现代英文选评注 | Herb Gathering 采药 Truman Capote

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杜鲁门·卡波特(Truman Capote,1924—1984)是美国作家,本篇选自其所著长篇小说《草琴》(The Grass Harp,1951)。美国旷野,印第安草(Indian grass)繁生,高可逾顶,一望无际,风吹其间,声如筝簧,故“草琴”者,亦“天籁”之意也。

小说的主人公是一个孤儿(Collin Fenwick),依两表姑居,两表姑皆老处女,行为怪僻,然各有其可爱处。书中故事简单而含意深远,人物描写非常生动,写景亦多佳句。卡波特之风格,精致细腻,轻描淡写中,颇多晕润含蓄之妙。于现实世界之外,似另暗示一理想世界。其小说虽以美国南部为背景,然读来犹如童话,疑真疑幻,文字之妙用尽矣。

Once a week, Saturdays mostly, we went to River Woods. For these trips, which lasted the whole day, Catherine fried a chicken and deviled a dozen eggs, and Dolly took along a chocolate layer cake and a supply of divinity fudge. Thus armed, and carrying three empty grain sacks, we walked out the church road past the cemetery and through the field of Indian grass.

  • River Woods是当地一座森林的名称。lasted:(时间之)持续。每星期去一次,一去就一整天。Catherine为一黑人老妪,年约六十。deviled:用醋、辣椒、酱油、色拉油等调味品泡制(蛋先煮熟切开,蛋黄泡制后,再放入蛋白之内)。Dolly为书中主角之大表姑,年六十,天性十分纯朴善良。渠有秘方,依法配制,能治水肿。所谓“采药”,即为配制该单方之用。layer cake:分层之蛋糕。fudge:普通软质美式糖果。divinity fudge是fudge之一种,原料以cream、蔗糖、胡桃仁为主。a supply of=a quantity of,相当多。
  • armed:原意是武装配备,转作一切配备。这里所配备的是供野餐用的食品和糖果。grain sacks:盛谷类的麻袋或布袋。空的,可以装药草。church road:通至教堂的路。cemetery:公墓,在教堂附近。

Just entering the woods there was a double-trunked China tree, really two trees, but their branches were so embraced that you could step from one into the other; in fact, they were bridged by a tree-house; spacious, sturdy, a model of a tree-house, it was like a raft floating in the sea of leaves. The boys who built it, provided they are still alive, must by now be very old men; certainly the tree-house was fifteen or twenty years old when Dolly first found it and that was a quarter of a century before she showed it to me.

  • 过了草原,便是森林。在森林进口处,是两棵“楝树”。据刘半农编《中小字典》:“楝”音“连”,高丈余,叶繁密如槐,初夏开淡紫色花,结实似枣而小,色黄,俗名“金铃子”,入药。楝树在美国称为China tree(或chinaberry tree)。
  • trunk:树干。double-trunked:两根树干的。本来是两棵树,因为上面的枝叶纠缠难分,好像是一棵树有两根树干似的。embraced:拥抱。step from one into the other:从一棵树跨到另外一棵。树可“走进”,其繁茂可想。bridge:树上架有木屋,犹如两树之间的桥梁。spacious:宽敞的。sturdy:坚固的。a model of a tree-house:树上房屋的模范。同前面的a tree-house在语法上是同位语。raft:木筏。屋居树巅,如筏浮水上。
  • provided=if。造这座木屋的孩子们假如现在还活着的话,也该是很老的老头儿了。Dolly起初发现这座木屋的时候,它已经有十五年到二十年的历史;事到如今,又过了二十五年了。

To reach it was easy as climbing stairs; there were footholds of gnarled bark and tough vines to grip; even Catherine, who was heavy around the hips and complained of rheumatism, had no trouble. But Catherine felt no love for the tree-house; she did not know, as Dolly knew and made me know, that it was a ship, that to sit up there was to sail along the cloudy coastline of every dream. Mark my word, said Catherine, them boards are too old, them nails are slippery as worms, gonna crack in two, gonna fall and bust our beads don't I know it.

  • gnarled bark:多结节的树皮,可供踏脚(foothold)。grip:握;硬藤可攀援。rheumatism:风湿病。complained of:自称害(什么病)。
  • to sail along the cloudy coastline of every dream:上文把树巅木屋比作木筏,同时又把树叶比作海,尚不过是就形象而言,这里把木屋比作船,船居然能行,文思至此,乃更进一层。船往那里开呢?“沿着梦境的云雾茫茫的海岸航行。”什么样的梦全有,故云every dream。
  • she did not know之宾语是两个“that”clauses。
  • 末一句照语法惯例,应加引号。Mark my word之my是Catherine自道。them boards...和them nails...之them并非宾格,而等于指示形容词these。boards:木板。年代过久,铁钉已松,触之似能出入自如,犹如小虫,故Catherine担忧木屋将垮。
  • gonna=going to:将要。bust=burst:打破。皆为美国土话。don't I know it:我岂不知之哉?我知道得很清楚。(don't之前,标点原文缺。)

Storing our provisions in the tree-house, we separated into the woods, each carrying a grain sack to be filled with herbs, leaves, strange roots. No one, not even Catherine, knew altogether what went into the medicine, for it was a secret Dolly kept to herself, and we were never allowed to look at the gatherings in her own sack: she held tight to it, as though inside she had captive a blue-haired child, a bewitched prince.

