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Sunday before the War

(2011-09-14 16:41:27)
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杂谈

分类: 学英文

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Via 英文巴士 http://www.en84.com/article-5736-1.html

Arthur Clutton-Brock's reputation as an essayist rests on the numerous essays on literature and art he wrote mainly for the Times Literary Supplement (TLS), many of which were collected during his lifetime. In 1922 Ernest Rhys said of him that he had "shown again how to give the periodical essay the savour of permanent things." His lively and demanding approach to a variety of subjects created a wide readership during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Besides literature and art, his two other concerns as an essayist were socialism and Christianity; he was active and innovative as a practitioner, reformer, and theorist for both causes. The most important influences on his thought are William Morris's blend of socialism and aestheticism and Benedetto Croce's unpretentious and unclouded pursuit of spirit and truth in art. Today Clutton-Brock is best remembered for his studies of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1909) and Morris (1914).

Arthur Clutton-Brock - Sunday before the War

On Sunday, in a remote valley in the West of England, where the people are few and scattered and placid, there was no more sign among them than the quiet hills of the anxiety that holds the world. They had no news and seemed to want none. The postmaster was ordered to stay all day in his little post-office, and that something unusual that interested them, just only because it affected the postmaster.

It rained in the morning, but the afternoon was clear and glorious and shining, with all distances revealed far into the heart of Wales and to the high ridges of the Welsh mountains. The cottages of that valley are not gathered into villages, but two or three together or lonely among their fruit-trees on the hillside; and the cottagers, who are always courteous and friendly, said a word or two as one went by, but just what they would have said on any other day and without any question about the war. Indeed, they seemed to know, or to wish to know, as little about that as the earth itself, which beautiful there at any time, seemed that afternoon to wear an extreme and pathetic beauty. The country, more than any other in the England, has the secret of peace. It is not wild, though it looks into the wildness of Wales; but all its cultivation, its orchards and hopyards and fields of golden wheat, seem to have the beauty of time upon them, as if men there had long lived happily upon the earth with no desire for change nor fear of decay. It is not a sad beauty of a past cut off from the present, but a mellowness that the present inherits from the past; and in the mellowness all the hillside seems a garden to the spacious farmhouses and the little cottages; each led up to by its own narrow, flowery lane. There the meadows are all lawns with the lustrous green of spring even in August, and often over-shadowed by old fruit-trees——cherry, or apple, or pear; and on Sunday after the rain there was an April glory and freshness added to the quiet of the later summer.

Nowhere and never in the world can there have been a deeper peace; and the bells from the little red church down by the river seemed to be the music of it, as the song of birds is the music of spring. There one saw how beautiful the life of man can be, and how men by the innocent labours of many generations can give to the earth a beauty it has never known in its wildness. And all this peace, one knew, was threatened; and the threat came into one's mind as if it were a soundless message from over the great eastward plain; and with it the beauty seemed unsubstantial and strange, as if it were sinking away into the past, as if it were only the memory of childhood.

So it is always when the mind is troubled among happy things, and then one almost wishes they could share one's troubles and become more real with it. It seemed on that Sunday that a golden age had lasted till yeaterday, and that the earth had still to learn the news of its ending. And this change has come, not by the will of God, not even by the will of man, but because some few men far away were afraid to be open and generous with each other. There was a power in their hands so great that it frightened them. There was a spring that they knew they must not touch, and, like mischievous and nervous children, they had touched it at last, and now all the world was to suffer for their mischief.

So the next morning one saw a reservist in his uniform saying goodbye to his wife and children at his cottage-gate and then walking up the hill that leads out of the valley with a cheerful smile still on his face. There was the first open sign of trouble, a very little one, and he made the least of it; and, after all, this valley is very far from any possible war, and its harvest and its vintages of perry and cider will surely be gathered  in peace.

But what happiness can there be in that peace, or what security in the mind of man, when the madness of war is let loose in so many other valleys? Here there is a beauty inherited from the past, and added to the earth by man's will; but the men here are of the same nature and subject to the same madness as those who are gathering to fight on the frontiers. We are all men with the same power of making and destroying, with the same divine foresight mocked by the same animal blindness. We ourselves may not be in fault today, but it is human beings in no way different from us who are doing what we abhor and they abhor even while they do it. There is a fate, coming from the beast in our own past, that the present man in us has not yet mastered, and for the moment that fate seems a malignity in the nature of the universe that mocks us even in the beauty of these lonely hills. But it is not so, for we are not separate and indifferent like the beasts; and if one nation for the moment forget our common humanity and its future, then another must take over that sacred charge and guard it without harted or fear until the madness is passed.May that be our task now, so that we may wage war only for the future peace of the world and with the lasting courage that needs no stimulant of hate.

