Lester Lee – Chinese/English translator and freelance writer

This blog will host articles and other works authored by me in various fields – poetry, philosophy, science, history, politics, current affairs, music – and anything else which seizes my attention and imagination!




July 13, 2013 Posted by | Lester's Blogs | Leave a comment

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

 Fellow-countrymen – Fourscore  and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

       Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.  We are met on a great battle field of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

      But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we cannot hallow this ground.  The brave men, living or dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.  It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863










       可是,從深處看,我們實在談不上奉獻 — 更談不上光耀這片土地。因為,在這裡作戰的勇士,陣亡的或生還的,早已使它變為聖地了,對此殊勛,我們力量卑微,無從增減。我們這裡所說的話,世人不會銘記,但戰士的功德,卻會令人永誌不忘。先賢遺下的千秋大業,有待我們生者效命。我們理應致力於當前的光榮任務 — 發揚先烈鞠躬盡瘁的精神,堅抱崇高使命向前邁進 — 同心協力,莫負殉國英魂 — 讓祖國在上帝庇佑下獲得自由新生 — 保證民治、民主、民享的德政能夠永存世上。        



September 1, 2009 Posted by | Translation (E-C) 英譯中 | Leave a comment






       The story of the Jews since the Dispersion is one of the epics of European history.  Driven from their natural home by the Roman capture of Jerusalem (70A.D.), and scattered by flight and trade among all the nations and to all the continents; persecuted and decimated by the adherents of the great religions – Christianity and Mohammedanism – which had been born on their scriptures and their memories; barred by the feudal system from owning land, and by the guilds from taking part in industry; shut up within congested ghettoes and narrowing pursuits, mobbed by the people and robbed by the kings; building with their finance and trade and towns and cities indispensable to civilisation; outcast and excommunicated, insulted and injured; - yet, without any political structure, without any legal compulsion to social unity, without even a common language, this wonderful people has maintained itself in body and soul, has preserved its racial and cultural integrity, has guarded with jealous love its oldest rituals and traditions, has patiently and resolutely awaited the day of its deliverance, and has emerged greater in number than ever before, renowned in every field for the contributions of its geniuses, and triumphantly restored, after two thousand years of wandering, to its ancient and unforgotten home.   What drama could rival the grandeur of these sufferings, the variety of these scenes, and the glory and justice of this fulfilment:  What fiction could match the romance of this reality?   (From Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy)




       When we survey the long development of mankind from a rare hunted animal, hiding precariously in caves from the fury of wild beasts which he was incapable of killing; subsisting doubtfully on the raw fruits of the earth which he did not know how to cultivate; reinforcing real terrors by the imaginary terrors of ghosts and evil spirits and malign spells; gradually acquiring the mastery of his environment by the invention of fire, writing, weapons, and at last science;  building up a social organisation which curbed private violence and gave a measure of security to daily life; using the leisure gained by his skill, not only in idle luxury, but in the production of beauty and the unveiling of the secrets of natural law; learning gradually, though imperfectly, to view an increasing number of his neighbours as allies in the task of production rather than enemies in the attempts at mutual depredation – when we consider this long and arduous journey, it becomes intolerable to think that it may all have to be made again from the beginning owing to failure to make one step for which past developments, rightly viewed, have been a preparation.   (From Bertrand Russell, Ideas That Have Helped Mankind, Unpopular Essays)



       我不敢說生命是什麼,我只能說生命像什麼。生命像東流的一江春水,他從最高處發源,冰雪是他的前身。他聚集起許多細流,合成一股有力的洪濤,向下奔注,他曲折的穿過了懸岩削壁,衝倒了層沙積土,挾捲著滾滾的沙石,快樂勇敢的流走,一路上他享樂他所遭逞的一切:有時候他遇到巉岩前阻,他憤激的奔騰了起來,怒吼著,旋著,前波後浪的起伏催逼,直到他過了,衝倒了這危崖他才心平氣和的一瀉千里。有時候也經過了細細的平沙,斜陽芳草裡,看見了夾岸紅艷的桃花,他快樂而又羞怯,靜靜的流著,低低的吟唱著,輕輕的度過這一段浪漫的行程。有時候他遇到暴風雨,這激電,這迅雷,使他心魂驚駭,疾風吹捲起他,大雨擊打他,他暫時渾濁了,擾亂了,而雨過天青,只加給他許多新生的力量。有時候他遇到了晚霞和新月,向他照耀,向他投影,清冷中帶些幽幽的溫暖:這時他只想憩息,只想睡眠,而那股前進的力量,仍催逼他向前走…..  (冰心《談生命》)



       ……Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”  But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger”, you middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John”, and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. ……. (From Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963)


September 1, 2009 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | Leave a comment

Preface to Old Crumply’s Travels

Preface to Old Crumply’s Travels









Preface to Old Crumply’s Travels1

       Babies cry as soon as they are born.  When they grow old and lie on their death beds surrounded by their folks, they howl yet again.  Thus tears are indispensable for the beginning and the end of human life.  Between these extremities, the calibre of one’s character may be gauged by how much one cries.  For tears are the soul manifest, a measure of its abundance, ounce for ounce so to speak; they have nothing to do with good or bad fortunes.

       Beasts of burden toil all year round under yoke and lashes, and for that they are only fed fodder.  They have a hard life, but shed no tears, for want of soul.   Apes are different.  They live a fun life swinging among the trees and gorging themselves on fruit and nuts; yet they cry hard, and wailing is their tears.   Of all animals, they are considered by naturalists to be the closest to humans in nature, no doubt because of their soulfulness. 

        Down the Three Gorges we make the passage long;         巴東三峽巫峽長

       The gibbons are wailing hard, our hearts are torn.          猿啼三聲斷人腸

     Such is the sentience of apes!

       Feelings spring from the soul, and tears flow from feelings.  Tears are of two kinds: tears of strength and tears of weakness.  Naive children cry over the loss of a piece of fruit or a hairpin; theirs are weak tears.  Fan Qiliang’s wife2 cried so bitterly for her husband that part of the Great Wall collapsed, and the tears of Emperor Shun’s two wives3 stained the bamboos which still bear the indelible marks down to this day; theirs were mighty tears.   Nor are mighty tears all the same: they are relatively mild when they are merely a vehicle for venting sorrow; but are truly potent and far-reaching in their impact when the feeling runs deeper, even without actual crying. 

       Li Sao (The sorrows of Separation) is the tears of Qu Yuan4; Zhuangzi is the tears of Zhuang Zhou5; The Annals of History is the tears of Sima Qian6; and The Cottage Anthology is the tears of Tu Fu7.  Likewise, Emperor Li of the Southern Tang Dynasty8 cried with his tuned lyrics; Ba Da Mountain Sire9 cried with his paintings; Wang Shifu10 cried with his West Chamber Tale; and Cao Xueqin11 cried with his Dream of the Vermilion Mansions.  Wang put it this way:

       Hard it is to fathom and vent                                   別恨離愁滿肺腑 

       The parting sorrows pent up here,                         難淘洩

       Save with paper and brush to lament                    除紙筆  代喉舌

       My myriad yearnings for my darling dear.            我千種相思向誰說

 And Cao wrote:

       Mark these words that seem absurd,                  滿紙荒唐言

       And tears from a heart unkindly rent.                   一把辛酸淚

       Mad was the author, so we’ve heard,                    都云作者癡

       But who’d know what he really meant.                   誰解其中意

      Cao named one kind of tea “Niche of a myriad flowers”, and called a wine as the “Toast of ten thousand beauties”.  These are puns, sounding the same as “A myriad flowers a-weeping” and “Ten thousand beauties a-grieving”.

       The times we find ourselves in are such that we have distinct feelings for life, country, society, and religion.  The deeper our feelings, the sadder our tears.  And it is for this reason that this “Veteran of Hongdu12” writes Old Crumply’s Travels.

       Now that the chess game is near its end, and we are getting old, is it possible to hold back our tears?   I only know that of the myriad flowers and the ten thousand beauties under the sun there must be some that would grieve and cry with me.

Translator’s Notes:


  1. Old Crumply – nickname of Liu E, native of Dantu of Jiangsu, born in the late Qing Dynasty and died whilst in exile in Xinjiang.  This preface was written in 1906.
  2. Meng Jiangnu, of the Qin Dynasty (3rd century BC).
  3. E Huang and Nuying, of the legendary Yu Dynasty, predating the 21st century BC.
  4. Qu Yuan (340-278BC), master poet who committed suicide by drowning
  5. Zhuang Zhou (?369-c290BC), Taoist philosopher
  6. Sima Qian (145-?90BC), the greatest Chinese historian in antiquity
  7. Tu Fu (712-770), master poet of the Tang Dynasty
  8. Li  Yu (937-978), emperor and tuned lyric poet
  9. Alias of Zhu Da (朱耷c.1626-c.1705), nobleman turned monk, master painter
  10. Wang Shifu (fl. 1295-1307), master dramatist
  11. Cao Xueqin (c.1719-?1763), master novelist
  12. Hongdu is another name of Nanchang of Jiangxi.  Why Liu E called himself by this title is unclear to this translator

September 1, 2009 Posted by | Translation (C-E) 中譯英 | Leave a comment

占得人間一味柔 — 說大姊


        《占得人間一味柔 — 說大姊》寫於十多年前,文末〈後記〉是後幾年的按語。二○○二年大姊患惡癌,至二○○三年底往生,期間來信頻仍,多所啟示。大姊辭世後我斷續給她寫〈幽明小札〉,人笑我癡由他可也。]


















































       或曰,不跳舞,不唱歌,不交際,不洗藥池,做什麼?許多年前,一位老朋友給我送書,扉頁上題了一首打油詩:遊山水,賞山花,喝山水,飲山茶,此事莫說紹棣知,紹棣知道要出家。祈望家姊也跟我談談蓬萊之事。祝好。                                                                                                     棣弟上


September 1, 2009 Posted by | Reminiscences 憶舊 | Leave a comment






       * 腸中愁不樂,願作郎馬鞭。出入擐郎臂,蹀坐郎膝邊。(北朝<折楊柳歌>)

       * 楊柳青青江水平,聞郎江上唱歌聲。東邊日出西邊雨,道是無晴還有晴。(劉禹錫<竹枝>二首其一)

       * 不寫情詞不寫詩,一方素帕寄心知。心知接了顛倒看,橫也絲來豎也絲,這般心事有誰知?(馮夢龍<山歌>)

        *  欲寫情書,我可不識字。煩個人兒,使不的。無奈何畫幾個圈兒為表記。此封書惟有情人知此意:單圈是奴家,雙圈是你。訴不盡的苦,一溜圈兒圈下去。(顏自德《霓裳續譜》寄生草)

       *  十景塘邊是妾家,小樓斜對木蘭花。西鄰阿妹聲相似,莫誤敲門去喫茶。(陶月山《西湖竹枝詞》)

       * 韭菜花開心一枝,花正黃時葉正肥。願郎摘花連葉摘,到死心頭不肯離。(台灣竹枝詞)

       * 娘門花木般般有,我想行前採一枝,我想行前採一朵,問娘心中樣何如?(客音情歌集 – 或曰以花木擬肢體)

       * 郎住一鄉妹一鄉,山高水深路頭長。有朝一日山水變,但願兩鄉變一鄉。(畬族民歌)



       * 天旱蜘蛛結夜網,想晴惟有暗中絲。

       *  妹相思,不作風流到幾時?只看風吹花落地,不見風吹花上枝。

       *  思想妹,蝴蝶思想也為花。蝴蝶思花不思草,兄思情妹不思家。

       * 妹相思,妹有真心弟也知。蜘蛛結網三江口,水推不斷是真絲。



       *  昨夜海棠初著雨,數朵輕盈嬌欲語。佳人曉起出蘭房,折來對鏡比紅妝。問郎「花好奴顏好?」郎道「不如花窈窕。」佳人見語發嬌嗔,「不信死花勝活人!」將花揉碎擲郎前,「請郎今夜伴花眠!」(唐寅 <妒花歌>)

       *  最愛初三月,彎環恰似鉤。郎心鉤不轉,鉤起妾心愁。(浦情田)

       *  東邊一棵大柳樹,西邊一棵大柳樹,南邊一棵大柳樹,北邊一棵大柳樹………任憑你南北東西,千絲萬縷,總繫不得郎舟住!這邊啼鷓鴣,那邊喚杜宇,一聲聲行不不得也哥哥,一聲聲不如歸去。(程瞻廬《唐祝文周四傑傳》)

       * 蘇人風俗,凡婦女下山,輿夫每倒抬而行。有人句云:「妾自倒行郎自看,省郎一步一回頭。」杭人風俗,凡婦女遊湖,每逢上岸,觀者如堵。有人句云:「郎自乞晴儂乞雨,要他微雨散閑人。」二語俱極風致。(梁紹壬《兩般秋雨盦隨筆》)



September 1, 2009 Posted by | Music 音樂 | Leave a comment


自 談 姓 名






















September 1, 2009 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | Leave a comment









n       晶字三個日,常將有日思無日,日日日,百年三萬六千日。

n       鑫字三個金,父子同心土變金,金金金,一寸光陰一寸金。

n       品字三個口,寧添一口!口口口,勸君更盡一杯酒。











September 1, 2009 Posted by | Melange 李公一品鍋 | Leave a comment

“S” ~ 要不要這條尾巴?

“s”— 要不要這條尾巴?


       英文名詞,一般在詞末加 “s”以表複數。但有例外,如bison、cod、counsel、deer、grouse、issue(後嗣,如He died without male issue)、offspring、police、salmon、sheep、squid、swine、trout等詞,單式複式一樣,從不加 “s”。

       有些名詞不論單數複數都離不開 “s”,如、means、gallows、narrows、shambles、bellows、mumps、measles、rickets、innings(美語可作inning)、biceps、triceps、barracks、headquarters、whereabouts、works、gasworks、ironworks、waterworks。

       有些名詞看似複式實為單式。如 crosswords (Indonesia is at a crossroads)、bad news(可怕或討厭傢伙 — He is a bad news)。一篇談亞特蘭奥運會的文章,有in this Games的說法,指的是該屆奧運,不能說in this Game或in these Games。

       若干學科名(mathematics、politics、economics、physics、metaphysics、semantics)及遊戲名稱(billiards、bowls、darts、dominoes、draughts、skittles、quoits、snakes and ladders)詞末有 “s” 而用作單數。

       複合名詞的複數,s 有加於詞末,如gin-and-tonics、whisky-and-sodas;也有加於前面的名詞,如knights-errant、 attorneys-general、secretaries-general。

       以 y 作結的名詞,如 y 之前的字母是响音,複數一般加 s,如boys、keys、guys。如y前面的字母不是响音,則把 y變為ies,如beauties、flies、orgies。例外的是專有名詞,複數加s,如Januarys、Marys、two Germanys。

       又有一些詞只有複式而無單式。Binoculars、calipers、compasses、dividers、glasses、pincers、pliers、scales、scissors、shears、spectacles、tongs、tweezers等工具名稱詞末例有 “s”,需冠以pair或pairs以表單件或多件(a pair of compasses;  three pairs of glasses)。Alms、banns、contents、dregs、entrails、genitals(亦作genitalia)、goods、minutes(會議紀錄)、premises、proceedings、proceeds、remains(作遺骸解)、takings、shavings、victuals等字常常要拖著 “s”這條尾巴。

       有些片語裡的名詞,按理是複式而偏偏以單式出現。A five-year-old girl、four-minute mile、three-point turn、two-litre drum、two dozen eggs、100-metre race、six-inch deep、two pound of sugar、seven hundredweight of coal、all manner of sympathies等語中的名詞都不加 “s”。人生七十是three score and ten;數十年則是scores of years。They are beating their chest(搥胸)不作They are beating their chests)。

       相反地,有些詞句中的名詞慣用複式。 Heads I win and tails you lose(反正我贏定了),雖說heads和tails,擲的卻只是一枚銅板。又如good looks、sports car、jobs crisis、singles bar、under wraps、the sands of time、the winds of change、the ups and downs of、to throw all caution to the winds、to sow his wild oats、he set his sights high、you are in my bad books、he was pals with so-and-so、she went bananas、he was nuts about something、he saw rats等慣用語,其中帶 “s” 的名詞都不能以單式代替。

       又有個別的名詞,在片語中出現時而單式時而複式。且舉幾個例子。Asset — asset sale、asset-stripping;assets test。Hand — to die by one’s own hand、to grease the hand of;to shake hands with、it is off my hands、keep your hands off。Word — to keep one’s word、a man of his word;to eat one’s words、to have words with someone。 Number — number theory(數論);numbers game(數字遊戲)。 Wages — 這是一個複式詞,聖經名句the wages of sin is death中作單數是唯一的例外。在某些複合詞中,wages的 “s”須略去,如wage earlier、wage cut、minimum wage。Spirit — to break one’s spirit、give up the spirit、the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,spirit以單式出現;在out of spirits、in good spirits中卻作複式。Spirit亦指酒精 (如spirit lamp),spirits卻是烈酒(a glass of spirits)。Time — ahead of time與ahead of the times不同:前者是提前或早來,後者是超越時代。Heaven — heaven指天堂、老天、上帝;heavens則指天空,有時亦指上天。慣用語有go with heaven、for heaven’s sake、Heaven only knows、Heaven forbid(不加 “s”)、the heavens clear、Heavens above!、Good Heavens! 等等。

       Stress lowers our resistance to diseases有語病,resistance to disease才對;disease是疾病的統稱,diseases反而指個別疾患。To be healthy one should eat more fruit:fruit泛指水果,不作fruits。這使我想起著名辭書Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,不用複式的Phrases 與Fables,唸起來覺得不妥,但這只能怪自己的耳朵。The Oxford Dictionary of QuotationsThe Oxford Dictionary of New Words的Quotations與Words當然沒問題。

       有些物質名詞不加 “s” 時表物質,加了 “s” 則表個別物事。如straw、grain、hair意為乾草、穀物、毛髪:straws、grains、hairs則指一根根乾草、一顆顆穀粒、一根根毛。

       水是water;江河湖海之類則是waters。混水摸魚是to fish in troubled waters(不能說 troubled water)。木是wood; 林地、樹林、森林有時作wood,如cannot see the wood for the trees(見樹不見林),有時作woods,如out of the woods (出險)、take to the woods(逃進樹林)。Sky是天空,例句reach for the sky、the sky is the limit、If the sky falls we shall catch larks;sky falls亦可作skies fall,如 “We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen” (Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence)。Praise (someone) to the sky、praise (someone) to the skies二者都有人說,後者似乎比較普遍。

       Breast是個奇怪的字,有二解:胸部(如Cleopatra held the asp to her breast)或乳房(breast或 breasts:she had tattoos on one breast/she had tattoos on both breasts)。

       抽象名詞是否有複式,視個別詞而定,多無定則。They would lose face、they want to save face、we would lose heart、they make a living out of、in their natural state、to test their mettle、beyond our ken,其中face、heart、living、state、mettle、ken各字均作單式。但下列片語中的抽象名詞卻需加 “s”: He undertook graduate studies(研究生課程)、We are living through hard times、I can’t read their minds、they led good lives、to set the world to rights、to set their consciences at ease。Discontent、economy、enthusiasm、happening、imponderable、indignity、injustice、journeying、livelihood、questioning、sympathy、technology、uncertainty、understanding等字抽象得很,有時卻以複式出現。例句:

l       local farm economies

l       Civilisation and Its Discontents (English title of book by Sigmund Freud)

l       …There are more forthright emphases on the body and its demands now, regrets for the physical decay of age when mental powers seemed stronger, the imagination livelier than ever before.   And there are the great questionings as illness brought death nearer.   (Introduction, Yeats’s Poems, edited by A. Jeffares, Papermac)

l       …Coleridge, unquestionably a great poet, was addicted to opium and was a man of many enthusiasms … (The Wordsworth Book of Literary Anecdotes, edited by Robert Hendrickson)

l       …I have enormous affection for India…I know well its virtues, grandeurs and diversity… (City of Joy, Dominique Lapierre – Translated by Kathryn Spink)

l       The holocaust was a process which depends upon the rousing of historical hatreds and ancient prejudice.

l       …Mozart reached new heights in music.

l       … In literatures other than Anglo-Saxon, it is featured… (Introduction to Comparative Literature, François Jost)

l       Thus it was that after a long conflict of loyalties he came to a desperate resolve… (On Guard, Evelyn Waugh, in Modern English Short Stories)

l       He might once have had the makings of a clever character… (Herzog, Saul Bellow)

l       …stirring the depths in their natures and troubling their minds…(The Story of Philosophy, Durant, p.455)

l       …Where there is Sorrow there is holy ground.  Some day you will realise what that means.  You will know nothing of life till you do.  Robbie, and natures like his, can realise it… (De Profundis, Oscar Wilde)

l       …they obeyed…the internal dictates of their own natures (The Grand Titration, Joseph Needham)

l       Poverties and Triumphs (The Grand Titration, Joseph Needham)

l       We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.  (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D. H. Lawrence)

l       Imperfect Sympathies (title of an essay by Charles Lamb)

l       based on sustainable technologies


       除表示複式外, “s” 還有一些特別用法。

       某些與時間有關的詞增添 “s” 後就產生副詞作用,如nowadays、Sundays、nights、earlies、lates。He works only Mondays、She prefers working nights、Li works earlies、Charles works lates、we works nights是說老李當早班,小陳當下午班,我們值夜班。Work late與work lates不同;Charles work late是說Charles天晚了還在工作。

       以s作結的專有名詞,佔有格一般加 ’s,如St James’s Street、Charles’s wife、Pathagoras’s doctrines。但在詩歌及若干古名則沿用舊法,不加s,如Archilles’ heel(注意是heel而不是heels)、Venus’ Bath、Mars’ hill。複數專有名詞亦然,不再加s,如Joneses’ family、the Rogerses’ party。

       For _______’s sake 是常用片語,如For God’s sake、for mercy’s sake、for old time’s sake。詞末帶噝聲的多音節名詞,可省掉 ’s 中的 s,如for conscience’ sake、convenience’ sake,甚至連撇號一并省去也可以:for conscience sake、for goodness sake。

       Johns Hopkins University是美國著名大學,許多人誤寫為John Hopkins,因為John太普遍,習焉不察也。西澳珀斯的Narrows Bridge,是天鵝河河峽上貫通南北的一座橋,英文不大好的移民常誤稱之為Narrow Bridge,不知narrow是窄、narrows卻是河峽的意思。


August 24, 2009 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | 1 Comment




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兄弟/弟兄 ~ 今人稱弟弟為兄弟;古詩詞曲中常稱弟弟為弟兄,如「都是些羊弟兄,狗哥哥。」(《賺蒯通》)

男兒/兒男 ~ 詩詞曲中,「男兒」除指男子外,亦可指夫婿(又稱「兒夫」),如「是我男兒教我怎割捨?」(《幽閨記》)。「兒男」則是男兒(男子)口語,如「別無兒男,只有一女…」(《張協狀元》)

子弟/弟子 ~ 這兩個詞今義為門徒,可互用。但見於詩詞曲中意義有別:弟子指受過特別訓練的妓女,如官妓;子弟則指嫖客。「弟子」例句:「梨園弟子」。「俺那員外近來養著一個弟子,喚做劉行首。」(《劉行首》,按妓院亦稱行院;行首猶云妓女首領。)「穿茶坊,入酒肆。把家財,胡亂使。占猱兒,養弟子。」(《羅李郎》,按「猱兒」指一般妓女。)「你箇潑弟子!我教你與我曬一曬,怎麼不肯!」(《貨郎旦》)「子弟」例句:「你當初上花臺,做子弟,怎生受用快活?」(《還牢末》)「紅蓮舌是斬郎君古定刀,青絲髮是縛子弟降魔索。」(賈仲名《對玉梳》,按古定刀是古時名刀,出河北古定,以鋒利出名。)「妹子!那做丈夫的做的子弟,做子弟的做不的丈夫。…那做子弟的他影兒裡會虛脾,那做丈夫的忒老實。」(《救風塵》,按「虛脾」是虛情假意之謂)

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August 18, 2009 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | 3 Comments




邱吉爾到華府赴宴,女主人饗以烤火雞。邱翁說喜歡火雞的breast(脯肉),女主人笑說美國人不說breast而說white meat。翌日,邱翁遣人送上一朵玫瑰花,名片上寫道:Please accept this rose to pin on your white meat。



乳房的功能,首在產乳哺乳,性感作用屬次要,這是傳統看法。《裸猿》(The Naked Ape)作者Desmond Morris不作如是觀,他認為女人乳房吸引男人的作用跟哺乳同樣重要。Morris指出在哺乳類動物中只有女人的乳房顯著隆起,可見乳房隆起跟產乳無關,而是要男人聯想到重要性徵的臀部。皆因人類變成直立後不復能瞧見對方屁股間的物事,影響到接代傳宗,茲事體大。


英語稱女人胸部為bust,拜侖在 《唐璜》一詩中有 “There was an Irish lady to whose bust/I ne’er saw just-ice done” 之句。Breasts的代詞甚多。學術一點的稱mammalia,一般稱tits、titties、boobs,亦有稱globes、bags、tops的,誇張的則曰hills或mountains。乳房常喻為吃食的,如chestnuts、catheads (大餅,十八世紀用語),如果子: melons、pears、grapefruits、coconuts,甚至apples、oranges、lemons、「神話故事裡的桃林」也有人說,其他古怪詼諧的稱謂五光十色,如chestflesh、chebs、chabbies、knockers、headlights、molehills、tonsils、lungs、Mosob、gazungas、thousand pities。美國詞有brace and bits、Mae West、chabobs、chichibangas,澳大利亞詞有tracy bits,南非詞有mams。維多利亞時代的人假道學,語多委婉,女人乳房有veiled twins、twin lovelinesses等說法。

乳房詞彙,除以上形狀詞外,更有表現其大小者。大奶子稱豪乳、豐乳、巨乳,英語曰superdupers。不大不小的稱hammocks。大胸脯女人曰cheesecake,小奶子則稱筍乳、丁香乳、pointy breasts、chi-chi/chichi。港人戲稱平胸(flat chest)為「飛機場」,扁平乳房為「荷包蛋」,巨胸女人(bushel bubby、busty beauty)為「大哺乳動物」,極盡挖苦之能事。

騷人墨客當然不會忽視女人的乳房,描寫方式蔚為大觀。莎士比亞稱之為cliff(Where England? – I look’d for the chalky cliffs, but I could find no whiteness in them)、fountain(Graze on my lips;/and if those hills be dry,/Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie)、world(Her breasts, like ivory globes circled with blue,/A pair of maiden worlds unconquered,/Save of their lord no bearing yoke they knew;/And him by oath they duly honoured…)、mammets(Hotspur.  I care not for thee, Kate: this is no world/To play with mammets and to tilt with lips)。東西方審美眼光對白胸脯有偏好,上面提到的「白肉」即是一例(這當然對黑種人大不公平),英文作品中每以white 、pale 、alabaster(雪花石膏, “alabaster globes”語出Casanova)等字形容。William Drummond以象牙形容胸脯色澤(ivory breast)。莎翁說Her breasts like ivory globes circled with blue,/A pair of maiden worlds unconquered (The Rape of Lucrece)(「她的雙乳像是蒼空中的象牙星体,是一對未被開發的純潔世界」-梁實秋譯)。 約翰生博士亦有the white bosoms of your actresses之名句。中文有「玉胸」、「白玉胸、「玉乳」、「羊脂白玉」等詞,皆取其白。董解元《西廂記》寫鶯鶯:「香噴噴地,軟柔柔地,酥胸如雪。」見諸小說家筆下的,有「一痕雪脯」(曹雪芹形容尤三姐)、「一片雪白的胸脯」(李銳《舊址》)、「白胖胖的兩個大乳」(賈平凹《廢都》)、「…渾圓的乳房在正午的陽光下白得透亮」(高行健《靈山》)等。

胸脯除白皙外,還要柔滑溫潤。楊貴妃浴出,微露一乳,明皇喻之為「軟溫新剝雞頭肉」(按雞頭一名雁喙,即芡實、茨子,花似雞冠,故借指婦女的乳頭),安祿山則曰:「潤滑猶如塞上酥」,酥者酪也。「一痕酥透雙蓓蕾」,是洪昇《長生殿》形容太真乳的名句。「春意透酥胸」,見王實甫《西廂記》;「也只怕你愁望的酥胸拍漸銷」,則見湯顯祖《紫釵記》。湯氏《牡丹亭還魂記》大膽白描柳夢梅與杜麗娘做愛情景:「睡則那,把膩乳微搓,酥胸汗帖,細腰春鎖。」英文每以ivory或marble形容乳房的光潔,總教人想到雕像,有失溫軟。濟慈詩That warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured breast則無此病。




時下人多喜歡豐挺的乳房。健美、豐滿、豐隆、飽滿、豐碩(full、ample)、厚實(firm)、成熟(ripe)、渾圓(round)、高聳(high)、鼓脹(swollen)、怒放(proud)、glorious、gorgeous是常用的形容詞。說女人 “amply endowed”,是形容她 「胸前偉大」。“Her breasts pointed high”乃尖挺之謂,又曰pointed或perky。「胸乳菽發」,見漢無名氏《雜事秘辛》。「肉奶奶胸兒」、「捏來不止一把,放去竟滿胸膛」是《金瓶梅》、《玉蒲團》的筆法。當代小說家則曰:「那女人有兩盤圓鼓鼓尖溜溜白生生軟綿綿筋婁婁的大奶子」(老村《畸人》);「挺著兩隻飽滿肥實的乳房」、「兩隻翹翹的雪白的奶子」(陳忠實《白鹿原》);「桀鸄不馴傲然隆起的胸脯」、「巍巍岧岧」、「一雙珠穆朗瑪的偉岸峰巔」(葉楠《遙遠的鄉情》);「聳起結實的胸脯」(高行健《靈山》)。他如「一對恰才出籠的饅頭」、「發酵也似的大饅頭」(程瞻盧《唐祝文周四傑傳》)、「葫蘆一般碩大的乳房」(劉紹棠《蒲柳人家》)、「輪廓分明的香餑餑」(亦夫《土街》)、「尖桃掛枝一樣懸垂的乳峰」(李銳)、「雙峰插雲」、英語中喻為「雙城」(a tale of two cities、Bristols、Bristol cities)等等,極盡詼諧。把乳房(titties)喻為雙城,是因為 cities與titties音近;十九世紀的英國男人,更有 “a thousand pities” 的順口溜,可惜此語已不時興。豐乳象徵成熟與母性,既能哺育嬰兒又予大男人以安全感。「汨汨泗射果汁濃漿的熟透胸膛」(無名氏)。Rosy, sun-ripening breasts,語出D.H. Lawrence短篇小說 Sun。英詩人John Wilmot有句曰:When, wearied with a world of woe,/To thy safe bosom I retire。令人想起龔自珍「設使英雄垂暮日,溫柔不住住何鄉」句。

乳房要顫巍巍、跌宕有致才夠性感。所謂heaving、billowing、bouncing、bouncy、乳波、乳浪是也。《金瓶梅》有「胸前搖響玉玲瓏」之句,玉玲瓏固是飾物,如何搖響,教人想入非非。英語亦有jingle bells的說法。無名氏《金色的蛇夜》描寫蕩女胸膛曰「兩大朵紅白波浪四下湧溢」,又喻之為「大風箱,呼呼囂吼」。賈平凹《廢都》寫唐宛兒揉麵,「晃得兩個肥奶鼓鼓湧湧」;莫言《豐乳肥臀》的「奶子一挺」;陳忠實《白鹿原》的「兩團誘人的奶子…顫悠悠彈著」、「一對兒白鵓鴿兒」、「兩隻奶子像兩只白鴿一樣扑出窩來」,都是動感。《聖經‧傳道書》所羅門之歌名句:Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins,以孿生幼鹿喻雙乳,靈動之至。


男人愛豐乳,女人遂裝 「胸」作勢。天賜豪乳者固然不可埋沒(If you have it, flaunt it.),天賦較遜的亦爭相以後天辦法補救。腰箍、乳罩可製造假象。今天,義乳已很少人用了,隆胸師卻門庭如市。問題是,矽球終是死物,不會日乾月浮,不會躍盪。女人的矽乳,竟不如印度石雕女體豐乳的有動感和真實感!

