《荷塘月色》|原作 朱自清|英译 徐英才|诵读 李莉（中文诵读）
荷塘月色》|原作 朱自清|英译 徐英才|诵读 李莉（英文诵读）
A Lotus Pool in the Moonlight
Zhu Ziqing (Tr. by Xu Yingcai / 徐英才译)
I feel very restless these days. Tonight, while I sit in our yard and enjoy the cool air, it strikes me that the lotus pool that I pass every day must look different under this full moon. The moon sails slowly up into the sky, and the laughter of the children playing in the street behind the wall is all gone. In the house, my wife pats our son Run’er to the beat of the lullaby she drowsily croons. I quietly slip on a gown and walk out, leaving the door closed behind me.
Winding along the side of the lotus pool is a cinder-paved path. This is a secluded road with very few pedestrians, even during the daytime, and therefore, it is quieter at night. Encircling the pool are dense clusters of trees, and growing by the path are willows and some trees unknown to me. On a moonless night, this path appears eerily somber, but it is fine tonight, although the moonlight is pale.
I am the only one on the path, strolling with my hands behind me. This gives me a sense of possessing the entire vicinity, and also a sense of sublimating myself into another world. I enjoy the hustle and bustle of life but am also fond of peacefulness. I like socializing, but don’t mind being all by myself. Like tonight, under this filmy moon, all by myself, I can think about anything I want to or nothing at all. I therefore feel I am a free man. I can completely ignore what I have to do or say during the daytime. This is the beauty of being alone. So let me just enjoy this boundless view of the lotus in the moonlight.
Gazing at the meandering pool, I see an abundance of lotus leaves. Standing high above the water, they look like the flared skirts of ballerinas; interspersed among the layers upon layers of leaves are white flowers, some of them blossoming gracefully and others budding shyly. They look very much like bright pearls, or stars in the azure sky. When a gentle breeze wafts over them, a whiff of lingering fragrance follows, which is as ethereal as the music flowing from the high tower in the distance. Right at this moment, there is a slight shiver from among the leaves and flowers. Like lightning, it flashes to the other side of the pool in the blink of an eye and zips open the densely clustered leaves in a jade-green streak. Underneath the leaves are innumerable ripples, which may be invisible, yet this invisibility is what accentuates the charm of the leaves.
Like water, the moonlight quietly streams onto the wide expanse of leaves and flowers. Over the pool, a thin greenish mist floats up. Thus, the leaves and flowers appear to be washed in milk or cloaked in a piece of fine gauze, as misty as a dream. Although a full-orbed moon sails in the sky tonight, it cannot shine brightly, because of the clouds, flimsy though they may be. In my opinion, this is where the beauty lies—although one cannot dispense with sound sleep, sometimes a little nap has its own appeal. As the moon shines through the trees, it casts across the pool irregular and mottled shadows from the bosky shrubs standing high above. The sparse silhouettes of the winsome, sinuous willows seem to be painted onto the lotus leaves. The moonlight does not shine evenly onto the pool, but the lights and the shadows thus formed are rendered so harmoniously that they are like a famous melody being played on the violin.
Surrounding the pool, far and near, high and low, are trees, and most of them are willows. They encircle the pool tightly, except for a few spaces at the side where the path winds along. These spaces look as though they have been designed particularly to receive the moonshine. All of these trees appear dim, and look, at a quick glance, like a cloud of smog. But through the smog, the graceful stance of the willows is still discernible. At the tips of the trees are vague outlines of the distant hills—faintly recognizable at the most. And dripping through the sporadic gaps among the trees are the lights of street lamps, dimly torpid like drowsy eyes. At the moment, the most animated sounds in this scene are the singing of the cicadas in the trees and the crowing of the frogs in the water, but these joys are theirs, not mine. I have nothing!
My thoughts suddenly drift to the lotus-gathering event. The lotus-gathering event is an old southern tradition, which can arguably be traced far back in time but was the most popular in the Six Dynasties (the 3rd century to the 6th century). Details about the lotus-gathering events are are revealed, to a certain extent, in the ancient poetry. The lotus gatherings were usually maidens, who traveled on dinghies while singing love songs. There were not only a lot of lotus gatherers, but also many spectators. It must have been a joyful and romantic event. In his verse, Ode to Lotus Gathering, Emperor Yuan of Liang gave a vivid description of the scene.
Fine young men and fair ladies,
In a courting mood, ride dinghies.
Here they wind back the egret-shaped boats,
To pass their goblets for amorous toasts.
With the oars tangled in water leaves,
They row their dinghies through the duckweeds.
In plain skirts dangling from their waspish waists,
The girls, glancing back, move in slow gaits.
While summer proceeds, spring lingers,
With tender leaves and fresh flowers.
They giggle and hope to keep off the splash and spray,
And lift their attire in case the boats tilt and sway.
This verse clearly reveals the merry spectacle of such an event. It must have been an interesting event, but we now do not have the fortune to enjoy it.
This reminds me of a few lines from The Song of Xizhou.
I went to gather lotus in South Pool,
Where the autumn lotus flowers outgrow me;
The seedpods I stoop to toy with and pull,
Are as fresh as the green water can be.
The lotus flowers in this pool tonight can also be considered high enough to “outgrow gatherers,” if there is any gatherer, yet unfortunately the water ripples are hidden from sight. This makes me nostalgic for the south. Right at this point of my thought, I suddenly raise my head and find myself already back in front of our door. I gently push the door open and walk in. Inside the house, there is not a single sound to be heard. My wife has already been sound asleep for quite some time.