现代英文选评注 | The Whistle 寒笛 Eudora Welty

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本文是尤多拉·韦尔蒂(Eudora Welty,1909—2001)所著短篇小说首集《绿幕》(A Curtain of?Green)里的一篇。韦尔蒂女士是美国南部密西西比州人,著有多种长篇小说,短篇小说已集于Collected Stories(1980)。她的短篇小说剪裁经济,勾画生动,笔触轻灵,含意丰富,堪入世界名作之列。

Night fell. The darkness was thin, like some sleazy dress that has been worn and worn for many winters and always lets the cold through to the bones. Then the moon rose. A farm lay quite visible, like a white stone in water, among the stretches of deep woods in their colorless dead leaf. By a closer and more searching eye than the moon's everything belonging to the Mortons' might have been seen—even to the tiny tomato plants in their neat rows closest to the house, gray and featherlike, appalling in their exposed fragility. The moonlight covered everything, and lay upon the darkest shape of all, the farmhouse where the lamp had just been blown out.

  • sleazy:稀薄的。黑夜比作一件不能御寒的敝衣。lets的主语是关系代名词that,the cold是它的宾语。through是副词,作用和pass through相同,“让它穿过”,to是介词。
  • visible(清楚可辨)是complement,形容主语farm(田庄)。田庄之在月色之中,犹如水中白石,这样比说“月色如水”要高明一筹。
  • stretch原意是一长条,stretches并不是几条,而是绵延不断的一块或一片:一片深林。leaf在这里是collective noun,即等于leaves。colorless:黑、白、灰,皆为无色。
  • the Mortons'在文法上称为absolute genitive,把后面应该跟的名词house(莫顿夫妇的家)省掉了。这一句是被动语态,又是虚拟式。我们不知道有没有一只眼睛,可以比月亮看得更仔细,更能洞察一切,假如有的话,莫顿家每一样东西都可“被”(即句首之By)它看见了。这只眼睛应该是小说家的眼睛。
  • 但是作者并没有列举他们家里的东西,在横线之后只举了一件东西:番茄田。替番茄防冻是本篇的主题,别的东西自可以不提,写短篇小说不得不注意描写上的经济。
  • even to的to=as far as:每样东西都可以看见,即小至小小的番茄秧,也可以看见。后面跟着几个形容tomato plants的字。featherlike:像羽毛似的,指番茄的茎叶而言。fragility:脆弱。exposed:暴露(在寒夜中)的,番茄这样暴露着,使人惊心(appalling)。
  • the farmhouse是the shape的同位语。

Inside, Jason and Sara Morton were lying between the quilts of a pallet which had been made up close to the fireplace. A fire still fluttered in the grate, making a drowsy sound now and then, and its exhausted light beat up and down the wall, across the rafters, and over the dark pallet where the old people lay, like a bird trying to find its way out of the room.

  • quilt:一床被。pallet:稻草所铺成的床。铺(made up)在火炉附近(close)。
  • grate:火炉里的铁格子。drowsy:催眠的。exhausted:无力的。把火炉里的光比作一只寻出路的鸟,可称妙绝。动词用beat也妙,譬喻还没有点明以前,单凭这个动词,已经显出有一样东西在东碰西撞了。fluttered:跳动,用于火可以,用于鸟也可以。rafters:屋椽。

The long-spaced, tired breathing of Jason was the only noise besides the flutter of the fire. He lay under the quilt in a long shape like a bean, turned on his side to face the door. His lips opened in the dark, and in and out he breathed, in and out, slowly and with a rise and fall, over and over, like a conversation or a tale—a question and a sigh.

