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William S. Maugham - Mayhew汉译

2014-06-24    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训
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Mayhew

William S. Maugham

The lives of most men are determined by their environment. They accept the circumstances amid which fate has thrown them not only with resignation but even with good will. They are like streetcars running contentedly on their rails and they despise the sprightly flivver that dashes in and out of the traffic and speeds so jauntily across the open country. I respect them; they are good citizens, good husbands, and good fathers, and of course somebody has to pay the taxes; but I do not find them exciting. I am fascinated by the men, few enough in all conscience, who take life in their own hands and seem to mould it to their own liking. It may be that we have no such thing as free will, but at all events we have the illusion of it. At a cross-road it does seem to us that we might go either to the right or the left and, the choice once made, it is difficult to see that the whole course of the world’s history obliged us to take the turning we did.

I never met a more interesting man than Mayhew. He was a lawyer in Detroit. He was an able and a successful one. By the time he was thirty-five he had a large and a lucrative practice, he had amassed a competence, and he stood on the threshold of a distinguished career, he had an acute brain, an attractive personality, and uprightness. There was no reason why he should not become, financially, a power in the land. One evening he was sitting in his club with a group of friends and they were perhaps a little worse (or the better) for liquor. One of them had recently come from Italy and he told them of a house he had seen at Capri, a house on the hill, overlooking the Bay of Naples, with a large and shady garden. He described to them the beauty of the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean.

“It sounds fine,” said Mayhew. “Is that house for sale?”

“Let’s send’em a cable and make an offer for it.”

“What in heaven’s name would you do with a house in Capri?”

“Live in it,” said Mayhew.

He sent for a cable form, wrote it out, and dispatched it. In a few hours the reply came back. The offer was accepted.

Mayhew was no hypocrite and he made no secret of the fact that he would never have done so wild a thing an impulsive nor an emotional man, but a very honest and sincere one. He would never have continued from bravado in a course that he had come to the conclusion was unwise. He made up his mind to do exactly as he had said. He did not care for wealth and he had enough money on which to live in Italy. He thought he could do more with life than spend it on composing the trivial quarrels of unimportant people. He had no definite plan. He merely wanted to get away from a life that had given him all it had to offer. I suppose his friends thought him crazy; some must have done all they could to dissuade him. He arranged his affairs, packed up his furniture, and started.

Capri is a gaunt rock of austere outline, bathed in a deep blue sea; but its vineyards, green and smiling, give it a soft and easy grace. It is friendly, remote, and debonair. I find it strange that Mayhew should have settled on this lovely island, for I never knew a man more insensible to beauty. I do not know what he sought there: happiness, freedom, or merely leisure; I know what he found. In this place which appeals so extravagantly to the sense he lived a life entirely of the spirit. For the island is rich with historic associations and over it broods always the enigmatic memory of Tiberius the Emperor. From his windows which overlooked the Bay of Naples, with the noble shape of Vesuvius changing colour with the changing light, Mayhew saw a hundred places that recalled the Romans and the Greeks. The past began to haunt him. All that he saw for the first time, for he had never been abroad before, excited his fancy; and in his soul stirred the creative imagination. He was a man of energy. Presently he made up his mind to write a history. For some time he looked about for a subject, and at last decided on the second century of the Roman Empire. It was little known and it seemed to him to offer problems analogous with those of our own day.

He began to collect books and soon he had an immense library. His legal training had taught him to read quickly. He settled down to work. At first he had been accustomed to foregather in the evening with the painters, writers, and such like who met in the little tavern near the Piazza, but presently he withdrew himself, for his absorption in his studies became more pressing. He had been accustomed to bathe in that bland sea and to take long walks among the pleasant vineyards, but little by little, grudging the time, he ceased to do so. He worked harder than he had ever worked in Detroit. He would start at noon and work all through the night till the whistle of the steamer that goes every morning from Capri to Naples told him that it was five o’clock and time to go to bed. His subject opened out before him, vaster and more significant, and he imagined a work that would put him forever beside the great historians of the past. As the years went by he was to be found seldom in the ways of men. He could be tempted to come out of his house only by a game of chess or the chance of an argument. He loved to set his brain against another’s. He was widely read now, not only in history, but in philosophy and science; and he was a skillful controversialist, quick, logical, and incisive. But he had good-humour and kindliness; though he took a very human pleasure in victory, he did not exult in it to your mortification.

