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◎ 《鸟•兽•花》选译(一) (阅读3229次)



A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the
  edge of the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second-comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a  moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.

The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.
And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into
  that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in
  undignified haste,
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross,
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

●Saint Mark

There was a lion in Judah
Which whelped, and was Mark.

But winged --
A lion with wings --
At least at Venice,
Even as late as Daniele Manin.

Why should he have wings?
Is he to be a bird also?
Or a spirit?
Or a winged thought?
Or a soaring consciousness?

Evidently he is all that,
The lion of the spirit.

Ah, Lamb of God,
Would a wingless lion lie down before Thee, as this winged lion lies?

The lion of the spirit.

Once he lay in the mouth of a cave
And sunned his whiskers,
And lashed his tail slowly, slowly,
Thinking of voluptuousness,
Even of blood.

But later, in the sun of the afternoon,
Having tasted all there was to taste, and having slept his fill,
He fell to frowning, as he lay with his head on his paws
And the sun coming in through the narrowest fibril of a slit in his eyes.

So, nine-tenths asleep, motionless, bored and statically angry,
He saw in a shaft of light a lamb on a pinnacle, balancing a flag on its foot,
And he was thoroughly startled.

Going out to investigate,
He found the lamb beyond him, on the inaccessible pinnacle of light.
So he put his paw to his nose and pondered.

"Guard my sheep," came the silvery voice from the pinnacle,
"And I will give thee the wings of the morning."
So the lion of the senses thought it was worth it.

Hence he became a curly sheep-dog with dangerous propensities,
As Carpaccio will tell you:
Ramping round, guarding the flock of mankind,
Sharpening his teeth on the wolves,
Ramping up through the air like a kestrel
And lashing his tail above the world
And enjoying the sensation of heaven and righteousness and voluptuous wrath.

There is a new sweetness in his voluptuously licking his paw
Now that it is a weapon of heaven.
There is a new ecstasy in his roar of desirous love
Now that it sounds self-conscious through the unlimited sky.
He is well aware of himself,
And he cherishes voluptuous delights, and thinks about them,
And ceases to be a blood-thirsty king of beasts,
And becomes the faithful sheep-dog of the Shepherd, thinking of his voluptuous pleasures of

  chasing the sheep to the fold,
And increasing the flock, and perhaps giving a real nip here and there, a real pinch, but

always well meant.

And somewhere there is a lioness,
The she-mate.
Whelps play between the paws of the lion,
The she-mate purrs;
Their castle is impregnable, their cave,
The sun comes in their lair, they are well-off,
A well-to-do family.

Then the proud lion stalks abroad, alone,
And roars to announce himself to the wolves
And also to encourage the red-cross Lamb
And also to ensure a goodly increase in the world.

Look at him, with his paw on the world,
At Venice and elsewhere.
Going blind at last.


Sun, dark sun,
Sun of black void heat,
Sun of the torrid mid-day's horrific darkness:

Behold my hair twisting and going black.
Behold my eyes turn tawny yellow
See the milk of northern spume
Coagulating and going black in my veins
Aromatic as frankincense.

Columns dark and soft,
Sunblack men,
Soft shafts, sunbreathing mouths,
Eyes of yellow, golden sand
As frictional, as perilous, explosive as brimstone.

Rock, waves of dark heat;
Waves of dark heat, rock, sway upwards,
Waver perpendicular.

What is the horizontal rolling of water
Compared to the flood of black heat that rolls upward past my eyes?


“For fruits are all of them female, in them lies the seed. And so when they break and show

the seed, then we look into the womb and see its secrets. So it is that the pomegranate is

the apple of love to the Arab, and the fig has been the catch-word for the female fissure

for ages. I don't care a fig for it! men say. But why a fig? The apple of Eden, even, was

Eve's fruit. To her it belonged, and she offered it to the man. Even the apples of

knowledge are Eve's fruit, the woman's. But the apples of life the dragon guards, and no

woman gives them....”

“No sin is it to drink as much as a man can take and get home without a servant's help, so

he be not stricken in years.”