  • long-spaced:两声鼾声之间停顿得很长。bean:这里是附有豆荚的豆子。turned on his side:侧着身。turned是过去分词。
  • in and out he breathed=he breathed in and out。rise and fall:起伏。最后一句句子的节奏,也模仿鼾声的起伏。

Sara lay on her back with her mouth agape, silent, but not asleep. She was staring at the dark and indistinguishable places among the rafters. Her eyes seemed opened too wide, the lids strained and limp, like openings which have been stretched shapeless and made of no more use. Once a hissing yellow flame stood erect in the old log, and her small face and pale hair, and one hand holding to the edge of the cover, were illuminated for a moment, with shadows bright blue. Then she pulled the quilt clear over her head.

  • lay on her back:仰天而卧。agape:张着(嘴)。indistinguishable:分辨不清楚的。opened是过去分词,形容主语。the lids strained and limp是nominative absolute phrase。“眼皮绷紧的又是软软的(limp)”。她的眼睛就“像两个眶眶,张大得已经不成形状,而且给弄得不再有什么用处了”。在“which”clause里,有两个动词:have been stretched和(have been)made;shapeless和of no more use都形容主语which。
  • 第四句又是描写火光:一下子她的脸、头发和捏住被单边缘的一只手都给照亮了。火是嘶嘶作响(hissing)的黄色火焰,笔直地(erect)立在(炉子里的)陈旧的木柴(log)上。
  • hold作不及物动词用,有cling(紧附)的意义,所以holding to比holding(及物动词)可能捏得更紧。末一句的clear是副词,解作completely,把被单拉上,把头全盖没了。

Every night they lay trembling with cold, but no more communicative in their misery than a pair of window shutters beaten by a storm. Sometimes many days, weeks went by without words. They were not really old—they were only fifty; still, their lives were filled with tiredness, with a great lack of necessity to speak, with poverty which may have bound them like a disaster too great for discussion but left them still separate and undesirous of sympathy. Perhaps, years ago, the long habit of silence may have been started in anger or passion. Who could tell now?

  • communicative:喜与人交谈的,形容主语they。受暴风雨打击的两扇百叶窗,即使有个别的反应,也不会互相交谈,这一对老夫妇虽然生活困苦,也不互相交谈,两个活人的话并不比两扇窗的话更多一些(no more…than)。went by=passed。
  • 他们的生命充满了三件东西:第一是“疲倦”;第二是“没有说话的需要”(filled with a lack:充满了一种缺乏——好像是不通的,这样把两个意义相反的字联在一起,修辞学上称为“矛盾修饰法”[oxymoron],中文也有这种说法,例如“公开的秘密”);第三是“贫穷”。
  • poverty后跟着一个adjective clause。在这个子句里,作者就她写作的时候(故用现在式的辅助动词may),去猜想当时的情形(故用完成式不定词have bound和have left)。贫穷把他们老夫妻俩联系(bound是bind的过去分词)在一起,可能如同一个灾祸一样(同受灾者命运相同),灾祸太大了,用不着再去讨论它。但是贫穷使得他们俩仍旧是彼此分离的,而且是不希望别人来同情的。(separate和undesirous两个形容词都是objective complements。)
  • 末一句,作者猜想他们什么时候开始互相不交谈的。这个沉默的习惯可能很多年(years前面不必加many也可表示很多年)前就开始了。怎样开始的呢?可能有一次在生气的时候,两人不说话,以后就一直不说话了(passion=violent anger)。但是现在谁知道呢?

She was so tired of the cold! That was all it could do any more—make her tired. Year after year, she felt sure that she would die before the cold was over. Now, according to the Almanac, it was spring…. But year after year it was always the same. The plants would be set out in their frames, transplanted always too soon, and there was a freeze…. When was the last time they had grown tall and full, that the cold had held off and there was a crop?

  • 第二句的it代the cold。make是省去了to的不定式。
  • Almanac:历本。虽然交了春,天还是很冷。交了春,番茄苗要从苗圃里移植到田里去。但是年年总是如此,移植(transplanted)得太早了,一夜春寒,可能把番茄全冻死,辅助动词用would表示过去屡次发生的事。set out=planted(此解根据Thorndike-Barnhart: Comprehensive?Desk Dictionary)。frames:番茄太重,番茄树枝支持不起,需搭架子来扶助。
  • 年年种的番茄,都在春天冻死,她已记不起哪一年的番茄是种活的。末一句是Sara自己问自己,上一回是什么时候,番茄苗(they)长得又高,结得又满;寒冷不来侵犯(hold off=keep at a distance)而有收获呢?

