2008-10-20 17:02  
凯瑟琳·曼斯菲尔德(Katherine Mansfield)是20世纪新西兰最优秀的小说家之一。她1888年10月出生于新西兰,1923年逝于法国。在短暂的一生中,她出版了七部短篇小说集,将短篇小说这种艺术形式推向了新的高度。在曼斯费尔德的创作中,最后一部作品《金丝雀》具有独特的意义,堪称“绝响”。

   ... You see that big nail to the right of the front door? I can scarcely look at it even now and yet I could not bear to take it out. I should like to think it was there always even after my time. I sometimes hear the next people saying, “There must have been a cage hanging from there.” And it comforts me. I feel he is not quite forgotten.

  ... You cannot imagine how wonderfully he sang. It was not like the singing of other canaries. And that isn't just my fancy. Often, from the window I used to see people stop at the gate to listen, or they would lean over the fence by the mock-orange2) for quite a long time — carried away. I suppose it sounds absurd to you — it wouldn't if you had heard him — but it really seemed to me he sang whole songs, with a beginning and an end to them.

  For instance, when I finished the house in the afternoon, and changed my blouse and brought my sewing on the verandah3) here, he used to hop, hop, hop from one perch4) to the other, tap against the bars as if to attract my attention, sip a little water, just as a professional singer might, and then break into a song so exquisite5) that I had to put my needle down to listen to him. I can't describe it; I wish I could. But it was always the same, every afternoon, and I felt that I understood every note of it.

  ... I loved him. How I loved him! Perhaps it does not matter so very much what it is one loves in this world. But love something one must! Of course there was always my little house and the garden, but for some reason they were never enough. Flowers respond wonderfully, but they don't sympathize. Then I loved the evening star. Does that sound ridiculous? I used to go into the backyard, after sunset, and wait for it until it shone above the dark gum tree. I used to whisper, “There you are, my darling.” And just in that first moment it seemed to be shining for me alone. It seemed to understand this... something which is like longing, and yet it is not longing. Or regret — it is more like regret. And yet regret for what? I have much to be thankful for!

  ... But after he came into my life I forgot the evening star; I did not need it any more. But it was strange. When the Chinaman who came to the door with birds to sell held him up in his tiny cage, and instead of fluttering6), fluttering, like the poor little goldfinches7), he gave a faint, small chirp8). I found myself saying, just as I had said to the star over the gum tree, “There your are, my darling.” From that moment he was mine!

  ... It surprises even me now to remember how he and I shared each other's lives. The moment I came down in the morning and took the cloth off his cage he greeted me with a drowsy9) little note. I knew it meant “Missus10)! Missus!” Then I hung him on the nail outside while I got my three young men their breakfasts, and I never brought him in, to do his cage, until we had the house to ourselves again. Then, when the washing-up was done, it was quite a little entertainment. I spread a newspaper over a corner of the table and when I put the cage on it he used to beat with his wings, despairingly, as if he didn't know what was coming. “You're a regular little actor,” I used to scold him. I scraped, dusted it with fresh sand, filled his seed and water tins, tucked a piece of chickweed11) and half a chili12) between the bars. And I am perfectly certain he understood and appreciated every item of this little performance. You see by nature he was exquisitely neat. There was never a speck13) on his perch. And you'd only to see him enjoy his bath to realise he had a real small passion for cleanliness. His bath was put in last. And themoment it was in he positively leapt into it. First he fluttered one wing, then the other, then he ducked his head and dabbled14) his breast feathers. Drops of water were scattered all over the kitchen, but still he would not get out. I used to say to him, “Now that's quite enough. You're only showing off.” And at last out he hopped and standing on one leg he began to peck himself dry. Finally he gave a shake, a flick15), a twitter16) and he lifted his throat — Oh, I can hardly bear to recall it. I was always cleaning the knives by then. And it almost seemed to me the knives sang too, as I rubbed them bright on the board.  

  ... Company, you see, that was what he was. Perfect company. If you have lived alone you will realize how precious that is. Of course there were my three young men who came in to supper every evening, and sometimes they stayed in the dining-room afterwards reading the paper. But I could not expect them to be interested in the little things that made my day. Why should they be? I was nothing to them. In fact, I overheard them one evening talking about me on the stairs as “the Scarecrow17)”. No matter. It doesn't matter. Not in the least. I quite understand. They are young. Why should I mind? But I remember feeling so especially thankful that I was not quite alone that evening. I told him, after they had gone. I said, “Do you know what they call Missus?” And he put his head on one side and looked at me with his little bright eye until I could not help laughing. It seemed to amuse him.