●Bare Almond-Trees

Wet almond-trees, in the rain,
Like iron sticking grimly out of earth;
Black almond trunks, in the rain,
Like iron implements twisted, hideous, out of the earth,
Out of the deep, soft fledge of Sicilian winter-green,
Earth-grass uneatable,
Almond trunks curving blackly, iron-dark, climbing the slopes.
Almond-tree, beneath the terrace rail,
Black, rusted, iron trunk,
You have welded your thin stems finer,
Like steel, like sensitive steel in the air,
Grey, lavender, sensitive steel, curving thinly and brittly up in a parabola.
What are you doing in the December rain?
Have you a strange electric sensitiveness in your steel tips?
Do you feel the air for electric influences
Like some strange magnetic apparatus?
Do you take in messages, in some strange code,
From heaven's wolfish, wandering electricity, that prowls so constantly round Etna?
Do you take the whisper of sulphur from the air?
Do you hear the chemical accents of the sun?
Do you telephone the roar of the waters over the earth?
And from all this, do you make calculations?
Sicily, December's Sicily in a mass of rain
With iron branching blackly, rusted like old, twisted implements
And brandishing and stooping over earth's wintry fledge, climbing the slopes
Of uneatable soft green!


Tuscan cypresses,  
What is it?  
Folded in like a dark thought  
For which the language is lost,  
5 Tuscan cypresses,  
Is there a great secret?  
Are our words no good?  
The undeliverable secret,  
Dead with a dead race and a dead speech, and yet  
10 Darkly monumental in you,  
Etruscan cypresses.  
Ah, how I admire your fidelity,  
Dark cypresses!  
Is it the secret of the long-nosed Etruscans?  
15 The long-nosed, sensitive-footed, subtly-smiling Etruscans,  
Who made so little noise outside the cypress groves?  
Among the sinuous, flame-tall cypresses  
That swayed their length of darkness all around  
Etruscan-dusky, wavering men of old Etruria:  
20 Naked except for fanciful long shoes,  
Going with insidious, half-smiling quietness  
And some of Africa's imperturbable sang-froid  
About a forgotten business.  
What business, then?  
25 Nay, tongues are dead, and words are hollow as seed-pods,  
Having shed their sound and finished all their echoing  
Etruscan syllables,  
That had the telling.  
Yet more I see you darkly concentrate,  
30 Tuscan cypresses,  
On one old thought:  
On one old slim imperishable thought, while you remain  
Etruscan cypresses;  
Dusky, slim marrow-thought of slender, flickering men of Etruria,  
35 Whom Rome called vicious.  
Vicious, dark cypresses:  
Vicious, you supple, brooding, softly-swaying pillars of dark flame.  
Monumental to a dead, dead race  
Embowered in you!  
40 Were they then vicious, the slender, tender-footed  
Long-nosed men of Etruria?  
Or was their way only evasive and different, dark, like cypress-trees in a wind?  
They are dead, with all their vices,  
And all that is left  
45 Is the shadowy monomania of some cypresses  
And tombs.  
The smile, the subtle Etruscan smile still lurking  
Within the tombs,  
Etruscan cypresses.  
50 He laughs longest who laughs last;  
Nay, Leonardo only bungled the pure Etruscan smile.  
What would I not give  
To bring back the rare and orchid-like  
Evil-yclept Etruscan?  
55 For as to the evil  
We have only Roman word for it,  
Which I, being a little weary of Roman virtue,  
Don't hang much weight on.  
For oh, I know, in the dust where we have buried  
60 The silenced races and all their abominations,  
We have buried so much of the delicate magic of life.  
There in the deeps  
That churn the frankincense and ooze the myrrh,  
Cypress shadowy,  
65 Such an aroma of lost human life!  
The say the fit survive,  
But I invoke the spirits of the lost.  
Those that have not survived, the darkly lost,  
To bring their meaning back into life again,  
70 Which they have taken away  
And wrapt inviolable in soft cypress-trees,  
Etruscan cypresses.  
Evil, what is evil?  
There is only one evil, to deny life  
75 As Rome denied Etruria  
And mechanical America Montezuma still.


Peace is written on the doorstep
In lava.

Peace, black peace congealed.
My heart will know no peace
Till the hill bursts.

Brilliant, intolerable lava,
Brilliant as a powerful burning-glass,
Walking like a royal snake down the mountain towards the sea.

Forests, cities, bridges
Gone again in the bright trail of lava.
Naxos thousands of feet below the olive-roots,
And now the olive leaves of thousands of feet below the lava fire.

Peace congealed in black lava on the doorstep.
Within, white-hot lava, never at peace
Till it burst forth blinding, withering the earth;
To set again into rock,
Grey-black rock.

Call it peace?

●The Blue Jay  

The blue jay with a crest on his head  
Comes round the cabin in the snow.  
He runs in the snow like a bit of blue metal,  
Turning his back on everything.  
5 From the pine-tree that towers and hisses like a pillar of shaggy cloud  
Immense above the cabin  
Comes a strident laugh as we approach, this little black dog and I.  
So halts the little black bitch on four spread paws in the snow  
And looks up inquiringly into the pillar of cloud,  
10 With a tinge of misgiving.  
Ca-a-a! comes the scrape of ridicule out of the tree.  