乳房豐滿而乳溝愈顯。乳溝者,cleavage是也,同義詞為 gow。矽乳大行其道,相信「硅谷」(silicon valley)可喻這些偽造乳溝也。美國人有俏皮雙關語曰:He was taking a walk down mammary lane,mammary與memory音近,mammary lane者乳溝也。

乳頭又稱奶頭、乳峰、奶尖、雞頭肉。俗語戲稱「嶺上雙梅」,並指乳暈(alveola)。英語則稱nipples、teats。英美語都曾喻乳頭或乳房為「眼」:第二次大戰期間,美國大兵見到巨胸女人常禁不住說 “Where’d you get those big brown eyes?” ;男人四十年代以來,英國亦曰 “She’s got a nice pair of eyes”。乳頭堅挺,如「粉紅挺突的乳頭」(高行健《靈山》),是女人動情之象,英語曰hard、taut、erect,狀如子彈(bullet-like),如蘑菇。曾有作家形容為燦爛火點(glowing like points of fire)。莫言《豐乳肥臀》喻「靈巧而微微上翹的乳頭」為「刺咀巴」,可謂想像力豐富。「山是地的乳頭,浪是海的乳頭,語言是思想的乳頭,花朵是草木的乳頭,路燈是街道的乳頭,太陽是宇宙的乳頭…」把一切都歸結到乳房去。

這些都是文字的描寫,到了雕刻家畫家刀筆之下,直現於線條,當更曲盡其妙了。Delacroix那幅 “Liberty Leading the People On” 裡的自由女俠的赤裸的胸脯固然是最有名的;Renoir綵筆下裸女的肉球,比印度雕塑女體的碩乳不遑多讓,分別在腰肢,Renoir的女人腰大十圍,印度雕塑則纖腰如柳。





希臘神話中的海倫是天下第一美人。她是Menelaus妻子,一度為Paris擄去,導致木馬屠城。傳說Menelaus收復嬌妻後曾以利劍相向。海倫裸胸相對,Menelaus見美乳而撤劍。這故事見Euripides 與Aristophanes,亦為古瓶畫常用題材。


埃及女后Cleopatra擁毒蛇(asp)自盡的典故人盡皆知,侍女不忍見之,女后坦然曰: “Peace! Peace!/Dost thou not see my baby at my breast/That sucks the nurse asleep?” (少安毋躁!/不見孩兒在我懷中吮奶/為我催眠?)( “Antony and Cleopatra” – Shakespeare)毒蛇吻胸的可怖情狀,與慈母哺乳的柔美景象堆疊在一起,劇力萬鈞,不愧莎翁手筆。提到suck字,不禁聯想到suckle。Suck是吮乳;suckle亦是吮乳,但卻另有哺乳、給乳之意,如The mother suckles the baby。Suckling pig是「乳豬」;suckling亦可指乳臭未乾的黃毛小子。

羅馬有孝女故事,先由Pliny the Elder 及Valerius Maximus所記,文藝復興人文主義者更大事宣揚(Caritas Romana、Roman Charity)。故事說某人因罪陷獄不得食,其女兒冒險為父哺乳。這題材常為名畫家採用,如Louis Dubois(1696)、Louis-Jean-Francois Lagrenee(1765)、J.-J. Bachelier(1765)、Francois-Xavier Fabre(1800)、Gottlieb Schick(1800)、Rembrandt Peale(1811)、Charles Lemire the Elder(1812)、Giaocchino Serangeli(1824)、Louis Hersent(1823)等等,不可勝記。吾國亦有孝女乳姑之事;至於孝女乳翁,則未知有無。《明史》記「烈女」李孝婦因姑患痼疾而自割一乳和藥以奉,又記洪氏自剜乳肉為羹療姑疾,餘肉投池中不令人知,日後群鴨自水銜出,姑起視之,仍乳血淋漓云云。



董橋散文《蓍草等等》,引李時珍《本草綱目‧服器部》第三十八卷言“褌襠”、 “汗衫”、 “頭巾”、 “梳篦”等物事皆可治病。如婦女乳汁不行,「內服通乳藥,外用木梳梳乳,周回百餘遍,即通!」木梳梳乳,「醫者….蕩出那麼一縷風流韻味….」妙不可言。李時珍固人傑也,而董橋也真解人,沒辜負時珍的仁心文心。


先看吾國情況。唐朝是解放時代,婦女間有裙腰上半露胸的,如周濆《逢鄰女詩》:「慢束羅裙半露胸」;李群玉《贈歌姬詩》:「胸前瑞雪燈斜照」;方干《贈美人》:「粉胸半掩凝晴雪」;歐陽詢《南鄉子》:「二八花鈿,胸前如雪臉如花。」傳統婦女的胸衣曰抹胸。「抹胸」的「抹」字從「手」,令人想入非非。抹胸又名「訶子」,見上文「擲瓜傷乳」典。按徐珂《清稗類鈔》:「抹胸,胸間小衣也,一名腹,又名肚。以方尺之布為之,緊束前胸,以防風之內侵者。俗謂之兜肚,男女皆有之。」抹胸有前片無後片,上可覆乳,下可遮肚,清代又稱「肚兜」。肚兜亦用於小兒,以免睡眠時風吹肚臍,一般無袋,湖湘間名「兜肚」。至於抹胸始用於何時,待考。就筆者所知,南唐時代即有。李煜《謝新恩》:「雙鬟不整雲憔悴,淚沾紅抹胸。」宋代婦女貼身內衣有抹胸(一作胸)和裹肚,裹肚長而抹胸短小。《山家新語》有婦女以抹胸帶子自縊而死的記載。清乾隆間秦淮妓女抹胸夏用紗,冬用縐,貯以麝屑,緣以錦或繡花,縛於胸際(見吳珠泉《續板橋雜記‧雅遊》),一般婦女亦常用之。曹雪芹筆下的尤三姐「鬆鬆的挽個髻兒…..故意露出蔥綠抹胸,一痕雪脯。 ….」錢鍾書《圍城》:「她只穿緋霞色抹胸,海藍色貼肉短褲。」好一件緋霞色抹胸,可見民國初年女人仍用肚兜,自此以後,則西風東漸,吾國姊妹遂捨抹胸而戴乳罩矣。按「乳罩」是國語,粵語則稱「胸圍」,「胸圍」可以看作委婉詞(euphemism),顯出粵人對於女人乳房是保守派!

外國女人的胸脯隨風俗時尚而花樣百出。公元前二千年前的女人圖象,有見穿緊身褡而雙乳裸露者。中古時代,歐洲教士強烈反對女人顯露任何身體部份。女殉道者割乳自殺的事屢見不鮮(最有名的是Agatha 、Christian 、Faith諸位聖女);(源於俄羅斯與羅馬尼亞的)Skoptzi教派到十九世紀仍有此陋俗。但十三世紀曾引起反叛,上流社會女人竟然露乳,還在乳頭上塗臙脂。十九世紀法國的 “incroyables”流行裸胸,世紀末的英國女人卻藏胸顯臀。身材好的女人穿低胸裝,讓男人眼睛吃冰淇淋。如莎莎嘉寶說: “The only place men want depth in a woman is in her decolletage”; “decolletage”,露肩低胸衣也。

西洋女胸衣素有chemise(無袖寬內衣)與bodice(緊身胸衣)等。Corsets(緊身褡、腰箍)歷史悠久。Corsets由左右兩件合成(故稱a pair of corsets或a pair of stays),中間穿帶子箍緊腰圍,胸部更見浮突。直至二十世紀初期,corsets一直流行。至於乳罩,遲至一九一二年才發明。發明者是Otto Titzling(1884-1942),生於德國漢堡,後移居美國。英語稱乳房為tit,此君名為Titzling,可謂巧合!據說,Titzling於歌劇院見某女高音引吭高歌時乳房險險脫穎而出,因而發明胸罩,本有防護作用,故稱chest halter(胸束)。其後歐戰爆發,女服業衰落,乳罩生產計劃擱置。戰後卷土重來,推出較有曲線的品種(世紀之初,沙漏瓶原是女人身段的理想形象),不巧二十年代又祟尚平胸(”boyish look” 或 “cigarette-girl look”),所以未能大展鴻圖。三十年代,女人不再「密實」,Titzling的乳罩大受歡迎。不久,法國移民Philippe de Brassiere以凌厲模特兒推銷手法後來居上。Titzling控其侵犯專利權,訴訟經年,至一九三八年才了結。de Brassiere是勝利者,根據The Dictionary of American Slang,bra (乳罩)一字(Brassiere的簡稱)即在該年流行起來。Titzling商場失意,鬱鬱以終。今人但知有bra,不知有Titzling,真是時也運也命也。(按Bra有引申詞。你道car-bra為何物?汽車車頭燈的塑料護罩也。)

數十年來,乳罩的形狀款式無慮百變。Titzling和拍檔Hans Delving曾推出厚墊型(padded bra)與充氣型乳罩(inflated bra),以假亂真,極受歡迎。Delving真有推銷天才,想出了“boosters”的名稱和 “What God has forgotten we stuff with cotton” 的標語。據說,邱吉爾二次大戰出席Yalta會議,見女秘書一義乳滑脫,語幕僚曰: I admit I was fascinated – the first three-breasted woman I’d ever seen。三乳女郎,極幽默之能事。

四十年代的Lana Turner式圓錐型「乳杯」乳罩,是所謂 “bust-up” “sweater-girl look”(sweater-girl指胸部豐滿穿緊身套衫的女郎)。六十年代後設計的線條比較柔和(softer look)。七十年代流行「無上裝」或「上空裝」(top-less),又有女權主義者為天乳爭取自由,是為乳罩業的低潮期。不過娘兒愛俏,bra-burning運動喧騰一陣後便壽終正寢。後來推出的品種光怪陸離,有鑲不銹鋼線的,有透視型的,露乳頭的,小布型的,帶型的…..不可勝記。其中的鋼線型乳罩(wired bra),觸動金屬探測器,給機場保安人員帶來不少麻煩。至於透視型乳罩(see-through bra),其實三十年代早已有之,足見太陽之下無新事。露乳頭半托式先由Rose Lewis所設計,稱 “open-plan bra”(開放型奶罩),據云是讓乳房呼吸。還有Delving想出來的一種,扣子在前不在後,免得女人戴摘乳罩時扭傷粉臂,又為男人大開方便之門,原是天才產品,不料女人晒晾衣裳,看見乳杯分家而倒胃,所以流行不起來。前扣式乳罩,男人稱之為 front-opening bra(前開式),女人卻稱為front-fastening bra(前合式),開合之間,具見男女意識型態之不同。

乳罩以「乳杯」(cup)大小分級,有A、B、C、D各種,時裝界術語則稱為 eggcup(「蛋杯」)、teacup(「茶杯」)、coffee cup(「咖啡杯」)、Challenge Cup(「挑戰盃」)。誰都知道,Storm in a teacup,是茶杯風波;storm in a D-cup,卻是大乳女郎「鼓鼓湧湧」的寫真。Cup字大妙,杯而盛乳,依粵人口吻,蓋「飲得杯落」矣。cup可兼作動詞用(如He cupped her breasts),令人想到溫軟盈握之妙境。上述半托型乳罩, “the bra that gives you push-up without cover-up”,又名 “half-cup bra”(「 半杯型」)。更輕盈的就是 “quarter-cup”了,按「深杯淺盞」之說,中文譯為「盞型乳罩」可乎?英語My cup is full,指幸福美滿;美滿固佳,滿溢豈不更好?然則穿戴quarter-cup bra的女人大可說: “I’ll call it my Happiness Bra, because my cup runneth over.”(語出Wallace Reyburn, Bust-up一書作者)。

男人多喜歡身材豐滿的女人,見豪乳(big tits)莫不感到亢奮 – “titillated”(titillate一字是否由tit而來,待考!)因此有人說: “Being flat-chested is like a social disease”(平胸不啻社交病),又有女人嘆息曰: “Nobody ever called me flat-chested, but they didn’t whistle either”(用粵語譯出,是「冇人笑我係飛機場,但又冇人向我吹口哨」),這是無可奈何之事。世人心態如此,難怪 “platform bra”(高臺型乳罩)曾風靡一時, 毫無演技的Jayne Mansfield就藉此而一舉成名,她訪問倫敦時某記者戲稱為 “seeing London from the top of a bust”。乳罩與地心吸力對抗,人類學教授Anthony Forge說它 “converts the primitive droop to the civilised thrust” (意謂文明人玩藝,化垂為舉,起死回生)。

August 18, 2009 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | 1 Comment



金錢可談之處甚多。錢的代名詞,有金、金銀、金錢,如拾金不昧,如金銀滿屋。阿堵,六朝人口語,猶言這個,引申為錢的意思,亦稱「阿堵物」。王莽纂漢後,「錢」改稱為「貨泉」或「白水真人」。「孔方」或「孔方兄」是錢的謔稱,昔時銅錢外圓而中有方孔,故名。「臭錢」、「臭銅」、「爛銅」更是錢的貶語。英語money又稱hard cash、pelf、mammon、lucre、dosh、lolly、silver;財富是wealth、richness、affluence、prosperity、fortune、well-lined purse、gold mine、El Dorado、Golconda、pot of gold、purse of Fortunatus。觸手成金Golden touch是好字眼;Midas touch就大不妙。

國富的例子:貫朽栗陳,是漢朝的典故。漢興七十餘年之間,京師之錢累巨萬,貫(穿錢的索子)朽而不可校,太倉之粟陳陳相因,紅腐而不可食。錢流地,指財貨富裕。大有年、五穀豐登,是農業社會饒富的詞語。國富,英語曰a land flowing with milk and honey,今天則有「富裕社會」(affluent society)之說,那是加拿大經濟學家J.K. Galbraith所創的名詞。

富甲天下的人甚多,古代有陶朱公、鄧通(銅山)、董卓(「金塢」)、石崇(以蜡代薪)、何曾(一食萬錢)、五元寶(「富窟」)、王武子(婦乳飲豚)、魚容(象牙造床,鏤金蓮花)。富貴人家金穴銅山、金玉滿堂、鐘鳴鼎食,窮奢極侈。西方神話中的Croesus、Midas、Dives、Plutus均為富豪的象徵,近人則推Rockefeller、Carnegie、Bill Gates等。有興趣知道當代首富排各的可參閱Fortune雜誌。

一個人的錢多得用不完,可形容為made of money或has money to burn。揮霍是splurge,揮金如土是spend money like water。

Money does not grow on trees,錢不易得。If you would know the value of money, try to borrow some,顯見人情冷暖。

富而慳者,拔一毛而利天下而不為,貶稱為「錢愚」或「守財奴」。英語則稱miser、niggard、skinflint、hoarder、money-grubber、Scrooge、penny-pincher、mean old stick、(粗俚)tight-arse等。貪財是money-grubbing,又有 Have eyes bigger than one’s belly的說法。

富本身不是罪惡,富而能仁,何患之有?富而不仁,英文是filthy rich。聚不義之財者古稱「齊物奴」,典出石崇,石崇生於齊地青州,因劫財致富。

有人相信金錢萬能:Money talks.有錢能使鬼推磨。古羅馬詩人Horace說:Omnis enim res, virtus, fama, decus, divina humanaque pulchris divitiis parent (All things are obedient to money)錢可通神。Money makes the mare go。Money governs the world。What will not money do?  《傳道書》上說:A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry:  but money answereth all things,難怪拜金的人那麼多。錢可以買來權勢(Money is power),但買不到真正愛情(約翰‧連儂就說過:money can’t buy me love)。但沒有錢亦難得有愛情:When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out of the window.

錢再多,死時也帶不走。Shrouds have no pockets。留給子孫吧?但富過三代的家族就很罕見。

清高的人稱金錢為萬惡之源,The love of money is the root of all evil。但蕭伯納大唱反調:Lack of money is the root of evil。十七世紀的Thomas Fuller 說:We are all Adam’s children but silk makes the difference。英古諺亦曰:Money is welcome though it come in a dirty cloud.

折衷的說法是少可貧而老不可貧:You can be young without money but you can’t be old without it. (Tennessee Williams)。


貧窮景象的成語:室如懸磬、瓦灶繩床、家無澹石、家徒壁立(司馬相如)、捉襟見肘(曾子)、阮囊羞澀(阮藉)、環堵蕭然、一貧如洗、囊空如洗。古人認為「女多家貧」,《後漢書‧陳蕃傳》有「盜不過五女之門」之說。英語的同義詞有poor、penniless、impecunious、penurious、poverty-stricken、badly off、straitened、destitute、unable to make both ends meet、out at elbow、down and out、poor as dirt、poor as Lazarus、poor as Job、poor as Mother Hubbard、poor as a church mouse、to live on a pittance、to eke out a livelihood、to scratch out a living、to live from hand to mouth、to tighten one’s belt。


「錢有兩戈,傷壞古今人品」,因財失義的例子很多,Money makes friends enemies。「窮只一穴,埋沒多少英雄」;秦瓊賣馬,千古之後仍令人心酸。

Money makes marriage,窮漢娶妻難,中外一理。拜金娘子願嫁金龜婿,英文叫marry money或marry a millionaire。流行曲詞有曰:Diamonds are a girl’s best friend。

When I give food to the poor they call me a saint.  What I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist.(我向貧民施飯,人譽我為聖賢;我問貧民何以無炊,人稱我為共產黨。)(Helder Camara 1909)

人莫能事二主,上帝、財神之間應知作取捨。富人進天堂,比駱駱進針孔更難。No man can serve two masters…. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon…….  It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to go to heaven.

有錢要懂得用才好。Money is a good servant but a bad master。少年致富未必是福:The abundance of money ruins youth,又曰:He that gets money before he gets wit,/Will be but a short while master of it.

錢如糞肥,必須散撥開來才好,堆疊起來只會臭氣沖天。Money is like muck, not good except it be spread (Francis Bacon).   Money is like manure….. if you pile it up in one place it stinks like hell (Clint Murchison Jnr)。Galbraith也說:The greater the wealth, the thicker will be the dirt.

錢像性愛,沒有時是縈心之念,有時則懶得想它。Money, it turned out, was exactly like sex, you thought of nothing else if you didn’t have it and thought of other things if you did.  (James Baldwin US writer)

凡事都有代價,There is no free lunch。但又有一說,人生最美好的東西是免費的。The best things in life are free.


August 18, 2009 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | 2 Comments








其後是「娟娟二八」、「二八年華」,是碧玉破瓜的年齡。南朝汝南王為愛妾碧玉作《碧玉歌》曰:「碧玉破瓜時,相為郎顛倒,感郎不羞郎,回身就郎抱。」。孔尚任《桃花扇》寫李香君出場,亦有「破瓜碧玉佳期」一語。古人對「破瓜」一詞有三種解釋:一指少女月事初來,如瓜破則見紅潮(亦稱天癸、春潮);二指女子破身;三指二八妙齡,因瓜字破之則為二八字,二八即十六歲。 以故的林以亮先生曾加考證,認為第三解較合理,又引袁枚語:「蓋將瓜縱橫破之,成二「八字」,作十六歲解也。」湯顯祖《牡且亭還魂記》的杜麗娘也是「二八春容」,「出落的人中美玉…嬌凝翠綻魂見顫。」《紫釵記》裡的霍小玉,年方二八,「有女正芳妍」,「可人風味」,「美人香玉艷藍田。」明人小品中有喻十五六歲黛綠年華之美人「為含金柳,為芳蘭蕊,為雨前茶;體有真香,面有真色」,字字令人魂銷。





August 18, 2009 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | Leave a comment

己丑吟草 (2009)




頹唐老朽嘆才慳  饞生涯不識閒  蠅字萬行欺障目  蛾燈半盞照蒼顏

心枯莫若觀流水  意倦長宜望遠山  從此停錐忘刺股  月明逗我翠眉彎



牛來鼠去又添庚   白髮回青問幾莖   醉裡神魂何漫漶   夢中人事卻分明

情如瓜蔓思纏繞   心似棋盤路縱橫  甚矣娑婆吾欲去   半壺椒柏一身輕



心尚蓬萊念太虛  引吭高歌樂奚如   徜徉弱水拋金劍  仰俛深山讀異書

邊塞沙丘落雁  碧溪蘆塢戲游魚   隨緣最是安心藥  休道塵寰不易居


東風送我入春城  霧裡看花暗還明   湖畔燕鶯歌日暖  卻疑鴻雁咽秋聲


一輪清月掛峰斜  燈海魚龍落雁沙   嬌女笑憨寶玉樹  俊郎歌逗俏金花

白墻書畫疑華俗  彩裾綾羅勝漢家   洱海蒼山懷段主  馬茶古道杳天涯


麗江景物世堪誇  西塞山頭一異葩   風動牛羊凌綠浪  日曛顏面賽紅霞

黃昏鴻雁栖沙渚  清夜巒岩響角笳   此去蓬萊知不遠  靈山慧水隔天涯


昆明龍脈似環屏  聚寶盆稱福地靈   赤土金銀千載富  滿城花卉四時馨

天災莫擾佳山水  兵燹不侵古緯經   且趁今朝風日好  歸田隱逸度遐齡


金陵重過雨瀟瀟  徹骨霜寒景敝凋   玄武湖光傷盡斂  秦淮水濁看心焦


悠悠江笛古都城  煙自飄颺水自橫   玄武鏡光籠倩影  秦淮曲韻換浮名

雨花台石臨泉出  燕子磯瀾傍葦生   掃葉樓空人去後  莫愁閑聽落梅聲


十里揚州夢未銷  春寒筆凍景難描   廣陵琴曲操還絕  西子歌吟醉更嬌

湖似黃花憐怯瘦  人如敗葉感蕭條   東君念我殷勤意  早放垂楊廿四橋


金壇奇地出西青  萬里緣牽謁四屏   婉轉詩筆尋桂葉  秀清身影覷瓜町

招魂無奈罡風惡  消業何當瘴霧驚   病倒茅山終莫遇  傷心憑弔幾凋零


南山遠眺自懷芳  籬畔殘金獨傲霜   濁酒難消頭上雪  瘦詩莫洩胸中狂

心無罣礙長康健  目有毫芒即苦傷   且把牢騷收拾去  天然達道樂平常



逝水如斯惘始終       古今來者各西東       紛飛落雁迷青冥       亂叩狂蜂攘綠叢

寂寞梧桐懷夜雨       蕭疏蒲柳怯秋風       百年知我能多少       安得靈犀半點通

安得靈犀一點通       意朗神澄耳目聰       叩地問天悲莫應       輸心置腹怕難同

清流反照焉虛有       幽谷迴聞不著空       因識乾坤非寂寞       從來萬化冥交融




昨日仍嫌百舌喧       今朝岑寂似荒村       尋窮杳冥將軍影       望斷虛空大樹魂

好物不堅生復滅      蒼天終厚去還存      鳳凰巢碎棲何處       尚有梧枝待別園



南州五月換紅裳       褫盡清霜醉午陽       簷畔紛飛輕燕子       階前不見瘦貓娘

拋家堪忍遺豪宅       棄主偏蒙眷敗牆       俗世瞵睜唯眼綠       西風黃菊感秋殤



聞君膝下尚無孫       且聽爺曹進笑言       睡濕眠乾銷日月       地經天緯倒乾坤

一雙長老甘牛犬       三隻貔貅僭至尊       莫怪媳兒遲去馬       劬勞更怕耳根喧

[粵人熟悉上四支支韻字,唯“衣” 、 “依” 偏屬上五微, “兒”、“嘶”、“撕”屬上八齊,教人依依不捨。榮兄詩改協微韻,反覺勉強。]

怕見長亭柳  情同雁燕飛    晨雞催上路  好友欲牽衣

遠送三春暮  殷期八月暉    別腸占數韻  珍重早旋歸



二十年前別樣春       春歸過翼倏成塵       長街血濺心方熱       后土魂飛志不貧

壯士胸懷光耀日     公車氣脈火傳薪       踏青時節君須記       往歲芳菲淑世人











二十年前此夕驚  堪看肉血祭愁城  哀哉秀裔斧鉞  暴矣鷹鴟蟻甲兵

幸有忠魂傳浩氣  能無烈火煉菁英  鄭音聒耳長安道  獨聽晨雞鼓角聲



花甲筵開又六春       邇來心境漸平勻       雨收湖外南山淨       露滴籬邊野菊新

皓首頻搔老赤子       壽眉笑弄孺人       白雲半畝堪怡悅       自數恆沙善福因

六六無端蝶夢身       秋霜有信降微辰       高堂健在不言老       陋室虛空慢道貧

鶴歲神清心絕垢       松年意遠目離塵       宵深素瑟思絃柱  酒影燈花幻亦真

雙陸連綿數可珍       人生如戲局還新       羞窺太白量才尺       敢比廉頗健飯身

安得隨緣忘苦惱      何當脫俗返清真  年年冬至彤霞日   南極星暉映紫宸



蟻擾麟都夏日長       蕭郎意緒自蒼涼       可憐欲界千般色       最惜蘭心一脈香

葉茂花繁七月鬧       情多地老九天荒       愛根深種知難拔       淚灌芳圃謾道狂

造化緣何拆鴛鴦       幽明歧路兩迷茫       參商不見悲還幸       蘭桂仳離苦復傷

修得靈心應有價       淪為頑石豈無償       世間哀樂觀如是       生死迴環夢未央

去年今夕別蘭娘       玉露凋傷泣賀郎       天上雲煙長漫漶       人間雨雪永迷茫

三生夢繫癡胡蝶       一晌梧棲醉鳳凰       且寄秋心遙弱水       風迴舴艋下瀟湘




深冬雪雨任橫斜    伏處寒廬聽暮鴉  老卸濃愁餘白酒   饑餐青拌黃芽

夜酣枕上南柯夢       曉放籬邊靖節花       虎鬥龍爭雲過眼       杜門閑唱浪淘沙



捨己匡人是謂慈       為人拔苦古稱悲       欣悲交集思無我       始自如來普濟時

叔寶窮途賣俊駒       坤維潦倒典元詩       衣單范叔誰憐冷       肉臭朱門眾忍饑  辟穀無方思解脫     富心有術仗修持       悠悠身累緣何事       金石洪爐試始知

貧女如花只鏡知       幽蘭空谷自堪詩       桂華暗換流年恨       杜宇殷啼萬古悲

貝葉粉書撩意亂    麻宣丹繪惹情癡    浣衣倩影今何在    一縷魂香入夢時





霜珠映日見龍鱗      春漸泥溫吐色新       徑上仰沾歡喜雨       階前俯盼翠芳茵

昂藏一寸應無愧      搖曳三分自有神       隙裡生機何堪折       俺家原是夾縫人


沙鷗鴨子戲江津      夾岸夭桃逗早春       楊柳飄飄酖日暖       腰肢裊裊試衣新

滿庭芳色飫青眼      一剪梅香點絳唇       大好風光留不住       可憐白髮詩腸貧             


莫笑郎當一魚      百城坐擁境寬舒       前生恨未識倉頡       今世逢君慶不虛

腰錢萬貫意猶虛      只怪爺曹不讀書       避俗何妨頭巾氣       從來腹笥貴寬舒             

素壁聯綿疊架書       華堂無味愛吾廬       焚膏咚橐催三鼓       擁枕咿呀夢五車

目倦神弛瞻綠玉      牙堅腰闊羨銀魚       富心莫問榮枯事       半卷悠然樂有餘


麗玉空悲公渡河      屈平強項不隨波       箜篌挑得離魂斷       一卷騷經奠汨羅

往古來今獨悵惆      如何方了子昂愁       恆言當下隨緣活       莫待明時抱恨休

汩汩顫唇欹玉笛      琤琤彈指箜篌       臨河白首狂公醉       身似風濤不繫舟




天南自謫尚甘飴       序倒陽陰異感知       階染清霜肥蟹菊       江迷膏雨嫩鵝脂

團圓共見春秋月       別遠分題苦樂詩       六合有情魂繾綣       素娥流盼漾仙池

香沁銀蟾仙袂飄    回眸一盼俏嬌嬈    九天搏動魚龍躍       河漢傾斜日月搖

素魄清供靖節菊  幽歌曼扭小蠻腰    何堪桂兔愚頑物       夕夕寒宮怨寂寥



幾度銀光灑桂霜  夢迴三萬六千場  寂寞娟娟河漢女  風流杳杳羽林郎

山溫水軟蓮鄉逸    雲破姿翩舞影狂    長怨寒宮思解脫    裸衣疑似玉羅裳


重陽又值登高時       海末無山安可之       疏鬢茱萸簪欲墮       素心黃菊夢相隨

羔羊跪乳知生養       寸草迎暉念孝       道不遠人人自遠       消災忘把惠恩推


盛哉文化有華夷       百美紛陳六合奇       巨輕車思席夢       幽篁玉馬衣嫘絲

莎翁莫子洵人鳳       孔聖莊生有我師  合璧中西無見外  驪珠借得樂期頤


攀山越野望江湄  瘦馬西風落日悲   天柱將傾瀾莫挽       心旌欲倒意難持

豈無真火攻三毒  愧欠靈樞繫四維  古道披荊方學步      兒曹休笑老來癡


《菽園雜詠七首》   二○○九年十一月 

菽水生涯亦快心       竹棚栽豆自長吟       除蕪翻土知良薄       下籽施肥計淺深

幼梗羞風絲蔓繞       嫩花怯日葉中尋       老身只合田園老       靜候蜂媒送好音

此物從來受貶鍼       通身是寶有誰參       青苗嫩莢堪清炒       甘乳醇醪待淺斟

荒歲多饑延命薄       豐年三熟戴恩深       素餐養健唯腎谷       勝似膏腴害冠心


採莢南山背斗箕       春耕夏稔順年時       熹微始見蝸兵早       夕暝猶聽雁陣遲

詩似濁醅堪自醉       燈如紅豆最相思       荊妻呼我調羹熟       豇豌同烹快朵頤


平生欠細精        皓首愧無成        疏放誠高士        胡塗即白丁       

詩篇唯餖飣        心地待耘耕        妙藝堪師法        蛛娘蟻甲兵

塵身何幸得仙糧       嘉菽清甘沁肺腸       張翰賦羹思玉液       劉安磨豆念瓊漿

救荒保歲真恩物       盈篋充簞擅勝場    勻髮添麻除五鬼    永康長健賽羲皇

[註:西吳郡人張瀚《豆羹賦》,有「充簞盈篋,香鑠和調 … 啜菽永安」之句。劉安,豆腐鼻祖。龍魚河圖:「歲暮夕,四更中,取二七豆子,二七麻子,家人頭少許髮,合麻子豆著井中,祝敕井吏,其家竟年不遭傷寒,辟五溫鬼。」]

果腹何須不厭精       清蔬淡飯益長庚       朱門酒肉真無味       陋室糟糠自有情

長日蝶蜂欣共舞       半籬瓜豆喜豐登       慎因樂果唯菩薩       天眼從來莫轉睛


莫笑寒門井底蛙       世間美味是黃芽       養顏壯氣祛丹毒       健齒通腸勝藥茶

罕可肥醲非善物       尋常菽豆實奇葩       疏箕日夜勤澆灌       好發銀鬚炒花





盤古神能運斧斤       渾茫天地遂初分       補蒼媧女憐孺子       觸柱共公摧暴君

河漢西傾維斷絕       黎民四散境紛紜       由來業數窮盈日       玉石俱教劫火焚

平沙冪冪杳無垠       色變陽陰六合村  白水長添肥震澤   華巔不再嫩昆侖

夙年瘴霧迷青眼  末世罡風蕩沃原   赤土冰川崩欲裂       游移釜底哭冤魂

天火炎炎地似薪       冰山融化陸沉淪       荒疆極目疑沙海       沃土荒年變芥塵

南極企鵝成逐客       熱窩螻蟻是蒸民  誰憐夸父追窮日   九矢長懷羿叔仁


歸鴉聒噪古松顛       幻變風雲別樣天       老丈窮愁嗟急景       荊妻不喜道殘年

細溫白酒呵心暖       嫩剝新芒送口鮮       薄醉清歡忘杖履       閑看活水放菱船 



August 18, 2009 Posted by | Chinese poetry 詩鈔 | Leave a comment

戊子吟草 (2008)



