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Frank Trippett-A Season for Hymning and Hawing 汉译

2014-05-23    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训
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A Season for Hymning and Hawing

Frank Trippett

Technically, it begins next week. Actually, it began with the epic sigh of relief that could be sensed all over the U.S. right after Labor Day. Even before it arrives, Americans always manage to get into autumn. And no wonder. It is easily the most habitable season of the year.

Indeed, autumn deserves a hymn—and it has received far less tribute than it deserves. True, some mixed notices have come in over the centuries. Horace slandered autumn as a “dread” period—“harvest-season of the Goddess of Death.” He was dead wrong, of course, for as Ovid noted, once he got his mind off sex, autumn is “cum formossisimus annus”—”the fairest season of the year.” Had he lived a little later, Horace might have found out from the U.S. Census Bureau that the death rate is usually lower in autumn than in winter and spring. Why? Science doesn’t know, but it is quite possible that the will to live is stronger in the fall. Conversely, the will to mayhem weakens: nobody has ever worried about a Long Hot Autumn.

So autumn is a blatantly vital season, contrary to the allegations of sorrowful poets who misconstrue the message of dying leaves. A more realistic poet, Archibald MacLeish, says that “Autumn is the American season. In Europe the leaves turn yellow or brown and fall. Here they take fire on the trees and hang there flaming. Life, too, we think, is capable of taking fire in this country; of creating beauty never seen.”

Autumn is also the authentic season of renewal. Yale Lecturer William Zinsser hit the nail squarely: “The whole notion of New Year’s Day as the time of fresh starts and bold resolutions is false.” In truth that time is autumn. Popular pleasure shows itself in those hastening steps and brightened smiles encountered as the air grows nippier. Some psychiatrists have patients who grow almost alarmed at how congenial they suddenly feel. Autumn is a friendlier time.

The rejuvenating ambience of autumn is immeasurably more ancient than even the calendar. The Creation itself was achieved in the autumn, according to a tradition of Judaism—whence the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, at summer’s end or the start of fall. The suspicion that even God is partial to autumn has overwhelmed others, including John Donne, who enthused: “In Heaven, it is always Autumn.”

No, autumn is not always heaven on earth. The season does induce a quickening of the blood and a heightening of human kind’s sensual pleasures. Yet the very jubilant excesses that ensue often lead, at last, to the well-known post-Thanksgiving “holiday blues.” In darker ways still, fate and tragedy have made some American Novembers seem more cruel than April.

Autumn is honest; it does not pretend to be heaven. Yet almost everybody recognizes that the season’s character transcends those familiar bracing days, crystal nights, bigger stars, vaulted skies, fluted twilights, harvest moons, frosted pumpkins and that riotous foliage that impels whole traffic jams of leaf freaks up into New England (even though Columnist Russell Baker has reminded them that “if you’ve seen 1 billion leaves, you’ve seen them all”). What is not widely recognized is that autumn is richly enhanced simply by what it is not. Specifically, it is not summer, winter or spring.
Take winter. It is basically uninhabitable. Whenever it shows its true nature, real life bogs to a standstill. Almost no one sincerely likes winter except the oil cartel and the cough-syrup magnates. True, everybody pretends that real life actually goes on. This very effort has inspired some of mankind’s most desperate inventions—curling and skiing, to name two. To help foster the illusion of life happening, the Constitution requires Congress to convene each January—and the illusion is sometimes convincing even if the Capitol is often the scene of more commotion than movement. Winter is, in a word, unacceptable.

Then there is spring, the season for simpering adolescents, May flies and impressionable poetasters. Listen to a typical springophile, Poet George Herbert: “Sweet Spring, full of sweet days and roses, / A box where sweets compacted lie; / My music shows ...” Hold! Enough! His muse-ack provides sufficient cause to reflect—coolly—on the hard fact that spring was the time when our ancestral tribes built festivals around the rites of blood sacrifice. Moreover, did not Eve accomplish the Fall of Man in the eternal spring of Eden? In cool weather, serpents do not tempt; they grow diffident, recede and hibernate.