When first he came to the island he was a big, brawny fellow, with thick black hair and a black beard, of a powerful physique; but gradually his skin became pale and waxy; he grew thin and frail. It was an odd contradiction in the most logical of men that, though a convinced and impetuous materialist, he despised the body; he looked upon it as a vile instrument which he could force to do the spirit’s bidding. Neither illness nor lassitude prevented him from going on with his work. For fourteen years he toiled unremittingly. He made thousands and thousands of notes. He sorted and classified them. He had his subject at his finger ends, and at last was ready to begin. He sat down to write. He died.

The body that he, the materialist, had treated so contumeliously took its revenge on him.

That vast accumulation of knowledge is lost for ever. Vain was that ambition, surely not an ignoble one, to set his name beside those of Gibbon and Mommsen. His memory is treasured in the hearts of a few friends, fewer, alas! As the years pass on, and to the world he is unknown in death as he was in life.

And yet to me his life was a success. The pattern is good and complete. He did what he wanted, and he died when his goal was in sight and never knew the bitterness of an end achieved.


生活的道路

威廉·S·毛姆

对于大多数人来说,生活是由环境决定的。他们在命运的拨弄面前,不仅逆来顺受,甚至还能随遇而安。这些人犹如街上的有轨电车,满足于在自己的轨道上运行;而对于那些不时出没于车水马龙间和欢快地奔驰在旷野上的廉价小汽车却不屑一顾。我尊重这些人;他们是守法的公民、尽职的丈夫、慈祥的父亲。当然,总得有人缴纳种种税款;可是,我并不觉得他们使人振奋。另有些人把生活掌握在自己手里,似乎在按照自己的意愿创造生活,尽管这样的人寥若晨星,他们却深深地吸引了我。自由意志这玩意儿对我们来说也许纯属子虚乌有;但不管怎么说,它确实存在于我们的幻想之中。每逢站在十字路口,我们好像能在左右两条道路中任选其一,可一旦选定之后,却又很难认识到那实际是世界历史的整个进程左右了我们的转折点。

我从未见到过比梅休更有意思的人了。他是底特律的一名律师,为人能干,事业上也很成功。35岁时就门庭若市,收入可观,累累胜诉,声名昭著,前程似锦。他头脑灵活,性格招人喜欢,为人又很正直,在这个国家里不变得有钱或者有势才怪呢。一天晚上,他与一些朋友在俱乐部聚会。喝了酒之后,他们也许有点醉意(或更清醒)了,其中一人刚从意大利回来,跟大家谈起了在卡普里岛看到的一幢房子。那是一幢坐落在小山上的房屋,还有个绿叶成荫的大花园。从屋里望出去,那不勒斯湾尽收眼底。他娓娓动听地把地中海这个最美的岛屿夸了一番。

“听起来倒真不错!”梅休说,“那房子卖不卖?”

“在意大利什么东西都卖。”

“我们打个电报,出个价把那房子买下来。”

“天哪!你买卡普里的一所房子干什么用啊?”

“住呗!”梅休说。

他叫人取来一张电报单,填好后就发了出去。没过几小时,回电来了,买卖成交。

梅休绝对不是伪君子。他毫不隐讳地承认,如果当时头脑清醒的话,他决不至于做出如此轻率的事。但此刻他清醒了,也决不反悔。他不是个一时冲动就鲁莽从事的人,也不多愁善感。他为人十分正直、诚恳。无论干什么,只要意识到所干的并不明智,他就马上会停下来,从不会因一时逞能而一味蛮干下去。他决心不折不扣地履行自己的诺言。梅休并不在乎钱财,他有的是钱,足够在意大利花的。他想使生活过得更有价值,不愿再把大好年华浪费在调停芸芸众生因区区小事引起的吵闹中。他没有明确的计划。他只是想抛弃这已不能再使他满意的生活。我想他的朋友们一定以为他疯了。有些人肯定是费尽唇舌劝他千万别这么做。可是他安排好手头的事务,把家具装了箱,毅然上路了。