  • provisions:食品,即上文所述之煎鸡等等。separated:分头出发。
  • what went into the medicine:Dolly的药是什么东西配成的。go这一类常见的动词,用法颇多,学者宜随时留意。
  • Doily kept to herself是定语从句,关系代名词which省掉。
  • gatherings:搜集所得。tight(副词)=firmly。captive(形容词)=held as a prisoner,此处作objective complement。
  • blue-haired child:蓝发童,指不常见的怪物。bewitched prince:中了魔法的王子。西洋童话中,常有王子因为魔法作祟变形易体,化作怪物。Dolly的袋里的东西总不让别人看,好像捉住什么怪物似的。

This was her story: "Once, back yonder when we were children there were gipsies thick as birds in blackberry patch…not like now, maybe you see a few straggling through each year. They came with spring: sudden, like the dogwood pink, there they were—up and down the road and in the woods around. Then one evening, it was April and falling rain, I went out to the cowshed where Fairybell had a new little calf; and there in the cowshed were three gipsy women, two of them old and one of them young, and the young one was lying naked and twisting on the corn-shucks. When they saw that I was not afraid, one of the old women asked would I bring a light. So I went to the house for a candle, and when I came back the woman who had sent me was holding a red hollering baby upside down by its feet, and, the other woman was milking Fairybell. I helped them wash the baby in the warm milk and wrap it in a scarf. Then one of the old women took my hand and said:

  • 本段乃Dolly自叙秘方之由来。
  • back yonder:很多年前。yonder本代表空间之“远”,此处代表时间之“远”。thick:因人数多,密集而成“厚”。patch:一块地。种黑莓之地上,鸟雀常群集,当年吉卜赛人(gipsies)人数众多,亦复类彼。straggling:三三两两地走过。maybe是副词,may与be之间不分。
  • pink:石竹(花名)。dogwood pink恐为pink之一种,入春怒放;而吉卜赛人于春季亦突然大群出现,如石竹花焉。
  • it was April and falling rain:此从句插入以说明时间,与全句结构无关。cowshed:牛棚。Fairybell:母牛名。had a new little calf:新添一犊。corn-shucks:玉蜀黍外面的包壳,是牛的饲料。twisting:辗转反侧,临盆前阵痛之象。
  • would I bring a light:照语法书上规定,应作whether I would bring a light。
  • who had sent me:定语从句,刚才差我走的(那个女人)。hollering:大声叫喊的。red:初生婴儿的颜色。holding upside down by its feet:握着脚,倒提着。milking:挤奶。
  • wash和wrap都是infinitives,前面的to省略。在help之后,infinitive的to常常省略。warm milk:才挤出来的奶,故温暖。scarf:围巾。

"Now I am going to give you a gift by teaching you a rhyme. It was a rhyme about evergreen bark, dragonfly fern—and all the other things we come here in the woods to find: Boil till dark and pure if you want a dropsy cure. In the morning they were gone; I looked for them in the fields and on the road; there was nothing left of them but the rhyme in my head."

  • rhyme:韵文,口诀。吉卜赛老妪为谢其照料之恩,乃授以药方口诀。第一句是吉卜赛人语,用现在式,第二句又是Dolly本人的口气了,用过去式。
  • fern:羊齿植物。dragonfly fern为羊齿植物之一种。we come here…to find:定语从句。草药的其他成分,Dolly秘而不宣,即以all the other things概括。
  • 斜体字为口诀之一部分,注意pure与cure押韵。采得各种药草之后,加水煮沸,煎到色呈乌黑,杂质去尽为止。dropsy:水肿病。cure:特效药。

Calling to each other, hooting like owls loose in the daytime, we worked all morning in opposite parts of the woods. Towards afternoon, our sack fat with skinned bark, tender, torn roots, we climbed back into the green web of the China tree and spread the food. There was good creek water in a mason jar, or if the weather was cold a thermos of hot coffee, and we wadded leaves to wipe our chicken-stained, fudge-sticky fingers. Afterwards, telling fortunes with flowers, speaking of sleepy things, it was as though we floated through the afternoon on the raft in the tree; we belonged there, as the sunsilvered leaves belonged, the dwelling whippoorwills.

  • owls:猫头鹰。它们的叫鸣英文称为hoot。loose(形容词):飞出来了。
  • skin(动词):剥皮。skinned bark:剥下的树皮。tender(鲜嫩的)和torn(撕断的)都是形容roots。green web:楝树枝叶繁茂,如绿色之网。
  • jar:缸。mason jar是玻璃所制,本为贮藏蔬菜鲜果之用,这里盛水(mason是纪念发明人的名字)。creek:溪涧。thermos:暖瓶,即俗称热水瓶。a thermos跟句首there was而来。if the weather was cold是状语从句。wadded:捏成小块。sticky:粘性的。wipe:抹拭。
  • telling fortunes with flowers:用花算命(通常是数花的花瓣,是种消遣)。speaking of sleepy things:讲些叫人打瞌睡的事情。可能话没有说完,就会睡着了的。
  • floated through the afternoon:一下午就这么飘荡过去了。假如就时间言,through不过是“整个下午这么过去”的意思。但是细看文意,作者似乎要把时间化成空间,afternoon是一个海,他们是在乘桴浮海,through简直就是“渡过”的意思。
  • sunsilvered:因阳光照耀色如镀银。as the sunsilvered leaves belonged=as the sunsilvered leaves belonged there:树叶和树不可分,彼此是一家;他们三人同树叶一样,也是属于这棵树的。dwelling:住在那边的。whippoorwills:怪鸱,和主语we同位。他们三人,高踞树巅,食于斯,寝于斯,就像三只怪鸟。

(本文摘自《现代英文选评注》:京东正版购买链接

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