What voice of the Lord is that, from the tree of smoke? Oh Bibbles, little black bitch in

the snow,  
With a pinch of snow in the groove of your silly snub nose.  
What do you look at me for?  
15 What do you look at me for, with such misgiving?  
It's the blue jay laughing at us.  
It's the blue jay jeering at us, Bibs.  

Every day since the snow is here  
The blue jay paces round the cabin, very busy, picking up bits,  
20 Turning his back on us all,  
And bobbing his thick dark crest about the snow, as if darkly saying:  
I ignore those folk who look out. You acid-blue metallic bird,  
You thick bird with a strong crest  
Who are you?  
25 Whose boss are you, with all your bully way?  
You copper-sulphate blue-bird!  

●Tortoise Gallantry

Making his advances
He does not look at her, nor sniff at her,
No, not even sniff at her, his nose is blank.

Only he senses the vulnerable folds of skin
That work beneath her while she sprawls along
In her ungainly pace,
Her folds of skin that work and row
Beneath the earth-soiled hovel in which she moves.

And so he strains beneath her housey walls
And catches her trouser-legs in his beak
Suddenly, or her skinny limb,
And strange and grimly drags at her
Like a dog,
Only agelessly silent, with a reptile's awful persistency.

Grim, gruesome gallantry, to which he is doomed.
Dragged out of an eternity of silent isolation
And doomed to partiality, partial being,
Ache, and want of being,
Self-exposure, hard humiliation, need to add himself on to her.

Born to walk alone,
Now suddenly distracted into this mazy side-track,
This awkward, harrowing pursuit,
This grim necessity from within.

Does she know
As she moves eternally slowly away?
Or is he driven against her with a bang, like a bird flying in the dark against a window,
All knowledgeless?

The awful concussion,
And the still more awful need to persist, to follow, follow, continue,
Driven, after aeons of pristine, fore-god-like singleness and oneness,
At the end of some mysterious, red-hot iron,
Driven away from himself into her tracks,
Forced to crash against her.

Stiff, gallant, irascible, crook-legged reptile,
Little gentleman,
Sorry plight,
We ought to look the other way.

Save that, having come with you so far,
We will go on to the end.  Sorry plight,  
We ought to look the other way.  

40 Save that, having come with you so far,  
We will go on to the end.  

●Tortoise Shell  

The Cross, the Cross
Goes deeper in than we know,  
Deeper into life;  
Right into the marrow  
5 And through the bone.  

Along the back of the baby tortoise  
The scales are locked in an arch like a bridge,  
Scale-lapping, like a lobster's sections  
Or a bee's.  
10 Then crossways down his sides  
Tiger-stripes and wasp-bands.  

Five, and five again,  
And round the edges twenty-five little ones,  
The sections of the baby tortoise shell.  

15 Four, and a keystone;  
Four, and a keystone;  
Four, and a keystone;  
Then twenty-four, and a tiny little keystone.  

It needed Pythagoras to see life playing with counters on the living back  
20 Of the baby tortoise;  
Life establishing the first eternal mathematical tablet,  
Not in stone, like the Judean Lord, or bronze, but in life-clouded, life-rosy tortoise


The first little mathematical gentleman  
Stepping, wee mite, in his loose trousers  
25 Under all the eternal dome of the mathematical law.  

Fives, and tens,  
Threes and fours and twelves,  
All the volte face of decimals,  
The whirligig of dozens and the pinnacle of seven.  

30 Turn him on his back,  
The kicking little beetle.  
And there again, on his shell-tender, earth-touching belly,  
The long cleavage of division, upright of the eternal cross  
And on either side count five,  
35 On each side, two above, on each side, two below  
The dark bar horizontal.  
The Cross!  
It goes right through him, the sprottling insect,  
Through his cross-wise cloven psyche,  
40 Through his five-fold complex-nature.  

So turn him over on his toes again;  
Four pin-point toes, and a problematical thumb-piece,  
Four rowing limbs, and one wedge-balancing head,  
Four and one makes five, which is the clue to all mathematics.  

45 The Lord wrote it down on the little slate  
Of the baby tortoise.  
Outward and visible indication of the plan within,  
The complex, manifold involvedness of an individual creature  
Plotted out  
50 On this small bird, this rudiment,  
This little dome, this pediment  
Of all creation,  
This slow one.


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