香肌冰雪骨玲瓏 笑靨清音入夢中 幽草似煙雲似鶴 美人如玉劍如虹

麗華海瀑盈眸綠 太白壺觴泛頰紅 望斷無一二 鴛湖仙侶羨誰同


熱膏渾欲融 赤天翹望快哉風 雌雄癡語蘭台子 涼自心生問軾翁


雨翁稽首叩碧穹 鳥魚何術任西東 清和自許千般遂 大化方能八面通

道骨如松瘦硬 文心宜若藕玲瓏 魔珠九曲穿還未 巧蟻人師莫識窮

[「大化」 — 大而化之。「文心宜若藕玲瓏」襲前人句,忘記出處。「九曲」— 傳說有人獲九曲寶珠,穿之不得,孔子教以塗脂於,使蟻通之。]


冰風赤焰摧殘年 南北鄉心夢未遷 翹首蒼茫雲外訊 縈懷惆悵中箋

茗甘似雪療狂客 愁重如山折瘦肩 臥聽烏啼更漏矣 雨軒今夜復無眠


苗條疑是青蛇娘 何物垂垂尺半長 胎結羞含堪入畫 傳神惟有老齊璜

此物垂垂競尺長 苗條疑是青蛇娘 腹中有子珠如串 須倩齊公綵筆忙

此物垂垂逾尺長 苗條恍似青蛇娘 珠胎暗結誰能畫 獨擅純芝自沅湘


李郎繡口出新詞 鶴鳳樓臺字字師 老手翻雲成喜雨 枯藤入句化瓊枝

詩參活處生還妙 情覺濃時淡亦宜 不負河橫金針度 恩將塵客俗腸醫




亥豕蓮姍別夜年 子神偷換桃符鮮 前生業惡今為鼠 累世心虛漸化仙

斗膽過街人喊打 顏穿洞自哀憐 欲祛顛倒無明見 須諳嚙藤妙喻先

[小註:「子神」, 鼠之別稱。「嚙藤」,佛家語,黑白二鼠指日夜(時間),藤指生命,「二鼠嚙藤」喻人生無常。]


休誇瑞雪慶豐年 載道貧黎萬慮牽 鼠碩信知糧滿庫 羊肥自是草連阡

饑寒命脈如絲弱 富貴心腸似石堅 大道廢弛人共見 蒼天眇目復何言



路遙休怨獨行遲 老驥追風未可知 稽首蒼松懷君子 虛心螻蟻拜恩師

浮生豈懼千重浪 玩世何妨慢著棋 細啖黃連知世味 清愁滿斛泡新詩


翻來覆去幾行詩 詩鑑人生信可知 古調新題行不悖 恒情易理並相宜

觀天忘井非明智 買櫝還珠是白癡 幸得雕龍大國手 斐然惠我別腸詞


知君才捷賽陳思 珠玉紛披勝蝶衣 落月香浮斜暗影 花開甲子古梅枝


江上煙波陌上塵 昏鴉啼血斷人魂 天涯白首懷歸日 醉裡相逢總是君

《高山吟》三首代柬 二○○八年二月廿一

一山還有一山高 陟彼孤岡莫自豪 細味莊周齊物訣 同仁泰岱視鴻毛

看山有術豈惟高 活水觀瀾自樂陶1 恨似藤麻心意亂 維摩慧劍借吾曹2

觀山有術不惟高 流水靜參是略韜 心緒亂如戈迪結3 何時覓得奧康刀4

[小註:(1)「觀水有術,必觀其瀾」,孟子語。參閱羅大經《鶴林玉露》乙編卷三〈活處觀理〉條。(2) 「慧劍」,佛家語,本《維摩經菩薩行品》:「以智慧劍,破煩惱賊。」(3Gordian knot。(4Occam’s razor]

《依今韻戲題Edison二首》 (27.2.08)






























莽莽乾坤沒底謎 陰陽渾沌最難題 五行象數焉窺破 六合玄機莫考稽

心類鳳凰嫌物礙 人如毫末盼天齊 且邀盤古庖犧氏 解我終身大惑迷


卅載南洲慣客身 秋來猶自憶芳春 蕭條耳畔三更雨 翠碧心田二月茵

夢裡繁花是幻 鏡中衰影疑非真 浮生終悟隨緣好 作箇忘機四季人


鴛鴦素指繡成仙 尚有琴書擱雨軒 從此添油休早睡 人生消受幾燈前

清波翠玉月翩躚 尚有琴書擱雨軒 從此添油休早睡 人生消受幾燈前

仙家歆羨兩情牽 尚有琴書擱雨軒 從此添油休早睡 人生消受幾燈前

溫柔辜負最堪 枉有琴書擱雨軒 從此添油休早睡 人生消受幾燈前


獨探西園橘滿枝 槿花含笑似相期 微晨欄倚霜痕染 晌午几隨影移

意懶雲懷燕子 慵躺日效貓兒 飯餘眼倦拋書寐 飄渺華胥月上遲


眨眼流光若電驅 黃連樹下抱琴娛 風高霜降愁多少 月黯魂銷恨有無

芳歲猖狷真 暮年渾噩愈狂奴 深驚白髮飄零盡 腹笥無書愧積腴

汶川地震《國殤》五首 二○○八年五月三十日

劫後汶川末日圖 餘生淚盡眼將枯 冤哉逝者誰能悼 至痛無言慰寡孤

四月芙蓉赧蜀春 橫來災悲無垠 應憐孽障癡情鬼 更惜娑婆昧眼人

地裂生埋千幻夢 煙銷活葬四愁身 有生自古誰無死 泉下魂兮返璞真

天府山川四月春 災來錦鏽倏成塵 悲歡俄頃蜉蝣夢 生死支離草芥身

叩問太蒼無語訊 號呼大地杳由因 不仁造化千秋 芻狗餘灰世轉輪

禍機寧伏太初前 龍脈騰翻撼蜀川 地裂生靈埋冢野 肝摧遺孑哭蒼天

窮年浩劫人言苦 滿眼瘡痍鬼見憐 斷千村勻淚血 榮華流電化烏煙

黃泉胎動苦翻騰 梁摧天地崩 泥醬肉身橫活葬 精靈魂魄逆生坑

夫傷息奄仍呼婦 魂離尚乳嬰 絕嗣沒門知多少 風中明滅幾殘燈


荏苒流光十九春 天安殘夢化泥塵 蕭疏陌地秋心客 落寞長街碧血人

鐵案如山何日結 深似海幾時伸 休教孽少金迷眼 不識黃花是赤貧

《昆侖六五自壽三首》 二○○八年六月廿一日子時

六五春秋一夢中 呱呱猶憶在新豐 兵荒蒂落飄蓬子 世幻雲浮散髮翁

育德盈沖昭六合 生恩浩瀚撼蒼穹 高堂尚在憨年少 休怪老萊戲綵瘋

夙喜靈山千萬重 愁來仰望即從容 訪仙洞壑臨深淺 撥墨雲煙見淡濃

攬鏡不無老邁 登高猶喜未龍鐘 六旬五從今後 莫問昆侖第幾峰

行年六五歲難留 身寄雲山日月浮 澆薄詩腸宜淡酒 蕭疏心事訴殘秋

花開花落撩愁客 潮退潮生盪匾舟 垂暮悠然憂且去 溫柔醉我是清眸


邇來心忐忑 聞耗悲無極 水月鏡中花 虛空長太息

芳魂今已沓 生者臨風弔 仰望白雲間 怡然猶貌笑

莫哀紅落陌 莫怨西風謫 逝者是歸人 蒼生如過客

欲留伊竟去 魂魄歸何處 執手俟君聽 寒山冰水喻


世間何事最傷神 死別生離夢幻身 暮雨鷹丘腸斷處 西風憔悴感斯人


長憶靈山弱水濱 高情相聚慶佳辰 蘭英影淡香添韻 桂魄年深味更辛

今惜幽明尋異路 信知生死繫前塵 魂迴細語叮嚀甚 珍重檀郎瘦菊身


《冬草》 二○○八年八月十一日

深冬雪雨任斜橫 寂寞江城宿酒行 小燕風簷隨雁起 碧芊野陌伴愁生

隴頭嫩綠兼旬換 籬畔殘金薄暮迎 天若憐貧調百 化成甘菜下盤羹

《芙蕖》二詠 二○○八年八月二十日

一枝青艷眾芳先 皎潔空靈是降仙 太白同名鍾汝獨 濂溪異趣愛伊偏

清真不怕污泥染 淨直何愁孽障牽 悟覺有情唯此 如來憫世復悲天

亭亭古艷立清漣 帶笑含羞分外妍 碧翠田田堪坐佛 遠香裊裊欲飛仙

鮫珠滴淚連心苦 雪藕分甘入口鮮 應是天公憐世俗 遣渠妙物一翩然


混沌盤公運斧偏 紛崩離落倒坤乾 媧娘且慢熔仙石 六合唯情可補天


天涯伏處若眠蠶 香暗如絲入夢酣 霜重長宜壺畔醉 肢慵莫怪枕邊耽

晨雞更鼓催頭白 驟雨虹霓照水藍 不羨羅裙芳草綠 卻看鴨戲瘦梅潭

麗人倩影照清潭 十里長安三月三 羅襪塵香蜂蝶亂 笙歌韻妙燕鶯貪

男紅女綠穿朱戶 雲白山深掩破菴 謝卻東君花訊息 悠然夢醒把禪參

宛似濃眠八百春 醒來猶自憶靈均 簪蘭帶蕙懷高士 放鴨栽桑羨野人

澤畔泥翻沾窄襪 梢頭雨滴濕青巾 誰遺翠帕橫塘路 應是湘妃是洛神

百花生日度中秋,時空錯亂,作春秋歌兩首遣懷。 (戊子年中秋)


清和天氣雁歌新 醉醒疑秋卻是春 紫冥琉璃圓永夜 芳園錦繡佳辰

蜂忙不怨花神浪 桂老長憐月姊顰 水影鏡光原渾夢 有情而覺轉成真

東西南北轉蓬身 泳古涵今四季人 天地津梁安可渡 春秋融冶一爐新


《重過天鵝湖》 二○○八年十月十五日

鵝湖重過認荒苔 澤畔行吟第幾回 晝永波平交瘦項 日長林靜撫蒼腮

百年憂患 十里澄明照眼開 依舊陌頭楊柳色 奈何心事早成灰

《母病》 二○○八年十月十七日

忽驚母病苦嚴苛 九秩華星受折磨 滿膝老萊齊禱告 蒼天悲憫起沉痾

《古笛曲》致孝雄 二○○八年

寂寞湖城古笛聲 故人入夢已深更 丹楓漫放原千里 老桂斜依水一泓

耳畔蕭蕭披髮 天涯踽踽仗藜行 忍看落日長身影 遠踐蒼鷗海角盟

寂寞湖城古笛聲 故人入夢已深更 丹楓漫放荒千里 老桂斜依水一泓

耳畔蕭蕭披髮 天涯踽踽仗藜行 忍看落日長身影 杳冥蒼鷗海角盟

寂寞湖城古笛聲 故人入夢已深更 丹楓漫放村千里 老桂斜依水一泓

耳畔蕭蕭披髮 天涯踽踽仗藜行 望渠薄暮長身影 遠上雲山日月盟

《春深》二首 二○○八年十一月十日

登臺宛昨勸杯乾 桃杏酡紅醉眼看 夢醒杜鵑啼暮雨 化工無力綴春殘

風調雨沛綠無垠 萬物欣榮景色新 爛熳朝霞紅勝火 空明落月白如銀

翩躚蝶影方三月 撩亂楊花又一春 莫怨枇杷多子實 年年此際舌生津

《戲題財經爛局》 二○○八年十一月十一日

長鯨吞海笑饑蠶 胃納憐渠似癟三 且進黌宮修厚黑 貴學貪婪

乾坤有術矜曹孟 天地不仁嘆老聃 大道廢弛君莫笑 從來顯達靡知慚

《戲和榮兄》 二○○八年十二月十七日

圓顱搔弄似牛山 齒落肌枯腰背彎 少艾不知斯境惡 老來方悟此身艱

笑癡水鏡尋英影 怯醉江楓掩敝顏 有人琴詩酒在 塵心化去自安閑

底事天公出手慳 由來憾事如山 杳埋金劍流沙裡 湮沒蘭絕谷間

子建才洪哀夭折 姮娥福薄怨長閑 君嗟不再朝霞舉 勸把癡情寄管斑


憐君俊俏列仙班 朗秀神清莫可攀 綠鬢應收青白眼 黃花宜醉老紅顏

宣郎貌寢樓章淼 嫫母容媸鏡淚潸 乃念蒼生無限恨 閑愁自解扣連環


堂倌見客稱經理 酒女逢人喚靚哥 偏是李郎唔買賬 口乖空落嘆喎呵


《樂隱》二首 二○○八年平安夜

長羨歸山渴飲泉 杖藜夕夕看霞煙 靜如蒼狗垂青冥 動若黃龍翻紫淵

月下醉僧疑臥佛 松梢靈鶴欲飛仙 世間萬事全忘卻 顛倒春秋不計年

散髮歸田半隱仙 杜門趺坐對爐煙 有身便得愁柴米 寡欲何須逐利錢

柳岸徐行聞鳥嫩 鷺汀罷釣啖菱鮮 輕簑片葉逍遙去 細雨斜風又一年


December 30, 2008 Posted by | Chinese poetry 詩鈔 | Leave a comment


































Droppings from a constipated mind



June 15, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment

靜 觀


















June 15, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment

島 人 島 語










× × × × × × ×





「中英兩大詩人·····都要打破島的局限,不同的是,鄧約翰要歸屬於大陸,而蘇東坡則把大陸也看成一個島。鄧約翰倒頗有儒家氣象,蘇東坡則坦然有道家胸懷。····· 島,原來只是客觀的地理局限,如果再加上主觀的心理閉塞,便是雙重的自囚了。但是反過來,大陸原是寬闊的空間,但是如果因自大而自閉,也會變成一個小島,用偏見、淺見之海將自己隔絕在世外。」




June 15, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment

破 帽 多 情 卻 戀 頭











戴帽的人愛買帽。日用的帽,五顏六色的,都會買一些。綠帽子是大忌,想是不會買的吧,但抽屜裏竟有一兩頂,不知何時買來的,神差鬼使,連自己的行為也不能保證,可見世事之不可解。一般棉質帽子洗後會收縮,所以要買大號的。帽子雖多,常用的卻總是那一兩頂。就像破舊鞋子一般,常常不忍拋棄,取其舒適也。 帽子是溫情之物,如殘燈、如燕子,宜珍而重之。












June 14, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment

致 × × × 教授書




× × × 教授書


× × 先生賜鑒:



本人廿餘年前於府某機關任職,與 ××× 兄共事一年。嘗聞 × 兄道及先生之雄才捷筆,不勝馳慕。南來澳洲廿載於玆,與香讀書界情況隔閡日甚。先生之著述,書架上只有《×××××××》、《×××××××》二種。二書雖非力作,亦足以顯示先生學養精文章妙。兩年前,偶觀大姐寄來「龍門陣」錄影帶,始見先生之廬山。望之五十許人,與心中之雄姿英發形象稍有出入。青春背我堂堂去,同輩人當有歲月無情之共感也。

中年乃秋實之年。「形貌衰而心智開」( “Bodily decrepitude is wisdom” – Yeats余光中譯),不應有憾。先生英年早達,載譽黌宮二十餘年。現壯年退休,有暇專注生命學問之大業,仙家生活不外如是。











先生在見證書首即大談「真理」、言蹉跎五十五年始而「悟道」。唯通篇予人之印象則是缺乏理性,不知而為知。借羅素所言,是「對宙宇之大不敬」(cosmic impiety)也。信教之人常說理知力量有限,未能觸及真理,此言甚是;但又言有「信德」方能悟道,實冬烘也。生而為人,自有人之先天局限,大惑終身迷是也。宗教信仰,其情或可憫,但基本上是迷信一團。真理二字不可亂用;妄談真理,有辱倉頡。



先生引愛因斯坦(The most incomprehensible thing in the universe is that it is so comprehensible)一語,以為可以印證宗教信仰,謬矣。愛氏所言comprehensible,乃從科學知識觀點言。科學並非尋求形而上之「真理」,而是就觀察、假設、驗證程序試圖解釋萬有現象。科學理論,即如解釋力特之理論(如牛頓定律、愛因斯坦相對論、量子論等),並非顛撲不破之「真理」。科學有其基本假定、特有邏輯,是其遊戲規則,不適用於其他領域(如哲學、藝術等)。科學之「真」不同於哲學之「真」也。愛氏之語,乃深感宇宙之不可思議而發,認為科學竟能於重重局限中有所發現,實乃異數。惟科學之發現並非「真理」。愛氏所說之comprehensibility,乃 “apparent” comprehensibility,似是而非實是也。









宗教源 恐懼

先生慨言「不憂不懼談何易」,可謂一語中的。惟其不易,更值得為之努力。關鍵在於:恐懼雖或人所難免,究竟是可悲可鄙之情緒,絕不高明。宗教源於先民對自然力量之恐懼心理,心理學、人類學、社會學界早視為不爭之論。英文中有 “God- fearing” 一詞,美國人尤愛用之,恐懼之餘還沾沾自喜。可見愚夫愚婦有太多恐懼,不但對自然力量、痛苦、疾病、死亡、寂寞、未來感到害怕,還要憂死後下地獄,對「上帝」畏懼唯恐不足!終生誠惶誠恐,寸步難移,真是何苦來!資深信徒不會認恐懼為信仰來源之說。而先生在《見證書》中處處流露恐懼感,敢信真誠,足見先生「靈命」尚淺,道行未深;從佳處看,則可說迷途未遠,仍屬「有救」。請慎思之。




先生談人生終極問題,竟未能拋開「學位、年資」、「著名中學」、「最高學府」等虛榮之念,又未能擺脫輸贏(說有些人在人生戰場上「大輸特輸」,意味做人應大贏特贏 )之功利思想,境界實在不堪,「鋼線離開平地越高」之高字,真不知從何說。或曰,先生之用意是向俗人說教,取俗人關心之題材,說俗人之語、插科打諢,有何不可?不知嚴肅問題須以嚴肅態度對待也。


先生退休後感到苦惱,怨自己「英文不高、不懂電腦、專業不『好』」,何不回想數十年來享盡優厚待遇,有幸於壯年退休,正好心耕耘可耕耘之園地,何必怨天尤人?為學數十年,竟未能建立一丁點自信與內心力量,先生之「未學」固顯。行年五十五,正是人生黃金歲月,為何自卑自貶(「充份認識自己是小蝦,已經是神的恩賜」),呼天搶地,匐匍神祇膝下,甘心為奴?移民小事也,原只基於生活之實際考慮,何必說成「神要我們遷徙流離到異邦,就是給我們以更好機會反省祖國的文化與歷史」云云?做人而至事事不能作主之地步,無乃可悲?先生出國後反省之餘,對祖國文化歷史及耶教以外東西一筆抹殺,甘心“surrender all”,「投降順服」,提早找到最終歸宿,免「搭尾班飛機」。竊以為,五十五歲找到歸宿未免太早,歸宿意味完蛋,心智之完蛋,並非佳事。迷途未遠,及早回頭,願先生三思。


June 14, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment











曼德拉的自傳《漫漫自由路》(Long Walk to Freedom)於一九九四出版,是一本振奮人心的好書,一些片段又寫得細緻感人。孟德拉終生竭誠為公,體現犧牲小我,完成大我的精神。早歲當律師,在南非黑人中有若天之驕子。但為了拯救同胞和實現平等自由的理想,不惜犧牲家庭生活與利祿功名,向強權宣戰,終於身繫囹圄。孟德拉身為異見分子,入獄之前早已蜚聲國際;被判終身監禁後,備受世人關注。但誰也料不到他身在獄中而能堅持理想,積健為雄,繼續參與革命,並在個人修養方面更上層樓,昭示無比的道德勇氣與毅力。獄中的孟德拉,真正臻達心靈自由的崇高境界。


















June 14, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment





世上書獃子甚多。 「書簏」、「書廚」、「書淫」、「書癡」、「書癲」、「蠹魚」、「蛀書蟲」等都代不乏人。書獃子有書則心圓意滿,其他一切都是餘事。杜荀鶴「賣卻屋邊三畝地,添成窗下一書」,自是古今美談;李易安節衣縮食,楊士奇變賣母雞,都是為了買書。西班牙學者Don Vicente更愛書如命,為求孤本書不惜殺人。






十多歲時發憤學英文,曾有一段日子終日啃《袖珍牛津字典》和Fowler的《Modern English Usage》,那是讀林語堂所受的指引。後來在舊書攤買來福爾摩斯全集,如獲至寶。又幸得Denis Richards著的歷史課本《Modern Europe》,深喜其句法,反覆觀摩,有些章節,三十多年過後還背得出來。那時聽人家說英文最難搞的是前置詞,就努力搜集前置詞片語,編了兩大本,後來漸覺再無翻查必要,對前置詞也不再害怕了。因此悟出一點道理,就是蒐集材料、記筆記、寫作是為學的上佳途徑,在努力的過程中自能得益。當然,世間也有不經意寫的作品成為經典名著的:《論語》只是孔子門人對老師言行的散錄;《Roget’s Thesaurus》原來是作者自用的語彙。











愛書的人總有書的故事可說。先說一樁和歐威爾的短篇小說《殺象記》(Shooting an Elephant)有關的個人經歷。這篇作品我早年讀過,作者以第一人稱述殖民地警官身不由主槍殺一頭大象的故事,刻劃帝國官僚出賣靈魂的荒謬生涯,入木三分。廿年前我初來澳洲,在某機構任職。一日偶見同事某君捧讀《殺象記》,談論來,某君除炮轟殖民主義外,更痛詆官僚作風的醜惡,義正詞嚴,雄姿英發,使我暗地喝彩。十多年後,某君晉升為主管,我則仍在原工作崗位服務,兼任工會委員。有一回機構內發生勞資紏紛,我需以職員代表身份與主管談判。會上,某君見了我佯作不相識,擺出一副行政總監的咀臉,官氣十足,使我大為失望。散會後,我不禁問他是否還記得《殺象記》的故事。某君初則愕然,繼而面有慍色,話不兩句便掉頭而去。我顯然開罪了大老闆,看似口舌招尤,恐怕還是讀書人滿肚子不識時務所致。誰教我讀過那篇歐威爾!


近期另有幾樁奇遇,都和書有關係。某日閒來寫筆記,提到統計學常識,引述了Stephen HawkingStephen Jay Gould兩位大師患絕症而不死的例子。剛放下筆,收到郵包,內有Gould的新作《生命的雄奇》(Life’s Grandeur),翻開正文第一頁,最先映入眼簾的就是Hawking的名字,一位Stephen提到另一位Stephen。如此巧,使我呆了一陣。



第二件奇事:去年向美國書商函購David Dubal著的《Evenings with Horowitz》,回信說早已售罄,再版無期。但本年初某周末竟在坊間價書肆購得,歡喜莫名。閱數日,兒子從香回來,送我一書,赫然又是《Evenings with Horowitz》!兒子說適逢荷路維玆紀念音樂會在港舉行,會上展覽荷氏生前所用的鋼琴並出售該書。買書之日,竟是同我那一個星期六!


第三件事更不可思議。某夜欹枕讀閒書,拿明人呂坤的《呻吟語》,是書由學苑出版社出版,紙張印刷俱不佳,看了幾則,昏然欲睡。隨手放下,另取一書,那是史家Theodore Zeldin的近著《An Intimate History of Humanity》,信手翻開,第四四三頁,赫然入目的,竟是「Lu K’un」之名,此非呂坤為何!作者縱論拯救世道人心的方法,爰引呂坤言行為例,言之甚詳,花了三頁篇幅。西人寫西書,引述中國作者的本已罕見,而所引的呂坤,即使在中國也不再是家傳戶曉的人物,西方作者何以知之?最奇的,當然是我當時翻書的巧合情況,機率小至億億萬分之一。




June 14, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | 4 Comments

The Huayang Essays – a selection

The Huayang Essays – a selection







Preface to The Huayang Essays by Shi Zhenlin1

Translated by Lester Lee



      Our life is like drama, and our laughter and wrath are but stage props.  We live as if in a dream, speaking and writing like somniloquists.  There are four essential elements to Poetry and all fine writing, namely: Truth, Story, Feeling, and Scene.  Truth has its peculiar interest, and so have story, feeling and scene.  Interest is vital force and inspiration.  To dream an uninteresting dream and to play an uninteresting role on stage, isn’t that a betrayal of Father Heaven and Mother Earth, who are so interesting themselves?  Take someone who mixes with characters somewhat dubious, bows to people half-heartedly, eats food that is rather tasteless, talks none too seriously, writes sketches of lofty souls even though ignoble oneself – such a one would be crude and rude, but need not be uninteresting. 


       I was born too late to meet the ancients, and too dull to know any extraordinary books.  I write poetry and prose as they come to mind, which hold no interest whatever in regard to truth, story, feeling, or scene, and am therefore taunted by the living and derided by the ghosts.  There are tears in this, but who will cry for me?


       When ill winds blow, Liezi would no longer enjoy his ride2.  When the moon is dimmed, Li Bai3 would not be too eager to seek her company.  When the flowers are faded, Zhuangzi’s butterfly4 would be bored. And when the pagoda tree withers, the fabled dream will be all over for the dreary ants5.  There are tears in all this, but who will cry over it? 


       Mogeng and Qinzhuang6 are charming scholars.  They haunt beautiful gardens, write interesting compositions and tell fascinating stories.  To think that they and their delightful friends should take a liking to a humourless soul like me!  In spending interesting money to print this insipid work of mine they remind me of Wu Zhensheng7 who arranged to have my “West-Green Notebook” published.  I had wanted to destroy the manuscript but Zhenting managed to preserve it.  Finally, the God of Fire must have got sick of the boring work and consigned the blocks to the flames, so I wouldn’t be taunted by the living and derided by the ghosts.  But there are tears in this, but who will cry over it?

      “Alas!” Mogeng and Qinzhuang sighed woefully. “To dream that one is playing the young hero or heroine is not necessarily uninteresting.  And if in one’s dream one begins as a handsome hero or heroine and ends

up being a villian or a clown, that need not be boring either.”  But vying for frothy fame and trivial gains will be like dreaming a dream or acting in a play that fails to be.  There are tears yet again in this, but who will cry over it?


       Let us set our minds at ease and roam the realms of the Immortals8. 


       – Composed by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) some time after the Double Ninth Festival in the year 1767 at the Willow Gown Garden on the Pearl Lake of Huaiyin.


Translator’s Notes:


1.       Shi Zhenlin (史震林Shih Chenlin) (1692-1778), was also called Shi Gongdu(史公度), Shi Wugang(史梧岡、史悟岡)and Shi Hugang(史瓠岡)and known by various colourful titles such as “The Moon-loving Immortal”(弄月僊郎), “The Huayang Sire” (華陽外史), “Wugang Hermit” (悟岡退士), “The White Cloud Professor”(白雲教授)and “The Professor of Huaiyin”(淮陰教授).  A native of Jintan of Jiangsu Province, he passed his jinshi national examination in 1737 and was appointed Professor of the Huai An District.  He resigned after a few years and led a reclusive life as a poet, calligraphist and painter.  Shi was a Chan (Zen) Buddhist and a life-long vegetarian.  His extant literary works include The West-Green Notebook, The Huayang Essays and a volume of poetry.

2.       Liezi, a philosopher of the 5th century BC or thereabout, has a penchant for riding the winds.

3.       Li Bai (Li Po 701-762), considered the greatest poet in Chinese history by many, and commonly said to be an immortal exiled from Heaven. In one of his romantic poems he tells how he forms a drinking party of three –the Moon, he himself, and his shadow.

4.       Zhuangzi (Chuang-tse 369-286BC), the greatest Taoist philosopher after Laozi (Lao-tse 6th century BC ). In one of the most famous dreams of all time, he first sees himself as a butterfly and ends up uncertain of his own identity: he no longer knows whether it is Zhuangzi dreaming that he is a butterfly or the butterfly dreaming that it is Zhuangzi.

5.       In a well known fable written by Li Gongzuo of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the hero gets drunk under a pagoda tree (Sophora japonica, also known as the Chinese scholartree), and dreams that he marries the princess of some exotic kingdom and serves as a high official there for 30 years.  When he finally wakes up he sees that the kingdom in his dream is actually an ants’ nest at the foot of the pagoda tree.

6.       Mogeng (“Ink Farmer”) and Qinzhuang (“Lutestead”) are two brothers known to Shi Zhenlin.

7.       Wu Zhensheng, nicknamed “Poet of the Jade Crescent”.

8.       Realms of the Immortals – literally “Most Blessed Realm inside the Eighth Huayang Cave”.





n       我、余有別。「余」僅指我一人,「我」可泛指吾人。這裡的「我」作吾人解。

n       「理事情景」不易譯。「理」兼含真理(Truth)、理性(Rationality)、原理(Principle)、理念(Idea)、邏輯(Logic)等義,英文一字難以盡之。史公置理於首,以示重要,姑譯為Truth,未知可否。「事」有factseventsreality諸義,試概譯為Story

n       「趣」字亦難,通篇趣來趣去,關涉不同情事,皆interesting者耶,大手筆想必一以貫之,余愧未能也。Fowler所謂 ‘elegant variation’之病,明知故犯,無可奈何。      





史震林《華陽散稿》跋  (顧筱樵)




Gu Xiaoqiao’s Postscript to The Huayang Essays

Translated by Lester Lee


       The Huayang Essays was composed by Mr Shi Hugang1 of Jintan. It comprises 101 essays and 24 lighter sketches, which had gone out of print long ago and very few copies if any could have survived the ravages of wars and turmoil down the centuries.  Having acquired Mr Shi’s The West-Green Notebook, I was dying to see the Huayang Essays.  For ten long years I had searched in vain, until I chanced upon it on a friend’s desk.  Written in a free and vigorous style, these Essays are invested with deep meaning, charming in a way rather different from the subtle elegance of the Notebook.  The Essays are short and incisive, their language simple but thought-provoking.  It is writing at its vintage best.  So I copied them out by hand, originally for my private enjoyment.  But I have changed my mind.  The Buddhist teaching of Dependent Origination as propounded in the Surangama Sutra, a favourite of Mr Shi’s, makes me think that the ways of men of letters must somehow be linked in the scheme of things.  How would I dare then to hoard these remarkable essays just for myself, knowing that dire consequence will befall me should I let them fall into oblivion.  I am therefore posting them to Mr Wang Tao2 (“the Fugitive Down South”), who will have them published by the movable-type process for a wider audience. 


        Xiao Yu Shan Qiao3 in the Green Chamber of Dignity at Tuocheng on the Anniversary of the Buddha’s Birthday in the year 1880 during the Reign of Guangxu


Translator’s notes:

1.       Alias of Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778)

2.       Wang Tao(王韜1828-1897, aliases Libin利賓, Ziquan紫銓, Zhong Tao, native of Changzhou of Jiangsu Province; prolific writer, newspaper editor, political activist.  He was pursued by the Qing (Ching) Government after being found to have made a written submission to Liu Bingjun(劉秉鈞), a general of the “Tai Ping Heavenly Kingdom”.  He fled to Hong Kong and travelled to Britain, France and Russia.  On return to Hong Kong he founded the Xun Huan Daily (循環日報) to advance the cause of modernisation and political reform.  During the Sino-French War 1884-1885he returned to Shanghai to become editor of the Shen Pao (申報) and subsequently a master of Ge Zhi College(格致書院).  He called himself “Oldie of the Tao Garden”(園老民)and “The Fugitive Down South”(天南遯叟)in later life.

