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The Ephemera: An Emblem of Human Life 汉译

2014-07-01    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

The Ephemera: An Emblem of Human Life

Benjamin Franklin

You may remember, my dear friend, that when we lately spend that happy day in the delightful garden and sweet society of the Moulin Joly, I stopped a little in one of our walks, and stayed some time behind the company. We had been shown numberless skeletons of a kind of little fly, called an ephemera, whose successive generations, we were told, were bred and expired within the day. I happened to see a living company of them on a leaf, who appeared to be engaged in conversation. You know I understand all the inferior animal tongues. My too great application to the study of them is the best excuse I can give for the little progress I have made in your charming language. I listened through curiosity to the discourse of these little creatures; but as they, in their national vivacity, spoke three or four together, I could make but little of their conversation. I found, however, by some broken expressions that I heard now and then, they were disputing warmly on the merit of two foreign musicians, one a cousin, the other a moscheto; in which dispute they spent their time, seemingly as regardless of the shortness of life as if they had been sure of living a month. Happy people! thought I; you are certainly under a wise, just, and mild government, since you have no public grievances to complain of, nor any subject of contention but the perfections and imperfections of foreign music. I turned my head from them to an old gray-headed one, who was single on another leaf, and talking to himself. Being amused with his soliloquy, I put it down in writing, in hopes it will likewise amuse her to whom I am so much indebted for the most pleasing of all amusements, her delicious company and heavenly harmony.

“It was,” said he, “the opinion of learned philosophers of our race, who lived and flourished long before my time, that this vast world, the Moulin Joly, could not itself subsist more than eighteen hours; and I think there was some foundation for that opinion, since, by the apparent motion of the great luminary that gives life to all nature, and which in my time has evidently declined considerably towards the ocean at the end of our earth, it must then finish its course, be extinguished in the waters that surround us, and leave the world in cold and darkness, necessarily producing universal death and destruction. I have lived seven of those hours, a great age, being no less than four hundred and twenty minutes of time. How very few of us continue so long! I have seen generations born, flourish, and expire. My present friends are the children and grandchildren of the friends of my youth, who are now, also, no more! And I must soon follow them; for, by the course of nature, though still in health, I cannot expect to live above seven or eight minutes longer. What now avails all my toil and labor in amassing honey-dew on this leaf, which I cannot live to enjoy! What the political struggles I have been engaged in for the good of my compatriot inhabitants of this bush, or my philosophical studies for the benefit of our race in general! for in politics what can laws do without morals? Our present race of ephemera will in a course of minutes become corrupt, like those of other and older bushes, and consequently as wretched. And in philosophy how small our progress! Alas! art is long, and life is short! My friends would comfort me with the idea of a name they say I shall leave behind me; and they tell me I have lived long enough to nature and to glory. But what will fame be to an ephemera who no longer exists? And what will become of all history in the eighteenth hour, when the world itself, even the whole Moulin Joly, shall come to its end and be buried in universal ruin?”

To me, after all my eager pursuits, no solid pleasures now remain, but the reflection of a long life spent in meaning well, the sensible conversation of a few good lady ephemeræ, and now and then a kind smile and a tune from the ever amiable Brillante.

蜉蝣-------人生的一个象征

富兰克林

亲爱的朋友,上次在芍丽磨坊,举行游园会的那天,我们玩得很痛快。那天良辰美景,到会者个个是风雅仕女,可是你也许还记得,我们在散步的时候,我曾经在路上停留了一会儿,落在大家后面。原因是园里有很多蜉蝣的残尸——所谓蜉蝣,是苍蝇一类的小昆——有人指给我们看了,而且据说它们的寿命很短,一天之内,生生死死好几代就过去了。我听到之后,信步走去,在一片树叶上面,发现了这种小虫有一群之多。它们似乎在讨论什么东西——你知道我是善知虫语的;我和你往来这么久,可是你们贵国美妙的语言[3]我学来学去,始终进步很少,我如何能替自己解嘲呢?只好说我研究虫语用心过度了。现在这批小虫在举行辩论,我好奇心动,不免凑上前去偷听一番;可是虫虽小,它们的心却大,开起口来,都是三四个一起来的,因此听来很不清楚。偶尔断断续续也可听清一两句,原来它们正在热烈讨论两位外国音乐家的优劣比较——那两位,一位是蚋先生,一位是蚊先生[4]:讨论得非常之热烈,它们似乎忘记了“虫生”的短促,好像很有把握可以活满一个月似的。你们多快乐呀,我这么想,你们的政府一定是贤明公正、宽仁待民的,你们没有牢骚可发,你们也用不着闹党派斗争,你们竟有闲情逸致在这里讨论外国音乐的优劣。我转过头来,看见另一片树叶上有一头白发老蜉蝣,它一个正在自言自语。我听得很有趣,因此把它笔录下来。我的好朋友的深情厚谊,我已领受很多,她的清风明月的风度,她的妙音雅奏,一向使我倾倒不已,我这一段笔记,无非博她一粲,聊作报答而已。

老蜉蝣说道:“我们的哲人学者,在很久很久以前,以为我们这个宇宙(即是所谓芍丽磨坊),其寿命不会超过十八小时的。我想这话不无道理,因为自然界芸芸众生,无不倚赖太阳为生,但是太阳正在自东往西地移动,就在我的这一生,很明显的太阳已经落得很低,快要沉到我们地球尽处的诲洋里去了。太阳西沉,为大地周围的海洋所吞,世界变成—片寒冷黑暗,一切生命无疑都将灭亡,地球归于毁灭。地球的寿命一共十八小时,我已经活了7个小时了,说起来时间也真不少,足足有四百二十分钟呢!我们之间有几个能够如此克享高寿的呢?我看见好几代蜉蝣出生、长大,最后又死去。我现在的朋友只是些我青年时代朋友的子孙,可是他们本身,咳,现在是都已不在‘虫世’了,我追随他们于地下的时侯也不远,因为现在我虽然仍旧步履轻健,但天下无不死之虫,我顶多也只能再活七八分钟而已。我现在还是辛辛苦号地在这片树叶上搜集蜜露,可是这有什么用呢?我所收藏的,我自己是吃不到了。回忆我这一生,为了我们这树丛里同胞的福利,我参加过多少次政治斗争;可有法律而无道德配合,政治仍旧不能清明,因此为了增进全体蜉蝣类的智慧,我又研究过多少种哲学问题! ‘道心惟微,虫心惟危’,我们现在这一族蜉蝣必须随时戒慎警惕,否则一不小心,在几分钟之内,就可以变得像别的树丛里历史较为悠久的别族蜉蝣一样,道德沦亡,万劫不复!我们在哲学方面的成就又是多么的渺小!呜呼,我生也有涯而知也无涯。我的朋友常常都来安慰我,说我年高德劭,为蜉蝣中之大老,身后之名,必可流传千古。可是蜉蝣已死,还要身后名何用?何况到了第十八小时的时候,整个芍丽磨坊都将毁灭,世界末日已临,还谈得上什么历史吗?”

我劳碌一生,别无乐趣,惟有想起世间众生,无分人虫,如能长寿而为公众谋利者,这是可以引为自慰的;再则听听蜉蝣小姐蜉蝣太太们的高淡阔论,或者偶然从那可爱的白夫人那里,得到巧笑一顾,或者是清歌一曲,我的暮年也得到慰藉了。

(夏济安 译)



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