战前星期天

阿瑟·克拉顿

 

星期天,在英格兰西部一处居家稀少、民性平靖的幽远山谷,如在寂静的群山之中一样,全无世人忧心忡忡的迹象。谷地的人们没有外部世界的消息,看来也不想打听。当地邮差接获通知,让他整日守着小小的办公室。这是引人关注的不寻常事态,不过也只是因为事关邮差而已。

早晨下了雨,午后放晴,阳光明媚,逶迤伸展到远处威尔士腹地以及威尔士山脉巍峨群峰的景致,全部呈现在眼前。谷地的农舍并不集成村落,而是三两簇聚,要不就孤零零的,掩埋在山腰的果树丛中。农舍的住户从来都彬彬有礼,态度友善,见人走过,会说上一两句话,然而也只是任何寻常日子的家常话,全不问打仗的事。看来,对于战争,他们知之甚少,也不想了解更多,漠然宛若他们脚下的大地。这儿的土地常年秀美,而在这天下午更是披上了一种极度凄婉动人的美。这片乡野,比起英格兰的任何乡野,更得和平的奥秘。虽说面对威尔士的荒原,这片乡野并非蛮荒,倒是以其耕作的成绩,以其果园、啤酒花藤栽培场和黄金色的麦田,显示出日月流逝留下的美,仿佛这儿的人长年以来一直在土地上幸福度日,既不期盼变更,也不畏惧衰亡。这不是一种与现今隔绝的往昔的悲凉美,而是现今继承自往昔的一种醇美。就在这一片醇美之中,四周的山坡似乎成了宽敞的农舍和玲珑家舍的家园,每座都由各自花色烂漫的小径引至门前。这儿的牧场全是精心整理的草地,即使在八月仍是一片春日的葱郁;不少地方更有栽培经年的樱桃、苹果和梨树等果树掩映。在这雨后的星期天,除了残夏特有的恬静。田乡还透出一种四月的辉耀和新生气息。

世间任何地方在任何时候都不可能领略比这儿更为深沉的和平。从山下河畔那座红砖小教堂传出的钟声,像是和平的主题音乐,正如啁啾的鸟语是春天的音乐一样。在这儿,你看到了人类生活可有多么美好,人类有如何以迭代的诚实劳动给土地带来一种土地在蛮荒时代从未领略到的美。然而,你也意识到,这儿的和平景象正遭到威胁。这威胁如同穿越向东延伸的大平原传来的无声讯息,随之,田野之美顿时变得虚空而诡奇,似乎正融入往昔而渐渐消失,渺远宛若童年的回忆。

置身幸福环境的人,在思想受到困扰的时候,总有这种体验。接着,他几乎会奢望幸福环境能分担他的困扰并在分担过程中变得更为真实。在那个星期天,人们感到,一个黄金时代已在昨日宣告结束,而大地对这消息犹浑然不觉。这场变化之所以发生,不是上帝的旨意使然,甚至也不是人类的意志使然,而是因为远在别处的少数人怯于开诚布公地善待同类。他们手中握有足以令他们战栗的大权。有一条他们知道不可去触动的弹簧发条,可是如同喜欢捣蛋又战战兢兢的孩子,他们毕竟去触动了,为了他们的淘气,如今全世界的人要受罪了。

于是,翌日早晨,人们看见一名预备役士兵穿上制服,在农舍门口告别妻孥,爬山出谷去了,脸上仍挂着欣喜的笑容。那是出现麻烦的第一个朕兆,一点蛛丝马迹而已,当事人更是尽量不事声张。归根到底,这片谷地远在可能燃起的战火之外,这儿的一应作物以及用于今年酿造的梨子和苹果都将在和平环境中收摘归仓。

但是,在这么一种和平中,有什么幸福可言?当战争的疯狂在其他许多山谷中自由逡巡之际,人的心态有怎能平安释然?这儿存在一种往昔传下又被人的意志赋予大地的美,可是这儿的居民跟那些聚集在国境线上厮杀的士兵有同样的人性,有为同样的疯狂所驱遣。我们都是人,具有同样的创造力量和毁灭力量,又都有神一般的远见卓识,只是这种识见时被共同的盲目兽性所嘲弄。今天,我们自己兴许并未做错事。然而,正在从事令我们厌憎不已的恶行的是一些同我们完全一样的人;这些恶行同样使他们自己即使作恶的同时也感到厌憎。今人的人性尚未驯服早年原始人的兽性,正是这种兽性形成了某种必然性。眼下,宿命的必然性似乎正表现为存在于宇宙本原中的邪恶力量。纵然这儿的山景美轮美奂,邪恶力量正向我们发出嘲弄的狞笑。但是,事情终究不是这样,因为我们不是各自为政有无动于衷的兽类。倘若一个民族必须接过那神圣的使命,不怀仇恨也不抱恐惧地捍卫它,直至疯狂殒消。但愿这一点成为今日我们的职责,以使我们只为世界的未来和平而作战,带着不需要由仇恨激化的永恒的勇气去作战。

 

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