3.       ‘Mt Jade woodcutter’ – alias of Gu Xiaoqiao (顧筱樵)







Passions like embers

(From Letter to Wu Zhensheng in The Huayang Essays:)

Translated by Lester Lee


“I have sent you two letters, one at the end of last year and the other this Autumn.  The contents of the letters would probably wrench a few tears from certain sensitive souls but draw ridicule from the less sympathetic.  Now a scholar cannot do without a bosom friend, and absence for too long is no good either.  It has been three years since we parted and each year feels like a thousand to me.  It is like secluding oneself in a cave, not seeing the sun and the moon, for too long.


       “My home front is autumnal.  I feel like a withering night.  My passions are like embers, and any talent I might have the last flashes of lightning.  Now and then, I would chum up with some poor peasant, wood-cutter, monk or beggar who happens to have some interest in books, poetry, music or wine.  Out at elbows and down at heels, I would put brush to paper and write about the things I enjoy doing, rather like some petty herb boasting of its tiny flowers, or a tiny bird bragging about its song.  It is, I know, every bit as trivial and silly as the worldly ones who worship the peony and keep parrots for pets.  But then I have Jade-Crescent Poet.  I consider it singularly fortunate for The West-Green Notebook to be graced with his noble character and some of his words, which dispel the chaos and confusion therein to no end…”










The Amnesic Sire (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee



       Shi is an old man of the Yao Lake district.  A seasoned carp fisherman, he is often seen clad in a coir raincoat and sitting at a cove by the lake on winter nights, and before the moon begins to descend his basket would be full of fish.  He likes to give the catch away to the poor, the sick and other disadvantaged people. Three times I went to talk to him at his favourite spot, but he seemed to have lost his memory and couldn’t even remember his age.


       “You greedy, cranky old sod,” I jeered at him. “So smart with fishing but so stupid with your fellows!”


       “You know what,” he replied, “I had an excellent memory as a child.  I could memorise volumes as if it were a single word.  I used to recite the calendar book for neighbours who came to consult about the dates.  Then I was blind for ten years. At 40, I could no longer tell which date of the month it was.  At 50 I couldn’t tell one season from another.  At 70 I couldn’t remember how I’d been at 60, and old friends seemed like total strangers to me.”


       “Is there anything you can remember at all?” I was curious.


       “Three things I can remember,” he said. “After seeing some big shot I can remember his curly beard.  After seeing a rich man I can remember his pox marks. After seeing a beautiful girl I can remember her whorly dimples.  I am lucky to be able to remember these things in my old age. As for the rest, they are just like fishing: catch one carp and forget about it.”


       “Is there anything then you can remember even better than these three things?”


       “Oh yes,” he said. “It is the rats that I’ll remember best.  For they piddle on a big shot’s hat, help themselves to a rich man’s grains, and break into a pretty girl’s bed.  What a pity I can’t do what they do.  But I remember them all right.  As for all the rest, it’s just like fishing: to forget one carp is to catch another.”


[From The Huayang Essays, Vol. I, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) in Collected Works Past and Present(《古今說部叢書》), Vol. 2, P.937]









Letter of Condolences to Cao Zhenting (from the Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee


       The farmhouse does not afford a distant view, so those old paulownia trees will keep watch for the first signs of Spring.  It is apricot blossom time, so why all this melancholy, with thick murky clouds and the countryside chilly like autumn still?  Since the beginning of the famine, the waters have just about dried up.  The fish are as thin as needles, and the grass on the bald mountains is short as stubble1.  There is little fishing and wood-gathering left to do.


       Last autumn Huafang returned from Zhuxi and brought the tragic news about the passing of a filial grandson and a loving grandfather in your family. There is nothing we could do with a misfortune like that. The only solace is that you have proved to be a dutiful son and a good father.


       As for myself, I still have my mother, but am not able to provide for her adequately, let alone satisfy her expectations.  My elder son is a teenager still and my younger son is little.  They don’t even know how to receive visitors properly or perform chores like carrying firewood.  Thus I am far from fulfilling my duties towards my mother and children.


       My dear friend, when I thought of you before, I looked to the west and smiled; but when I think of you now, I look to the west and feel only grief. In the 8th moon last year I lost my friend Duan Yuhan, who died indigent. By now, half of those I have written about in The West-Green Notebook are gone.  How very brief is human life!


       Life is of course only a dream, and so is death.  It’s a dream in the human world, and in the celestial sphere as well.  Fame and gains are the roots of our dream; and poetry and literature its music.  Auspicious dreams are pleasing but weird dreams worry us.  In the same way, those who dream about honourable things are virtuous while awake; those having slanderous dreams will wake up feeling hostile. 


       I have no means of living here and am surviving on a poor man’s diet.  The low walls are overgrown with bramble and the posts are covered in fungi.  Ants do battle in the cooking pot while rats weep in the grain shack. The cabbage is worm-eaten and the date trees are hollowed out by woodpeckers.  Wu Zhensheng sighed when he dropped by and saw this depressing scene.  After taking a stroll in the hills and by the lake he leftin his sedan-chair, declining to stay for the night.  Should you be coming from She to Yangzhou, you might perhaps want to drop by and see me here at Xiaoshan in Huayang. As I am writing this, the Laundress Pavilion2 is bathed in the evening shine at the foot of Mt Ji. 


From The Huayang Essays, Vol. I, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) in Collected Works Past and Present(《古今說部叢書》), Vol. 2, P.930



Translator’s Notes:

1.     Literally ‘short as awls’  2. Laundress – a reference to Shuangqing, a talented young beauty and one of the central characters in The West-Green Notebook, who often did her washing by the stream at Xiaoshan.










有訛傳繡君不幸者,驚不感信,世痕夢影,惝兄]       易闌,當不喪達士明耳。





Letter to Cao Zhenting (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee


       How time flies1!  I feel unspeakably sad when recalling that snowy day we had a hearty drink together on the tower at your invitation, and the farewell dinner we shared in the boat with all that rain for company.  I think of you with your genius and eminence, and can find no more godly poet and drinking partner amongst all the people I know.  Those who have met you honour you as a sage; those who have only heard about you revere you like an immortal.  People feel even more for you because you are destitute, but there you sit and smile like a buddha, with the satchel about you, perfectly composed and contented, and sing of the joys of Nature.  It is such lofty spirit that I lack and most sincerely admire in you, my dear friend.


       As the saying goes, one who is taking a long and difficult journey will not be fastidious about a resting place, and a poor man with a family and elderly parents to support will not be too particular as to what office to hold. I hear that you have taken up a temporary teaching position and that you deign to do that for the sake of your parents. Well, I cannot but think of the blessings of those fortunate enough to have you as their mentor.


      On the first day of the second moon, Yu Quhu came to Huayang along with Zhao Yinshu and Zhang Mengzhan, and we visited Yugang and the Old Manse of Zhenbai together.  Later that month Mengzhan took us on a tea-tasting trip to the Hua Spring.  We also toured Heshi, and spent the nights at Mount Haiyong.  We were together for 15 days.  On many a fine day and moon-lit evening, we watched the bare mountain and the tranquil waters and blessed ourselves for our great friendship.  A poet once wrote:


       Whereabout could one into a myriad transform           何方可化身千億

       For every plum tree abloom, a grand Fangwang!2          一樹梅花一放翁


But I would say rather:


       Would that myriads arose from one lone being            何妨得化身千億

       For every mountain famed, a noble Zhenting!                  一箇名山一震亭


       I heard, but dare not believe, that Xiujun3 had passed away.  Life is full of dream shadows that, alas, fade away only too soon.  I trust the enlightened soul will take it with equanimity4.


From The Huayang Essays, Vol. I, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) in Collected Works Past and Present(《古今說部叢書》), Vol. 2, P.927


Notes on translation:

1. Certain Chinese terms carry different, even opposite, meanings. 冉冉 is an example: it could mean gradual/slow or fleeting.  2. Fangwang – another name of Lu You (1125-1210), a master poet of the Song (Sung) Dynasty.  3. Cao Zhenting’s son.  4. I am not sure at all that I get the meaning of the last sentence right.








Letter to Wu Zhensheng1  No. 1 (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee


       On the 16th of the 11th moon, I went to Pingshan to see you but you were not there.  I boarded at some derelict place called Siyi Garden, which served scraps of vegetable.  A snowstorm was raging.  Freezing in my old hard rags, I was huddled up by the wine stove for warmth. It was hard, but also sweet and delicious when Zhenting came around.


       From Life’s many trials the mind shall timely wake,         澆習百端堪冷悟                   

       And plumb the feelings deep these songs bespeak.           深情一卷小知音


       As I ponder these two lines from your poem, I often feel like trading writing brush for hoe and sharing Nature with the birds and beasts.  I know that in hectic Yangzhou it would be very hard to find another free and unearthly spirit like Jade-Crescent Poet1.


       I had thought about writing to some old sire, and had indeed composed an article, but only to burn it as soon as it was finished.  I shouldn’t really make a mountain out of a molehill and let some transient feelings during travel overwhelm me.


        The year is drawing to an end and it is freezing cold.  The bamboos are still sterile and the plum trees are yet to blossom.  Bracing the snow in crossing the river, I feel a twinge in my heart as I think of my dear old friend. 


I have chosen to give up office and title for the simple life of a farm-hand and find contentment in reduced circumstances.  One often itches to exert oneself after a long period of confinement, just as a blocked nose makes one sneeze.  I feel the same way as well; it is just that there are certain things one must not do even at tether’s end, and there are things one shouldn’t take even if destitute.  I find it shocking to covet a fox for its fur or a deer for its meat, however tempting. As an ancient epigram puts it, “High-sounding virtues are not worth attaining or bragging about, for they only court worries; and high office2 is not worth pursuing, for it brings no fruit but troubles.”


       Old peasants help each other out with what little food and money they have; that is virtue. Now Father Nature has fashioned Huashan with His mighty hands to direct the river3 to irrigate arid areas, and such good work will ensure that fish big or small will transform into the great birds of heavens4. It is heart-warming to think of a soul like you, gentle as precious jade.  The way before me is long, and wearying.  The events in my dreams, the tears in my eyes and the people on my mind are mine and cannot be explained to others.  I am writing this piece during a break from wood-cutting and fishing.  I feel deeply about it and shall include it in the West-Green collection.


From The Huayang Essays, Vol. I, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) in Collected Works Past and Present(《古今說部叢書》), Vol. 2, P.926


Translator’s Notes: 1. “The Poet of Jade-Crescent” – alias of Wu Zhensheng.  2. may mean an official position that pays.  3. Huashan – Famous mountain in Shaanxi Province;  “river” refers to the Yellow River.  4. Fish – the gold carp & a legendary huge fish ;  Peng” is the legendary bird that roam the heavens.








Our Bittersweet Dreams (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee


       On the 16th of the Tenth Moon, it looked it was going to rain but turned out to be fine.  Jing Zhenxiang (nicknamed Xiao Sao Hua) played the zither1 on the Wutong-Moon2 Tower by the Zither Creek.  It was the famous Yangguan Variations3. When he finished, he leaned against the parasol tree and looked up to the moon, steeped in sorrow.

      “Talk about yearnings 4!” he began with a deep sigh.  “Of all things, dreams are to be yearned over the most.  In our dreams, the setting is always autumn, loved ones are always drifting apart, things are always painful and we always feel sad.  What is broken off is hard to rejoin; what is missing is hard to fill.  We cannot know other people’s dreams, nor they ours.  Under the bright moon and the dark rains, thousands and thousands of dreams are weaved helter-skelter in the world of man, so the moon doesn’t seem to be the moon and rains don’t seem to be rains any more.

       “Man lives only for a few decades.  Half of this span is night.  Of all night over the decades half is taken up by sleep.  Of all sleep over the decades, half is without dreams. Of all dreams over the decades, half would be nightmares.  And of all pleasant dreams over the decades, half we cannot even remember.

      “But things could have been worse but for the gods pitying mankind.  There could have been light without darkness, but man is granted nights lest he know not how to cope with his life-long day.  The nights could have been dreamless, but man is granted dreams lest he know not what to do with the nights.  Dreams would have been everlasting, yet man is granted wakening lest he be unaware of his dreams.

      “The gods pity man for having no feeling, and so give him dreams to stir his heart.  What can we say if he still doesn’t feel?   The gods pity man for having feelings, and so make dreams for solace.  What can we say if he doesn’t dream?

       “The Autumn in our dreams is better than Spring.  The partings in our dreams are better than meetings.  The bitterness in our dreams is better than sweetness.  The sorrow in our dreams is better than joy.”


From The Huayang Essays, Vol. I, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778)

Notes on the translation:

1.    Qin – an ancient Chinese musical instrument played by plucking the strings.

2.     Wu-tong, the Chinese parasol tree.

3.     The Yangguan Variations, a classical piece in three variations, often played on the occasion of friends parting.

4.     The Chinese word cannot be properly translated into English, for it covers a whole range of feelings such as regret, grudge, forlornness, pity, yearning, pine for (over), treasure, hoard, and reluctant to part with, with widely different, even opposite meanings, and there is no equivalent English word for it.  In this essay, the word occurs several times and seems to connote all of the feelings mentioned.  It is in keeping with the Chan (Zen) way of seeing all paradoxes as only apparent.  In the end I have settled for yearnings instead of regrets, for regrets are usually over things in the past or over one’s action, not really applicable in the present context.



[譯者識: 「惜」字不可譯。標題 「記惜夢」 尤費思量,曾想過Dream Thoughts; Dream Feelings; Musings on Dreams; On Pining over Dreams; Yearnings over Dreams; The Bittersweet(ness) of Dreams; The Bittersweet World of Dreams等等,都不愜意。]










       君與栖梧高士,乃第一有性靈人,學文而豪,學詩而聖,學醫而神,學堪輿而仙,奈何不學禪而佛耶? ……


Letter to Zhao Anshu (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee



       It has been several years since we last met.  Thus Time flies by, withering both body and mind.  Isn’t that deplorable?  The Tathagata has said that the world is not world but only world by name, and mortals not mortals but mortals in name only.  Isn’t this enlightening?  An epoch1 in Jambu-dvipa2 is equivalent to only a day and a night as reckoned by the Amita3, and an epoch with the Amita is equivalent to a day and night reckoned by the Kasaya-heaven4.  Doesn’t this make us think?  The Bhagavat5 has said that all the living beings of Jambu-dvipa are greedy by disposition and very hard to change or educate, and that their conduct and ideas are sinful and related to bad karma.  Isn’t this frightening to contemplate?


       Since my mother passed away, I have become weary of all aspects of the sentient world, and come to see its web of causal and incidental connections through tragic eyes.  Eschewing anger and desire, I now ponder Avalokitesvara6 constantly, and wonder why we should blindly wish to be continuously reincarnated in the cycle of rebirths.  Isn’t it out of order to live in dreams and overlapping dreams for ever, never to wake up?


       We see maggots wriggle restlessly in a cesspool of excrement and pity them.  Should the maggots have any spiritual sense at all, they would surely wish to crawl out, climb high and there transform themselves into birds that roam the skies.  Similarly, the world is a cesspool, and we humans are maggots, wallowing in the stinking mess and relishing it.  In the eye of the Buddha and the gods, we are even more pitiable than the maggots.  Why do we, with all our spiritual sense, continue to tumble in the crazy rounds of births and deaths ad infinitum, refusing to repent?


       My dear friend, you are an exalted soul and are amongst the most spiritually alive beings I know.  Everything you’ve taken up you have turned into gold.  You write prose of great vigour, compose poetry like a saint, master medicine like a miracle healer, and turn geomancy into a divine art.  Why don’t you, my friend, take up Chan7 practice and thus become a Buddha? …


Notes on the translation:

1. kalpa  2. The ‘Continent” situated to the south of Mt Sumeru where humans live; the human world  3. Amitabha  4. Term unknown to this translator  5. The Revered One, another title for the Buddha  6. Kuan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion  7. Zen


















Letter to Fang Kecun (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee



       In the winter of 1737, I left the capital with Cao Zhenting and met Wu Zhensheng, Xu Shufeng and Li Yuting in Yangzhou, where I stayed for more than a month.  While there I sent a poem to Fang Kecun of Zhenzhou, whom I greatly admired.


       Here into sane snow would madding red dust turn;                紅塵到此皆成雪

       From ye immortal minstrel I shall such magic learn.              欲向詩仙借化工


I wrote.  Kecun responded in kind to comfort me.


       I remember the summer retreat I took on Mt Qixia in 1729 with Zhenting and his son and younger brother Zhaiying.  We passed through Zhenzhou and enjoyed seeing the water-lilies in the Eastern Town.  I had already heard of Kecun by then, and often heard Zhenting recite the works of Hong Yuehang, Li Yuzhong, Li Huangshi and Shi Weibing.  I didn’t expect that these true gentlemen would become our life-long friends in the ensuing years.


       In late autumn of 1742, I was up in the mountains.  The air seemed thick with sorrow as I looked into the infinite space around me.  Yun Ningxi and Chao Nezhai were then travelling in the Hailing area, Zhao Anshu was hiding at Lake Ge, Wu Zhensheng was staying at Huiquang and Cao Zhenting was lazing in Huangshan.  We didn’t hear from one another too often.  Yu Yitang, who was studying at Yinpu, brought me news about Kecun every time he came around.


       This is what I wrote in my letter to Kecun:


       The maple leaves are looking like flowers, and the butterflies in my dreams are vivid indeed.  Yonder, Mt Ji is bathed in the evening shine under a lone wisp of coloured cloud.  The lake glimmers before the cool sets in, dotted with a few fishing boats and wild geese.  Vibrant rustic scenes indeed.  Occasionally I meet up with Cao Jieshan, Yin Xiacun, Wang Danyuan and Chen Xingye and go to see the chrysanthemum at the Zaoshan Shrine.  When savouring a cup of newly strained wine and deliciously done red cabbage, I yearn to share with you some such ambrosia.  It is a pity that the ambrosial seeds have gone to waste and I am unable to keep the promise*.  At the Huayang Caves there is half an acre of stony field where no immortal herbs could grow. It looks as if we had to wait till the East Sea turns into a mulberry field to be able to pay a little tribute to our heaven-sent poet. That’s a long time waiting. To think that I should have two or three true friends on both sides of the mighty river!  The likes of Kecun and Zhensheng, who must have somehow cultivated their feeling souls in the primordial Chaos – their minds holding up nice and strong though numberless eons have come and gone, with the constancy of the plum blossom spirit even as heaven and earth are changing.  Thus I have come up with the following lines:


       Spring answers my prayers from the River North,           多病隔江人稽首

       With plum blossoms to get me hale again.                        春前醫我是梅花



From The Huayang Essays, Vol. II, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) in Collected Works Past and Present(《古今說部叢書》),Vol.1, pp. 944-945









何必傷春且賀春  牡丹雖少不憐貧  鸚哥學念花間佛  燕子偷窺畫裡人

自有彩雲為舊夢  可知明月是前身  白頭懶覓還童藥  憔悴遊僊怕寫真



On Xu Qinzhuang’s portrait (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee


For five hundred years the game’s been in play;

The immortals would fain themselves forget.

Through three thousand realms the converts pray, 

Have the buddhas let go the Buddha yet?

O, for a brush that paints such flow’ry whorls

Dream or not, all becomes sandalwood sweet;

And words that dance and shine as pearls

Of motley shapes – ‘tis heavens with stars replete.

Amid the greenery we’d meet and deeply bow,

Red rain overseeing our friendship vow.

What blessed land with flowers strewn,

And felicitous birds to bring us tidings good,

Ye wait for me in Springtide, late or ere.

And Heaven beaming with the silvery moon,

Would that, O pretty clouds, be understood:

I miss you, friend, by the river, somewhere.

As Qinzhuang ponders Emptiness and its clue,

This old sire is chanting a mantra, false or true.


Thus I sing:


Pack up those spring sorrows – and celebrate:

A noble soul needs no rich peony for mate.

        Here’s a parrot mumbling “Buddha” in the flowers,

A swallow peeping at the painted figure straight.

Recall those old dreams woven from the clouds,

And know this life as the moon re-incarnate.

Old and grey I’d not the youth potion seek,

Shy of being painted, but keen to rove and fete.


June 9, 2008 Posted by | Translation (C-E) 中譯英 | Leave a comment

















June 5, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment






















June 5, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment

















June 5, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment







生死是大問題。這裡主要談後半截 死亡,但生死不可分,談死不免也要提到生。


       西藏佛學名著《西藏幽冥書》(Bardo Todrol Chenmo The Tibetan Book of the Dead)洵是人間寶。目前在坊間可以買到的《西藏生死書》 The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying , Sogyal Rinpoche著)更適合當代人看。語言文字常會蒙蔽真理,不可不慎,但像《老子》、《西藏生死書》等傑構堪稱「典」,善讀之當有所得。



       有人認為死是生的寂滅,死則一了百了。Death squares all accounts 又有認為生命短暫,死亡比較長久。李白視死亡為歸宿:「生者為過客,死者為歸人。」

       We die not of illness, we die of being alive.Montaigne蒙田)

       從某角度看,生命從開始起即漸趨死亡。As soon as man is born he begins to die.世有生死輪迴之說,佛家主無常,視生命本身為死生生死瞬息交替的過程。




       影星Woody Allen說: It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens(我並不怕死,只是死時不想在場吧了。)相信許多人都有同感。

       愛爾蘭詩人葉(W.B. Yeats)說:Nor dread nor hope attend/A dying animal;/A man awaits his end/Dreading and hoping all.(大意是:禽獸死時無牽無挂,人死時卻充滿恐懼與希望。)



死可能痛苦,但生可嘗無苦?培根(Francis Bacon)說:It is as natural to die as to be born; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as painful as the other.

蒙田:What does it matter when it comes, since it is inevitable? Is it reasonable so long to fear a thing so short? 這是說死亡不可免,並非大不了事。又死亡的過程短暫,不應為之惶恐半生。又曰:Inasmuch as I no longer cling so hard to the good things of life when I begin to lose the use any pleasure of them, I come to view death with much less frightened eyes.

史賓諾莎(Spinoza):A free man thinks of nothing less than of death, and his wisdom is not a meditation upon death but upon life.


       Fear no more the heart o’ the sun,/Nor the furious winter’s rages …..(莎士比亞)

       After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.(莎士比亞)

       I find it (death) the least of all evils.(培根)

       Sleep after toil, port after stormy seas,/Ease after war, death after life does greatly please.Edmund Spenser



       Why, like a well-filled guest, not leave the feast of life? Lucretius

       I leave when the pub closes.邱吉爾說,酒店關門我就走。

       有宗教的人會覺得死亡是蒙主寵召。莎士比亞信不信神不得而知,但他說過:I have a journey,/Sir, shortly to go:/My master calls me, -/I must not say no.

       蒙田說:Make room for others, as others have for you.「芳林新葉催殘葉,流水前波讓後波。」洵是自然之道。



       有生必有死。西洋聖經:For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.塵土之身復歸塵土。英古諺:Death devours lambs as well as sheep.

       Nothing is certain but death and taxes.

       人誰無死?Golden lads and girls all must,/As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.Shakespeare – 饒你是金童玉女,終須像掃煙的與塵土為伍。)

       「公道世間惟白髮,貴人頭上不曾饒。」老境如此,死亡亦然。Death is the great leveller,死亡把一切都拉平了。蕭伯納卻另有說法:Life levels all men: death reveals the eminent(人活著時都差不多,死亡才顯出高下。)



       如何能善吾死?死亡是要努力認真預備的。「學道即學死法。」(Melete thanaton)語出蘇格拉底,Cicero引述過(Commentatio mortis),蒙田(Montaigne)在《散文集》中更一再提及。

       Let us learn to meet it steadfastly, and to combat it. Combat是戰鬥,對象如是恐懼則可,如屬死亡本身則不成話。

       Teach me to live, that I may dread/The grave as little as my bed.(語出十七世紀英國主教Thomas Ken。)

       Stoics對死最看重,培根甚不以為然: Certainly the Stoics bestowed too much cost upon death, and by their great preparations made it appear most fearful. 錢鍾書(《談藝錄》)亦認為孔子、史賓洛沙對死亡的態度比釋迦、莊子、Stoics、蒙田更疏放。








       有道肉身死而精神永存。古羅馬詩人賀拉斯(Horace)有言曰:Non omnis moriar,(我不會完全死去。)李杜文章在,光燄萬丈長。莎士比亞亦有豪語:Not marble, nor the gilded monuments/Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme.大理石,或王侯金碧輝煌的紀念碑,都不比這詩篇更長壽。




       詩人John Donne高喊:「死亡,你不要驕傲!」(Death, be not proud, though some have called thee/Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so.

       Dylan Thomas:  ….When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,/They shall have stars at elbow and foot;/Though they go mad they shall be sane,/Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;/Though lovers be lost Love shall not;/And death shall have no dominion….And Death Shall Have No Dominion)(等白骨都剔淨,淨骨也蝕光,就擁有星象,在肘旁,腳旁;縱死者狂發,死者將清醒,縱死者墜海,死者將上昇;縱情人都失敗,愛情無恙;而死亡亦不得獨霸四方。《而死亡亦不得獨霸四方》余光中先生譯)



       Robert Graves對死亡不甘心。有人說死亡只是睡眠的孿生兄弟(Death is the twin of sleep, they say),他卻說 I do not like Death’s greedy looks:/Give me his twin instead -/Sleep never auctions off my books,/My boots, my shirts, my bed.(我不喜歡死亡貪婪的神色:/我寧取它的孿生兄弟,/睡眠人不會把我的書籍鞋靴襯衫床鋪統統拍賣掉。)


       Emily Dickenson:  Because I could not stop for Death,/He kindly stopped for me;/The carriage held but just ourself/And immortality.

       Christian Rossetti:  When I am dead, my dearest,/Sing no sad songs for me;/Plant thou no roses at my head,/Nor shady cypress tree:/Be the green grass above me/With showers and dewdrops wet;/And if thou wilt, remember,/And if thou wilt, forget.


       「人之將死,其言也善。」約翰遜博士(Dr Johnson)則認為人之將死,其神也專(Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.


       英年夭逝是憾事,故曰「天妒英才」。但也從另一面看:Grieve not that I die young.   Is it not well/To pass away ere life hath lost its brightness?(英詩人Lady Flora Hastings


       有人相信死是一了百了(He that dies pays all debts),但對相信輪轉世的人來說,死亡只是生滅過程的一環,絕對不是終點。To die is going from one room to another room.




June 4, 2008 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | Leave a comment








       英國 – John Bull是英格蘭族的綽號,指其頑固如公牛。Limey(通用於美國和澳大利亞)指英國人或水手,PommiePOME是澳大利亞和新西蘭人對prisoner of Mother England的稱呼。英國人以不流露感情著名,是所謂tight-lipped Englishmanstiff upper lip。德人譏笑英人不懂音樂,稱英國為 ein volk ohne Musik(「無音樂之邦」)。法人對英人大不敬,把梅毒、支氣管炎、罷工、經濟不景等壞事統稱為la maladie anglaise (「英國病」),稱不辭而別為S’en aller a l’anglaiseto take English leave),又稱陰莖套為la redingote anglaise(「英式外衣」)或la capote anglaise (「英式頭巾」),性變態鞭苔行為le vice anglaise (「英人惡習」)。月經來潮是the English have landed(「英國人來了」,與日本人所謂「滿洲病」同義)。美國人亦難免數典忘祖,對英國人有欠恭敬。美語English 含虐待狂被虐狂之意(六七十年代用語),English guidance指性束縛行為,English culture指性束縛的廣告,English spliffjoint)是含大的香煙。美國同性戀中人俚語:English muffins指男童屁股,English sentry指勃起陰莖,English method指在大腿間摩擦的性行為。Britannica metal是十九世紀俚語,意指膺品,亦指亢奮陽物。

       美國 「美國」號稱Uncle Sam(山姆叔叔),「美國人」的綽號是Brother Jonathan YankeeYank亦指美國人,常含貶意。美國白人對黑種人貶稱niggerAmerican culture指(美國中等階級)面對面的傳統性交方式。Yankee’s yawn,是五六十年代美國同性戀者俗俚,意為男人射精時張口結舌的模樣。

       法國 法國人的綽號是crapand FroggieFrog)、Johnny Jean)、MossooRobert Macaire。法農民渾稱Jacques Bonhomme,法改革家稱Brissotins。美加人稱法國移民為French peasoup(「法國豆湯」)。世人常認為法蘭西民族浪漫而品味高雅,但持相反論調亦復不少。英法世仇,英美語對法國人諸般刻薄。“Done like a Frenchman, turn and turn again” ,語出莎翁,形容法國人多變無恒。To take French leave是擅自缺席。Gay Paree即含淫猥之意。美俚French aunt 指水性楊花;美國黑人稱性感白種女人為French vanillaFrenchery是妓院。French cap、(美加)French safe是子宮帽;French letter是陰莖套。French disease是梅毒,古俚French goutFrench measles/cannibal指性病。French kiss是法式接吻,將舌頭伸進對方之口。To Frenchto give a French head jobFrench loveFrench tricks意為「品簫」,the French way則指男對女口交。 French language expert精於「口舌服務」。French DutchfuckFrench wank指在女人乳溝中幹事。同性戀者用語:French revolution是同性戀權利運動,French-fried ice-cream是精液,French dip則指女人陰液。

       愛爾蘭 愛爾蘭多雨,有the Urinal of the Planets(宇宙溺器)之稱。Ireland,可指女人的屁股。美俚Irish grapeIrish lemonIrish apricotIrish apple或(美俚)Irish football指土豆或馬鈴薯。Irish beauty是黑眼睛的女人。愛爾蘭人自視富幽默,給外族人的印象卻是脾氣急躁(愛爾蘭人綽號PaddyPaddywhack即含此意)和愚蠢。古語Irish dinner指不食,Irish assurance指不知羞。Irish hoist是踢屁股。Irish arms是肥腿,Irish shave是拉屎。美俚Irish flag是尿布,Irish inchIrish toothprick是短小的勃陽物。古俚Irish root指陰莖,Irish fortune指陰道,Irish toothache/paddy’s toothache指陽物勃起或懷孕,Irish whist指性交。Irish marathon是馬拉松做愛。Irish by birth but Greek by injection指有龍陽癖。Irish dip是同性戀性交,Irish promotion是自瀆, The Irish way指男女肛交。

       蘇格蘭 蘇格蘭人以熱愛自由好強獨立見稱,不大賣英格蘭人的賬。英格蘭人還以顏色:Scotch fiddle,是疥瘡的俚稱;(口語) Scotch可作吝嗇、過度節儉解。Scotch mist指山靄、檸檬威士忌酒或虛無縹緲的事物。Scotch verdict是蘇格蘭式裁決,指蘇格蘭刑法中陪審團對刑事案件雖無證據但不判「無罪」而暫判「未證實」。蘇格蘭人的綽號是SandyMacJock

   德國 條頓民族使人想到高效率和缺幽默感,因有teutonic efficiencythe humourless Germans的說法。法德不和,法蘭西人稱Marie Antoniette (原是奧地利人)為L’Autrichiennethat Austrian woman),語帶不恭。German measles是風疹。GermanomaniaGermanophobia是德國狂和仇德心理。美俚German goiter指啤酒肚。德國人的綽號有Cousin Michael(含慢、重、粗糙之意)、MichelBocheFritzHeinieKrant Hun(歐戰時期用語)或Jerry(兼為「溺器」俗稱)。German silver是膺品。美俚German aunt指肥胖女人,German comb是「五指梳」(譏德移民粗魯)。同性戀者偶稱龜頭為German helmet(「德國頭盔」),法語la capote allemandeGerman hood)指陰莖套,le vice allemandthe German vice「德人劣習」)則指同性戀。