Summer? If any abomination so current needs to be reprised, think of it. Drought. Crowded beaches. Sunburn. Poison ivy. McDonald’s. Summer is sand between the toes, fleafestations on the cats, movies like New York, New York. Every so-called joy of summer—whether getting wet, beering up or fleeing to the mountains—consists, in its essence, of escaping the suffocating reality of the season. August is so horrible that even dedicated psychiatrists abandon posts and patients for the entire month. Mosquitoes love summer. They hate autumn.

In short, winter is a tomb, spring is a lie, and summer is a pernicious mirage. Thus, if only by some crude law of relativity, autumn is the preferred stock of seasons. Autumn is the truth. It had to be autumn (unless the fabled apple fell unseasonably) that inspired Newton to discover the law of gravity. More books and most of the best come forth in the autumn. In theatrical circles, autumn is spoken of as the season. Autumn is for stamping on ripe grapes. Even now the vintners are prowling the prodigal vines.

No hymning—or hawing—in behalf of autumn should neglect to note that the coming season is a self-contained climactic cycle. It offers every weather—at its end, days icy enough for any sane person, and along the way, those indefinite Indian summers that put the real ones to shame. Fittingly enough, autumn delivers us to Christmas.

Admittedly, the season has imperfections. Yet even some of these—such as pro football and TV premieres—have become popular. On the other hand, autumn’s few blemishes tend to be offset, for civilized folk, by that man-made miracle, the World Series. Maybe the saddest defect of autumn in America is the fact the country is so large that some regions do not get to experience it—Southern California, for one. Inhabitants of such deprived places should be encouraged to make-believe. That sort of thing comes easy to any folk not brought firmly back to earth once a year by a fall.


令人赞叹的季节

弗兰克·特瑞普特

严格按季节来说,秋天要下周才开始。实际上,劳动节一过,在整个美国都可以听到一声如释重负的巨大叹息,秋天从此开始了。即使在它来临之前,美国人已在想方设法进入秋天了。这倒不足为奇。因为秋天无疑是一年中最惬意的季节。

秋天的确值得赞颂。但它所得到的赞颂与它应该得到的却相差甚远。多少个世纪以来,人们对秋天就褒贬不一。贺拉斯诽谤秋天,说它是“可怕的”时期,是“死亡女神丰收的季节”。当然他是大错特错了。正如奥维德所说的,一旦摒弃了性的念头,秋天便是“cum formossisimus annus”——“一年中最美丽的季节”。要是贺拉斯晚出生那么几年,他可以从美国人口普查局发现,秋天的人口死亡率一般低于冬、春两季。为什么呢?科学难以回答这个问题。不过很可能是因为秋天里人们生存的愿望更强。而相反,戕害的愿望更弱:谁也不会担心有一个漫长而炎热的秋天。

因此,秋天显然是一个生机勃勃的季节。这跟伤感的诗人们对凋零的树叶所传达的信息的误解刚好相反。一位比较现实的诗人——阿契博德·麦克勒什这样说,“秋天是美国的季节。在欧洲,树叶变黄、变褐之后就纷纷凋落了;而这里的树叶却像是挂在树梢上的火焰,发出耀眼的光芒。在我们看来,这个国度里的生活也能燃出熊熊烈火,也能创造出一种前所未有的美。”

秋天才是真正的除旧布新的季节。耶鲁大学讲师威廉·辛塞说得非常中肯:“把元旦视为重新开始、树立雄心的日子,这种观念完全是错误的。”实际上,那应该是秋天。随着空气日益清凉,可以从人们轻快的步履和开心的笑容中看出他们愉快的心情。有些精神分析家发现,他们的某些病人在突然感到惬意的时候几乎会兴奋起来。秋天比较友好。

秋天那让人恢复青春活力的气氛远比历法还要古老。按照犹太教的传统说法,天地万物的创造就是在秋天里完成的。因此,犹太人的新年——拉什·哈夏那节定在夏末秋初。连上帝也偏爱秋天,这种看法得到了许多人的赞同,约翰·多恩就曾热情地说过,“天堂里总是秋天。”

不,在人世间秋天并不总是天堂。这个季节的确会加速血液循环、提高人们感官的兴奋程度。随之而来的纵情欢乐到了感恩节之后却能最终引起那有名的“节日忧郁症”。更有甚者,灾难与悲剧似乎曾使美国的某些十一月比四月更为残忍。  