Like a vain dream, Sara began to have thoughts of the spring and summer. At first she thought only simply, of the colors of green and red, the smell of the sun on the ground, the touch of leaves and of warm ripening tomatoes. Then, all hidden as she was under the quilt, she began to imagine and remember the town of Dexter in the shipping season. There in her mind, dusty little Dexter became a theatre of almost legendary festivity, a place of pleasure. On every road leading in, smiling farmers were bringing in wagonloads of the most beautiful tomatoes. The packing sheds at Dexter Station were all decorated—no, it was simply that the May sun was shining. Mr. Perkins, the tall, gesturing figure, stood in the very centre of everything, buying, directing, waving yellow papers that must be telegrams, shouting with great impatience. And it was he, after all, that owned their farm now. Train after train of empty freight cars stretched away, waiting and then being filled. Was it possible to have saved out of the threat of the cold so many tomatoes in the world?

  • 这一段是回忆五月间收购番茄时的盛况(就是番茄有收成的那一年),运用视觉(colors)、嗅觉(smell)、触觉(touch)的描写,正同上文凄凉寒夜作一对照。
  • all hidden as she was under the quilt=though she was all hidden under the quilt。
  • Dexter在密苏里州。shipping season:装运的季节。注意:shipping只是“装运”,水路旱路均可,这里是指装火车。
  • theatre:场合。legendary festivity:如传说般的盛大庆祝。
  • leading in:通到Dexter城去的。a wagonload是装满一马车那么多,这里用的是复数。bring in的in是副词。
  • packing:(给番茄)装箱或装篓子。sheds:专作此用的帐棚。decorated:装饰起来,但是作者(或者可以说是Sara)又修正自己的话,并没有装饰,只是阳光照耀得灿烂夺目而已。
  • 下面接着描写Mr. Perkins:一个高大而装腔作势的人(figure:人的形状,Sara所记得的是这个人的形状);directing:在指挥别人;waving yellow papers that must be telegrams:手里拿着一叠黄纸在舞,这叠黄纸,据Sara猜想起来,一定是电报。四个现在分词buying、directing、waving和shouting(叫喊),都是形容主语Mr. Perkins(with great impatience:很不耐烦地)。
  • after all=all things considered:总而言之。
  • Train:列车。freight cars:货车。stretched away:长长地延伸出去。
  • 末一句Sara还是很奇怪:怎么可能从寒冷的威胁下救出这许多番茄来?saved的宾语是tomatoes。

Sara, weightless under the quilt, could think of the celebrations of Dexter and see the vision of ripe tomatoes only in brief snatches, like the flare-up of the little fire. The rest of the time she thought only of cold, of cold going on before and after. She could not help but feel the chill of the here and now, which was not to think at all but was for her only a trembling in the dark.

  • weightless:觉得自己很轻(因此更冷)。vision:景象。
  • in brief snatches:短短的片刻之中。flare-up:突然发光。这一个譬喻把过去同现在,或者说,把回忆同当前的感觉联结了起来。又把读者带回到她屋子里来了。
  • could not help but feel:不能不感觉到。the here and now:此地此时。这种寒战的感觉不好算是思想(to think),对于她只算是黑暗中的一阵战栗(trembling)。

She coughed patiently and turned her head to one side. She peered over the quilt just a little and saw that the fire had at last gone out. There was left only a hulk of red log, a still, red, bent shape, like one of Jason's socks thrown down to be darned somehow. With only this to comfort her, Sara closed her eyes and fell asleep.

