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With Strings

(2007-04-17 19:53:06)
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生命的弦歌

分类: 学习不止
With Strings

By Bruce Holland Rogers

With <wbr>StringsThis happened a long time ago, a very long time ago, and people have
different ideas about what musical instrument the woman played. Was
it something like an oud or a guitar, to be plucked and strummed? Was it more like a violin or a haegum, played with a bow? In some places they say that what she played was the very first zhonghu, the very first harp, the very first dulcimer. It had strings, for everywhere it is agreed that she would sit beside the mountain road in the morning sun and hum to herself as she tuned. Then she would play.

And what music! People passing on the road would put down their burdens and close their eyes to listen. Her playing was so beautiful that if she had not rested now and then, some of these travelers might never have continued their journeys. They might have stayed there beside the road forever listening to one more phrase, and then one more after that. But the woman would stop playing at some point, and the travelers would give her a crust of bread, or a coin, or simply a word of thanks if that was all they had to give. They were generous, according to what they had. This was how she lived.

With <wbr>StringsThe travelers, meanwhile, spread word of her music. They told how even the heaviest burden seemed lighter if taken up again after a few songs. Bearers and caravans would choose a longer route if it meant that they could stop to hear her music along the way. If this had not happened so very long ago, some king or emperor might have summoned her to his court to be the royal musician, but this was long ago, in a time before emperors or kings.

Years passed. Eventually, she was not the woman musician, not even the old woman, but the old, old musical crone. Her hair was white. Her hands shook, except for when she played. But her music, if it had changed at all, was even more beautiful.

One night, Death came into the little room where she lived. She asked if she might play one last time before she left the world. "Have you not played music enough in your long life?" said Death. But he consented to a song, since he had never heard her play.

With <wbr>StringsDeath was just as business-like then as he is now. He meant to give her time for one song, and one song only. But the chords were so sweet that he found himself entranced, and as the last notes faded, he stood very still. He was just about to stir himself and lay his bony hands upon the woman's soul when she began the notes of a second song. Death thought to himself, "What is the harm in one more song?" He listened again, and again when he was about to rouse himself to action, the woman began a third song, and then a fourth. All through the night the old, old woman played, and when the first orange light of morning came through the window, Death was in no mood to take hold of anyone. The woman looked about and found that she was alone, so she slept away the morning, then played beside the road in her customary way all afternoon. All through that day and throughout all the world, no person died.

By nightfall, Death was himself again. He came to the woman's little room. When the musician saw him, she asked if she might play one more time before she left the world. Death knew that he should deny her. He knew that he should stretch out his hand and seize her. But he remembered how beautiful her music had been, like nothing he had ever heard since the beginning of the world. He hesitated for a moment, and in that moment, she began to play. And as before, the woman did not cease to play until the morning light, when Death had lost his grim resolve. No one died on that day, either. On the third night and day, it was the same. And on the fourth, and so on. For night after night, the musician played for Death, and night after night, Death hesitated when she asked his permission.

This continued not for a week or a month. It went on for a year, and then a dozen years, and then a century. It continued for another century after that, and in all this time, no one died. However, all the other constants of the world went on. Lovers loved. Marriages were celebrated, and children born. There was no child that did not know her grandparents, her great-grandparents, and their parent and grand-parents before them. Indeed, they might all live under the same roof. The world began to be a crowded place.
And still, the musician played. Night after night after century, Death came to her and could not refuse her offer of a song. Year after year, more people were born into the world. But where to put them all? How to feed them? So many people crowded the world that even the best of harvests brought in only enough grain for each person to have just a taste.

The musician still spent part of each day in her place beside the road, and she began to notice that the people passing by were much thinner than they once had been. As she played, she saw that the children were the thinnest of all. Why, some children were so slight that sunlight passed right through them, and a gentle breeze might blow a few of them into the sky where they would drift like leaves for a while. Seeing this, the old woman was like a person waking from a dream. All at once, she stopped playing, sprang to her feet, and broke her instrument against the ground.

That night, Death took the old woman, and he was busy long after carrying off the souls of people who, if not for the music, would have died years or centuries before. At last, there were only as many people in the world as there ought to be. At last, there was food enough to feed the children, and children grew sturdy and tall. But not as tall as the people of long ago. The hungry years had left their mark, and the race of man and woman has not recovered yet, nor ever will be as great as once it was. And though there are many fine musicians in our time, though we may stop and close our eyes to listen to their tunes, though our burdens may be lighter after we have heard a beautiful song, even though all these things are still so, we will never hear music so lovely that Death himself will stop and listen until the end.
生命的弦歌

By Bruce Holland Rogers

这个故事发生在很久很久以前,人们对这个妇人弹奏的乐器各持己见,有人说她的乐器好象是某种能弹拨的弦琴或吉他,也有人说更像用琴弓弹奏的木琴或小提琴,在有些地方,人们说她弹奏的是最早的中胡,最早的竖琴,最早的洋琴。这个乐器有弦,因为各地的人都认为,她每天在早晨的阳光中坐在山路旁一边哼着小调,一边调琴。