秋天是诚实的,它并不把自己装扮成天堂。然而几乎每个人都明白秋天的特点并不止于凉爽的白昼、水晶样的夜晚、更大的星星、无垠的苍穹、长笛悠扬的黄昏、丰收时的月亮、长了白霜的南瓜以及那漫山遍野的红叶——它催逼着癖嗜它的人们到新英格兰去赏玩,以至形成了交通阻塞,尽管专栏作家罗素·贝克曾提醒他们说,“哪怕你看到的有十亿多张之多,也无法把所有的红叶看完。”有一个道理却还没有被普遍认识到:秋天之所以大受赞扬就因为它不是别的。确切地说,就因为它不是夏天、冬天或春天。  

就说冬天吧。冬天的日子简直难熬。无论何时,只要它显示出它的本来面目,真正的生活就陷入停滞。除了石油联合组织和生产止咳糖浆的巨头,几乎没有人真正喜欢冬天。人们倒是都装出现实生活仍在照常继续的样子。正是这种努力促使人们发明了一些最玩命的东西,比如冰上溜石、滑雪等。为了造成生活仍在继续的假象,宪法要求国会在每年一月召开会议。这种假象有时倒还真能让人迷惑,不过国会大厦发生的骚乱往往比政治活动多。总之,冬天是难以让人接受的。

再说春天吧。那是乐呵呵的小青年,多愁善感的三流诗人和蜉蝣的季节。请听一位迷恋春天的典型诗人——乔治·赫伯特的诗吧:“甜美的春天,充满了甜美的日子和玫瑰,/一个装满了糖果的盒子;我的音乐表明……”好了!够了!他那蹩脚的音乐足以让人思索,冷静地思索这样一个铁的事实:春天是我们的祖先部落围绕血祭仪式举行庆典的季节。而且,夏娃不正是在伊甸园永恒的春天里完成人类的堕落的吗?在凉爽的天气里,蛇是不会出来引诱人的,它会胆怯、退避、还要冬眠。

那么夏天呢?如果近在眼前就有什么令人厌恶的东西需要反复强调的话,那就想一想夏天。久旱不雨、拥挤的沙滩、晒黑的皮肤、栎叶毒漆树、麦当劳快餐馆。夏天意味着脚趾间的沙子,猫身上的虱子,《纽约、纽约》之类的电影。夏天里的每一种快乐,不管是冲凉、喝啤酒,还是逃进山里去,说穿了,都是对令人窒息的现实的逃避。八月的天气实在可怕,就连恪尽职守的心理咨询医生这时也会整月地抛开自己的岗位和病人。只有蚊子才喜欢夏天、憎恨秋天。

总而言之,冬天是坟墓,春天是谎言,夏天则是险恶的海市蜃楼。因此,即使用相对性这种粗浅的法则来衡量,秋天也是四季中最受欢迎的。秋天就是真理。只有秋天才能激发牛顿发现万有引力定律的灵感,除非那只传说中的苹果落得不合季节。在秋天里,人们会写出更多的著作,而且大多数是上乘之作。秋天被戏剧界看做黄金季节。秋天是人们压榨成熟的葡萄的时候。看,酒商们正在蓊蓊郁郁的葡萄藤下钻来钻去呢。

无论对秋天怎样赞美或是感叹,我们都不能忽视这样一点:接下来的季节是一个自成体系的有高潮的循环。它有各种各样的气候——秋季结束时,任何一个神智正常的人都会感到寒冷,而在那以前,不时出现的晴暖宜人的晚秋气候,那是足以令正牌的夏天自叹弗如的。说是秋天将我们带到圣诞节那是最恰当不过的。

应当承认,这个季节也有缺陷。但有些缺陷也变得受人欢迎了,比如职业足球赛和电视节目首映。另一方面,对文明人来讲,秋天的瑕疵已被人为的奇迹——全球联赛所掩盖。也许美国的秋天最令人惋惜的缺点是:我国版图太辽阔,有的地方经历不到秋天,南加州就是其一。应该鼓励生活在这种享受不到秋天的地方的居民假想出秋天来。而这样做对于不能一年一度被秋天坚实地带回到人世中来的人并不困难。

(陈春发 译)



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