  • coughed:咳嗽。patiently:有耐心地。
  • peered:窥视。at last:最后总算灭了——Sara一直期待着它会灭的。
  • a hulk of red log:木柴烧红成为炭。log这个字上文已经见过, 我们很可以猜想,炉子里就只有这么一块柴,这块柴烧完了,火也灭了。(hulk:原意是废船的空壳子。)
  • shape是hulk的同位语。那块木柴成了一个静止的、红色的、弯曲的形体,就像她丈夫的一只袜子(sock),掷给她叫她织补(darn)的。somehow:用某种方式(随便她怎样织补)。
  • 从火炉里的余烬联想到家政。Sara心平气和,心理描写至此可以告一段落,Sara也入睡了。

Every hour it was getting colder and colder. The moon, intense and white as the snow that does not fall here, drew higher in the sky, in the long night, and more distant from the earth. The farm looked as tiny and still as a seashell, with the little knob of a house surrounded by its curved furrows of tomato plants. Cold like a white pressing hand reached down and lay over the shell.

  • getting(联系动词)=becoming。
  • intense:强烈的。“月色皎洁如雪”,但是那个地方是从来不下雪的,全篇叙事均用过去式,此处忽出现现在式does not fall,这是表示常理,并不限于故事发生的那一段时间里。
  • drew(不及物动词)=moved。后随higher与distant两个subjective complements,形容主语moon。
  • still(形容词):静止的。seashell:贝壳。请参阅本文第一段把田庄比作水中白石的描写。the little knob of a house:房子看上去只成圆圆的一小块。of在这里的用法是很特别的,这种用法很像appositive genitive,但这里of前后两名词的关系不是“相等”,而是“相像”。所谓appositive genitive的例子,如the City of Rome (Rome is the city),the habit of smoking (smoking is the habit);但是这个phrase的意思是:The house seemed like a little knob。同样的用法如an angel of a woman(天使般的女人),a mountain of a man(魁伟如山的人)。surrounded是过去分词。furrow:畦,即犁在田中所挖成之浅沟。
  • 末句之cold是名词,为全句主语。pressing hand:用力按的手。reached:伸。reached down:往下伸。

In Dexter there is a great whistle which is blown when a freeze threatens. It is known everywhere as Mr. Perkins' whistle. Now it sounded out in the clear night, blast after blast. Over the countryside lights appeared in the windows of the farms. Men and women ran out into the fields and covered up their plants with whatever they had, while Mr. Perkins' whistle blew and blew.

  • 题意至本段始点明。whistle指工厂、火车、轮船上所用之汽笛,这里的汽笛是作“防冻警报”之用。blown:呜(笛作响)。threatens:将来袭击。
  • Mr. Perkins上文已介绍,是番茄田的主人。首两句用现在式,表示这是每年经常之事。blast:汽笛一阵地响。
  • lights appeared…:听到汽笛声,农民纷纷起床为番茄防冻。屋内种种忙乱,小说家让我们看见的,只是窗上露出光来而已,描写何等经济。
  • whatever they had:有什么(他们就用什么盖上去)。包括衣服被褥等。

Sara felt herself waking. She knew that Mr. Perkins' whistle was blowing, what it meant—and that it now remained for her to get Jason and go out to the field. A soft laxity, an illusion of warmth, flowed stubbornly down her body, and for a few moments she continued to lie still.

  • waking:将醒未醒。她觉得自己在醒回来,是尚未全醒也。神知在寤寐之间,最难描写,作者本段着墨不多,而慵倦疏懒之状,已跃然纸上。
  • 第二句knew的宾语是that…,what…,that…三个noun clauses。
  • A soft laxity(懒洋洋的感觉),an illusion of warmth(钻在被窝中睡,似乎温暖,其实并不真温暖):这种感觉都是朦胧恍惚,若有若无;动词flowed(如水之流,贯注全身):也只显得不用力量,顺应自然。可是副词stubbornly之意为坚决地,用力地。懒洋洋的感觉虽懒虽软,却真有力量叫人起不了床,stubbornly一字安得妙。

Then she was sitting up and seizing her husband by the shoulders, without saying a word, rocking him back and forth. It took all her strength to wake him. He coughed, his roaring was over, and he sat up. He said nothing either, and they both sat with bent heads and listened for the whistle. After a silence it blew again, a long, rising blast.

