The Ancient City
It was early winter. The gloomy and low sky made one feel suffocating. A fall of snow a couple of days before had brought to the city dwellers a touch of brightness, but now what an ugly scene reigned! The raw wind sent the snow on the tiles along the eaves whirling in the air in tiny bits and adroitly making its way down the necks of the pedestrians by way of their collars. The streets had become slushy by exposure to the prankish sun, and the thawing snow was dotted with traces of footsteps.
A plane appeared out of the blue from a direction only too familiar to the local inhabitants, roaring to the alarm of everybody, on whose face was written memories of some previous horrors. Kids, who had been crawling about over ruts playing a game of small clay balls, now stopped to look up at the strange dragonfly in the sky, subconsciously feeling that something ominous was going to happen. However, they soon lowered their heads again to bury themselves in the messy game as soon as the dragonfly disappeared from view behind the treetops.
That was a grey iron bird by no means a stranger to the ancient city. Everybody knew it was a scout with a multitude of "buddies" right behind it. With its straight wings spread out, it swept past sturdy old trees, quiet tile-roofed dwellings and lakes of imperial gardens, and circled over dazzling glazed tiles. It kept flying and flying. The ancient city, like a clumsy old man sitting there with his numbed legs crossed, looked on helplessly in face of what was taking place before him.
The dark low archway of the city gate was thronged with tradesmen and pedestrians passing to and fro, each staring blankly ahead. Acting on the public warning "No discussing state affairs", people had learned to keep their mouth closely shut. Yes, trouble seemed to be brewing. But they knew not the trouble was between whom and whom. Maybe they should store up more pickled vegetables just in case, and remember to burn joss sticks before the image of the kitchen god at home so as to get a blessing from heaven on all their folks.
As the snow began to thaw under the sun, the corners of the city wall revealed scars of war. That was something left on it by history. History had sent great men to build the wall, and history had also sent tyrants to destroy it. Again and again, it had, in time of turmoil, suffered knife-cuts and bombardment for the sake of the common people. Now, nobody could tell what kind of fate was in store. Anyway the local people were surging like a tide into the city for shelter. A perfect barometer it was indeed — another conqueror was eyeing the ancient city greedily.
The ancient city, like a clumsy old man bending low and gasping feebly, continued to watch over the group of innocent kids around him, his eyes brimming with tears.
①“初冬的天，灰黯而且低垂，简直把人压得吁不出一口气。”译时分成两句，干净妥帖：It was early winter. The gloomy and low sky made one feel suffocating。“把人压得吁不出一口气”意即“使人感到窒息”，故译为made one feel suffocating（或stifling）。
②“一些明朗”意即“少许明朗”，故译为a touch of brightness，其中a touch of作“少量”、“一点”（a very small amount of）解。
③“但雪后的景象可不堪了”意即“但雪后的景象是多么不堪入目啊”，故译为but what an ugly scene reigned，其中用reigned（居支配地位），未用it was，更达旨传神。
④“极善选择地向路人脖项里钻”意即“灵巧地往路人的脖子里钻”，故译为adroitly making its way down the necks of the pedestrians by way of their collars，其中by way of their collars（通过他们的衣领）是译文中的增益成分，原文虽无其词而有其意。
⑤“飞机由一个熟悉的方向飞来了”意为“飞机突然由一个当地居民所熟悉的方向（即东北）飞来了”，故译为A plane appeared out of the blue from a direction only too familiar to the local inhabitants，其中out of the blue是习语，作“突然地”解，是译文中的增益成分，原文虽无其词而有其意。
⑥“那是一只灰色的铁鸟。对这古城，它不是完全陌生的。”英译时把两句合成一句，较为紧凑连贯：That was a gray iron bird by no means a stranger to the ancient city。
⑦“他们也不知道是谁和谁”译为But they knew not the trouble was between whom and whom，其中knew not等于did not know，在否定句中省略助动词do是古体英语，现仍偶见于书面语中，有节约用字、语调顺口等修辞效果。
⑧“反正腌菜说不上得多备些的”意即“也许得多备些腌菜，以防万一”，故译为Maybe they should store up more pickled vegetables just in case，其中just in case或in case是习语，作“以防万一”解，是译文中增益的成分，原文虽无其词而有其意。此句也可译为Maybe they should store up more pickled vegetables to be ready for any possible eventualities。
⑨“它又面临怎样一份命运”译为what kind of fate was in store (for it)，其中in store是习语，作“即将发生”解。原文也可译为what kind of fate was awaiting it。
⑩“那是极好的晴雨表”译为A perfect barometer it was indeed...，为倒装句，语气比顺装句It was a perfect barometer indeed强调。打赏