卡普里岛是一块外形突兀的荒凉的岩石,沐浴在深蓝色的海洋里。但是它的葱绿的葡萄园仿佛在向人微笑,使这个海岛增添了几分令人舒爽的温柔宁静的姿色。卡普里岛远离尘嚣,却景色宜人,生气盎然。我真感到奇怪,梅休竟会找这么一个可爱的海鸟定居,因为我实在不相信还有谁会比他对美更无动于衷的了。我不知道他到那儿去想追求什么,是寻幸福,求自由,或者只是为了优游水月;但我知道他找到了什么。在这个岛上,人的感官本会受到强烈的刺激,而他却过上了纯精神的生活。因为这个岛上尽是能够勾起你联想的历史遗迹,总叫你想到提比略大帝的神秘故事。他站在窗前就能俯视那不勒斯湾。每当日移光变,维苏威火山的雄姿也随之变换色泽。此时,他凭窗远望,看到上百处残踪遗迹,因而联想起罗马和希腊的盛衰。他开始不停地思考起古代社会来。脑海中创造性的想象联翩浮来。他是个精力充沛的人,立刻就决定要笔耕史学。他花了一些时间寻找题目,最终选定了罗马帝国的第二世纪。这个题目很少为人所知。梅休认为帝国当时存在的问题与当今社会的情况颇有巧合之处。

他开始收集有关著作,不久就有了大量藏书。搞法律时受的训练教会了他如何快速阅读。他着手工作了。起初,他惯于在黄昏时分到市场附近的一个小酒店和聚在那里的画家、作家等文人墨客共同消磨一段时光,但不久他就深居简出了,因为研究工作日趋紧张,使他抽不出时间。一开始他也常到温和的海水中去洗澡,不时在可爱的葡萄园之间散步。但由于舍不得时间,渐渐地他不再洗澡,也不散步了。他干得要比在底特律卖力得多,常常是正午开始工作,彻夜不眠,待到汽笛一鸣,才恍然意识到已是清晨五点,从卡普里到那不勒斯的船只正要起锚出航,该是睡觉的时候了。他的主题在他面前展开了,涉及的内容越来越广泛,意义越来越重大。他在遐想,一旦巨著完成,他将跻身于历代伟大的史学家之列,永垂史册。时间一年一年过去,人们很少看到他与外界来往,只有一场棋赛或是一次辩论,才能诱使他走出家门。他就是爱与人斗智。现在他已博览群书,不仅读历史,还读哲学与科学。他能争善辩,思路敏捷,说理逻辑严密,批判尖锐辛辣。但他心地是善良的。当然,每逢胜利他也免不了满腔欢欣与快乐,这是人之常情。不过他并不沾沾自喜,而让别人下不了台。

当他初到海鸟时,个子高大结实,一头浓密的黑发和一把黑胡须,是一个身强力壮的人。但渐渐地他的皮肤日见苍白,人也瘦弱了。尽管他是一个坚定不移的、甚至近于偏激的唯物论者,却不把肉体放在眼里。这在一位最讲究逻辑的人身上,可真是自相矛盾得叫人不可思议。他把肉体视为微不足道的工具,认为他可以驱使肉体去完成精神赋予的使命。病魔和疲劳都不能使他停止工作。整整14年,他埋头苦干,锲而不舍,做了千万条注释,又把这些注释分门别类整理有序。对于自己的主题,他了如指掌,终于万事俱备,他坐下来去写那煌煌巨著。然而他死了。

这位唯物论者曾极度蔑视肉体,如今肉体对他进行了报复。

那长年累月积累起来的知识也随着他的死而化为乌有。他曾想与吉本和蒙森齐名。这雄心无疑是高尚的,然而如今只是一场空。几个朋友还怀念着他,可叹的是,随着岁月的流逝,记得他的人也越来越少。在这个大千世界上,他死后默默无闻,犹如他生前一样。

然而,在我看来,他的一生是成功的。他的生活道路是完善的。因为他干了他想干的事。当目标在望时,他与世长辞,因而也就幸免了达到目标后的心酸与痛苦。

(乔萍、瞿淑蓉、宋洪玮 编著)



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