       荷蘭 – Dutch作貶語用,有吝嗇、卑下的意思。Dutch(或double Dutch)是難懂。Dutch auction,荷蘭式拍賣,開價高逐步減。Dutch bargain是酒後達成的交易。Dutch comfortDutch consolation是退一步想的自我開解,有點像阿Q精神。Dutch concert/medley是不協調的表演。Dutch courage是酒後之。Dutch doll是有關節的木娃娃。Dutch gold/foil/leaf,是荷蘭金(以銅箔代金箔的廉價品)。Dutch lunch/supper是自費餐吃, go Dutch是平攤費用或自付費用。Get one’s Dutch up是發火。I’m a Dutch if …. 是賭咒語,是「如果….我就不是人」的意思。Well, I’m a Dutch意指不相信,「沒這回事!」Dutch uncle對人毫不留情,如talk to someone like a Dutch uncle。古語Dutch cheese是禿子;Dutch wife除指自瀆器外,還可指竹夫人,即熱帶地區擱手足以取涼的竹製涼架。Dutchman’s land,海市蜃樓。美俚Dutch/Dutchman常指德國人,在賓夕法尼亞州則指德裔移民。又美俚(監獄用語)Dutch act是自殺,Dutch bob是齊耳短髮式,to beat the Dutch是令人吃驚或了不起。此外,還有性方面的俚語:Dutch by injection指任何與外國人同居的女人,Dutch dumplings是屁股,Dutch cap是子宮帽,Dutch husband/wife是自瀆器,Dutch girl是女同性戀者(中國古稱為「對食」,上海人稱「磨鏡黨」),Dutch Frenchfuck是在乳溝中幹事。

       希臘 希臘人自稱HelenesGreek是羅馬詞。英語Greek常指騙子。It’s Greek to me,茫無頭緒之謂。Greek gift是可能有詐的禮物。Greek nose是希臘式鼻子。Greekling(古語)指可鄙的希臘人。美俚Greek trust指絕不信任。Greek side指屁股Greek loveGreek culturethe Greek fashion/ style /way均指肛交。

       俄國 俄族使世人聯想到伏特加酒、芭蕾舞、馬戲。Russian roulette是玩命遊戲。Russian sickles是迷幻藥。Russki的俄人的貶稱。Russophil是親俄分子;Russophobia則是仇俄或恐俄心理。古俚Russian duck指性交;六十年代同性戀者有稱口交、肛交同時進行為Russian high

       中國 中國陶瓷名聞國際,瓷器、瓷餐具亦稱china,如a piece of chinaFrom China to Peru的遍天下的意思。在西方人眼中,中國人不可思議,因有the inscrutable Chinese之稱。Chinaman(中國佬)、Chink(指華人眼縫窄)、chinkiechinkychingching-ching、十九世紀美俚Chinee China boy、十九世紀紐西蘭俚語chinko均是中國人的貶稱。Chinaman亦指海洛因毒癮發作,Chinaman’s chance是十足倒霉,美俚Chinaman’s nightmare指混亂(又曰Chinese fire drill「中國人的防火演習」)。Chinky又指中餐館。Chinese deal指開價還價而不能成交。Chinese puzzle是難解的謎。Chinese restaurant syndrome,是中國餐館慣用味精使人有頭痛、暈眩的反應。Chinese Wall是嚴重障。Chinese water torture是中國式水刑(以水滴額而致精神錯亂)。Chinese whispers,指傳訊息遊戲,終至以訛傳訛。澳大利亞人稱吸煙者的咳為Chinese consumptionChinese molassesChinese tobacco均指鴉片;Chinese redChinese brownChinese H指海洛因;Chinese No.3 指香港加工偷運美國的海洛因。Chinese fashion指男女側臥性交姿勢(原意譏笑中國女人陰道橫生云云)。

       日本 美國人對日本人殊不客氣,十九世紀時稱日本人為Japanee,本世紀四十年代則稱JappoJappy,均為貶語。二十年代流行的形容詞Jap wise,指一知半解竊盜別人技術。Japanese triad是二男一女的性關係(粵諺「嬲」字添些聯想庶幾近之)。Jap’s eye指冠溝(影射日本人眼縫窄)。同性戀者曾稱亞洲男人的陽物為Japstick,紐西蘭人稱專為日本嫖客服務的娼為Jap moll。中日世仇,中國人前稱日本人為「倭奴」,粵人稱之為「日本仔」,均含貶意。

       猶太 – Jew/Jewish歷來常是貶詞,有高利貸、守財奴的意思。To jewjew downjew up,是騙財或拼命跟人討價還價。愛爾蘭人稱貸款人為JewmanAs rich as a Jew,有富而不仁之意;(古語)Be worth a Jew’s eye,極貴重。Jewish nose,猶太人特有的鼻型。Jew-baiting是害猶太人。英俚Jewish Ox’o是錢的謔稱。Jewish piano/pianola/typewriter是收銀機。美俚Jewish cheque是騙來的救濟金,Jewish flag是一塊錢美鈔(貶意),Jew joint是舊衣店Jewish waltz是討價還價,Jewish princeJewish princess是對美國富裕猶太人家的兒女的貶稱。Jewish foreplay是男要幹事而女方不允。Jewish nightcap是包皮。同性戀者用語Jewish corned beefJewish nationalJew’s lance指割去包皮的陽物,Jewish by hospitalisation指割了包皮的非猶太人。

       意大利 – The Italian manner是雞姦。Italianate Englishman是文藝復興時代有意大利風的英國人,類似魔鬼化身。意大利人諢稱AntonioTony;美語稱WOP(有不整潔的貶意)。又美俚Italian指壞脾氣的人,Italian salute指不雅手勢。

       西班牙 – Spanish fly,斑螫,可作春藥用。to walk Spanish,被行走。Spanish tummy,指在西班牙旅遊的人的腸胃不適。美俚Spanish athlete指吹牛的人。西班牙人、葡萄牙人諢稱DagoDiego

       墨西哥 美國人頗多歧視墨西哥,含Mexican的美俚常有愚笨、平庸之意。Mexican athlete是吹牛之輩,Mexican breakfast是無養的食品。Mexican carriageMexican jeep指毛驢,Mexican carwash指以雨水洗車。Mexican cashmere是汗衣。Mexican foxtrotMexican two-step是河魚之疾,Mexican toothache則指外遊染上的腹瀉。Mexican happening是永不發生的事,Mexican promotion/raise是無酬的晉升。Mexican oats是渾話,Mexican rig指任何粗製濫造之物。Mexican time是不守時。

       黑種人 美俚black time指不守時。Black pencilblack pudding指黑人陽物,black mariablack meatblack mouth則指黑種女人的陰物。澳紐白人稱黑皮膚的女人為black velvet

       非洲人 – African一字常含貶意。美俚African ape指黑人,African dust指黃金,African people’s timeAfrican time指不守時。同性戀者切口稱好男色的黑種男子為African queen

       白人歧視黃種人由來有自,有yellow peril(黃禍)的說法。但yellow一字亦可指部分黑人。美俚yellow fish指非法中國移民,yellow指膚色較淡的黑人,yellow ass指皮膚不甚黑的黑女郎。澳大利亞人稱黑白混血土著男女為yellow fellow yeller feller)或yellow girl,二次大戰期間稱日本人為yellow belly

       印度或印第安(Indian – Indian summer(興旺的晚年)。美俚Indian指普通成員,如all chiefs and no Indians。百多年來,Indian一字間指脾氣暴躁,to get one’s Indian up是發脾氣。Indian giver是贈物望回報之人。Indian liquor/rum/whisky是最劣等酒,Indian pow-wow是喧鬧的聚會。Indian time是不準時。澳俚稱幼香腸為Indian dick

       土耳其/突厥 – Turk字常含貶意,可指粗人、性活躍或喜肛交的男子(to turk是進行強暴的肛交行動)。美俚Turk又指愛爾蘭移民。Young Turks是指有大志有魄力的年輕男子。

       其他與種族有關的詞語例子可舉Street Arab(流浪兒)、東夷、南蠻、西戎、北狄、倭奴等。澳大利亞人常稱不好事物為unAustralian,實有自大貶外之意。





June 4, 2008 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | Leave a comment






       吉普林(Rudyard Kipling)說過:「東是東,西是西,東西始終不相通。」(Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet….)這裡的「通」,是溝通、了解、相容之義。東、西如此,男、女亦然。


       重男輕女乃東西方普遍現象。中文「女」部的字含貶意的頗多,如奴、妒、嬾、奸、姦、妖、委、姤等。舊社會常把女兒看成賠本貨(粵諺稱「蝕本貨」)。英古諺曰: “A man of straw is worth a woman of gold”。說最上等女人也比不上草包漢子,荒唐實甚。打女人的風俗也屢見不鮮: “A woman, a spaniel, and a walnut-tree, the more you beat them the better they be.”  把女人比作長毛狗(spaniel另一解是馬屁精)和胡桃樹,「越打得狠越好」。

       「女子無才便是德」,據說是孔子的夫人說的,待考。英諺亦曰, “A wise woman is twice a fool”。尼采更缺德: “When a woman becomes a scholar there is usually something wrong with her sexual organs.” (「女學者準是性器官有問題」)。難怪《傲慢與偏見》的作者Jane Austin慨嘆道:“A woman, especially if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.”(女子有識殊非幸事,宜深藏之。)

       “Frailty, thy name is woman”(弱者,你的名字是女人。),莎士比亞如是說。懂得上善若水的人究竟不多。

       男人討厭女人長舌。粵諺「三個女人一個墟」,英諺 “Three women and a goose make a market”,只多了一頭鵝。 “Where there are women and geese, there wants no noise” “wants” 作欠缺解。 “A woman’s tongue is the last thing about her that dies.”即粵人所謂「死剩把口。」

       古羅馬詩人維吉爾(Virgil)嘗言女人善變(Varium et mutabile semper Femina)。英諺亦曰女人如風雨針(A woman is a weather-cock)。「女大十八變」,是指少女之變。西諺說法較全面:“A woman is an angel at 10, a saint at 15, a devil at 40, and a witch at fourscore.” (女子十歲為天使,十五歲為聖女,四十歲為魔鬼,八十歲為巫婆。)

       王德爾說女人終會變得像自己的母親,可悲可嘆(All women become like their mothers.  That is their tragedy.)。

羅馬詩人玉外納(Juvenal)言女人有仇必報: “ No one delights more in vengeance than a woman”。筆者看過一則古人筆記,出處已忘,說某婦人爭寵,咀咒情敵投胎作鼠,己當為貓,「生生世世扼其喉!」

       叔本華對女人無好感:  “The fundamental fault of the female character is that it has no sense of justice”,說女人不知正義為何物,可謂一竹篙打盡一船人。

       毛姆 (Somerset Maugham) 挖苦女人,借婦科教授之口說: “…woman is an animal that micturates once a day, defecates once a week, menstruates once a month, parturates once a year and copulates whenever she has the opportunity.”(女人之為物,一天一小解,一周一大解,一月一紅潮,一年一分娩,隨時幹事不嫌頻。)

       男人覺得女人麻煩,「唯女子與小人難養也」,不能不管束。“Women are ships and must be manned”,把女人比作船,船須有掌船人,掌船人得是男人; “manned”字於此有多重意義。男人要女人安份,不得拋頭露面。 “A woman’s place is in the home”

       男人歧視女人,但又不能沒有女人,把女人看作 「必要之惡」: “Women are necessary evils”

“Every Jack has his Jill”,蒙田曰 “for each foot each own shoe”;粵諺則是「冬前臘鴨」。

       男女對愛情態度不同。拜侖說:女人初戀時愛的是情人,其後所愛的只是愛情。(In her first passion woman loves her lover, in all the others all she loves is love.)柯立基說:男人想得到的是女人,女人想得到的卻只是男人的愛慕。(The man’s desire is for the woman; but the woman’s desire is rarely other than for the desire of the man.

       男人常把女人視為禍水。夏商周覆亡,都算到妹喜、妲己、褒姒身上去。希臘神話中的第一個女人潘多拉(Pandora)是人類痛苦之由;《聖經》裡的夏娃害得阿當被逐出伊甸園,萬劫不復。尼采說: “Woman was God’s second mistake.” 上帝創造世界後又造女人,一錯再錯。

       物極必反。大男人主義(male chauvinism)過了頭,難怪姊妹們群起婦解。當今之世,女強人多如牛毛。有女作家認為女人主愛,屬愛神(Venus)範疇,男人好鬥,受戰神(Mars)擺佈。言下之意,臭男人不是好東西。政正主義(political correctness)崛起以後,男人對女人更要加倍警覺,舉凡言語、態度、行動均須小心翼翼,免干法紀。兩性相處已成為一門高深而複雜的學問。平心而論,女權高張原是男人自作之孽,偏有窩囊男人群起抗議。

男女爭鋒有其生物基礎,從性事可見一斑。即使是「禮義之邦」的子民,仍不免視床笫為戰場,「好鬥」的外族人更不必說了。俗語中常把男女性器官喻作武器。漢語稱男人那話兒曰金鎗、曰金剛棒、曰虎眼鞭、曰雞心槌、曰沒縫靴,英語則直稱為weapon,又喻之為刀槍劍戟(swordpistolgunlancedartchopperhornpokerhammer),全是侵略性的東西。女人性器曰蛙口、曰玉戶、曰玉門、曰天門、曰劍(「腰間仗劍斬愚夫」)、曰套索、曰鴛鴦扣(「紅綿套索鴛鴦扣」),英語則稱snatchbitevicesnapperclamoystercoffee grinder,皆足與男人物事分庭抗禮。性交則喻曰上陣、曰交鋒、曰床上功夫。「西門慶兩戰林太太」、「鏖戰這婆娘」、「曾與佳人鬥幾場」,是男人對女人下戰書;「奪精吸髓」,把「鐵金剛」降服為「繞指柔」,則是女人收拾男人的本事。

Make love, not war,做愛應是乾坤相濟之事,竟不免磨刀霍霍,殺氣騰騰。可見男女之爭無時或已:The battle between the sexes is never done.



June 4, 2008 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | 1 Comment

冤 親 詞









       時光如流,但卻有Time stood stillTime is frozen甚至時光倒流的說法。「瞬間永恒」、「永恒的一瞬」, 是情侶、文人、哲學家的縈心之念。新時代人都說要把握(或擁抱)瞬間(seize /embrace the moment),寓永恒於剎那,從無常中求常,此說古已有之。

「納須彌於芥子」,須彌山至大,芥子至少,但大小竟可等量齊觀。白雷克(William Blake)詩:「一粒沙子中見世界,一朵野花中見天堂」(To see a world in a grain of sand,/And a heaven in a wildflower),亦是此意。

沙漠可有富庶的一面,英語亦有luxuriant desert的說法;而看似富足的亦可能只是個空架子,如王熙鳳之言賈府。

       余光中先生有一篇文章的副題是「震耳欲聾的寂靜」,英文是deafening silence。老子曰「大音希聲」,濟(John Keats)亦以靈聽不以耳聽,遂覺「有聲音樂固佳,無聲音樂更美」(Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter),禪意盎然。

Discord是不和協,但偏偏有harmonious discord的說法。

       女人臉上的一點麻皮、一顆黑痣,可以是「缺憾美」。瑪莉蓮夢露和名模Cindy Crawford唇邊的痣就不知迷死多少人。西子捧心、顰兒蹙額,反足以增妍。獨坐亦含顰,何遽不若倩兮巧笑?

人不可以貌相,晏子身長不滿五尺,但胸羅經緯,以智力言是西方所說的stunted Hercules。巨人四肢發達,常使人有老粗的錯覺。但世間真有gentle giants,就像King Kong之於美女。至於《鐘樓駝俠》裏的駝俠,則稱得上是gentle stunted Hercules了。

       莎士比亞《第十二夜》劇中有名言曰Better a witty fool than a foolish witWitty fool是機伶俏皮的丑角(fool今義為傻瓜),foolish wit近似狗屁不通的書獃;前當然勝過後者。

撇開老子哲學,無知無識不能算是好事,但人生苦多,偶採鴕鳥政策,不聞不問以免心煩,亦可以理解,blissfully ignorant是也。舊時代俗諺:「不痴不聾,不作阿姑翁」,同一調調。

       誤會一般是不妙的,但也有所謂「美麗的誤會」,英文是happy mistake。謊言不好,white lie卻情有可原。

愛恨的分際很微妙,是所謂bittersweet(有甘有苦)、sweet torment (苦中有樂)、love-hate relationship(愛恨交加)。情人、夫妻免不了拌嘴,但這未必會破壞關係,甚至能增進感情。粵諺說夫妻「床頭打架床尾和」,旁人如於勸架,真是吹皺一池春水,誤會得毫不美麗了。

美詩人佛洛斯特(Robert Frost)更有lover’s quarrel with the world之說,指的是自己對世界對人生的感受。人生充滿缺,詩人不能無怨言,但怨中有愛,基本上還是生有可戀。情人的吵架是不能作準的。

英國桂冠詩人丹尼生(Alfred Tennyson)名句: Faith unfaithful kept him falsely true,正反矛盾,糾不清。

       美是好的,傷心是不好的。但美也可以使人傷感(Heart-rendingly beautiful),如莫札特、舒伯特的音樂。

       Cheerful pessimist,悲觀而能開懷。這話怎講?俗語說「蚤多不癢,債多不愁」,王建亦曰「狂來欺酒淺,愁盡覺天寬」。物極而反,悲觀亦不例外。已故法國總統Francois Mitterand曾說他的樂觀是建築於一連串的悲觀之上的。他解釋說世道不堪,但人類至今尚未完蛋,仍有可為,因而樂觀。At rock bottom, the only way is to go up。否極泰來,願世上苦人深思。

       置身熱鬧場所,內心時會泛起莫名的寂寞,英文的說法是loneliness in a crowdAlan Sillitoe於一九五○年出版了一部名為《長跑者的寂寞》(The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner)的小說,那形象十分突出。誰料七十年代以後吹起長跑之風,各國大城市常有馬拉松賽,參加者數以千計,長跑者的寂寥,竟成為loneliness in a crowd的寫照!

       Conspicuous by one’s absence,斯人不在,氣氛顯見不同。浪漫情況則曰Absence makes the heart grow fonder。相見不如不見,不見反增思念。

       十八世紀後期浪漫主義席捲歐洲。許多人深感文明是心靈的桎梏,主張「回到自然」,重過 “noble savages”的生活,這詞一般以為是盧騷(Rosseau)所創,其實出自英詩人Dryden的手筆。

       Despot常譯「暴君」,但despot原義只是霸主,霸主未必暴虐。Enlightened despot,獨裁而開明,看似矛盾,但歷史上有例可援(中國歷朝賢君、康士坦丁大帝、彼德大帝、腓特烈大帝等是)。

       此外,老子說的「難易相成」,英文make haste slowlyprofoundly simplefine messterribly pleased等片語,都是冤親詞的好例子。



June 4, 2008 Posted by | Word-watching 語文影 | Leave a comment

Somniloquies on London

My Dear Friends,


Somniloquies on London (1) – Pearls from Tung Chiao




       This is a paragraph from Tung Chiao’s essay “Summer comes to London”(董橋《倫敦的夏天等你來》).  I hope it will convey a little of the flavour of the London summer which YY and I have just relished, and which I cannot hope to describe so deliciously in my own words.


       So we waved good-bye to Regina and How Hung at the Lester Pearson Airport, Toronto on 16 June and flew to London, while – I don’t know how I managed it – forgetting to bring our London travel guide along.  We had never been to London, and we were thus “travellers without a map”.  Perhaps not quite.


       I have read tidbits about London before.  From books, articles, and stories such as Tung Chiao’s.  I read parts of H.V. Morton’s “In Search of London, and translated several pages of it some years ago.  I am familiar with many landmarks by name: the Thames, the Big Ben, the Buckingham Palace, the Westminster Bridge, the Tower of London, Bloomsbury, Soho, Hyde Park, Downing Street, Fleet Street, Baker Street, the British Museum,  Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Russell Square, Charing Cross, the Harrods, etc. etc.  So I am not entirely ignorant of London.  With a complimentary map from the hotel, I thought, we should manage pretty well. 


       We were put up at a hotel at Bayswater, two minutes from Hyde Park.  It was most probably converted from some old-style tenement buildings which are full of character.  Our room was rather cramped but it served the purpose.  I was worried that YY wouldn’t acclimatize to any change of weather, though it was summer in both London and Toronto. She dare not part with her woollies and always had a scarf handy.  As it turned out, the weather was rather warm throughout our stay.


       We got our complimentary map, and that was all we needed.  Once we sorted out a “traveller’s pass” we were “in business”.  The beauty of London is that it is an old city that resists drastic change even with the push of property developers.  The thoroughfares and most of the streets could not change, and the tube routes have been in place for decades.  An old city map ten or twenty years would still be quite serviceable, and much of what I read about London even in old books would still be relevant.  That certainly gave us confidence and helped us feel more relaxed finding our way around.


       I guess you have all been to London before.  So you most probably wouldn’t find anything new from what I shall be saying about our short sojourn there.  If you could all share your views and feelings about the city, so much the better.


       Now back to Tung Chiao’s passage.  I find it fiendishly difficult to translate into English, particularly the decadence-captivation-passivity conundrum and the naughty bit at the very end.  I hope Tung Chiao himself will give us a demonstration.  It should be child play for him, as the original is couched in language somewhat western in style.  And I would invite the rest of you, particularly Tak Ming, How Hung, Yu Yuen, Tsan Wing and Leung Bing, all translators par excellance, to try your hands on it.  I have come up with my rather lame version here, just to attract your pearls of wisdom.


       “…Anyone who has lived in London will never forget the London summer: that feeling of easeful decadence, lazy surrender, and warm passivity.  The gaiety at the dinner table is courtesy of the rosy cloud beyond the window; at the lunch down the lush slope, the tall goblets are already misted by the chilled white wine before you finish reading that eight-page novelette.  After a cat nap, you go to the brook to freshen up, and find every single berry on the bushes suddenly become redder and darker.  In and out of town, the women of London have broken through the stiffness of their Victorian corsets, and as they walk onto the streets, still carry the aroma of their tenderness from the night…”



Somniloquies on London (2): Hyde Park and the Soho Chinatown


  When we were flying out from Lester Pearson in Toronto, I was intrigued that no immigration officers checked our passports.  It was the same on arrival at Heathrow, and again when we left London for Helsinki.  What with all that anti-terrorism talk!  (As I’m writing, UK is again on the highest alert over the car bombs at London and Glasgow.)  I am told that’s a special arrangement amongst European countries and with Canada, but still…   I confess to being a totally naive and ignorant traveller.


  We arrived in London in the morning.  On our way to the hotel we saw much old architecture by the roadside (it might well be just the facade, as KL pointed out).  That afternoon, we took a stroll in the Kensington Gardens but not Hyde Park, which is part of the Gardens.  There were surprisingly no flowers; I thought the English love flowers.  It was Sunday and there were quite a few visitors.  The sun was playing hide and seek, and many fellas stripped to their waist trying to soak up as much ultraviolet as they could, not to mention those skimpily clad lassies.  They should all come to Australia, silly sun-worshippers.


  Then we decided to sample a bit of street life.  YY suggested Chinatown, so we headed for Soho, on foot.  We proceeded along Praed Street, turned into Edgware and then Oxford Street.  The shops and cafes in much of that sizeable district were thronged with Middle-Easterners, hardly any Caucasians.  I am sure those ‘aliens’ are often viewed with misgivings.  Many Britons understandably deplore multiculturalism.  But that is the necessary price they pay for their imperialist past. Earlier in the hotel, I had seen on television Margaret Thatcher et al in a celebration of the 25th anniversary of British triumph at the Falklands, with much pomp and circumstance.


  An hour’s slow walk took us to Soho. I was thinking of the secondhand bookshops on Charing Cross Road.  But they had to wait for another day.  Chinatown was the priority, and we needed a good feed.  It was a pleasant surprise to see Chinatown so tidy.  Falungong supporters were distributing free papers. There were more whites there than we saw along Edgware Road.  Not being a gourmet like KL, I was quite satisfied with the food served at the restaurant we went to, only that it was twice as expensive as in Toronto.


  YY was not about to rise early in the morning.  So I stole out of bed at 5 am and spent three hours at Hyde Park.  I saw a couple of back-packers ‘camping’ there, fast asleep on the grass with clothes hanging on the twigs. The Kensington Gardens covered 760 acres.  They were created by William and Mary in 1689 in the Dutch style, and were subsequently embellished by Charles Bridgman the royal gardener and the Victorians.  The Gardens were opened to the public under government management in 1851.  Public parks have since been one of the finest features of British life.  Remember the Hong Kong Botanical Gardens back in our childhood days?  The best thing about them is that they are for the free enjoyment of the citizens, who come for space, for solitude, or a bit of nature.  They are the equivalent of those craggy hills so loved by the high-minded Chinese of past ages. 


  A lady tourist guide we bumped into later said that too many people complain about the high cost of living in London, but forget the many free amenities and services they enjoy there, like the parks, museums and libraries.  How true.



  I must admit I was grossly inaccurate and guilty of too much editorialising in my translation of the last sentence from Tung Chiao’s paragraph: “In and out of town, the women of London have broken through the stiffness of their Victorian corsets, and as they walk onto the streets, still carry the aroma of their tenderness from the night…”, Perhaps I should say: “… and as they saunter onto the streets, their cadence (still) betrays the tenderness of their night.” Any suggestions, please!


Somniloquies on London (3) – Gravitas on clay


  London sits on clay, I am told, and so there is no ‘skyline’ to be seen.  That is a blessing for those who don’t particularly care for tall man-made structures.  But London does have many  buildings of great stature, and gravitas, sitting on its clay.


  We spent a morning, just one morning, touring the surrounds of Westminster Abbey, the House of Parliament, Whitehall, and Buckingham Palace.  On shallower lands, and commissioned by shallower minds, so-called monumental buildings would  appear merely imposing and overbearing –  wearying ‘obstructions’, to borrow a word from D. H. Lawrence.  But not these magnificent specimens we saw.  I certainly have a soft spot for England – now commonly derided as a nation in decline –  and lots of respect and admiration for the strength of her traditions and institutions which those stately buildings have come to represent.


  For in these symbols reside the roots of much of the British genius.  The Westminster system represents the highest political wisdom the world has come up with, through parliamentary government that rests mainly on the British character, which is, I think fairly, summed up by Peter Grosvenor and James McMillan in the book “The British Genius”.  That national character consists in, amongst other things, Saxon stubbornness, refusal to bow before despots, a sense of fair play, an ability to ‘think long’, Puritan thrift, sobriety, self-help, moderation, distrust of cold logic and sheer intellectualism, and a fondness for feeling one’s way to the right decision.  It is all these that build democracy and the rule of law and make them successful. 


  Loitering around Buckingham Palace in this 21st century, you would think that the monarchy is nothing but an anachronism.  The royal scandals of the last couple of decades have not helped.  It is hard to see how the monarchy can survive as it is in another couple of generations.  Even in Australia, the republican movement is gathering great momentum.  But the virtues of  constitutional monarchy as a system of government should not be underrated.  Prime Ministers come and go, but it is the King or Queen (presumably well-adjusted), who is above party politics and usually sees through several Parliaments, that can provide wisdom to the PM and continuity and ‘ballast to the Ship of State’.  Traditionally, since the days of the despots, it is the Sovereign that the people truly loves, not the politicians, even great statesmen.  Compared to this, the high office of President in the US, for example, appears inadequate.  When the presidency is shaken by scandals, as with Nixon, or tarred by major blunders, as with GWB, a great sense of disillusionment sets in and the nation easily loses its direction.  The Americans are at the moment desperate to find ballast for their Ship of State.  “What We Can Learn from JFK” is the cover story of Time Magazine just out.


   It was very crowded near Westminster Bridge.  We walked up Parliament Street, but were unable to see the door of 10 Downing Street as the outside gate was locked and guarded.  The old government buildings around bring not a little nostalgia.  I didn’t know that ‘Whitehall‘, the name of the area, is a term of abuse.  For Whitehall represents the civil service, which is held in low esteem, and this, despite the fact that the British are extraordinarily well served by their public servants, as Grosvenor & McMillan insisted.  WH is in the habit of denouncing big government, and has rarely said a good word about the HK public service.  But I think that is due to his laissez-faire liberal philosophy, and means no disrespect for the many amongst us who once worked for the government.  Is that right?


  YY had enough of Westminster, so I took her to the Harrods on Brompton Road, only four stations away.  Window-shopping was all we could afford.


Somniloquies on London (4) – Charing Cross goldmine


  When we first decided to visit Canada, London wasn’t on my mind at all.  YY suggested we include it in our itinerary because I had so often talked about the bookshops there.  Of course I had been just talking.  What did I know?


  So we came to London, and in the end I actually only spent half a day book-hunting.  The books I crave for most – to see, not necessarily to read – are secondhand books.  I am not talking antiquarians, just old or older books, not contemporary titles.  So Foyle’s interested me less than the several secondhand bookshops on the opposite side of Charing Cross Road.  There was a big sale on in one of them: every book in the basement went for just one pound. Countless gems there were, but I could only carry a handful, as the shop did not have mailing service, and it was too hard for me to post the books myself.  So I went away not unlike one who returns empty-handed from a gold mine. 


  And I would have loved to spend a whole week in those bookshops, though there are not really that many on Charing Cross, and I had no time to hunt in other parts of the city.  My feeling is that the wonderful world of secondhand bookshops in London might just be romantic fiction these days, as Liulichang in Beijing is said to be [I have not even been to Beijing].   Some years ago, I read that because of high rent, many of the secondhand bookshops in London closed their doors, and some small village out of London became a real book-hunter’s paradise.   I jotted down the name of the town somewhere and have since forgotten where it was.


  I would love to call myself a bookworm, but I doubt if I qualify any more, as I have been reading very little these past few years.  A bookworm leads a vicarious existence.  He lives in imagination, and tends to be a romantic fool.  At least I fit this description, and I say this with a straight face.  I don’t know KL well enough, self-confessed bookworm that he is; my guess is that his existence is not that vicarious because of his obvious zest for life, evident from his volubility, community spirit, and passion for fine food. 


  Many place names on the map of London triggered my romantic fancy.  Bloomsbury, for example.  As my eyes circled the streets and lanes around Russell Square and the British Museum, I saw in my mind the group of writers and artists active in the 1910s and 1920s who met in that district for philosophicand  aesthetic discussions – the likes of Virginia Woolf, E.M. Foster, Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry, and J.M. Keynes.  Most of them had studied at Cambridge and were influenced by G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica in their belief in the importance of personal relationships and aesthetic experience.  I cannot quite remember whether Bertrand Russell was heavily involved in the Bloomsbury group, though I remember what he wrote about the his Cambridge acquaintances, including his junior friends Foster, Strachey and Keynes  – that they were an earnest, hard-working and intellectually adventurous bunch, and despite their solemn ambitious had lots of fun and thoroughly enjoyed life, and never got in the way of each other’s individualities. Talk about blooming of a hundred flowers!


  I must admit that I have only a passing acquaintance with the works of some of these brilliant minds.  But that was enough to make me feel nostalgic.  Now that we were in London, I decided we must visit Bloomsbury, and perhaps go to Holborn as well to pay homage to that great Dr Johnson. 


Somniloquies on London (5) – 13 million books & more under one roof


  We headed for Bloomsbury the following morning, and got off at Russell Square.  It turned out to be a small park, surrounded by Hotel Russell and other old buildings.   Remember that breast-feeding woman Tung Chiao wrote about?  There were, alas, no signs of her any more. 


  A stone throw from Russell Square is the British Museum.  One of the things I craved to see there was the Diamond Sutra scroll, reputedly the world’s oldest surviving book printed on paper, in the year 868, and discovered at Dunhuang by that Aurel Stein in 1907.   I didn’t know it is housed in the British Library, silly me.   The museum was clogged with troupes of young students that morning, all with notepads in hand.  I was disappointed to see so few items of Chinese treasures.  There was nothing by Gu Kaizhi.  Perhaps it was housed in another section we missed?  Obviously the museum collections are so huge that only selections could be displayed at any one time. But what we did see were still precious stuff, including several tripods from the Shang Dynasty.   There was also a special exhibition of jade pieces on loan from Lee Ming Chak’s family.  