  • without saying a word:上文已说过,老夫妻俩是很少交谈的,此处再提一句。
  • rock(动词):摇。roaring:鼾声。listened for…:谛听,而声音尚未来。rising:声音由低升高。

Promptly Sara and Jason got out of bed. They were both fully dressed, because of the cold, and only needed to put on their shoes. Jason lighted the lantern, and Sara gathered the bedclothes over her arm and followed him out.

  • They were both fully dressed:这句话的predicate并不表示一个动作,只是一种状态:“他们是穿好衣服的”(和衣而卧)。
  • over her arm:挽在臂上。bedclothes:被褥,包括枕头。

Everything was white, and everything looked vast and extensive to them as they walked over to the frozen field. Stooping over the little plants, Jason and Sara touched them and touched the earth. For their own knowledge, by their hands, they found everything to be true—the cold, the rightness of the warning, the need to act. Over the sticks set in among the plants they laid the quilts one by one, spreading them with a slow ingenuity. Jason took off his coat and laid it over the small tender plants by the side of the house. Then he glanced at Sara, and she reached down and pulled her dress off over her head. Her hair fell down out of its pins, and she began at once to tremble violently. The skirt was luckily long and full, and all the rest of the plants were covered by it.

  • stooping:俯身。For their own knowledge=for all they knew:据他们所知。For=regarding,so far as concerns:就……而言(《简明牛津字典》)。
  • 破折号后三个名词,都是everything的同位语,found的宾语。“他们发现这些都是真的:冷是真的,发警报真有理由,他们也真该行动。”警报的“正当性”(rightness)和行动的需要(need)都是真的。抽象名词在中国语法习惯里用得较少。中文常用形容词或动词的地方,英文可以用抽象名词来表达,这是学英文的人所应该注意的。
  • set是过去分词。over the sticks形容laid。他们把被单一层一层地铺在插在番茄秧间的小竿上。ingenuity:灵巧。
  • Jason把自己的外套(可能是大衣)脱下了,铺在番茄上,再对Sara一望(glance),这一望使得Sara也非脱不可。她的女式衣服(dress),像运动背心一样,穿上要从头上套进去,脱下也得要过头。脱衣服的时候,把发针(pins)弄松了,头发披了下来。
  • 末句luckily一字用得最为沉痛。上面刚说到:衣服脱掉,冷得发抖;这里接着说:亏得(或幸喜)衣服的下幅(skirt)长而肥大,把没有盖到的番茄秧统统盖上了。真是luckily吗?这里用这样一个反语(irony),胜过许多慷慨激昂的牢骚。

Then Sara and Jason stood for a moment and stared almost idly at the field and up at the sky.

There was no wind. There was only the intense whiteness of moonlight. Why did this calm cold sink into them like the teeth of a trap? They bent their shoulders and walked silently back into the house.

  • teeth of a trap:捕鼠(兽)机的刀齿。

The room was not much warmer. They had forgotten to shut the door behind them when the whistle was blowing so hard. They sat down to wait for morning.

  • had forgotten:刚才他们出去抢救番茄的时候,忘了关门了,寒气进了屋,屋里一样的冷。

Then Jason did a rare, strange thing. There long before morning he poured kerosene over some kindling and struck a light to it. Squatting, they got near it, quite gradually they drew together, and sat motionless until it all burned down. Still Sara did not move. Then Jason, in his underwear and long blue trousers, went out and brought in another load, and the big cherry log which of course was meant to be saved for the very last of winter.

