Honore Daumier - Laveuse au Quai d'Anjou (Laundress on the Quai d'Anjou) 

  美國最被敬愛,同時讀者最多的詩人是佛洛斯特(Robert Frost, 1874-1963)。美國人最喜歡的作品裡,三首他就占了兩首。他耕讀出身,不喜歡咬文嚼字,舞文弄墨,也厭惡拉幫結派,相互吹捧。他只是默默寫自己的詩。他的詩樸實,合乎人性,飽含各種深刻的哲理。

  以前我在講英美詩時,都一定特別提到他寫的那首〈一個僱工之死〉。這是一首敘事長詩,也等於一齣以對話為主的獨幕詩劇,或者可看作是個短篇故事。華倫和瑪麗是對農家夫婦,他們以前僱傭過長工希拉斯,後來希拉斯又改投別的僱主,而今希拉斯老了,有一天回來,瑟縮睡在榖倉門外,瑪麗讓他進屋,睡在火爐邊。後來丈夫華倫回家,瑪麗告訴他這件事,於是華倫大為生氣,開始了一場爭辯。

  在這場爭辯裡,丈夫的立場是,「家」這個東西,乃是個認同的所在,每個成員都必須忠誠,做貢獻。而希拉斯這個工人,以前就不牢靠,由於他們家沒錢,只能管吃住,不能發工資,有時農忙,希拉斯為了賺工資就會落跑。在華倫眼中,這個人對「家」沒有「忠誠」,現在他老了要回來,當然不應該收留。在詩裡,他以諷刺的語氣說了這樣的反語:

  「家是什麼樣的東西?
   這全看你怎麼去為家做定義。
   而當然,這並非由我們決定,如同
   那來過我家的陌生獵犬
   牠從林中跑來,因為追蹤獵物而筋疲力竭。」
  「家是這樣的地方,當你要去的時候
   他們就必須讓你進入。」

  丈夫華倫講這樣的話,不是完全無道理,因為他定義的「家」,是個「認同」的符號,既然要認同,當然必須忠誠,有貢獻。不符條件當然就必須視為陌生人而排除。但他的妻子瑪麗就真的偉大多了。她為希拉斯辯護:他一直自力更生,不去投靠富親戚,因為我們只管吃住卻沒有工資,他要抽菸怎麼買?他會在急難時想到我們,這就是最大的信賴與感情認同。他用這句話有力的反駁了丈夫。

  我倒寧願把家叫作
  某種並非你一定要值得的東西。

  佛洛斯特這首詩裡,夫婦兩人的對話,表達出來的是兩種境界:丈夫對但卻狹隘,妻子更對,因為她把人性提高了。人活著不能永遠在功利上計較。這種對「家」的爭辯,換個題目如「國家」、如「團體」不也一樣嗎?當政客和學者談「認同」卻愈談愈偏狹、愈談愈混亂的時刻,何妨去體會佛洛斯特的境界呢!   

  

  【2009/03/19 聯合報】

Robert Frost 佛洛斯特(1874-1963).jpg

 

THE DEATH OF THE HIRED MAN

 

Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard. 'Silas is back.'
She pushed him outward with her through the door
And shut it after her. "Be kind,' she said.
She took the market things from Warren's arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.
'When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But I'll not have the fellow back,' he said.
'I told him so last haying, didn't I?
"If he left then," I said, "that ended it."
What good is he? Who else will harbour him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there's no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.
'He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,
Enough at least to buy tobacco with,
won't have to beg and be beholden."
"All right," I say "I can't afford to pay
Any fixed wages, though I wish I could."
"Someone else can."
"Then someone else will have to.
I shouldn't mind his bettering himself
If that was what it was. You can be certain,
When he begins like that, there's someone at him
Trying to coax him off with pocket-money, --
In haying time, when any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. I'm done.'
'Shh I not so loud: he'll hear you,' Mary said.
'I want him to: he'll have to soon or late.'
'He's worn out. He's asleep beside the stove.
When I came up from Rowe's I found him here,
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,
A miserable sight, and frightening, too-
You needn't smile -- I didn't recognize him-
I wasn't looking for him- and he's changed.
Wait till you see.'
'Where did you say he'd been?
'He didn't say. I dragged him to the house,
And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke.
I tried to make him talk about his travels.
Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off.'
'What did he say? Did he say anything?'
'But little.'
'Anything? Mary, confess
He said he'd come to ditch the meadow for me.'
'Warren!'
'But did he? I just want to know.'
'Of course he did. What would you have him say?
Surely you wouldn't grudge the poor old man
Some humble way to save his self-respect.
He added, if you really care to know,
He meant to dear the upper pasture, too.
That sounds like something you have heard before?
Warren, I wish you could have heard the way
He jumbled everything. I stopped to look
Two or three times -- he made me feel so queer--
To see if he was talking in his sleep.
He ran on Harold Wilson -- you remember -
The boy you had in haying four years since.
He's finished school, and teaching in his college.
Silas declares you'll have to get him back.
He says they two will make a team for work:
Between them they will lay this farm as smooth!
The way he mixed that in with other things.
He thinks young Wilson a likely lad, though daft
On education -- you know how they fought
All through July under the blazing sun,
Silas up on the cart to build the load,
Harold along beside to pitch it on.'
'Yes, I took care to keep well out of earshot.'
'Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream.
You wouldn't think they would. How some things linger!
Harold's young college boy's assurance piqued him.
After so many years he still keeps finding
Good arguments he sees he might have used.
I sympathize. I know just how it feels
To think of the right thing to say too late.
Harold's associated in his mind with Latin.
He asked me what I thought of Harold's saying
He studied Latin like the violin
Because he liked it -- that an argument!
He said he couldn't make the boy believe
He could find water with a hazel prong--
Which showed how much good school had ever done
him. He wanted to go over that. 'But most of all
He thinks if he could have another chance
To teach him how to build a load of hay --'
'I know, that's Silas' one accomplishment.
He bundles every forkful in its place,
And tags and numbers it for future reference,
So he can find and easily dislodge it
In the unloading. Silas does that well.
He takes it out in bunches like big birds' nests.
You never see him standing on the hay
He's trying to lift, straining to lift himself.'
'He thinks if he could teach him that, he'd be
Some good perhaps to someone in the world.
He hates to see a boy the fool of books.
Poor Silas, so concerned for other folk,
And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope,
So now and never any different.'
Part of a moon was filling down the west,
Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.
Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw
And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand
Among the harp-like morning-glory strings,
Taut with the dew from garden bed to eaves,
As if she played unheard the tenderness
That wrought on him beside her in the night.
'Warren,' she said, 'he has come home to die:
You needn't be afraid he'll leave you this time.'
'Home,' he mocked gently.
'Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course he's nothing to us, any more
then was the hound that came a stranger to us
Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.'
'Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.'
'I should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve.'
Warren leaned out and took a step or two,
Picked up a little stick, and brought it back
And broke it in his hand and tossed it by.
'Silas has better claim on' us, you think,
Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles
As the road winds would bring him to his door.
Silas has walked that far no doubt to-day.
Why didn't he go there? His brother's rich,
A somebody- director in the bank.'
'He never told us that.'
'We know it though.'
'I think his brother ought to help, of course.
I'll see to that if there is need. He ought of right
To take him in, and might be willing to-=
He may be better than appearances.
But have some pity on Silas. Do you think
If he'd had any pride in claiming kin
Or anything he looked for from his brother,
He'd keep so still about him all this time?'
'I wonder what's between them.'
'I can tell you.
Silas is what he is -- we wouldn't mind him--
But just the kind that kinsfolk can't abide.
He never did a thing so very bad.
He don't know why he isn't quite as good
As anyone. He won't be made ashamed
To please his brother, worthless though he is.'
'I can't think Si ever hurt anyone.'
'No, but he hurt my heart the way he lay
And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back.
He wouldn't let me put him on the lounge.
You must go in and see what you can do.
I made the bed up for him there to-night.
You'll be surprised at him -- how much he's broken.
His working days are done; I'm sure of it.'
'I'd not be in a hurry to say that.'
'I haven't been. Go, look, see for yourself.
But, Warren, please remember how it is:
He' come to help you ditch the meadow.
He has a plan, You mustn't laugh at him.
He may not speak of it, and then he may.
I'll sit and see if that small sailing cloud
Will hit or miss the moon.'
It hit the moon.
Then there were three there, making a dim row,
The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.
Warren returned-- too soon, it seemed to her,
Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.
'Warren?' she questioned.
'Dead,' was all he answered.
 

 

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