  A middle-aged woman at the hall was giving a mini-lecture on Chinese coinage.  She seemed knowledgeable enough, for all I could tell.  She said she was a volunteer trained for that kind of topical presentations.  The museum is certainly very well run, and the specimens (including the booties) are superbly taken care of. I would still say that joined invasion of China by the eight nations was a curse in general, though not in regard to the fate of some of the Chinese treasures.  


 There were displays from other cultures of course, but we only managed a brief visit to the Egyptian section, full of hieroglyphics and mummies as one might expect. One could spend  months at the British museum, which has a great mystique about it, haunted with the spirits of so many leading lights who have changed the world in one way or another. Marx, for example, wrote his Das Kapital at the museum. And Keynes and his Bloomsbury group were based in the area.


  Keynes and Marx remind us of Adam Smith.  Was it a mere coincidence that the three most important textbooks on economics – The Wealth of Nations, Das Kapital and The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money – were all written in Britain, that tiny nation of shop-keepers?  Smith was the guru of capitalism, and modern capitalism is said to owe practically everything to Keynes, “the man who proved Marx wrong”, through his theories of business cycles, free trade, and national investment.  Economics holds great sway in the world, too disproportionately great a sway, in my view.  As for capitalism, now the ‘socialist’ republic of China has become the most capitalistic in the world. What can you say?


  The British Museum is very modern on the inside, and there are modern and contemporary additions, like the central hall, an impressive piece of architecture complete with souvenir shops and cafes.  We had lunch there, and I found the food horrible.  Everything was laced with cheese.  After living in the West for 30 years I still find the eating habits of those guilos hard to understand.  


  From the museum we went to the British Library on Euston Road.  It is something Britain is justly proud of.  The library is said to hold 13 million books, 920,000 journal and newspaper titles, 57 million patents and 3 million sound recordings.  But we only had time to see a little of the cultural and literary treasures, on display in the exhibition hall right on the left of the main lobby.  There in special chambers under dim reflected light were Thomas More’s last letter to the King before his execution, some Shakespeare folios, and a couple of Mozart manuscripts.  As for the Diamond Sutra scroll, the real thing was withdrawn from public dispay as considered “too fragile”; instead there was an electronic version of it on screen, complete with scrolling controls and earphones for the chantings.  


  So we had only a tiny taste of the great British Museum and the British Library.  It was certainly an eye-opening experience. I am sure we can visit these great sites and indulge our curiosity and passion any time we want, on the web.           


Somniloquies on London (6) – mainly river and bridges


   The Thames, the longest river in England, is a bit like a minnow to Triton surveying any one of the mighty rivers that cradle other great civilisations.  It is only 346 km long.  Rising in the Cotswold Hills near Cirencester (not even marked on my atlas!), it flows mainly ESE through Oxford (as the Isis), Reading, and London to enter the North Sea at the Nore.  The river is tidal quite deep into the estuary, and to reduce the danger of flooding, a barrier was constructed (1973-83) below London.  Talking about minnows, only eels are said to have survived in the river in the 1960s because of pollution, which has since be combatted with considerable success.  In the late 1970s nearly a hundred different species of fish could be caught.  What about now, I wonder.


  I must say I wasn’t particularly impressed by the river itself – the section we saw through London – which appeared just like a grey band of slow-moving waters overwhelmed by human activities.  Perhaps I was disappointed because I carried in my head the romantic images of Wordsworth’s “Westminster Bridge” and Jerome K Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat”.


  One shouldn’t expect to see dales and fields of course.  London has been a built-up city for centuries.  Her charms are of a different kind.  We saw Westminster Bridge but didn’t get to it, though we did cross a couple of the many bridges over the London Thames.   The London Bridge we crossed is not the real thing: the real thing, which at various epochs used to be a “house-bridge”, was already incredibly ancient even in the times of the Tudors.  The bridge has been changing its character from age to age.  Today it is full of vehicular traffic.  The river no longer appears to glide “at his own sweet will”. The old barges are no more.  Looking from the bridge, though, I could still appreciate a relative calm and tranquillity, given the bustle of activities on both banks.  Many buildings still look traditional, and despite modernity there is not that sense of oppression one gets in one of those nouveau-riche cities.   We strolled comfortably along the esplanade on the south bank, which is quite modern and tastefully developed. 


  I saw an old picture taken in the 40’s of the Tower Bridge, a movable bridge in the east side of the city built in the Gothic style in 1894, with a central portion that lifts to allow large ships to pass.  There was not a single soul on it to be seen on the picture, but only three motor vehicles.  When we crossed it on that very warm afternoon, it was like a mayfair.  [Mayfair, by the way, is now a fashionable residential district in the City of Westminster – named after the annual fair held from the 16th century until 1809.]  On the other side of the bridge stood the famous Tower of London.  Part of it was being renovated, but guided tours were still available.  We went round its walls only and I told YY what little I read about this great landmark.  It was a 18-acre royal fortress dating back to William the Conqueror in 1066.  The outer towers used to be surrounded by a moat. The 13 inner towers included the best known Bloody Tower.  The British crown jewels and regalia are kept in the underground Jewel House.  The Tower was a royal residence until the 17th century; it was long used as state prison, where Thomas More, Anne Boleyn and Walter Raleigh were beheaded.  The place must be haunted. 


  [For interest, I read that Queen Elizabeth I, when she was a princess was suspected of plotting against her half-sister Mary, was sent by barge to the Tower, and was landed at Traitor’s Gate.  She sank to her knees and protested before God that she wasn’t guilty.  She was so sure she was fated to die in the Tower that she discussed, as Anne Boleyn her mother had done before, the possibility of being slain by the sword in the French fashion rather than by the cruder axe of the English headsman.]


  Our stay in London was very brief, and we only saw a handful of the places worth seeing.  We spent a few hours at Covent Garden, to watch the free performances of some Chinese acrobats, African dancers and a budding Italian tenor.  Purely for sentimental reason, I took YY to Baker Street.  A statue of Sherlock Holmes  stood on the narrow pavement facing a money-changer at the address of the great detective.  A few blocks away was Madam Tussaud.  We meant to visit but there was too long a queue.  So we spent the morning at the nearby Regent Park instead, and for the first time in our lives saw some white swans in real life.  [Western Australia is famous for its swans, but they are all black.]


  I also took YY to Fleet Street, hoping to visit Samuel Johnson’s old house, but to no avail.  Instead, we whiled away the whole afternoon sightseeing in a double-decker bus, through many parts of London.  It was tremendous, and cost us nothing either, with our traveller’s passes.



Somniloquies on London (7) – Dr Johnson and Boswell


  Fleet Street is one of England‘s icons, a symbol of journalistic excellence in which London has long led the world.  Until recently, most newspapers had offices there.  It is only a short street between the Strand and the Ludgate Circus, and was named after the River Fleet, now a covered sewer. 


  We strolled up to Fleet Street from Victoria Embankment, and saw no newspaper offices at all.  There was Lloyd’s bank along with some other ancient buildings.  I was looking for Dr Johnson’s house, which was clearly marked on the map.  But all we found was a sign saying  “Dr Johnson’s House” at a street corner.  The buildings around it were all relatively new.  Several blocks away was a big modern building being built or renovated – I couldn’t tell which –  with the name Dr Johnson splattered on a board amid the scaffolding, so I suppose that was the original site of Johnson’s home, which I expected to be an elegant old house.   So another landmark gone, I mumbled to myself.


  YY asked why I was so keen on Dr Johnson.  I said he was one of the greatest Londoners, having famously said that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  Were we then in the very midst of London, and what better place to ponder life?  I told YY what I knew about Johnson’s formidable intellect, his being a poet, critic and lexicographer, his poor eye sight, and his bouts of melancholia.   I told her of course about the friendship of the young Scot James Boswell with the great doctor, and about the The Life of Dr Samuel Johnson he wrote, which must be the most readable masterpiece of a biography in the whole world, with its verbatim record of conversations that brings the great man vividly to life. 


  “There is another reason why Johnson is so much on my mind on this trip,” I said.  “It’s HH, whom you treat like a brother.”  “But what has that got to do with … ?”  “Well, there is some resemblance between HH and Dr Johnson.  I have often said that HH is a wise fellow, right thinking and right feeling, with lots of common sense.  It’s always an edifying experience listening to him talk.  That’s certainly how Boswell felt about Johnson.   I don’t want to go over the top, but I do feel that much of HH’s casual conversation is worth recording.”


  That is truly my feeling during the couple of weeks we spent with HH and Regina.  Perhaps Regina could be his Boswell. 


  For a few gems of Johnson’s wisdom:


  “Love is only one of many passions.”


  “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”


  “It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.”


  “Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.”


  “I have, all my life long, been lying till noon; yet I tell all young men, and tell them with great sincereity, that nobody who does not rise early will ever do any good.”  [Remember my observation that a master need not live by what he preaches? – ST]


  “A lawyer has no business with the justice or injustice of the cause which he undertakes, unless his client asks his opinion, and then he is bound to give it honestly.  The justice or injustice of the cause is to be decided by the judge.”


  The last quotation is relevant to HH, who has had occasion to share with us his experience as a lawyer.  His catchwords are fairness, decency, and conciliation. 


  Boswell met Dr Johnson in 1763, at the age of 23, and the encounter changed his life.   His Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785) and The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) (which I have only dipped into) are testimony to a most fruitful and marvellous association.


  Boswell was at one time contemplating moving to London to practise law, but Johnson warned him about the difficulty of having a successful legal career in England.  Boswell then suggested a doubt that if he were to reside in London, the zest he relished in occasional visits might go off.  It was then that Johnson’s made the famous rejoinder about a man tired of London being tired of life.


  “Depend upon it,” I said to YY, “when views are so freely given left, right and centre as by Dr Johnson, some are to be taken with a grain of salt, despite his towering intellect.  But that in no way diminishes the greatness of the man.”  Boswell has said it all:


  “Had I not Dr Johnson to contemplate, I should have sunk into dejection but his firmness supported me.  I looked at him as a man, whose head is turning giddy at sea, looks at a rock.”


  I must promise myself more time reading The Life of Samuel Johnson”. 



Somniloquies on London (8) – grumpy guide


  Before leaving London, YY and I joined a coach tour and spent a day visiting Windsor Castle, the Stonehenge, and Oxford.


  The tour guide was a middle-aged woman – Margaret her name. She came across as a lady of culture.  She was well-spoken, but her tone quickly turned grumpy whenever she made any observations about the modern world, and the less desirable aspects of the transformation of London.  And as she grew hot on a subject, her facial tics became more pronounced.  Some character.  You get the feeling that here’s a sharp woman not to be messed with. 


  It was a balmy day.  We headed west from London, and the delightfully lush English countryside soon spread out before us.  Some fifty miles and there stood Windsor Castle, in Berkshire.  Begun by William the Conqueror and with many additions made by subsequent monarchs, Windsor Castle claims to be the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.  It is one of the official residences of the Queen, whose personal standard would fly from the Round Tower when she is in residence, usually on week-ends.  Guided tours of the Castle precincts were provided, wouldn’t you believe, free of charge.   But we had our own guide, Margaret, who was quick to point out how many free things one could enjoy in London.  Only a few sections of the castle were open to tourists, and we  followed the guide like a flock of sheep.  I was in a reverie, and frankly can’t remember seeing anything worth writing home about.  The stroll around the precincts was pleasant enough.  Altogether it was not a particularly memorable experience.


  Another hour’s drive southwestwards took us to the Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.  You have all been there, I suppose.  Huge sarsens and bluestones (Man Wai will tell us what they are) are set upright in concentric circles and horeshoe formation, and their orientation is said to suggest the purpose of solar and lunar observations.  Margaret told us that scientific study and excavation over many years have revealed a complex history of the Stonehenge, with three main phases of modification (c.2500-1500BC).  The Stonehenge is cordoned off for a distance  so tourists couldn’t vandalise the stones.  As a consequence, much better pictures can be taken, even during the busiest season.


  [Talking about vandalism, I was surprised to have seen no graffiti, none at all, throughout our trip in London, not even in the underground.  Thanks again to the surveillance cameras, perhaps.   As to the Stonehenge, news has just come that it did not make the list of the so-called “World’s New Seven Wonders” chosen by a new poll.  I am surprised that the Sydney Opera House was even nominated.   Some Aussies fret over it.  For those who don’t know, for all its eye-catching exteriors, the Opera House is actually quite dysfunctional.  Members of the orchestra themselves have to wear ear-plugs to avoid hearing damage whilst playing there, and ballerinas have to be caught by “catchers” backstage for safety for lack of space.  Critics say it is a national embarrassment.]


  After another cheesy lunch, which I didn’t partake of, we headed for Oxford.  More rolling meadows.  This university town has plenty of character, and ancient architecture.  “Architects these days cannot build,” Margaret concluded bluntly.  She warned us to be quiet and circumspect as Oxford didn’t like tourists.  Only those who couldn’t wait to answer the call of nature should do so, and to do that, sneak in one of those pubs not more than two at a time.  Oxford students are not allowed to drive on campus, so we saw bicycles everywhere.  Being there for only a couple of hours we of course missed out on the “famous walking tours round the colleges” suggested by KL.  He mentioned specifically Queen’s College on High Street and sounded very mysterious about it.  I can’t figure out why.


  “Don’t be overawed by anyone saying they are from Oxford,” Margaret said.  “For it is  fashionable these days for the well-heeled to send their children to Oxford just to do one of those short programmes, and then they can say for the rest of their lives they are from Oxford.”   We have all heard complaints that standard of education has dropped in recent years, across the board.  There is an article in the July issue of the Ming Pao Monthly criticising the standard of Oxford‘s student paper.  Snobbery itself is cheapened in this day and age.


  But there’s little harm in indulging in nostalgia.  Oxford University dates from the 12th century, and is organised as a federation of colleages which are governed by their own teaching staff (“Fellows”), maintain their own property, and provide members of the University’s legislative bodies, its many faculties, departments, and committees.  Its rival Cambridge is similarly organised, the oldest college, Peterhouse, dating from 1284, and the first colleage for women, Girton, not opened till 1869.  


  The two universities and their towns have different characteristics: Oxford has its domes and towers. Cambridge is no city of spires; it has a sense of peace and of contentment so precious to the individual mind, nurtured by the Cam, “that gentlest of English rivers.”  “It has ever seemed the aim of Oxford to foster uniformity; of Cambridge, however, unconsciously, to encourage the opposite in thought and manners.”  That’s some distinction…


  On our way back to London, Margaret continually delivered what some would say her litany of complaints, though I find most of them justified.  She deplored the Big Brother reality of Britain, pointing out the cameras for us to see.  She complained, as I said before, that the architects these days cannot build.  She even said the unsayable: that too many of her passengers dosed off!  Seeing a stray plastic bottle in the coach, she loudly announced, “In London we can drink from the tap.  Why spend a fortune on bottled water?  Thank of all the energy wasted in producing and transporting all those bottles, and the pollution from  the production  and the plastic junk we end up with!  Does it make any sense?”  I agree it doesn’t.


  Thus ends my travelogue on London.  Thank you all for putting up with me.  I was just talking to myself.


  Kind regards,


ST (1.7.07 – 9.7.07) 


June 2, 2008 Posted by | English essays | Leave a comment



















June 1, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment







      當今之世,生活壓力逼人,心理難得暢和。美國人流行的人生觀便是「天下事,管他娘」,曲子教人 “Don’t worry, be happy!”,直截了當,如小兒語。中國大陸經濟開放後,對許多西方事物來者不拒,近年新興「自我感覺良好」一詞,先後出現於名作家筆下,這顯然是美國詞「feel good」的翻板。











       人生快事多自是一種福氣。雖然,快事多指一時之快,有快事未必等於幸福,幸福需要長期平和的心境。驟喜驟悲,感情波動劇烈顯然夠不上條件。羅素說美好的生活是寧靜的生活,應是這個意思。追求幸福是個人的事,並無一定法門。筆者年輕時嚮往馬斯洛(Maslow)所說的「高峰經驗」(peak experiences),深信為人大可盡力追求這類刻骨銘心的經驗,將之念珠似的串連起來,以點數衡量,作為人生豐足和福樂的指標。後來覺得此法未必行得通,因為有高必有低,登臨絕頂固然美妙,下墮谷低又如何?再說,追求高峰經驗,不也有點時下美國人流行吞prozac藥丸提高情緒的意味?癮君子所求的,不外是瞬間快感而己。幸福的關鍵在於生命的肌理豐厚,不在於暴起暴落。幸福的節奏似應近於如歌行板,太多的斷音是不相宜的。

June 1, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment


















       生命力的表現有兩種形式。第一種是英雄式的。古往今來,多少人為了追求完美(人生、社會完美或人格的完美),受了理想和道德力量的驅使,在成功希望渺茫或完全沒有的情況下堅毅不拔、生死相許。有時,在犧牲生命中,反而體現雄渾悲壯的生命力。在斷金碎玉、求全之毀的行為中,迸發絢爛的生命火花。荊軻、田橫、諸葛亮、史可法、文天祥、袁崇煥、秋瑾、徐錫麟、蘇格拉底、SenecaTheodorous Bruno等殉道者,難道都天真得不知道努力會落空?英雄所表現的,正是事貴無悔、成敗不惜的勇邁精神。















May 22, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment












       回說肚臍。憑良心說,此物長相甚為別扭,英國人稱之為肚皮鈕子(belly button),鈕扭有別,別扭則一。漂亮的肚臍跟有靈性的豬同樣難以想像,總不成譽為「肚皮梨渦」、「腹魂之窗」吧?道家稱肚臍為「昆侖」,昆侖有黑的意思,不知是褒是貶了。筆者淺陋,只讀過一句詠肚臍的曲詞:「半點春藏小麝臍」,那是洪昇《長生殿》形容楊貴妃出浴的景象。肚臍人人有,詩人可以視而不見,畫家、雕刻家卻不能逃避。而近代泳衣時裝,亦每多露臍,於是,對肚臍的審美自有各種議論。肚臍怎樣才好看?從米氏畫中所見,阿當的肚臍呈丁字形,上帝的如側臥小蟲。美羅愛神雕像和戈雅(Goya)《裸艷女》的肚臍造形卻是圓嘟嘟的。今人多以垂直狹長型為上品,大抵橫躺的臍眼令人聯想到臃腫的腰圍,這年頭誰也不願發福,對「備用輪胎」恐懼有加。其實,這只是時興的看法,並非不易的標準。「腰大十圍」是古人美稱,羲之坦腹東床,坦的當然不是癟肚子。「丞相肚裡好撐船」,必需大腹便便才辦得到。「縱有健婦把鋤犁」,健婦不可能有黛玉的纖腰。上古民族雕塑的女體,莫不腰豐乳碩,以示生育力強。巴羅克時代的魯本斯(Rubens)和印象派大師雷諾阿(Renoir)所畫的肥壯裸女當然是最著名的,其實十四世紀的西洋畫家早已崇尚豐腰,所繪處子宛若孕婦,如凡愛克(Jan van Eyck)那幀題為《Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini》的名畫,新娘子恍似懷胎九月。這是藝術的真,不應以常理繩墨。


       肚臍長相窩囊,活像氣球結子,令人氣為之結。當代史家Theodore Zeldin譏評悲觀論者以肚臍觀照世界,難免境界局促。婆羅門教的神話卻給肚臍貼金,說毗濕奴入定時肚臍長出蓮花,創造之神即在蓮花裏孕化而成。文學上涉及肚臍的詞句並不多。粵諺「肚臍深,一肚金」是罕見讚語。至若《金瓶梅》所謂「腰州臍下作家鄉」,自是十足淫話。《辭海》只收「噬臍」一詞,「噬臍」意指後悔已遲,語出《左傳》:「若不早圖,後君噬臍」,杜預注:「若齧腹臍,喻不可及」,似以空間距離的不及喻時間的不及,甚為費解。其實齧腹臍也未必不可及,軟骨美人即優為之。又《莊子》寓言中的殘疾人,「頤隱於臍」,頤者頰也,頰既及臍,齧臍自然不成問題。最近看到上海文化出版社《咬文嚼字》裡高一峰先生的文章,爰引《本草綱目》關於麝香的資料,指出麝在獵人追捕時會把臍咬破,讓腺囊報廢,獵人因不得麝香而放棄,故此噬臍是自保行為,但必須及時完成,遲則不保。如所言不虛,麝的智商真也高得可以。




說來說去,肚臍顯然是人體最煞風景的東西,大可借用藍姆(Charles Lamb)喻窮親戚的連珠妙語來形容。如果位於隱蔽的部位那也罷了,偏要長在肚皮要津,真的拿它沒辦法。其實那也是有道理的。臍眼長在目下一尺的顯明位置,朝夕提醒我們不可忘記母親,對於忤逆兒女,更有當頭棒喝之效。我們應對肚臍晨昏定省,頂禮百拜,庶幾不忘慈母生育之恩。


May 22, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment

Reflections on My Sixtieth Birthday

Reflections on My Sixtieth Birthday



Preamble ~ Decades ~ The physical side of things ~ On being impractical and worldly unwise ~ A diatribe against power and authority ~ Interests and passions ~ Peak experiences ~ The case of the shrinking vocabulary ~”One Equal Music”: the resolution of paradoxes ~ Comedy or tragedy? ~ Shedding of baggage ~ Epilogue




       I turned sixty last week.  I didn’t mention it to the folks at work until afterwards. They are mostly lasses who haven’t been around for that long but insist that they have – a few even complain that they are “old”, what at twenty-four or something.  They showered me with good wishes, several hugged me and two of them even gave me a peck on the cheek.  I was truly touched and felt mildly embarrassed.  The more perceptive among them noticed my blush and remarked upon it.  I said it wasn’t blush but hot flushes, which made them all laugh.  It was blush all right. It welled up from the unearthly shyness which flows in my blood, something I am rather proud of.  “It is surely discreditable, under the age of thirty, not to be shy”, wrote a well-known essayist three quarters of a century ago1.  Today, it is rare to meet somebody shy at age 25.   In my case, I remain as raw-skinned as I ever was.  That means more than half a century of social exposure has not blunted my sensitiveness, something very precious indeed. 


       They presented me with a book voucher and a birthday card showing three geriatric men huffing and puffing on their wives’ bicycles. They asked me how I felt now that I had just joined the sexagenarian club.  They didn’t actually use that antiquated word, of course.  Looking at those fresh faces, what could I say?  It was of course just social pleasantry: people asking how you feel do not expect a lengthy description of your aches and pains.  But among colleagues who know one other well there might be a genuine wish to know.  If I just say “I feel fine, thank you” I would be socially appropriate but truly false. Now to be false is the last thing I want to be, but it is not always easy to speak one’s mind either.  As a Chinese poet2 puts it,


       When I was young I did not sorrow know

       So up the tower I’d climb, I’d climb

       And feign sadness for a lovely rhyme.

       Now I have tasted sorrow through and through,

       Much as I want to, I can’t tell, I can’t tell;

       I might praise the autumn cool just as well.”


So I just said I wasn’t particularly interested in birthdays.  They seemed surprised.  “How can any one lose interest in birthdays?” one asked, her eye-lashes fluttering rather charmingly.  How can….indeed? The implication is of course: has Lester lost interest in life?  That reminds me of Dr Johnson’s verdict that “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”3.  It sounds terrible to lose interest in life, but such is the human condition that it is certainly possible to lose interest in this life.  It would take some explaining though, if those young things are patient enough to hear.  I think I shall indulge myself of an afternoon in retracing the thoughts I have had over the last few years when not just praising the autumn cool.  It would do no harm, at least as far as I am concerned.




       The 60th birthday would be considered a special milestone by most people by virtue of the significance of the decade.  It is convenient to break the human life span into decades.  Hence such terms as teen, score, score and ten, quadragenarian, quinquagenarian, sexagenarian, septuagenarian, octogenarian, nonagenarian, centenarian, jubilee and diamond jubilee etc.  Likewise, there are special characters for the ages of 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100 in classical Chinese.  The Chinese are well familiar with the legend of an ancient king who avenged his defeat and humiliation by spending ten years boosting his population and another ten years building up an army of hardy fighters.  A proverb says that it takes ten years to grow a tree, but a hundred years to nurture a human being. The Dream of the Red Chambers, the greatest Chinese novel, took its writer ten laborious years to write.  One ancient scholar described his idea of a perfect life thus: to devote ten years to reading, ten years to travelling and ten years to preserving and looking after the books and scrolls of calligraphy and painting in his possession.  I agreed with Zhang Chao, a renowned writer of the Late Ming Dynasty, that preservation and arrangements of books and scrolls need not take ten years, and that twice or five times the period suggested would hardly be enough for reading.  As for travel, I am not qualified to talk about it at all because I just don’t do it.  To well-meaning people who remind me of the joys of travel and how it broadens the mind, I usually respond by saying that Shakespeare, Kant and Schubert hardly ventured out of their hometowns during their lives and no one dare say they were narrow-minded.  But these are geniuses, of course.  To the above-mentioned schedule I would add that I wish to devote ten years meditating to cleanse my mind.


       It was, you’ve guessed it, Confucius who started the tradition of tracing a person’s development by the decade.  Reminiscing in his grand old age, he claimed that at the age of 30 he began to stand on his own two feet; at 40 he ceased to be perplexed about things; at 50 he knew all about Destiny; at 60 he heard nothing that was disagreeable; and at 70 he did as he pleased and could do no wrong.  Plato, too, set great store by ages, and often talked decades. In The Laws, an influential blueprint for the good society, he suggested that the minimum age for any public office should be 30 for males and 40 for females, and nobody should be a Prime Minister or Curator of Laws before the age of 50.  Mencius, writing some two hundred years after Confucius, suggested that in a kingdom well governed by a benevolent ruler people over the age 70 be entitled to eat meat. The irreverent might query what good there is in having meat when one hasn’t got teeth to eat it any more.


       The turn of each decade in one’s life is a special time for reflection and to take stock. The first three decades are busy with growing up, education, starting up home, and having children etc.  Next comes middle age and then old age.  There is gender difference in perceptions about age in all cultures.  Not so long ago, Chinese people used to consider a man at 30 in full bloom and a woman at 30 something like a worn shoe.  And there is a saying that a man who has not made his mark at 40 can safely be ignored.  In Victorian times, an unmarried woman at 30 was a veritable spinster.  Things are now a little different. The so-called “baby-boomers” have put up a fight and have had considerable clout because of their relative affluence. The pressure to stay young is however becoming more and more relentless by the day.  Perceptions about old age have changed over the centuries.  The elderly used to be revered for their experience and wisdom; they are now more often seen as a burden on society.


       A few decades ago, three score and ten was a venerable old age, and a person of 60 like yours truly would have definitely been considered old 50 years ago, but in these days of longer life expectancy he would still pass for being middle-aged. After 60, however, it is hard to pretend that one is “young” any more.  As E.W. Howe puts it: “After a man passes sixty, his mischief is mainly in the head.”  It should be the same with women.  But there have been exceptions.  I read that George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) married for the first time at 60 to a man 20 years her juinior; and George Sand started a love affair with painter Charles Marchal (her “fat baby”), 21 years her junior, after a string of colourful romances with men obscure and famous, including consumptive Chopin.


       So I find myself now, at 60, teetering on the brink of a “climacteric” (O what an ugly word!), and ruminating over the past and pondering the future.  Not being a particularly guilt-ridden person I do not have too many regrets.  I do find, however, that turning 60 is quite a humbling experience, considering how the bulk of good work of humanity has been done by people before they reach that age.  Whole galaxies of saints and geniuses have already passed on before 60 (I must exclude here luminaries of the Chinese race whom English readers tend not to be familiar with, and who definitely warrant a separate listing) – Herodotus, Chaucer, John Constable, Leon Trotsky and Stephen Jay Gould right on 60, Montaigne and Dostoyevsky at 59, Dickens and Gorky at 58, Horace and Beethoven at 58, Shakespeare at 52, Virgil at 51, George Orwell at 47, St Francis of Assisi, Thomas Gray, Cezanne and D.H. Lawrence at 45; and even many decades before: Pascal, Chopin, Charlotte Bronte, Dylan Thomas at 39, Pushkin and Mendelssohn at 38, Raphael, Robert Burns and Van Gogh at 37, Byron at 36, Mozart at 35, Jesus Christ at 33, Alexander the Great at 32, Schubert and Georges Seurat at 31, Emily Bronte at 30, Christopher Marlowe, Shelley and Anne Bronte at 29, Frank Rampsey at 26, John Keats and Wilfred Owen at 25….


       On the other hand, it is also a humbling experience to consider how many people at 60 or over are still doing marvellous work.  At 60, for example, Verdi produced his Requiem and Isaak Walton published his famous The Compleat Angler (1653).  Sophocles, Titian, Toscanini, Rubinstein, Yeats all retained their genius and artistry well into their seventies and beyond.



The physical side of things



       What then are my thoughts about myself at 60?  Despite being the ‘monist’ that I am, I shall here defer to the convenience of considering this under the physical and non-physical aspects.  Physically, it would be interesting to first try to get under the skins of 25-year-olds and see what they feel about a man aged 60.  “Definitely over the hill” is perhaps the most common thought.  Not unlike a woman at 50 perhaps.   Strength of body going, the sap drying up, wrinkles, baldness, varicose veins, arthritis etc – the ravages of ageing are well-known.  As I am edging past 60 I suffer no debility yet, though there are signs that all that ‘living’ has taken its toll. 


       And of course I shouldn’t forget the sexual aspect totally.  To the irreverent young, a 50-year-old woman is probably only half a woman, and a 60-year-old man only half a man.   It doesn’t matter if the poor woman hasn’t yet lost her femininity though her ovulation begins to be erratic, and the poor man’s “manhood” is still intact although his secondary sexual characteristics are on the wane.   I was of course young once.  It seems only yesterday when:


       “...Beholding in [my] dream a lovely face,

       A beautiful complexion, or a form

       Desirable and fair, are so aroused,

       So stirred, excited, swollen, that the deed

       Becomes reality, and a tidal flow

       Pours out to stain the garment…” 4  


And then before I knew, middle age crept up on me, which is described by a favourite Chinese writer of mine5 as [my translation]: “a dangerous age: either the mind is too busy and the sperms too idle; or the sperms too busy and the mind too idle…”  By sixty, sex has increasingly become a reflective activity: it is no longer just a surge of hormones leading to a “shudder in the loins”, but more often than not brings the reflection:


       Post coitum omne animal triste est


       When I quoted this saying (in English) while talking to my young colleagues some time ago, I was greeted with incredulity.  “Why should people feel sad after sex?” was the general reaction.  I reiterated that it was “all animals”, not just humans.  One quipped, “Sex is just fun.”  What could I say to these hopeless hedonists?  I could only wish them good luck: I wasn’t going to make them sad when they were that blissfully ignorant.  But once the sadness is experienced there is no mistaking it.  A sense of emptiness, guilt or revulsion may accompany it.  To think that an animal should produce millions upon millions of eggs and sperms and go to great lengths trying to perpetuate the species, very often in life-threatening and even suicidal circumstances (Christmas Island crabs, spiders and the praying mantis readily come to mind).  How wasteful and tragic!  And why procreate, just to ensure imperfection and suffering continue endlessly in this vale of tears?  The Romans are to be congratulated on being so perspicuous in making this astute observation of post-coital sadness: I searched in vain for something comparable in our Chinese classics.  It is rather strange, for the Chinese are by no means less sensitive souls. 


