

《一对啄木鸟》,作者佚名,载于1933年11月出版的《大西洋月刊》杂志,第152卷,第5期,637、638页。

一对啄木鸟

那天下午,读罢赫德森的《绿厦》,我沿着公路溜达。公路在我农场的另一边,那是在木伐林毁后新建的。曾经,湿润的六月让森林里的大叶枫、赤杨、柳树和梣树枝繁叶茂、郁郁葱葱。如今远望去,延伸至远方的公路好比一把灰色的利剑,将整片绿荫密林从中一劈两半。此时,我脑海中浮现出那对优雅有趣的鸟儿形象,就是赫德森的小说中埃布尔带着莉玛奔向她出生之地时看到的那一对。

画面似乎在脑中继续浮现,我看到眼前有一对举止奇特的啄木鸟。雄鸟紧抓杨树干枯的树干,雌鸟仅露出头和肩。显然,它们正用最富有激情的方式,享受交配的乐趣。一发现我,雄鸟用它特有的飞行方式从林中俯冲而下,起伏间飞进了像绿色砧云一般高出森林的树丛中。

此时,雌鸟留在树干后,只露出头和颈,盯着我,屏住气息,纹丝不动,俨然一幅惊弓之鸟状。三辆汽车呼啸而过,犹如发疯的巨型甲虫,而她还是丝毫未动。

我挤进了茂密的凤尾蕨中,距她已不到二十英尺。雌鸟依然紧盯着我的一举一动。这时,雄鸟归来,为她献上一条又肥又白的肉虫,其感觉显得极为荣耀。吃上一口,双方就要唧喳上好一会儿,此外,他还充分展示了作为雄性应有的礼节。总之,“在席面上最让人开胃的就是主人的礼节。”苏格兰乡绅如此,啄木鸟也一样。

我继续向凤尾蕨里头走去,发现雌鸟实际上就在她的窝里。她从那儿探出头和颈部。我小时候就研究过不少枯萎枫树上的小洞,很清楚这些小洞足足有六英寸深,而且当雌鸟堵在洞口时,一定有某种特殊原因。要问她在做什么,那一定在孵蛋了。

很快我发现,雌鸟并没在孵蛋。在一个井然有序的家庭里,每位成员要承担起一定的义务。因此,她负责孵蛋,而他呢,通俗点说就要负责“养家糊口”。他的任务显然没有完成。因为他离去的身影还没完全消失在林中,雌鸟就发出又急又尖的叫声,显然企盼着更多的食物。接下来的好几分钟里,她一直这样,偶尔嘴巴张得很开,好似喘不过气来。千呼万唤之后,他还没回来,这时雌鸟便换了手段,把叫声压低,声音断断续续地在树林间回荡。

可是,为她觅食者并没回来。显然,天凉的时候虫子不如平日多。她的脖子伸出洞口很长,一遍又一遍呼唤着他,显得非常紧迫。她还时不时地歪着头倾听外面的动静。她失望了,愤然回身待在巢中。不一会儿,她再次出现在洞口,又一遍遍发出尖锐的呼唤声。足足过了二十分钟后,雄鸟叼着条肉虫,风尘仆仆地赶了回来。她从他嘴里夺下肉虫,囫囵吞下。不过,美味还没进到胃里,她便像泼妇一样斥责起自己的丈夫。

雄鸟感到有些无所适从,便飞到了树干另一边的枯树枝上,避避风头。而她以为雄鸟去那里游手好闲了,于是便站稳脚跟,伸出头去,转动着脖子,继续斥责唠叨。

像多数被数落了的爸爸们一样,雄性啄木鸟看起来跟平时一样淡定,如同在说:“你就唠叨吧,反正我压根不当回事儿。”然后,雄鸟飞进了森林,她也就马上把头缩回窝里了。雄鸟刚飞走时还是毛毛细雨,而这会儿已然暴雨倾盆。雄鸟的身影还没完全消失在林子里,红冠头顶就探出洞口,双眼上方的浅橙色条纹好似两道冷峻的横眉,她又开始不停地发出尖锐的叫声了。我注意到洞口下缘略成V字形,既可向阳采光,又可避风遮雨。

啄木鸟爸爸这次还是没能在预期的十分钟内返回,于是啄木鸟妈妈便发挥了怨妇的老派做法,开始愤怒而焦躁。有只不知好歹的长足虻刚掠过她的嘴边,就被她那乌黑锐利的喙恶狠狠地钳住。纯粹是怒火中烧,她居然还要吃洞口枯木的碎屑。可稍作品尝之后,她就感到无比的恶心,开始吐了出来。

突然间,她性情大变,静坐在那里,好似从没见过我,眼中流露出些许温柔和好奇,时不时还眨眨双眸,娇媚迷人。继而,她又把头伸向另一边,侧耳倾听些什么。不过,我的耳朵迟钝,没能从森林里充满的轻言细语中分辨出什么来。而听到动静的她又开始了新一轮的高声尖叫。不一会儿,只见一只啄木鸟羽毛不整,可怜兮兮地在雨中起伏颤悠,再次停落在窝边的枯树干上。不过这回,他的夫人已经气过头了,压根不睬他带来的银灰色飞虫,而是发出更尖锐的声音,貌似在嚎叫。冲他一通数落后,她才开始享受觅来的食物。然后虫子刚刚下肚,就又继续对他喋喋不休。

不过,凡事总有个度,即便是啄木鸟也不例外。雄鸟兢兢业业,在森林的某个阴郁角落为她长时间觅食,归来时已浑身湿透、面容憔悴,而今受到这般数落,他突然抖了抖羽毛,飞到几码外干枯的红枫树枝上,开始“反唇相讥”。相比他那毛色靓丽的伴侣,他显得朴素单调,平淡无奇,个子矮小,身体紧实而有效用,一看就是一辈子伺候人家的。从昆虫到人类,无一例外。他出口简单干脆,我猜一定是一针见血了。

接下来啄木鸟妈妈便展现了其高超的博弈天分。她迅速撤回到窝里,无疑是决心待到“暴风雨”结束。啄木鸟爸爸发现没了听众,气得抖了几下湿透的翅膀,显然感觉自己还是很重要的,无人可以取代。于是,他又俯冲进入林子觅食去了。

 

(罗选民 译)

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