这是多么美妙的音乐啊!路过的行人都会放下肩头的担子闭上眼睛倾听着。她弹出的曲子美妙无比,如果不是因为她不时会停下来休息一会,有些旅人就不会再继续上路了。他们可能就会呆在路边一直听下去,听了一段,再听一段。不过妇人也终有停下来的时候,这个时候,路人或是给她一片面包,一个分币,或者只是句简单的谢谢,他们也只能给这些了。要按路人所拥有的来讲,他们都是很慷慨了。她就这样过活。

同时,旅人传诵着她的音乐。他们说在听过几首歌之后,再重的担子挑起来都觉得轻了。
带着骆驼运送货物的人为了能在漫长的旅途中能听上几首她弹奏的曲子,宁愿绕很远的路过来。如果这不是发生在那么久远以前的事,某个国王或皇帝也许会把她召到宫里做皇家乐师,但是这是在很久很久以前,那时候还没有皇帝和国王。

时光荏苒。最终,她不再是那个女乐人,甚至不再是个老妇人,而是个很老很老的干瘪皱皮的奏乐人。她的头发白了。手也发抖,除了在弹奏的时候。但是她的音乐,如果说有什么变化的话,那就是更加美妙动听了。

一天晚上,死神来到了她所住的小屋。她问,在她离开人世之前能不能再弹奏一次。“难道在你有生之年里你还没有弹够吗”?死神问。但是他还是同意了让她再弹奏一次,因为他从来没有听过她弹的曲子。死神那是就同现在一样公事公办。他本意是再给她弹一首曲子的时间,仅仅是一首曲子的时间。但是那琴声是如此优美,他完全沉醉其中了,乃至当一曲终了时,他仍然静静地矗立着。正当他动弹起来把他枯柴般的手伸向妇人的灵魂时,妇人第二首曲子的音调再次响起。死神对自己说,“再听一首曲子又何妨?”,他又接着听下去,当他再次起身行动时,妇人的第三首曲子又开始了,然后又是第四首。整整一夜,老妇人一直不停地弹着琴。当清晨第一缕橘黄色的霞光照进窗户的时候,死神再也没有心情抓人了。老妇人环顾四周发现只剩下她一个人了,便沉沉睡了一个上午,然后下午又像往常一样在山路旁弹奏开曲子了。那天整整一天,全世界没有一个人死去。

夜幕降临,死神又来了。他走进妇人的小屋,当奏乐者看见他的时候,她问他,在离开人世之前能否让她再弹一首曲子。死神知道他应该拒绝她。他知道他必须伸出手将她带走。但是他想起了她那美妙的琴声,这是他在这个世界不曾听过的声音。他犹豫了一下,就在这一下,妇人的琴声又响了起来。就像头天夜里一样,妇人一直弹到天亮,死神又失去了他那坚定的决心。那天,世界上又没有人死去。第三天,还是这样,第四天……。一夜又一夜,妇人为死神弹奏,一夜又一夜,每次当妇人问她能不能在离开人世之前再弹一首曲子时,死神总要犹豫一下。

这样过了不止一个星期,也不止一个月。而是一年,十年,接着就是一个世纪,再然后是两个世纪,在这两个世纪的岁月里,没有人死亡。而这个世界照旧进行着。恋人们恋爱,结婚,生孩子。没有一个孩子不知道他们的祖父母、曾祖父母,曾祖父母的父母以及他们的祖父母。真的,他们很可能就住在同一个屋檐下。世界开始变得拥挤起来。但是,妇人仍然在弹着琴。一夜又一夜,又一世纪,死神无法拒绝她弹奏最后一支曲子。一年又一年,越来越多的人来到这个世界上。但是把他们安顿在哪呢?怎么养活他们呢?这么多人挤在这个世界上,即使是最好的收成,也只够让他们每人尝一口的。

妇人仍然每天会花点时间在山路旁弹奏,她发现路人们比以前瘦多了。当她弹奏的时候,她发现小孩瘦得最厉害。这些孩子瘦得阳光都能穿透他们的身体,一阵微风都会把他们吹到天空中,他们就会像树叶一样在空中飘起来。此情此景,让老妇人如梦初醒。她立即停止了弹琴,起身把琴摔碎在地上。

那天夜里,死神抓走了老妇人,然后他又忙着带走那些本该在几年前,甚至几个世纪前就该死去的人们。最后,这个世界又恢复到了这个世界本该有的人数。最后,孩子有足够的食物,他们长得强壮而高大。不过不像很久以前的人那样高大。饥荒岁月留下了印迹,男人和女人之间的争斗仍然没有得到弥补,而且再也不会和好如初。虽然如今世界上还是有很多音乐家,尽管我们也会停下来闭眼聆听,尽管我们在听了一首美妙歌曲后会觉得身上的担子变轻,即使所有这些依然如旧,可是我们再也听不到如此美妙的,让死神都要停下脚步听到最后的音乐了。

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