       All things considered, one could easily appreciate Yeats’s sentiment at the door of old age:


       What shall I do with this absurdity –

       O heart, O troubled heart – this caricature,

       Decrepit age that has been tied to me

       As to a dog’s tail?”6


On being impractical and worldly unwise


       Having somehow survived the rough and tumble of the world for 60 years, one could be expected to be reasonably “practical” and to have achieved a measure of worldly wisdom. For my part, however, I have always considered being practical a necessary evil, with the emphasis on the evil bit, and though outwardly I am doing many of the things practical men do I have not, at 60, lost any of my deep-seated disdain for things practical.  I am just not the mechanic or engineer type.  Give me a choice between theory and practice and I’ll go for theory any time.  I had rather be a Don Quixote than, say, the most successful business mogul in the world.  I refuse to have my feet firmly planted on the ground. “Airy-fairy idealist”, according to many.  My eldest brother noticed this trait of mine early on.  When I was a teen-ager he chided me for “opting out too early”, and all my other folks have since concurred with his assessment.  I don’t know about opting out, for I have never really opted in. 


       I grew up in times of material scarcity, when people worried a lot about the next meal and had to be practical-minded.  The tragedy, as I see it, is that many people can no longer shake off this mentality even when their material conditions have improved, sometimes even greatly, in later life.  It is a tragedy because of arrested growth: practical necessity has closed the minds and souls of these people to a higher dimension of existence, and they linger on, slaves to the Money God, and ready to ridicule as idealistic fools any one who dares to differ.  “What is wrong with being rich?” they would ask, “How is poverty superior, with its iniquities and the stark suffering it brings?”  The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.


       Through the long years I have grappled with people’s attitudes towards money.  Adam Smith and Karl Marx, respective champions of capitalism and socialism and poles apart in ideology, are nonetheless at one in taking a materialist world-view: that the world can be adequately if not solely understood in economic terms.  The aspirations and behaviour of the greatest majority of mankind seem to bear that out.  Just take a look at the twin scourges of advertising and consumerism.  The rampant rise of greed and materialism ever since the end of the 60’s really depresses me.  People fall for Mammon en masse.  For example, the Reader’s Digest does publish many books of quality, but its marketing strategy in the last twenty years of luring potential customers with “sweepstakes” truly stinks, and has at least turned this one once-faithful “customer” away for good.  When, a few years ago, I received junk mail from the Business School of Harvard University addressing me as “Dear Executive” I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Et tu Harvard?  The worse was yet to come.  Since then, the professors of such prestigious universities have succeeded in inflicting upon the world inhuman economic rationalism and globalisation theories which “practical” “doers” have managed to put into practice, only too successfully.  But my fury is of no consequence, of course.


       Ironically, for all my fury about the Money God, I have for most of my 60 years been eking out an existence in the rat race like everybody else.  I took qualifications, have worked all my life, raised a family, saved money, and even invested it.  I have worried about material and practical things, at times more than most people, perhaps.   But deep down in my heart I have always felt that this is unworthy of me; and this feeling is getting stronger as I grow older.  At 60 there is little chance too that I’ll ever be worldly wise.


A diatribe against power and authority


       I am comforted to know that at 60 I have lost none of my dislike for any form of abuse of power and authority, which stems from my misgiving about power and authority themselves and goes back a long time.  When I first came upon Francis Bacon’s dictum that “Knowledge is power” as a youngster, that almost turned me against knowledge itself, so overly sensitive I was to power, even then.  I believe with Lord Acton that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Power takes many forms and so does its abuse: there are physical power, psychological power, economic power, political power, military power, religious power, ideological power, and power of the media etc, all subject to manipulation and abuse.  There is power abuse in the family, in the workplace, in the school playground, in the community and in Government and institutions. The abusers may be parents, peers, the police, bureaucrats, media owners, educators, managers and anybody who has power and authority over others.  There are despots and dictators of all descriptions and in all guises, Stalins, Hitlers, Maos, Pol Pots etc.   In recent months we have seen an international bully in the name of the USA which thinks it can do what it likes with its obscene “mothers of all bombs” and aircraft carriers as long as the Empire State Building is tall.  Shame on all humanity, for monstrosities such as these should have never been allowed to see the light of day.


         I have come across a few bullies in my life.  I could have met many more but for my reclusive nature.  Most of the bullies I have met are petty officials and ignoramuses with inflated egos.  On several occasions in my prosaic working life I was hauled over the coals by bosses for no wrongdoings on my part.  In my younger days I tended to suppress and repress my feelings in such situations.  As I grew older I became more assertive, that is, until recent years, when I have become increasingly philosophical while retaining my dislike of power abuse.  I feel sorry for the bully with his ridiculous sense of self-importance.  There is a very apt Cantonese metaphor for it – “a carbuncle on a mouse’s tail”.  At the same time, I reflect upon my own self and sometimes find to my horror that I have, in my own way, been something of a tyrant too.  I recognise that the danger is greatest when we least suspect it.  Bleakly speaking, power abuse looks very much like part of human nature, hence my being philosophical. Never very skilful in handling sticky situations, there have been times, I must admit, when I did compromise on my stance on power and authority.  But I could have done worse.  I have seen too many 60 year olds that have lost all fighting spirit in the face of authority.


Interests and passions


       Perhaps because of a somewhat deprived childhood, I have since adolescence been thirsting for “the full life”.  I am, however, a “mind man” by nature, and so have had to try hard to achieve some measure of balance.  I taught myself cycling and swimming at the venerable old age of nearly thirty, and was for some years rather interested in tennis (I even tried to play the game, and was fanatical enough to take “sickies” to watch the Borg–McEnroe finals on television three years in a row.)   But basically, my interests lie rather in books and music.  My bookishness has earned me scorn aplenty over the years, even from close relatives.  Down-to-earth practical-minded people will dismiss my interests, even my existence, as being narrow and vicarious.  And I know how true that is.  I am too lazy, and do not have the verve, to physically experience the “world out there”, which holds less and less interest for me with every passing year.  My social ineptness is brought home to me whenever I have to venture outside the castle I have built around myself. I have no sense of direction, and invariably lose my way.  I rely solely on maps and printed guide, which quite often let me down.  I have no desire to travel, unlike most “baby-boomers” of my generation who have in their financially secure middle age suddenly found the urge to “explore and experience the world”, and to have “fun”, which seems to me rather silly.   I consider myself a far smarter traveller than these people are: I could, for example, traverse the universe in an armchair, and do that for free.  I feel that after living for several decades the average person should have experienced all the basic things in life – sights and sounds, pleasure and pain, misery and happiness, and there should be no need to frantically try to make up for lost time and sample “new experience”.   There is something unbecoming and inelegant about most such attempts. I know my attitude runs counter to conventional wisdom and the teachings of modern psychologists and educators who encourage people to always sharpen their senses and enrich their experience.  But I am also nothing if not disillusioned with scientists in general and social scientists in particular.


       For the kingdom of knowledge has room aplenty for the mind to roam.  That the sky is the limit became literally true when astronomy became one of my early passions. For decades I was like a sponge ready to soak up any kind of knowledge: I could get myself interested in just about everything, with the sole exception of subjects related to money and business matters (not that I didn’t give them a try).  I must hasten to add that this is just enthusiasm that has hardly borne any fruit. It is just a book-worm’s manifesto.  I read philosophy, literature, history, the classics, and science, from A to Z – trying to grasp the basics of these divers realms and come up with some sort of synthesis.  Such a breadth of interest in reading ensures that I am a generalist through and through.  My affinity is for the Universal Man of the Renaissance rather than the modern specialist.  To me everything comes under.   But without the abilities to match the interests and enthusiasm, I am destined to be a dilettante, as predicted by an old-time colleague, who thought I was “journalist material” – a journalist too lazy to venture outdoors to investigate, that is.   I don’t mind. 


       In recent years, however, there has been a shift in my reading habits. Now, mathematics is too much of a young man’s game for me, logic is decidedly sterile, and scientific knowledge doesn’t satisfy me any more. As for technology, however powerful it is, it can only help in the right hands, and only in the fringe even then, as in relieving famine and certain illnesses; but it can do little to address the essential human condition relating to happiness and freedom etc. Having been a diligent though amateurish student of science for thirty years, I am really jolted from my dogmatic slumber by such disillusionment, much as Kant was from his by Hume’s philosophy. My appetite for knowledge is now much tempered, as I find myself increasingly drawn to mystical contemplation.  Rather than read astronomy I now find myself enjoying fables, fairy tales, mythology and even pure fantasy.  At the time of my 60th birthday, I find myself immersed in a most enchanting book called West-Green Random Notes by Shi Zhenlin7 of the early Qing dynasty.  It is a beautiful collection of stories of goddesses, demi-goddesses, poets, hermits, poor scholars, farmers and various men and women somehow “not made for this world” but nonetheless gracing it with their genius and sublime qualities.


       It is fitting for the young to soak up everything like a sponge, and for the old to shed their baggage.  One sees this clearly in the artistic evolution of just about every great master: Youth flaunts its beauty and exuberance, its art often flamboyant, elaborate, colourful, well-proportioned.  The mature artist, having been all of this, moves beyond and settles on a simple, even “crude”, style, like Picasso and Qi Baishi8 in their later periods, though the simplicity and “crudeness” are all highly disciplined. 


       The great masters are all lean and unencumbered.  They roam light, ready to take off, as it were, on a whiff of wind, like Lie Zi9.  As Yeats said, “There is more enterprise in walking naked.”10


Peak experiences


       In the past several years, for reasons I will not go into here, I have gradually ceased to feel excited over things.  To people from the “Joy of Life” school, the change must sound awfully depressing.  I have had a few “passions” in my time, though the things I was passionate about tended not to be “popular” things.  I still remember the excitement I felt when I bought my first long-playing record (It was Beethoven’s Violin Concerto played by some unknown violinist and had a beautiful dust jacket) or when I chanced upon Fowler’s Modern English Usage in a second-hand bookshop.  I still have the Fowler with me and have since acquired two revised editions of it (see I am from the old school and have more enthusiasm for old Fowler, and even Eric Partridge, than, say, William Safire), but the Beethoven was long gone and I can no longer remember what happened to it. As a young man, whenever I had something exciting to look forward to, I couldn’t sleep for days on end.  People said I was too serious.  I felt rather lonely and often frustrated as well, as all “outsiders” do.  Then one fine autumn day the mist evaporated and I had a mystical vision of harmony, the sort of thing Abraham Maslow calls a “peak experience”.  The joy was intoxicating, somewhat like that of being able to swim and balance oneself on the bicycles for the first time.  You tried and tried and couldn’t do it and all of a sudden you got it and didn’t know how.  And the wonderful thing is that thereafter you will never forget it.  One recalls a parable in Plato’s Republic, which tells of how cave men reared in the dark are changed forever after seeing light for the first time. The peak experiences were so delicious and intoxicating that I would have died to have more of them.  The feeling became addictive as well.  For many years I thought in my naïveté that if only I could have as many “peak experiences” as I could and string them together then my life would be full and fulfilled.  Alas, how very misguided I was!  I did not realise that by its very nature a peak rises only spasmodically.  And if only peaks are to be valued then disappointment is assured – for with every rise there is an attendant fall, it’s simple physics.    I now see that we simply can’t have the cake and eat it too, and have gradually come to the view that crests are no more precious than troughs.  Wisdom, as I see it now, consists in harmonising opposites, resolving all paradoxes, and doing away with distinctions altogether.  The right path is one that doesn’t deviate.  In practice, of course, I still stumble and falter every inch of the way.   It will perhaps take me a trillion re-incarnations to get it right, but with the right vision as guiding light “I” no longer doubt that “we” will all get there, ultimately (Note that “I” and “We” are only “constructs” in Samsara).


The case of the shrinking vocabulary


       I am not a good talker, nor have I much facility with the written word either.  However, I will call myself a word lover. I prefer words to actions any time, though I do appreciate the occasional good work done by real “doers” and would not deny that words can be a real scourge, wherein dwells much nonsense, hypocrisy, hubris, spite, venom and violence.


        My romance with the written word began when I was two or three, and in more than half a century since it has not diminished in intensity.  But it has undergone some odd change of late. When I was a young man I admired and emulated a floral and ostentatious style, using big and obscure words whenever I could.  Then I realised it was no good and tried to be simple and concrete, though I remain firm in my belief that it is good to command a large vocabulary.


       In the last few years, my vocabulary – both Chinese and English – has been shrinking at quite a remarkable rate.  It is not a sign of Alzheimer’s because no memory loss is involved.  I simply banish certain words from my active vocabulary, consciously.  I discard them because I find them useless, misleading, meaningless, or distasteful.  Some are words that I previously loved but no longer suit me.  If I continue to use them people will misunderstand me.  When I hear or read these words used by others, I instantly feel that they are operating on a different wave-length from mine; or rather, because I am the odd man out, I am operating on a different wave-length from theirs. Increasingly I am even investing common words with personal meanings.  This obviously won’t do socially.  But at 60, I have perhaps earned the right sometimes to say “so what” and feel that even the “won’t  do” will do.


       Among words which I find less and less useful are Hope, Luck, Fortunate, Worry, Progress, Relationship, Fun ….  Hope, luck, progress now appear to me to be in some important sense delusional.  Relationship has its legitimate uses but I tend to avoid because of its over-use and abusage.  Fun used to be a harmless word until I came to identify it, unjustly perhaps, with activities that trivialise and stultify the mind. It’s supposed to be great fun, partying, night-clubbing and socialising for the sake of socialising, but I have no time for all this.  People will say I am too serious and devoid of any sense of play and fun; but then they are usually those who identify sensual intoxication with enjoyment.  So I guess I am not debunking real fun, but only that of the trivial kind.  But since I cannot spell out this qualification every time I use the word, I might as well avoid it altogether.


       “Soul-destroying words”: Top of the list are business and commercial words, such as Product, Consumer, Human Resource (I’ve never been able to figure out whether it’s resource or resources – I only know that I don’t want to treat others and be treated like a lump of ore and I shall stick to Personnel any time).  Next come CEO, Executive, MBA and the like, titles symbolising success and power for many but in my bad books nevertheless.  Customer, Client, Growth (as in economic), Development, Success, Competition are also words with proper uses but degraded by flawed perceptions or associations.  Industry used to be all right until I heard some right-wing politician used the term “the Aboriginal industry”.  Win-win, winners and losers, up for grabs etc are ugly words and will always remain so.  Even Professional sounds awry: to me now a professional is often a narrow-minded over-paid automaton. So does Business, despite its obvious legitimate uses, particularly when I hear it bandied about in the hospital where I work. And the list goes on. What irks me about these words are the materialistic outlook and mentality they reflect and the greed and capitalistic abuses they help feeding.


       Then there are words associated with power and its abuses: Power (even People Power by extension), Powerful, Empower (even used in connection with the underprivileged), Capabilities (which can only remind me of Donald Rumsfeld with his “nuclear capabilities”). I have always talked at length about this in the section A Diatribe against Power and Authority.  


       Words that over-emphasise the “self”: e.g. self-esteem (alas! too many “I”s in this piece of mine ); survival of the fittest; competitive etc.


       New-age words: connectedness, bridge-building, etc. etc.  Perfectly harmless, good and even noble words once, but with popular use they have become mere clichés. Team-work, I am sorry, is another one, for more often than not it is just mediocrity in disguise.


       Most words associated with popular culture I find off-putting.  Shows and talk shows hosted by “celebrities” like Oprah or Jerry Springer, for example.  Light music and Easy listening are two others. Ignoramuses butcher Vivaldi, Mozart and even Bach, by chopping up and re-arranging their masterworks to be used as background music in shopping malls, and even for mobile phones.  As if everything had to be “easy” and stupid.


       Then there are tasteless words or terms that destroy the beauty of language, such as window of opportunity…. ; showy words like Super-…., Block-buster; tasteless words like Outcome….. academic jargons such as constructs, modernism, post-modernist …, and new crops of journalese, officialese and commercialese.


       Such is (the beginning of) my hit-list.  I can anticipate the reaction from various “professionals”.  Psychologists will probably brand me pathological because I am withdrawing from the world.  Educators will call me dogmatic and restrictive for daring to challenge the concept of self-esteem.  Social workers will call me anti-social (for how can one not love “relationships”?).  Gerontologists will pronounce me degenerative.  Scientists will call me anti-science and perhaps obscurantist.  Economists will laugh at my ignorance of the forces that drive their world machine.  Logicians will call me contradictory (how can one debunk individuality and connectedness in the same breath?)  The “Life-be-in-it” camp will call me desiccated and even “dead” for debunking “Fun”.  And all will concur that I am aloof and cynical beyond cure. Their criticism may all be valid from their respective standpoints.  I’ll only counter by saying that giving up those words is a most liberating experience whereby I am on my way to achieving true freedom through gradually paring down to the essentials, or “withering into the truth”, to quote W. B. Yeats yet again.  It can also be seen as the first step towards resolving the great paradoxes the Zen way – a word-lover without words.


 One Equal Music”: the resolution of paradoxes


       As I am moving beyond the sixth decade of my life, I begin to see that the transcending of paradoxes is essential to enlightenment.  “The thinker without a paradox,” said Soren Kierkegaard, “is like a lover without feeling; a paltry mediocrity.”  And not just the philosopher.  I too have in the course of living experienced anxiety and frustration through the numerous conflicting issues.  Then at last I have come to see that all paradoxes as only figments of the imagination or, more accurately, the mirages of delusion, and realise that fighting conflicts is just tilting at the windmills. This appears to be how the majority of mortals “progress” on the path to true wisdom, though very often growing old involves no spiritual progress and there are also cases when children are born always wise.


       Paradoxes arise in every field of my experience.  I have met them through opposites which refuse to go away.  In philosophy: perennial opposites like Mind and Matter (despite Samuel Johnson’s protestation by stomping the ground), Freewill and Determinism, One and Many, Good and Evil, Religion and Atheism…..  In art: Beauty and Ugliness, Classicism and Romanticism, Simplicity and Sophistication, the Concrete and the Abstract, Form and Content, Meaning and Technique, Message and Medium….. In science (and scientific method): Evolutionism and Creationism, Reductionism and Holism…..wave and particle (continuity and discontinuity)…  In psychology: as seen in the ambivalence of emotions (“Been down so long it looks like up to me” – title of a novel by Richard Farina)….  In religion: “…early devotees are the likeliest apostates, as early sinners are senile saints” (Durant)…  In perceptions such as of strength and weakness, good and bad, right and wrong ….  In existential questionings (“to be or not to be”)….   Paradoxes also abound in language, confusing and delighting people with ambiguities and oxymorons (e.g. Noble savage, stunted Hercules, harmonious discord, gentle giant, witty fool, foolish wit, bittersweet, blissfully ignorant, happy mistake, cheerful pessimist, loneliness in a crowd, conspicuous by one’s absence, enlightened despot, make haste slowly, Time stood still, Heard melodies are sweet/But those unheard are sweeter, etc.) 


       The pairs enumerated are not necessarily true paradoxes in the sense of being both true and false – some may be just opposites as conceived by the human mind.  However, all of them are seemingly incompatible and cry out to be resolved or harmonised.  But they cannot be, so long as our mind stays in the mundane mode of self-delusion.  With paradoxes comes tension, and the buildup is relentless until it is somehow resolved in a stroke of enlightenment.  So the perception of baffling paradoxes is a good thing as well as necessary – which is another paradox.  The beginning of wisdom comes, first, with the recognition that


       “Fair and foul are near of kin,

       And fair needs foul,’ I cried…..

       But Love has pitched his mansion in

       The Place of excrement;

       For nothing can be sole or whole

       That has not been rent.”11


At this stage, the opposites still exist but are somehow harmonised.  Then ultimately, we are admitted to the realm of the mystics who have transcended the illusions of hope, despair, comedy and tragedy.


       “And into that gate they shall enter, and in that house they shall dwell, where there shall be no cloud nor sun, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light, no noise nor silence, but one equal music, no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession, no foes nor friends, but one equal communion and identity, no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity.”12



Comedy or tragedy?


      60 years ago began this journey.  Since that time, I have experienced my share of the joys, pains and the ennui of existence.  What do I make of it all?  Is life a comedy, a tragedy, or else?


       It all depends, I think, on whether one is optimistic or pessimistic, or else.  Optimism and pessimism are related to temperament.  It would be one-sided for instance to say that Mozart is an optimist just because of the irrepressible joy of much of his music, for his music can be heart-rendingly tragic as well.  But there is no doubt that Mozart is angelic in his transcendence over human woes. By contrast, Beethoven fights every inch of the way, more gallantly than, say, Brahms but fight he does all the same.  One could detect a measure of cynicism when he declared at Death’s doors that “The comedy has ended!”  Homer and Shakespeare, on the other hand, are the most objective of artists, mirroring the human drama in all its nakedness and totality with almost total detachment.


       Intuitively, and in elegant theory, any pair of opposites should be of equal amounts and should cancel each other out, just as action and reaction, particles and anti-particles, and the two poles of a magnet. Pain and pleasure, suffering and enjoyment, good and evil should be the same. But that is not my perception.  I tend to see life as a stormy odyssey relieved only by occasional sunshine.  It is bad enough to have the distinguishing faculty, i.e. to perceive opposites where there is really none, without the further distortion that equal amounts appear unequal in a faulty scale tipping always towards the down side.


       In sixty years in this mortal life, I have seen and experienced enough pain to agree with Omar Khayyám that life is a vale of tears.  There exist rare individuals gifted with perfect empathy; but for me it was suffering of a personal nature in the last 5 to 6 years that finally makes me identify with the pain suffered by all humanity.  That has changed my outlook totally. 


       Not a sentimentalist by nature, I see myself as a wounded being amongst my fellows, and find myself, along with good company, increasingly “wearied” of this mortal life.  I strongly suspect that most of those who say they would gladly re-live their lives are those who have a relatively good run (in this life) but are also blind  to the suffering of the less “fortunate” (though I shouldn’t really use that word).   Do they really want to come back – to be through this “sorry scheme of affairs entire” all over again?  And to suffer, and see suffering in others, in infinitum, like Atlas and Sisyphus?


       There are times when even the threat of Death has lost its potency:


       Inasmuch as I no longer cling so hard to the good things of life when I begin to lose the use and pleasure of them, I come to view death with much less frightened eyes…” 13


When will it all end?  Then I laugh at myself.  I am no god or hero but a mere mortal, and nothing infinite can happen to me, either good or bad, while in Samsara.  I draw strength from Chuangtse, Horace and Boethius, and forgive Kipling despite all his faults for giving humanity this timeless advice:


       “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

       And treat those two impostors all the same.”14


Shedding of baggage


       I have already mentioned above that I should like to pare down to the essentials.  Here are a few more thoughts on the subject.  I like to see myself growing old a gaunt man, travelling light and ready to take off any time.  I no longer pine for excitement and exhilaration, for they feel too much like intoxication and always have their down side.   I had rather emulate a beam of light in gravitational free fall.   For far too long have we departed from the right path.


       To shed our baggage is an extremely hard thing to do, so strong is our desire for possessions.  First there are material things.  Next come habits, so ingrained as to be second nature.  There is also intellectual baggage, i.e. “intelligence” and all the “learning” and “education” which are commonly considered indispensable to “success” in life but which are ultimately a hindrance to our progress towards spiritual enlightenment.  Then there are the emotions, desires, aspirations, even hopes.  Finally, the hardest to shed, are the finest things in life, such as personal love and beauty.  These things have once served us in good stead and have given us glimpses of Heaven, but – I know it is a terrible thing to say – I have now no doubt that they have all to be laid aside in the end.  Proponents of Utopia and Heaven talk about everlasting joy, but this joy must be something different from the joy we normally think of in life, including the joy of listening to Mozart, for example.   Like anything not perceived as a neutral state,  “joy” presupposes the existence, somewhere, of its opposite, and who wants it?


       “I…devoted three years of travel to forgetting all that I had learnt with my head.  This unlearning was slow and difficult; it was of more use to me than all the learning imposed by men, and was really the beginning of an education.”15


       True freedom will be achieved only with the shedding of all baggage.  At a mundane level, the transcendence of each desire and “need” makes us to that extent freer and richer. 


       When I was a young man I tended to envy others who seem to be “happier” and “more fortunate” than I was, particularly when I was in tormenting situations that seemed never to end.  But I have, of late, come to see things rather differently.   I now see all human beings, whatever their present situations, as basically passengers in the same boat – tossed about on the unfriendly sea of universal suffering.  I am having a bad run.  Why me?  But look at my so-called “lucky” neighbours.  Do I not see misery, ennui, frustration, woes of all descriptions beneath the facades of “fun”, “joy” and “happiness”?  Do I not see that sooner or later “misfortunes” will be visited upon every human being?  Do I really want to be in anybody else’s position, or to be anybody else indeed, however “fortunate”?   The answer must be negative.  If I could free myself from envy that would be liberation indeed.


       Talking about liberation reminds me of breaking through cycles or circles, a fascinating subject.    Being perfectly symmetrical in geometrical shape, the circle presents as the only “perfect” figure to contemplative minds, suggestive of elegance, stability, order in an untidy, unstable and chaotic world.  It is seen to even have a kind of permanence amid the flux of the universe.  At the dawn of modern astronomy, philosophers tried desperately to come up with theories of the motion of heavenly bodies to explain the non-circular orbits observed.  They came up with a complicated system of “epicycles”, which serves to show how strongly the circle figures in the human imagination.


       I have asked myself the following question: Is the circle, for all its symmetries and esthetic qualities, all that good?  I am now inclined to answer in the negative.


       “Running around in circles” and “come full circle” mean getting nowhere (hence “nothing new under the sun”). “Reasoning in a circle” means assuming what is to be proved as the basis of the argument. “A vicious circle” and “a circle of violence and retribution” mean an endless chain reaction of two or more undesirables in a mutual cause-and-effect relationship.    In these examples, the circle suggests repetition and monotony at best, and meaningless, flawed or vicious otherwise.  In the life and death cycle we are all caught in, there is this sense of imprisonment like a gramophone needle stuck in the same groove.  We must break free.




       I am ten years short of threescore and ten.  From the above ramblings, what sort of creature has emerged?  A cynic, or an insipid bore tired of Shanghai (substitute London if you are English, and Sydney if Australian), bereft of passion and any sense of fun and humour; solitary, serious, desiccated, unfeeling, priggish, pedantic, snobbish, opinionated; and an obnoxious square peg in a round hole?  In a better light, it’s perhaps someone who has done with trivialities and has an eye for the nobility and grandeur of spirit; “aristocratic” in the best sense of the word without the need or use of privileges; and above all acutely aware of the delusions that humanity labours under and the true freedom that lies beyond.  Hence to the simple and modest I shall return. Instead of Shanghai, for example, my yearnings are with lesser towns like elegant old Suzhou with its myriad antiquated waterways, lanes and gardens, home to some of the greatest poets, genuises and the most lovely and soul-stirring women the world has ever known.  Another advantage, in my case, is that I don’t even have to be physically there, for all the poetry and beauty are forever etched in my mind, indestructible, despite the onslaught of modernity and the perennial tragedy as the newly late Stephen Jay Gould saw it:


       I regard as the central structural tragedy in the working of any complex system, including organisms and social institutions – the crushing asymmetry between the need for slow and painstaking construction and the potential for almost instantaneous destruction.”16


The way I see it now, this sense of tragedy dwells in the very nature of human perception.  That is, as long as we are stuck in the mundane mode, subject to the tyrannies and vicissitudes of Time and Desire, we will continue to suffer.  It has taken me 60 years to begin to see that the right way to face the situation is Acceptance and Understanding, understanding not of the logical-rational kind but something that is supra-intellectual.  It is hard, but then as Spinoza put it:


       “Needs must [the Way] be hard, since it is so seldom found.  How would it be possible, if salvation were ready to our hand, and could without great labour be found, that it should be by almost all men neglected?  But all excellent things are as difficult as they are rare.”17


       I shall thus wind up on a somewhat mystical note.  I am aware that what I have come up with is nothing but a pastiche of mostly second-hand ideas.  But it will serve as a record of the state I am in at this rather special age of sixty.





1  Harold Nicolson (1886-1968)

2 Xin Qiji (1140-1207)

3 James Boswell Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) – 19 September 1777

4 Lucretius (circa 99-55BC) – The Way Things Are, The Great Books, Britannica Edition

5 Tung Chiao – (born 1942)

6 W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) – The Tower

7 Shi Chenlin (1692-1778)

8 Qi Baishi (Chi Po-shih 1863-1957)

9 Lie Zi (Lieh Tze circa 5th century BC)

10 W. B. Yeats – A Coat

11 W. B. Yeats – Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop

12 John Donne (?1572-1631)

13 Montaigne (1533-1582) – Essais

14 Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) – If _

15 André Gide (1869-1951) – Fruits of the Earth

16 Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) – Bully for Brontosaurus

17 Spinoza (1632-1677) – Ethics




May 22, 2008 Posted by | English essays | Leave a comment

Late Night Thoughts


Late Night Thoughts

on Listening to Mahler and Four Hindustani Masters



The night is deep and eerily quiet.   I have had a long day, up since five in the morning and after finishing a busy day shift in the hospital I have worked on a lengthy translation for several hours in the evening.   For many years now I have been keeping to such a full schedule, and my stamina at work has long amazed the few people who know me well, not least my long-suffering wife, who sometimes calls me Superman.    It is nothing to me to stay up till two or three in the morning only to get up at six for work.  I often maintain that time is precious and should not be squandered by sleeping it away, quite contrary, I know, to scientific opinion.    I am tempted to add that I forgo sleep because of my zest for life, but “zest for life” is a little high-sounding and I am not sure I live life fully enough to brag about it.   I also feel embarrassed when asked what I do with all that extra time at my disposal, for I have nothing to show for it.   However, I can at least say that, despite what my jargon-loving colleagues would call “sleep deprivation” I have seldom known tiredness, even at the ripe age of 58, though I know that I have aged at least ten years in my last three, for very good reasons.  


In this small hour of the night one is entitled to soliloquise a bit, but it is still good form to apologise for thus beating about the bush.   While ramblers generally bore, the likes of Colin Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould and Lewis Thomas  – whose books are sitting on the side table – have developed rambling styles that are truly magnificent.   These are great writers and can get away with flouting all the rules of good writing as taught by professors.   Colin Wilson rambles because he has, on his own admission, an “untidy mind”.  Gould rambles and digresses through sheer exuberance, to share with readers his prodigious learning and passion for words, with edifying results.  Lewis Thomas rambles too, though to a lesser extent.   Both Gould and Thomas are ardent admirers of Montaigne, perhaps the greatest rambler of them all, who keeps waffling on about himself (alas there are too many “I”’s in my opening paragraph) in his famous essays but is never boring because he is talking about all humanity at the same time.  


The Song of the Earth


I have just finished reading A Report on the Violent Man, a chapter in A Criminal History of Mankind by Colin Wilson, and am immensely saddened by the current world situation as terrorism grips the U.S. and the Americans are bombing Afghanistan.   Wilson cited the archaeological findings near Peking at the time of “the Rape of Nanking” by Japanese soldiers.   It appeared that the ape-men were already capable of smashing the skulls of fleeing enemies from the back.   This reminds us that cruelty has been an abominable feature of the human species from the beginning.  We certainly are not such noble or sublime creatures as we would like to believe.


It is a depressing feeling, and it hangs over the mind like a black pall.   What zest for life, with the spectre of cruel death staring us in the face?  I get up from the lounge and brew myself a pot of “dragon-spring” tea, and feel like listening to Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth).   It was 15 years ago when I bought that record but I have listened to it only two or three times since.  It is a song about death as much as about the earth.


I always find Mahler fascinating – because of his Jewish background, his complex, neurotic personality and his life-long preoccupation with the meaning of life and death.  Mahler the Jew interests me perhaps because I am Chinese: the Jews and the Chinese have so much in common and are yet so different.  The Jews are as religious as the Chinese are agnostic and philosophical.   Both belong to old civilisations, have great reverence for tradition and learning and are resilient and hard-working beyond compare.   I admire the Jews for offering the world such noble figures as Jesus Christ and Spinoza and dazzling geniuses like Einstein, Bohr, Menuhin and Horowitz, just as I revere Laotse, Confucius, Li Po and Su Tungpo.   I think of the epic struggle of the Jews against persecution and discrimination since the Diaspora, and of their great suffering, harrowing and hallowing at the same time, perhaps even greater than what overseas Chinese people have been through down the centuries.   As I grow older I feel more and more respect for people who suffer a great deal.  And Mahler suffered a lot from anti-Semitic manoeuvres even in the musical world.