  ... Have you kept birds? If you haven't, all this must sound, perhaps, exaggerated. People have the idea that birds are heartless, cold little creatures, not like dogs or cats. My washerwoman used to say every Monday when she wondered why I didn't keep “a nice fox terrier”, “There's no comfort, Miss, in a canary.” Untrue! Dreadfully untrue! I remember one night. I had had a very awful dream — dreams can be terribly cruel — even after I had woken up I could not get over it. So I put on my dressing-gown and came down to the kitchen for a glass of water. It was a winter night and raining hard. I suppose I was half asleep still, but through the kitchen window that hadn't a blind, it seemed to me the dark was staring in, spying. And suddenly I felt it was unbearable that I had no one to whom I could say, “I've had such a dreadful dream,” or — “Hide me from the dark.” I even covered my face for a minute. And then there came a little“Sweet! Sweet!” His cage was on the table, and the cloth had slipped so that a chink18) of light shone through. “Sweet! Sweet!” said the darling little fellow again, softly, as much as to say, “I'm here, Missus. I'm here!” That was so beautifully comforting that I nearly cried.

  ... And now he's gone. I shall never have another bird, another pet of any kind. How could I? When I found him, lying on his back, with his eye dim and his claws wrung, when I realised that never again should I hear my darling sing, something seemed to die in me. My breast felt hollow, as if it was his cage. I shall get over it. Of course. I must. One can get over anything in time. And people always say I have a cheerful disposition. They are quite right. I thank God I have.

  ... All the same, without being morbid19), or giving way to — to memories and so on, I must confess that there does seem to me something sad in life. It is hard to say what it is. I don't mean the sorrow that we all know, like illness and poverty and death. No, it is something different. It is there, deep down, deep down, part of one, like one's breathing. However hard I work and tire myself I have only to stop to know it is there, waiting. I often wonder if everybody feels the same. One can never know. But isn't it extraordinary that under his sweet, joyful little singing it was just this — sadness? — Ah, what is it? — that I heard.



  小说并没有提及主人公的姓名,我们只知道她应该是一位上了年纪的女性。故事一开篇,金丝雀就已经死了,见证过它存在的只剩下了墙上的那颗主人舍不得拔下的钉子。通过内心独白,主人公喃喃絮语着自己和这只鸟儿不寻常的缘分:她是如何买下这鸟儿,鸟儿的歌声是如何婉转。她细述着每天为它换水、洗澡、喂饲料的细节,仿佛它从来不曾离去:“Company, you see, that was what he was. Perfect company.”它死了,在她的内心留下了无限的凄凉:“... something seemed to die in me. My breast felt hollow...”

  《金丝雀》这篇小说,仿如一枚青橄榄,意在言外,值得人细细回味。乍读之下,主人公对鸟儿的宠爱显得有些反常。一只鸟儿离去,何至唏嘘如此?小说中段,主人公自己点出了答案:“我爱他。我多么爱他!也许,人在世上爱什么并非那么重要,重要的是人人都必须有所爱。” 女主人公寂寞,并不是因为偌大的家空空荡荡。她家里还住着3个房客。她每天为他们打扫房间,洗衣煮饭。然而,她辛苦付出,他们却回应她以冷漠。他们从不言谢,从她身边走过,没有一人会停下脚步嘘寒问暖。在他们眼中,她一钱不值。她还曾经听见他们在背后戏谑地说她像是一个碍手碍脚的“稻草人”。年轻房客们在一起有说有笑,越发衬托出主人公形单影孤。寂寞如斯,她想将内心的爱转借给花园里的花、天上的长庚星,然而这些自然的造物,只是默默地存在着,无法回应她给予的温柔。只有这只善解人意的金丝雀,用悠扬的歌声,陪伴她度过了寂寞的时光。


  寂寞、孤单,小说中没出现过一个类似的字眼。然而,一字未着,却让人尽得其味。曼斯费尔德谈到《金丝雀》的创作时,曾经说过:“I have just finished a story with a canary for a hero, and almost feel I have lived in a cage and pecked a piece of chickweed myself.” 对于金丝雀来说,是捕鸟人的笼子困住了他。对小说女主人公来说,这个牢笼就是她日复一日困守的没有爱也没有人关心的家,对曼斯菲尔德来说,这个牢笼就是生活。 (编辑:敖霞)

  Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow them. — Louisa May Alcott
  Look to your health; and if you have it, praise God, and value it next to a good conscience; for health is the second blessing that we mortals are capable of; a blessing that money cannot buy.— Izaak Walton  




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