  • 这时候这对老夫妻的情形是:火炉里的火灭了(见前文),被褥衣服都给番茄秧盖上了,自己身上反而没有盖的了,天还不亮,屋子里同外面一样冷,该怎么办呢?
  • kerosene:火油。kindling:引火柴。squatting:蹲着。
  • underwear:内衣。another load:又是一堆(小木片,引火柴)。cherry log:樱桃树木柴。saved:节省;“这是预备省下来,度过这个冬天的”。last=end。

The extravagant warmth of the room had sent some kind of agitation over Sara, like her memories of Dexter in the shipping season. She sat huddled in a long brown cotton petticoat, holding onto the string which went around the waist. Her mouse-colored hair, paler at the temples, was hanging loose down to her shoulders, like a child's unbound for a party. She held her knees against her numb, pendulant breasts and stared into the fire, her eyes widening.

  • 把最后一块大木柴烧掉了,该怎么办呢?作者所描写的这对老夫妇,差不多是没有思考作用的,他们像动物一样,只有感觉和简单的反应。对于这种可怜的人,冷应该更加可怕。
  • agitation:(心理上的)激动。注意:这里的sent的意义和平常不同。her memories…:请参阅上文。
  • huddled:蜷缩,过去分词,形容主语。petticoat:衬裙,不连上身的。
  • holding,现在分词,仍是形容主语。onto=on to,手捏牢这根绕腰而过的带子(string)。
  • temples:太阳穴。a child's=a child's hair。party:宴会。小(女)孩子参加宴会时,有时把头发解松了,披在肩上,算是一种打扮。
  • numb:麻木的。pendulant:下垂的。

At last every bit of the wood was gone. Now the cherry log was burned to ashes.

And all of a sudden Jason was on his feet again. Of all things, he was bringing the split-bottomed chair over to the hearth. He knocked it to pieces…. It burned well and brightly. Sara never said a word. She did not move….

Then the kitchen table. To think that a solid, steady four-legged table like that, that had stood thirty years in one place, should be consumed in such a little while! Sara stared almost greedily at the waving flames.

  • on his feet:站起来。of all things:有“什么都不搬,偏把椅子搬来”之意。bottom:椅子之座位部。split:裂开的。over(副词):解作“从那边搬来”之意。
  • To think=it is hard to think。下面的noun clause的动词should be consumed是虚拟式:“竟然会这样快就烧掉!”
  • a table like that之that是指示代名词,“像那一张一样的桌子”。第二个that是关系代名词,引起一个adjective clause,也是形容table。
  • greedily:贪婪地,想占有这个火。用中文说是“想把这个火吃下去”。

Then when that was over, Jason and Sara sat in darkness where their bed had been, and it was colder than ever. The fire the kitchen table had made seemed wonderful to them…. But Sara trembled, again pressing her hard knees against her breast. All at once, without turning her head, she spoke.

  • that was over:那张厨房桌子也烧完了。
  • where their bed had been:一度是他们铺床的地方。他们的床是铺在火炉旁的地上的,现在被褥已经都搬了出去盖番茄秧了,床已不再存在。
  • the kitchen table had made:adjective clause形容fire,关系代名词省略。had made的时态,也是表示“不再存在”。

"Jason…"

A silence. But only for a moment.

"Listen," said her husband's uncertain voice.

They held very still, as before, with bent heads.

Outside, as though it would exact something further from their lives, the whistle continued to blow.

  • 老夫妻俩从来没有开过口,现在忽然交谈起来了。是什么东西打破他们沉默的习惯的呢?Sara在一阵寒战之后,有什么话非说不可的呢?
  • They held very still之held是linking verb,相当于continued。still(安静)是predicate adjective。exact:问(他们)要。汽笛声已经把他们的衣服家具都要了去,现在又在吹了,好像再要向他们要什么似的。汽笛在吹,天气还要冷下去。番茄秧或者可以救活了,但是人呢?寒夜笛声,境界至为明净,然人世痛苦,似亦尽在几声长鸣之中。小说家之剪裁,至此已告结束。然文虽终局,意似尚有未尽焉。

(本文摘自《现代英文选评注》:京东正版购买链接

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