Besides being a fanatical idealist, Mahler was a neurotic with a strong mother-fixation.   Five of his eleven siblings died in infancy, a sixth died at thirteen, a seventh of a brain tumour, an eighth committed suicide.   This made him nervous and superstitious about death, and he apparently consulted Freud regularly at one stage.  I know that Freud, despite his commanding influence in psychology, has been branded “pseudo-scientific” by Karl Popper. For my part, I have treated Science as God for three decades, but in the last few years I have lost much of my interest in the scientific and intellectual realms.   While still an atheist, I am increasingly drawn to the mystical .   It’s a frightening change.  Might it not be a retrograde step, a regression to superstition and obscurantism?   I can only say that after studying science for many years I have found it unable to offer satisfactory answers to the essential problems of life, and of death.


I pour a hot cup of tea and put Mahler’s record on.  The opening outburst in the horns forbodes the turmoil ahead.   This is “The Drinking Song of Earth’s Misery”, the first in a cycle of six.  Rather like an opium addict reaching for his pipe, I indolently pick up a volume of Li Po’s poems from the side table.      It is a bad habit of mine: trying to read and listen to music at the same time.   Invariably the mind wanders between book and music, doing justice to neither and leaving me unsatisfied and feeling foolish.


But on this occasion the music and the book do go together.   Mahler’s song cycle is written as a kind of “symphony” based on a collection of ancient Chinese poems translated into German by Hans Bethge.  From the English translation of that German translation I am able to trace one, and only one, of the songs to its Chinese source.  How very frustrating! 


 The first song is very dark in mood.   Four of its five strains end with the announcement “Dark is life; dark is death”.   It was 1907, a disastrous year for Mahler, then 46.   In July his favourite daughter Putzi died.   In August he had to resign as Director of the Opera in Vienna.   His wife Alma was on the verge of a breakdown, and to humour her Mahler jokingly undertook to be medically examined, only to learn that he had a fatal heart condition.   Mahler the neurotic was now certain of his impending death, and his life-long yearning to find the meaning of life and death would become his constant obsession.


The second song is called Autumn Loneliness.   It sings about lotus flowers drifting on the water.   Oh, the lotus!   For us Chinese it is a symbol of purity and wisdom: pure despite stemming from dirty mud;  and wise because of its associations with the Buddha.  But even the lotus will wither like anything else.  The mood of this song is one of loneliness and desolation:  “Mein Herz ist mude” (My heart is weary) in the third stanza says it all.  


The third song is about youth and there is some sunshine for a while.  The fourth song is called Beauty.    Both songs sing of life’s poignant beauty, only too ephemeral. 


Next comes Der Trunkene im Fruhling (The Drunkard in Spring) , a rendition of a poem by Li Po, which I am able to find in the volume I am flipping through.   As I listen to the German lyric, my mind shuttles between the English translation on the record jacket and the Chinese verse by Li Po himself.   I am trying to figure out from the English text whether the German translation does justice to the original Chinese.   It sounds complicated but I am quite used to such an activity as a translator.  Poetry is what is left out in translation, according to Robert Frost, and when it is a translation upon a translation of a poem one can be sure that absolutely no poetry of the original is left.   But this particular translation reads well enough, though there are omissions and additions and Mahler is known to have revised the poems freely to suit his purposes.  The translator, however, has made a mistake right at the beginning.   “Life is but a dream” is rendered as “If life is but a dream”.   The difference may be only subtle but important.   Li Po drinks to seek oblivion because he firmly believes, with many Taoists, that life is but a dream.  


The last song, entitled Der Abschied (The Farewell), is a long rumination on Death, and the process of it through gradual dissolution, portrayed musically in a rarefied atmosphere in pianissimo, seems to be accepted with resignation, but not quite in peace.


Mahler’s Ninth Symphony


Montaigne quoting Cicero says that to philosophise is to learn to die.   The Song of the Earth certainly invites me to ponder the theme, and in this mood I take out Mahler’s Ninth Symphony from the record cabinet.    Mahler having finished his Eighth Symphony was uneasy about writing a ninth, because he feared it would be his last, mindful that Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner all wrote nine symphonies and then died.   He treated the Song as the ninth “symphony”, and that completed he quickly moved on to write another symphony which he thought would be the Tenth, so death would be cheated.   But that was not to be.   This “Tenth” he had in mind is properly the Ninth, and the true tenth symphony he were to write was left unfinished when he died.  


Late night.   Mahler.  Mahler’s Ninth.   Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.   I fetch the slim volume with that title essay by Lewis Thomas.   


       I had read two volumes of essays by Lewis Thomas, viz. The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher and The Medusa and the Snail, eight years ago, when I was sailing through Life’s relatively calm waters and had no inkling of what was to come.   I was no baby even then – at 50, the age when Confucius professed to know all about Fate and Destiny – and had been through ups and downs like everybody else.  But till then I had always been able to find my own little niche of order amid the maelstrom of existence, by eschewing things that didn’t agree with me, rather like a paramecium zapping away from unpalatable diatoms, a realm Lewis Thomas often wrote about.   My way of coping with hostile environment has always been to shirk rather than confront, so to this day I am still rather raw and thin-skinned.   An escapist I have been called, even a coward, but I don’t really mind.   The truth is I don’t feel particularly weak or vulnerable.   And this is because, call it good fortune if you will – though I have no use of the ideas of good luck or bad luck any more – I  have always been able to find space to back into, and also find sustenance from such master spirits as Laotse, Su Tung-po, Mozart and Schubert.   So when I first read Thomas, life seemed snug and comfortable enough for me, though by no means perfect.


       The Ninth Symphony is purely orchestral.   I lie back and follow the unfolding of the long first movement.   Andante comodo, a “convenient” and smooth pace.   It is certainly very spacious, but not overtly so like Bruckner’s music.   This movement is full of premonitions, once again of death.   There are the ominous horns, prophetic drums and gentle bells.   It is moody and heavy with longing and desolation.   The end of the movement is bleak and sad as the themes die away, rather inconsolably.   


       The second movement is in parts dance-like, with woodland hunting horns drifting in and out.  The simple themes seem to be an ironic expression of the hollowness and futility of existence.  Here is the discordant conjunction of the trivial and the tragic reality of life itself.  The third movement (Rondo-Burleske) reveals an anguished soul confronting certain death, bitter and horrified at the same time.  The mood, as Kenneth Dommett describes it in the accompanying notes, is one of “almost demented despair”.


       The Finale brings out all the nostalgia and yearning in face of the inevitable, and ends in resignation.  


       I can identify with Mahler’s feeling as Death knocks at the door.   It  is both personal and universal.    On the one hand, it reflects Mahler’s particular outlook and circumstances: the neurotic facing the great unknown.   On the other hand, there is this unmitigated feeling of cosmic loneliness and anxiety gnawing at the heart of modern humanity.   “Nor dread nor hope attend/A dying animal;/ A man awaits his end/Dreading and hoping all.”  And hasn’t Auden called this the Age of Anxiety?


        “There was a time, not long ago, when what I heard, especially in the final moment, was an open acknowledgment of death and at the same time a quiet celebration of the tranquillity connected to the process.   I took this music as a metaphor for reassurance, confirming my own strong hunch that the dying of every living creature, the most natural of all experiences, has to be a peaceful experience.   I rely on nature.   The long passages on all the strings at the end, as close as music an come to expressing silence itself, I used to hear as Mahler’s idea of leave-taking at its best.  But always, I have heard this music as a solitary, private listener, thinking about death.” Lewis Thomas wrote, “Now I hear it differently.   I cannot listen to the last movement of the Mahler Ninth without the door-smashing intrusion of a huge new thought:  death everywhere, the dying of everything, the end of humanity.   The easy sadness expressed with such gentleness and delicacy by that repeated phrase on faded strings, over and over again, no longer comes to me as old, familiar news of the cycle of living and dying.   All through the last notes my mind swarms with images of a world in which the thermonuclear bombs have begun to explode, in New York and San Francisco, in Moscow and Leningrad, in Paris, in Paris, in Paris.   In Oxford and Cambridge, in Edinburgh.   I cannot push away the thought of a cloud of radioactivity drifting along the Engadin, from the Moloja Pass to Ftan, killing off the part of the earth I love more than any other part.”


       Thomas was contemplating the threat of the ultimate holocaust, at a time when the Cold Warriors were armed to the teeth with nuclear missiles.   I understand the feeling only too well.   I see images of hydrogen bombs exploding not only in America and Russia, but also in China, India, the Middle East, Africa, South Africa… everywhere.  


I cannot agree with Thomas that Mahler’s acceptance of death is wholly tranquil or in any way celebratory.  But it is true that whatever tranquillity Mahler might have felt is drowned out by the cacophony of universal death as mankind tries to wipe itself out.   From the wanton destruction of life in the World Trade Centre to the bombings of Afghanistan, from chemical and biological to nuclear warfare, it is abundantly clear that Homo sapiens has lost the plot, comprehensively.


       Life-weary cynics would say that universal death may not be such a bad thing, for that would be the end of the “sorry scheme of things entire”.   There would be no fear, for there is nothing left to fear any more.   Or could that even be seen as a kind of universal nirvana, albeit accomplished the wrong way?   Could universal nirvana be achieved by all human beings eschewing parenthood until every one currently alive dies, thereby achieving the ultimate objective of the end of the birth and death cycle?   Or might there be another karmic mechanism of birth, through “immaculate conception” or other unknown means, so life and death will go on until universal enlightenment is achieved?   These may be flippant and irreverent speculations, but are we not desperate?  


Ali Akbar Khan


       The nuclear scenario pondered by Lewis Thomas is real enough.   Can we still say with the poet that Death shall have no dominion?   No answers.  


I take a sip of my “dragon-spring” tea and savour its slightly bitter taste.     Now the English word “bitter” (as taste) and the Chinese equivalent for it (a character romanised “ku”) have other meanings which are not the same for both languages.   “Bitter” in English also means feeling hate or resentment, but not the Chinese word “ku”;  whereas “ku” also means pain and suffering, but not quite the English word “bitter”.   In the Chinese language ,“bitter medicine” often means good medicine;  a good mentor giving advice we don’t quite want to hear is often alluded to as having a “bitter mouth”.   And “bitter-mouth mentor” is a picturesque synonym for tea.   It is only natural that, being philosophical in temperament, the Chinese are such great tea drinkers, for the bitter taste of tea reminds us of suffering whence comes the wisdom of the sober philosopher, just as wine (also called “happy soup” in ancient China) symbolises the passion and fancy of the Dionysian poet. 


The tea clears my mind rather nicely.   I next put on the disc of Hindustani music I bought the other day.   It begins with a prayer piece called Guru Bandana, composed and played by Ali Akbar Khan and sung by Asha Bhosle.   Right from the first note, I am mesmerised by its timeless and mystical music as if transported to a higher world.  When the piece ends I realise that it is only five and half minutes long.   There seems enough magnificence therein to fill all eternity.


The musical notes explain the meaning of the song thus:   “…the Guru is the basis of meditation;  the feet of the Guru are the basis of worship;  the words of the guru are the basis of mantra;  the Grace of the Guru is the basis of liberation.   Whatever you would like to do, anything in your life you always give due to your Guru, especially in knowledge, any kind of knowledge.   You must always keep your Guru in your mind and that song in its wording is just like a prayer to Guru.”


I used to tell people that there are huge gaps in my education.    I went to 19 schools and feel that I have never had a good teacher in flesh and blood.   In my school days I envied those who had good teachers.   Then I began to read Bertrand Russell, and came to value self-reliance and independence of mind more than anything else.   I arrogantly thought that I could rely on myself for everything.  For more than thirty years, my idea of a hero was an “intellectual” independent and strong in mind and spirit.   But that has changed over the past several years.   The intellectual element has gone by the wayside, as the limitations and shortcomings of the intellect become increasingly clear to me.  As for strength, it is the gentler kind of strength I now value.   And while I still admire people with an independent mind,  I tend to value modesty and humility a little more.  The modesty and humility of a disciple in the presence of a great master.   I should have known better, being Chinese and born at a time when the great tradition of respecting teachers was still much alive.   My attitude toward mentors has thus turned full circle. 


Rag Bhimpalasi, Rag Tilak Kamod


After listening to Ali Akbar Khan and Asha Bhosle, I feel reassured.  There seems to be a way out.


I put on another disc, featuring Rag Bhimpalasi and Rag Tilak Kamod performed by Ustad Imrat Khan’s three sons.   Wonderful sitar, surbahar and tabla music.    From the first sound of Rag Bhimpalasi, the impact is immediate and total. 


For twenty minutes or so, the tune of the surbahar moves and lingers at the same time. The sound of the instrument is deep and resonant, sensuous yet dignified, at once mesmerising and clarifying.  The melody and the strumming of the sympathetic strings between them produce a tone beautiful and peaceful beyond imagining. 


After some sinuous passage work at the upper register a deep mellow tune emerges which slowly grows in texture and gathers pace until the surbahar breaks into an orgiastic dance of exultation and celebration.  The music fades away as peace is restored by a series of lingering notes.


Rag Tilak Kamod is a sitar piece.   It begins with a leisurely passage of great freedom.   The tabla is superb and sensitive in accompaniment.


The music of the sitar and turbahar accompanied by the tabla carry a deep message indeed.  It is reminiscent of the great Ganges meandering through various landscapes, cutting through gorges, plunging in cascades and rolling timelessly into the sea.  For me, it is not the torrent but the quiet and spacious flow that has the greatest impact.  Quietly Flows the Don.   Quietly Flows the Yangtse.  Quietly Flows the Ganges.


In my mind’s eye, I see the dust of ignorance of humanity, layers upon layers upon layers, numberless as the sand of the Ganges.   I see arrogant men of science claiming soon to write down the “final equation”, mistaking the game for the real thing.  I also hear the poet yearning to see the Yellow River become clear.   But as I experience the magic of the Khan brothers’ music, I see the mystical clarity that eludes the logical mind.   A clarity that can only be seen with an understanding that is transcendental, even as Spinoza’s understanding of the Universe – which he calls God – is intellectual.   I begin to see human folly being slowly washed away, like the sand of the Ganges.  


I see humanity writhing in pain and suffering without end.   Unsatisfied desires,  injustices, darkness of mind.  Blood flowing from gaping wounds inflicted by humanity upon humanity.   The music of these three masters gives me great insight into the human condition.   It opens my eye to Infinity, beside which my personal suffering is insignificant.   For human suffering, however great it seems, is essentially finite: humanity will not suffer more than is brought on by itself.   And suffering is linked to the condition of being partial and incomplete, which is created by our delusion of the self.    Suffering cleanses too, and the tears shed by humanity will in time quell the fire of its ignorance, ire and desire.   


I see Death in all its forms and shapes, mainly fearful and violent, and am mortified to see that Life has undone so many.  I can identify with the longing and torment of Mahler, anxious and confused at Death’s door.   I see that whatever tranquillity he eventually achieved is so miniscule, and that despite his life-long seeking he has missed the point.   The point will be missed as long as life and death is felt to be a personal affair.  The tragedy will perpetuate, and suffering and death shall have dominion until we are done with all notions of separateness.    For all phenomena are linked, as in Spinoza’s universe, but minus its determinism.   Everything comes under.  No self, no merit, no superiority, no picking and choosing.  No sanctuaries.  Exclude and we will continue to lose the plot.    Embrace all.    The Guru has spoken.

The night dies as the early birds burst into full-throated songs.   Meanwhile, the wayfarer rises and sets off again.



















I dedicate this essay to a beautiful and intelligent young woman who came to do a graduate programme at our hospital.   She enjoyed chatting to me.   We talked science, music, art, poetry, philosophy, but no shop!   Like a spring breeze she has come and gone, now off to India on an early pilgrimage.   She’ll go far.    (Dec. 2001)






I dedicate this essay to a beautiful and intelligent young woman who came to do a graduate programme at our hospital.   She enjoyed chatting to me.   We talked science, music, art, poetry, philosophy, but no shop!   Like a spring breeze she has come and gone, now off to India on an early pilgrimage.   She’ll go far.    (Dec. 2001)

May 22, 2008 Posted by | English essays | Leave a comment






       D.H.勞倫斯談到文藝批評家所應備條件時,曾掂出 “emotionally educated”一詞,認為文評家必需具有感性學問,對感情方面有深刻、成熟的了解。其實,何止文評家,感情教育對整個人生至關重要。只是,世人但識知性教育,很少人想到感情亦需教之育之。



















May 22, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment












       工商業社會經濟掛帥,產生種種畸型現象。約二三十年前起,一些公司向人家散發推銷商品的信件,例稱收信人為「Dear Executive」,這是商人參考市場調查結果所得的神來之筆,是瞧得你起的意思,不容抗議。王陽明說滿街都是聖人成了笑柄,滿街都是行政大員又如何?近年社會上事事講求生產力和經濟效益。無論甚麼東西、甚麼服務,從洗粉、飲料到觀光團、人壽保險、銀行貸款,甚至作家嘔心瀝血寫成的書,都一古腦兒叫作「產品」(product)。連公立學校、醫院、福利部亦以公司方式經營,學生、病人、失業漢都成為「主顧」(client)。機構經理人都變成「買辦」(purchaser)。「人事部」改稱「人力資源部」,好端端一個個人,頓然被貶為「資源」,像從礦山採來的死物,不亦悲乎!


       澳洲最近有一個很不堪的例子。新上台的首相侯華德屬死硬保守派,最近在談論土著權益運動時竟用上「Aboriginal industry」的不恭字眼,雖說是衝口而出,但足以反映其人心態和時代風氣的墮落。功利社會不把人看作人。首相如此失言,卻沒有引起公憤。人心麻木,良堪浩歎!





May 22, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment




造化安可恆 - 變常的夢魘





















May 22, 2008 Posted by | Chinese essays 散文 | Leave a comment






單郎古道照丹心  蘭澤懷芳自朗吟  偶賦新詞傳藝苑  深研絕學冠儒林

幽人獨解高山意  逐客欣聞空谷音  孺子莫嫌彝鼎陋  恩師度爾是金針




儉貧腹笥靡詩心  底事蒼顏學苦吟  都道時空迷幻相  勤磨鐵柱望成針


滄桑銷盡五湖心  寒笛嗚咽伴客吟  老去迷途逢夜雨  天涯何處覓南針


高標數點歲寒心  和靖長宜妻子吟  世道澆漓君莫笑  靈猿久已失南針   


玲瓏一瓣暗香心  玉月盈軒伴唱吟  素手殷勤添杯淺  鴛鴦巧繡莫停針




吉慶年豐十穀登  天教瑞雪映長庚  腹薀經綸思水活  胸藏丘壑氣雲騰

放他歲月飄去  縱我壺觴自在行  拋卻心頭千萬慮  悠然東海看潮生








千樹桃花臘鼓催  通宵爆竹響如雷  犬歲憂愁由自去  豕年歡樂盼相隨 

薰風燕子銜泥片  瑞雪梅花繡錦堆  椒頌玉衡千萬壽  屠蘇送疾撥新醅




臘鼓聲中又歲除  悲歡否泰夢華胥  意倦華堂寧淡泊  味甘苦境慕清虛 

富心勝似千箱寶  潤屋何如半枕書  稽首北辰唯一願  彤霞夕夕照桑榆




《戲答榮   時宇丁亥元日


(一) 調寄《浣溪沙》次東坡韻


雪浪冰濤伴歲寒  琉璃銀白泯河灘  紅燭繼晷夜漫漫

指纖纖調勺琖  犬牙粲粲汩杯盤  神仙無得此清歡




歲寒珍重翠松身  邀約竹梅共早春  好向江山舒眼界  要將風雪鍊精神

獨傳蘇牧思君節  應識李郎念漢仁  熔冶華夷成紹業  蒼天不負偉經綸


[頷聯襲自清人曹震亭示兒詩,見史震林《西青散記》 昆侖謹識]




躑躅江城暮雨翁  一年容易又秋風  花映眼軒窗外  寒笛縈腸夢寐中

般若清修祛業惡  南無默誦澆愁濃  熹微獨上東山望  早放丹楓萬里紅




風雨交加六十年  江山災禍苦無邊   萬感填胸艱一字  投筆杳望哭蒼


風雨蒼黃五十年  神州億萬尚騰煎   朝朝吟澤肝腸繞  歲歲登高夢寐牽

六合無靈空自語  乾坤有憾復何言   安得媧娘煉玉石  勻和血淚殘天




玉臉嬌嬈賽曉霞  明眸秋水照榴花  芳似醇醪郎伴醉  辰光璀璨喜盈家


《西青卷》譯輯卷六獻詞    南國丙戌中秋夢中作


半世睽違白髮新  心交神會是前因  陋室琴音聞素士  西青筆影見高人

棲飛雁燕雲和月  含吐華英秋復春  知是癡兒無益事  天教遣此有涯身




字療饑豈足誇  其餘萬事儘由他  階前落葉風掃  壁上蛛絲任臉爬

寒舍枇杷皆自果  高鄰芍藥當吾花  毋忘老子無為誡  意懶身慵莫怨嗟




笙歌且慢爾天驕  應記雪霜六月飄  最惜長安街上血  冤深何日始能銷


猶憶昔年諫鳥喧  長街灑血奠軒轅  難雪終須雪  十八春秋望眼穿


[「諫鳥」,襲自董橋散文《廣場上那群諫鳥》(見《沒有童謠的年代 When Childhood Has No Song》),典出宣瘦梅《夜雨秋燈錄》〈諫鳥〉。]




白首重逢蘇子家  夜闌剪燭酌新茶  浮海當歌川上客  談天莫笑井中蛙

濁醪共醉三觴夢  老伴相依六月花  謾道廉翁唯善飯  桑榆劍氣奪彤霞


蘇子梁紅傲劍書  溫柔俠義兩張舒  清操疑是天山雪  積善之家自慶餘




溫城美俗盡人知  禮義敦敦莫若斯  堪似鏡花君子國  唐虞貞觀開元時


六月披霜事等閒  雉錐頭角自超凡  流俗但知圓滑好  崢嶸何似洛璣山


琉璃世界白銀妝  雪地霜天北大荒  松戟森森如箭矢  冰湯汨汨似滄浪

山巒影綽連天闊  雲霧迷離滿眼蒼  浮世清歡能幾許  良朋伴我此辰光


松雪山湖露薏絲  娉婷瀲賽西施  應憐未帶蘇公筆  覓句尋章愧未宜




鐵鳥藐千山  送迎事等閒  人皆言別易  我獨感離難

折柳長亭下  揮巾白水間  願君多保重  熱淚灑陽關




故人星聚互慇懃  遊屐並拖縞翠裙  耳滿松濤胸磅礡  眸盈山水氣氤氳

虎龍壯思衝天浪  鶼鰈深情上頰醺  意滿心圓誠此會  團團生意挹清芬


楓林重聚慶豐收  莫怨斜暉有限秋  喜見鴛鴦湖上侶  幸交書劍社中儔

賀郎心富思無礙  蘇二懷開笑不休  餘子多聞兼直諒  高情若是復何求




翠碧黃藍白水頭  天傾河漢不回收  殷祈百丈滂沱瀑  洗盡人間萬斛愁


長生處處嘆紛揚  蹇舛何堪問楚狂  渴驥急奔平野闊  銀河直瀉九天荒

千泓水潑星辰動  萬頃湖崩日月惶  尼瀑景奇宜獵像  吾來獨自學巍昂




八八蹉跎道未亨  枉教日月照華庚  迴夢省身唯委瑣  恆思接物欠恢宏

甘沉谷底伊胡底  冀上樓層第幾層  應笑衰翁遲信誓  邯鄲學步遣餘生


甲子花開又四春  乾坤易數故更新  窮通莫擾觀星叟  盈缺不驚望月人

胸抱山青思妙壑  心隨水活濟芳津  年年此際知還昧  今夕當明混沌因




天教臨老入花叢  鶴髮雞皮返嫩童  八股金方彭祖藥  頭莫惜阮囊空




南國春回風送香  小園幽徑尚微霜  繁花繡地浥朝露  好鳥穿枝頌曉陽

陋室烹茶澆渴舌  東圃採豆飫饑腸  碌勞莫笑支離叟  鶴髮童歌未央


枇杷葉底掛青黃  芳草芊芊繞屋廊  千樹吐芬招蝶亂  百花含笑惹蜂狂

階前苔蘚添新雨  枝上鶯歌播曉陽  盼願東君勤著力  袪愁送喜濟航


《懷秋二詠》答友  (二○○七年十月二日)


地北天南君我知  幽人愛靜獨眠遲  年暮夜思如亂緒  更闌曉夢似游絲

豪洪肝膽氣猶盛  柔軟心腸情自癡  塵緣未盡休嗟怨  載月傾觴共解頤


瀉玉流光問素娥  萬家哀樂竟如何  齒落方知來日少  髮疏長憶往時多

菊魂寂寞魚龍去  桂影蕭森燕雁過  人生幾度團圓月  借酒佯狂學唱歌






散髮披風放吭歌  褐衣寬衲勝綾羅  月餘江畔觀潮落  日永橋頭數雁過

酒熟呼朋齊品酌  詩成喚伴共吟哦  消遙莫羨煙霞客  心地平常自暢和


[第四句原為日永欄邊數雁過,慈母持誦,謂 欄邊不如 橋頭,因改定。九秩老人,吾家寶也,耳目聰明,愛聽紅線女及西洋歌劇,與四兒同。]




逝者如斯去日多  道緣終淺歎蹉跎  常吟佛偈求超脫  夜讀陶詩效放疏

嚦嚦鸝鶯鳴翠  蒼蒼松柏映崇阿  箇中隱有玄機在  靜定心安細琢磨




白首皤然自唱吟  臨風曠朗豁胸襟  靜觀海窺深意  細聽松濤效好音

慢改蕪辭啖諫果  偶占佳句沐甘霖  詩成不負靈河闊  學道猶穿九孔針




柴門風雪夜倉皇  六合哀思感仲郎  古玄機惟否泰  十年人事幾滄桑

夢迴柳暗霑時雨  醉醒花明映靜江  境苦意甜真世味  更闌漏盡普天光


十年生死意茫茫  愁盡天寬悟老莊  禍福無端休苦惱  窮通有數莫癲狂

碧山白水餐霞客  黃卷青燈夢雨郎  耳畔梵音傳妙諦  開懷是藥自羲皇


[「仲郎」指黃仲則(景仁 1749-83)。]










富士雪  恆河沙  倫城霧  羅馬松  花都夜  北極光  尼川瀑  大堡礁  扶桑日出  數四海奇觀  隨君消遣

濟詩  莎翁劇  蒙田文  吉朋史  蕭邦琴  梵高畫  米氏雕  芳婷舞  莫子清音  拿千古絕藝  任我沉迷   




富士雪  恆河沙  倫敦霧  羅馬松  花都夜  大堡礁  尼川瀑  北極光  芬戈洞  鹽城湖  撤哈荒漠  挪威狹灣  科羅狹谷  額菲爾峰  扶桑日出  數四海風光  隨君俯仰

濟詩  莎翁劇  蒙田文  吉朋史  蕭邦琴  梵高畫  米家雕  芳婷舞  荷馬編  畢氏數  猶太古經  柏公對語  歐德幾何  但丁神曲  莫子清音  拿千古藝業  任我逍遙 




滄海日  赤城霞  峨眉雪  巫峽雲  洞庭月  彭蠡煙  瀟湘雨  武夷峰  匡廬瀑  黃山松  四川三峽  泰岱朝暉  錢唐潮汐  青藏高原  九寨海子  合宇宙奇觀  繪吾齋壁

少陵詩  摩詰畫  左傳文  司馬史  薛濤箋  右軍帖  南華經  相如賦  耆卿詞  米家石  三蘇文章  板橋蘭竹  三妹山歌  翠蓮快嘴  屈子離騷  收古今絕藝  置我山窗


《次韻友人〈丁亥初雪〉詩 》二○○七年十二月十日



皎潔終生自惜憐  心腸柔軟勝於綿  歲寒天地添銀絮  日暖山川淌玉涎

竹鶴雙君迎霰舞  松梅六瓣傍枝懸  仙郎妙解清操意  淡抹明妝分外妍




安得心平靜養涵  清江一抹綠如藍  蒼天有道恆施惠  頑物無明只識貪

曠逸不矜追電  艱辛無怨吐絲蠶  箇中消息君知否  苦樂長宜大我





種豆東籬莫笑癡  南山靖節是吾師  青苗欲揠常嫌短  嫩葉催生又恐遲

苦候花開期蝶使  靜觀胎結謝風姨  老來方悟天然妙  萬物生機自有時


晨興披露耜鋤持  菜地留連日影移  新蕊輕柔甘水灌  春泥鬆軟綠肥施

根深刈草誰憐苦  葉底尋花自笑癡  只為皮囊常病餓  採來豆莢好療醫




院小還應植柳絲  風中搖曳似仙衣  月高臨鏡梳綠髮  屋破添青現素姿    

嬌女笑爭三月絮  狂夫醉臥百條枝  門前車馬稀無憾  水觀天自悅怡


《憶兒時》戲墨之一  調寄《浣溪沙》二○○七‧十二‧卅一


猶憶兒時半壁房  長寬一丈十人藏  塵泥滲漉歎窩囊

達道顏郎甘陋巷  樂天蘇子厭華堂  無求心境自康莊


《憶兒時》戲墨之二  調寄《浣溪沙》


朝拆晚開帆布床  童年夕夕黑甜鄉  包釘補更清涼

膏血甘香招木虱  糠甜氣惹蟑螂  箇中況味豈能忘


 [自註:帆布床,兒時席夢思也。破損即以米袋布翻新,臭蟲滿佈釘孔,夜出吮人膏血。糠,借指袋米氣。爐峰蟑螂體大, Blatta orientalis之屬,非Periplanetta americana等小輩可比。]

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Chinese poetry 詩鈔 | Leave a comment






方城鏖戰樂滋滋  昏曉晴陰莫若斯  到戶三元鴻福運  臨門四喜吉祥時

四番和出憑機智  雙辣綴成仗巧思  老少咸宜真國粹  延年添壽卻呆癡




賀郎行腳太匆匆  饋我巖七二宮  煙樹濛濛霑夕雨  雲巖冉冉沐朝風

墨從厚處偏留白  情到濃時反悟空  真假自來難辨識  共君山色有無中


仙侶丹爐次第開  靈山雲霧此中來  幸是天公勤力  奇松怪石別心栽








加楓紅焰照微醺  貝蒂宜家份外親  玉尺郎才深似海  蘭心長繫謫仙人



媧娘煉石枉心堅  六合惟情可補天  癡郎繾綣裙邊蝶  玉姐翩躚月下仙

再世因緣登錦冊  三生業果鏤金鈿  悠悠萬事銷磨盡  幸有卿卿伴永年




老少賢愚醉夢昏  江南江北逐歌新  十七春秋如電抹  昔年血淚尚微溫






江南煙水白茫茫  爛熳湖山日月光  千樹清風高士臥  百村穀雨老農忙

是非莫惹武陵叟  榮辱不驚五柳郎  待得歸田埋劍日  晚涼欹枕話樵桑


買棹杭城別夢西  平湖千島鳥飛棲  最是皖南山色好  誰家村落叫雄雞





萬里黃巖夢寐思  先生杖履久相期  清清泉瀑堪心洗  滾滾雲濤極目怡

松伯樂邀三斗酒  山靈恩賜一瓢詩  蓬萊歲永渾無事  露飲霞餐雨霧衣




六朝君子大夫松  瘦玉清疏倚翠風  仙鶴雲中岩壑月  傾醅相候老梅翁


如煙如霧又如潮  滿目蒼茫夢寐遙